Who makes their own sails, and why?

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by kroberts, Jun 21, 2010.

  1. Landlubber
    Joined: Jun 2007
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    Landlubber Senior Member

    ...ned, young fella, you are one smart Kiwi, good on ya mate.

    are you trying to be a sailmaker later, or just trying out different things?
     
  2. science abuse
    Joined: Nov 2009
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    science abuse Junior Member

    My first job was as a plumbers assistant at age 12. I envy ya, Ned!

    I have no intentions of buying a machine, my sail will likely be a winter project, done in front of the fireplace... or the TV. :)
     
  3. BATAAN
    Joined: Apr 2010
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    BATAAN Senior Member

    BERTIE's first mainsail (see SPRAY thread) was made by me in a dairy barn due to finances. The 1000 square foot Duradon Chinese Junk sail lasted 22 years of hard sailing. The secret is a good sewing machine, proper design, and reasonably good (not obsessive) craftsmanship. Is the sail for summer pleasure or Cape Horn? You can easily make a Tyvek trial sail, modify and adjust it, then make the real thing out of Dacron. How big is the boat? What type of sail? High-tech modern sails are best left to professionals with computer cutting and lamination techniques.
    Normal, old-fashioned marconi, gaff, lug etc sails are easily home made with a little study and the help of Sailrite kits.
     
  4. kroberts
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    kroberts Senior Member

    Bataan,

    The boat I'm considering is a Paper Jet 14, by Dix. It's a learner boat and can be a racer. Not complicated sails, at least until you get to the turbo rig. No Cape Horn, just a fun toy for local playing.

    Thanks.
     
  5. ned
    Joined: Apr 2010
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    ned Junior Member

    you could get old sails and recut them ive made another gennaker like that and it works like a dream it was an old 470 spinnaker that i re cut to a gennaker t had to flatten it out a bit but it was easy
     
  6. Landlubber
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    Landlubber Senior Member

    http://www.emery.com.tw/

    this is a very nice walking foot, zig zag machine with electronic foot control that has full torque at all speeds, just what you want, and they have been around for about 30 years that zi know of.

    the USA Sailrite is the same/similar machine....
     
  7. rapscallion
    Joined: Oct 2006
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    rapscallion Senior Member

    I'm surprised nobody mentioned the free sailcut cad program. This program is awesome! It will design the sail panels for you based on your input, then it will print out full sized patterns (you will need big paper -- I took my pattern to an architect -- got full sized prints for less than 20 US dollars)
     
  8. kroberts
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    kroberts Senior Member

    Probably nobody mentioned it because I wasn't interested in designing sails, only building ones for an existing boat. Only been sailing a few times, and don't have a sailboat yet. So this is all sort of advance research. :)
     
  9. ancient kayaker
    Joined: Aug 2006
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    ancient kayaker aka Terry Haines

    My motivation for making my own sails is to experiment with different sizes and types until I discover what is right for me and my home-built boat. At present I am using tarp from the local hardware store because it is cheap and easy to get, although it is noisy.

    I want to try a leg-o-mutton, standing lug and sprit sail, possibly others, so it is not economic to go to a pro at this stage, but I plan to have proper sails made one day.

    I cut the sails flat because I do not think it is worthwhile investing a lot of time in a throw-away item. I find double-sided outdoor type carpet tape sticks well even when wet and avoids stitching. It also avoids the remarks I get from the wife when I use her machine on a tarp!
     
  10. Typhoon
    Joined: Mar 2009
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    Typhoon Senior Member

    I would recommend anyone who wants to make their own sails approach a local sailmaker.
    Tell them you want to learn how to make sails, you want to build your own and see if you can barter your labour after hours etc for materials and learning.
    I've seen it work out well more than once, buy your own materials and learn on the job, supervised whilst also learning some other skills when helping out around the loft. You are going to have to learn it all from scratch, so learn the PROPER way to do things, not second hand internet folklore. 95% of the suggestions I see on the net about sailmaking are at worst wrong and at best will turn out a poor, short lived sail. Learn it once, learn it right.
    Those who don't want to commit to buying a sewing machine, you WILL need one, a oood zig zag machine can be had for very little.
    I know of a very successful 12ft skiff sailor here in Australia who didn't have the money to campaign the skiff at the top level, so he approached my boss at the time and did exactly what I suggested above, worked part time and made his own sails whilst paying off the time put in to his sails by the loft in labour.
    I guarantee that if you have even teh slightest interest in making your own sails, you will find working in a sail loft very rewarding and won't regret a second of the time you spend there.


