Nothing to Scarf at

Now with smooth 20-foot sections of Spruce the magic trick would be to transform the sections into single 40-foot sections. I understood that two ends would need to be cut on a diagonal and eventually glued together but how we would accomplish that escaped me.

That is when Jim pulled out a bucket of parts, a large drill bit and plastic contraption. The Mount Hope custom creation ended up being just that a one of a kind mobile drill press that would make perfect scarfs in wood planks. While setting up the machine Jim recounted how this very machine got away from one of his female workers (a professional carpenter) and cut across the top of her hand. A gruesome story in it’s own right, I questioned the timing of this particular story as Jim set out to begin using the machine.

Snugging up my safety goggles, I watched as Jim manhandled the 2-inch bit through the wood. A few minutes later one side was finished and the device was shut down.

“I’m going to run a few errands, do you got this?”

Glancing around the completely empty shop I didn’t have much of a choice.

“Uh, yeah no problem.”

Jim left and I stepped up to the machine.  Glancing down at my hands, I really wished Jim hadn’t told me that story. An extra tightening of the safety goggles for good measure and I fired up the serious(ly intimidating machine).

Taking almost 15 minutes to do what had taken Jim three, I had finished scarfing my first plank, only six more to go. Eventually I did get the hang of scarfing and by the end I was able to finish one in a respectable 5 minutes. Not setting any speed records the scarfs were long and even. I sanded down the recently cut ends and wiped it down with paint thinner to prep them for gluing.


West System Epoxy is the glue of choice for Jim Titus and the rest of the crew at Mount Hope. They’ve experimented with other wood glues but trust this product the most. With that in mind I mixed up a cup of the sticky stuff and with a quarter inch brush glued and clamped the boards together under the watchful eye of Jim who returned from his other tasks. I would return during the week to see that the pieces had dried well and began sanding the boards with a belt sand to help smooth the pieces together.

photo (17)

Leaving the shop on the cold and gray winter afternoon, I was filled with a small sense of accomplishment. Not only had I finished the day with both hands intact but also the mast was slowly taking shape. Trudging through the snow and slush I may have been the only one dreaming about sailing that day.

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