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Old May 03, 2015, 08:32 PM
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Ah, so its THIS again. . .
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Question
White paint on Spars and Masts

Hey everyone!

I have a question regarding the painting of spars and masts white.

What are the rules or regulations regarding this coloring?

Ive noticed that in historical pictures of the boat Im building that it doesnt always have white on the masts at the top. But then in some instances it does. And in models of this boat, there are often large amounts of white applied to the boat, while in other models there is no white at all.

Here are two examples. At the top of the main mast, there is a second mast for a topsail. in some instances the overlap area of the two masts are white. In other instances the overlap area and the entire upper mast are white. In a few instances there is no coloring at all.

then the Bowsprit. In one instance the portion on the deck is white, while the part extending forward on the ship is either natural or colored black. Then in another instance the whole bowsprit is painted white. And ofcourse, there is the option of having the whole thing natural.

Can you guys explain the how and why of the color white on the masts of ships.
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Old May 04, 2015, 12:28 AM
JerryTodd is offline
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White lead paint and milk paint were common and easy to get relative to other colors for a long time - so things got painted white. The Brits painted their masts buff or ocher and black. There were no true regulations for a long time. How a vessel was painted and decorated was up to the taste and purse of her captain.
The US eventually sort-of made it unofficially official that gun stripes would be white, or none at all and that lasted into the 1870's when black hulls with a white or gold sheer stripe became popular.

Into the 1890s, warships were typically black with buff upper works. The larger iron ships were painted white as the "Great White Fleet" went on it's world tour, but most of the wooden sailing vessels were all black with buff masts, etc.

Merchant ships tented toward white, buff, or tan masts with white, black, and/or bare wood spars. Masts were typically painted to protect the spar and fittings from the elements, so you don't see many lower masts unpainted. Upper sticks like topmasts, etc, were very often unpainted because the tops'l yard and yards above it all slid up and down when set or furled and would wear off any paint pretty quick.
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Old May 04, 2015, 11:33 AM
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Ah, so its THIS again. . .
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Thank you for the information.

I stained my masts a darker color, so Im considering doing the white on top. Its on the box art, but I dont know. Im about 50-50 right now on it.

The box art also shows alot of the deck fittings and structures in white. However the historical photos I have do not show the companionway or the skylights in white. In-fact they are a nice redish wood.

Is there a rule or guideline about what was white on the deck?

example, my bowsprite is apparantly white on deck, but then were it extends outwards on the front of the boat it is either stained or painted a dark color.

Thank you again for your information and your help.

Cecil
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Old May 04, 2015, 01:04 PM
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On US naval vessels through the 1850's and into the 70's black was in style on hatch coamings, then it shifted to white by the 1880's. Merchant ships tended toward white in most images I've seen. Private yachts could go either way, but with much more brightwork (varnish).

Inner bulwarks were universally white except the navy liked green on some of it's frigates and liners.

I've never seen anything from the 1800's paint-wise that seemed to be safety conscious. A lot of boats I worked on, for instance, had white spots painted around pad-eyes, and other deck fittings - it saves a lot of toes that one. The navy seemed to like to paint the tops of the fighting tops dark gray in the late 1800's - and the Brits for a hundred years or more painted doublings, tops, and the tops of the fighting tops BLACK. What fun it must have been to be aloft at night on a British warship.
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Old Oct 13, 2015, 11:19 AM
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Regarding White painted areas on masts / spars

Hello All. My own observations, I think that the white painted areas on spars have always been a practical matter of providing protection (sealing against water intrusion around joins and fittings). This accounts for the painted spots being seen at the top of masts (such as the overlap of mast/topmast) and the ends of booms and sprits (where the fittings are). Paint would quickly be worn away on the mast of a gaff rig along the run of the gaff and mast hoops and this section would have been slushed periodically with a tar/oil mix. On my own full size boat, a 35' cutter, I have noticed an added benefit of being able to see boom ends in the proverbial dark and stormy night.
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Old Dec 09, 2015, 04:25 PM
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Ah, so its THIS again. . .
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that makes sense Gary. Thanks for the input.
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