    Regards, Andrew.
     
  11. ThomD
    Joined: Mar 2009
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    ThomD Senior Member

    I want to build my own sails so that I can learn the craft, make what I want how I want it, and save money. The big downer for me is that I have as yet to locate cheap sail cloth. I don't want bad sail cloth, but sailrite kits are on par with finished sails. Even at that they are worth it in certain cases, but not in others. This cost of materials thing is pretty comon. I used to work at a store that sold wetsuit material per foot about 1/3rd the cost of a shorty wetsuit. But in this internet age I would have thought there might be some options as indeed there are as far as getting your whole sail overseas.

    Another reason to build sails is that a whole suit of sails for a cruising boat includes a lot of smaller sails for storm or anchoring purposes, etc... that are not a big deal to make.

    If you want a zig zag machine, consider an industrial Singer. I am very happy with the sailrite, but craigs and kijiji are loaded with zig zag machines for 20 dollars and up. I became kinda expert in what is out there while buying leather sewing machines online. i got a great leather machine for about 20 bucks. It had all the rare parts. The guy parted it out to me, and I put the parts on a locally purchased machine that also cost me about 20 bucks. I really wish there was a decent forum for sailmaking. It could be here, it is a lot like some other sub-forums we have.
     
  12. science abuse
    Joined: Nov 2009
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    science abuse Junior Member

    I managed to get some decent 5.5oz dacron off ebay at near disposable-money prices.
     
  13. Milan
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    Milan Senior Member

  14. cowlum
    Joined: Jul 2010
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    cowlum Junior Member

    I sewed my own jib for my 18 foot hartley about six months ago. It was easy and cost me about 30 hours.

    I designed my sail in Sailcut cad, essentially I copied my original jibs basic dimentions but got the broadseeming depth other basic shape information/measurments from the program. The program also allows you print out the development (pdf) for each dacron panel (consider a sail consists of many dacron sheets sewn together). I then cut these from my 910mm Dacron and taped them together with double sided tape. I was then able to pick it up by all three corners and check I had a smooth wing shape. Once content I sewed them together with an old sewing machine (zigzag stitch) I bought for $50nz. I drilled a small whole in the sewing machine flywheel so I could insert a screw driver and hand crank the machine. You will find old sewing machines move the dacron through too fast to control easily and with not enough tourqe at slow speeds. Hand cranking solves this problem. This being said my old machine was capable of sewing through 8 layers of 5oz dacron (more than id ever need) on its own.

    I sewed three zigzag stitches per seem for no reason other than I like the idea that my sail is only as strong as the dacron itself.

    Buy quality thread! and quality dacron.

    Most important of all go to the library and get the book 'the sail makers apprentice'. Its well written, easy to read and is a must. It will explain sail shapes and help you decide what shape you want. This book is the most important part of the whole process.

    You will need a sail makers palm and lots of space.

    The hardest part for me was learning about sewing machines and getting it tensioned properly. My sewing machine is a singer form the early sixties. All running gear in this old machine is steel and easy to re-align if needed.

    My sail turned out beyond my expectation and I have since designed my main and will begin sewing it shortly.

    I sewed my own sail for two reasons. 1 cost. 2 learning.

    When the day comes for me to buy sails from a sailmaker I will know more about what I really want/need.
     

  15. cowlum
    Joined: Jul 2010
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    cowlum Junior Member

    Here are some pictures.
    The first is when the panels were freshly cut. They are slightly longer than needed so I could trim curves.
    The second is my first trial, note I have yet to add reefing points or sail numbers.
     

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