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Making Dingy Sails


Defy

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In my never ending quest to learn stuff I have decided I need to learn how to make sails (main, jib, and spin).  I have no disillusions about this sail being any good, yes probably cheaper to buy a new one,  but the process of learning how to make one should be fun and I can make my girls the purple sails they want for their boat!

As the title states this is for a dingy (Laser and a Topaz Taz).  I have sewing skillz mostly quilts and a few bigger sewing machines including a sailrite LZ1, so I should be good on equipment. 

Questions:

1) Does anyone have links to how to guides or software for making smaller sails?  Initial plan is to use old sails as a pattern and just figure it out.  

2) Outside of Sailrite, where is the best place to get material?  Dacron for the main/jib, nylon for the Spin?  

3) I read somewhere that there are places you can send sail designs to and they will cut all the patterns for you and you just do all the sewing?  Is that only available to the lofts or can any joe schmo get that done?

 

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I went down the same path around 30 yrs ago. Main and jib, no problem. A good shaped Spinnaker may be a bit trickier. 

The learning process was a lot of fun and the ability to modify the sail between weekends really helped with the learning.

Get your old sails  out and make sure you also measure the seam taper and luff curve so you have a starting point .

The best of luck.

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10 hours ago, Defy said:

In my never ending quest to learn stuff I have decided I need to learn how to make sails (main, jib, and spin).  I have no disillusions about this sail being any good, yes probably cheaper to buy a new one,  but the process of learning how to make one should be fun and I can make my girls the purple sails they want for their boat!

As the title states this is for a dingy (Laser and a Topaz Taz).  I have sewing skillz mostly quilts and a few bigger sewing machines including a sailrite LZ1, so I should be good on equipment. 

Questions:

1) Does anyone have links to how to guides or software for making smaller sails?  Initial plan is to use old sails as a pattern and just figure it out.  

2) Outside of Sailrite, where is the best place to get material?  Dacron for the main/jib, nylon for the Spin?  

3) I read somewhere that there are places you can send sail designs to and they will cut all the patterns for you and you just do all the sewing?  Is that only available to the lofts or can any joe schmo get that done?

 

The easiest way to do it is to get a job at a sail loft.  Just make sure you start grad school or get a job requiring long pants by the time you're 25

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Jeez, Killjoy Anarchy is down the hall guys. @Defy, keep rolling per the Hatter  - I’d be keen to see what comes outta this.

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Yep, I went down the temporary summer sail loft job route.

30 odd years later and a few AC's and a Whitbread loft down the track, I kinda know what I'm doing, and now have a "Long pants" job :D

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Yep, a job at a sail loft would be fun but I already have a full time pants job, and I just finished my thesis for my second masters yesterday (now I have time to play with sails at least for the rest of the summer).

So far I have found http://www.prosailcutter.com/ but at 6k it’s a little steep for a hobby tool.  But if I can get the templates (either from old sail or digital) I could have them printed on a big plotter in paper.  

Sailcut looks promising and I bet I can find a diy plotter for it... I have lots of alu 8020 and stepper motors from my Cnc and 3d printers...  this might just work. 

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You can hand plot  sails from sailcut, all you need is a large table, a metric tape and a large T square.  Cross cut dinghy sails don't require a huge table.  I have built about 50 sails that way.  I also used a roll feed plotter to print patterns for some spinnakers(a different version of sailcut).

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1 hour ago, Herb2 said:

You can hand plot  sails from sailcut, all you need is a large table, a metric tape and a large T square.  Cross cut dinghy sails don't require a huge table.  I have built about 50 sails that way.  I also used a roll feed plotter to print patterns for some spinnakers(a different version of sailcut).

Different version for spins or for printing patterns?

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If you want a guide on how to make sails, Selway Fisher (UK) has one. I've not read this myself but the blurb sounds like what you are after.

its the old fashioned way of doing things (making sails), but they say it covers modern sails. So old fashion you have to get the guide by mail order...

http://www.selway-fisher.com/SFD Catalogues & Manuals.htm#SAIL

SAILS FOR THE HOME BOAT BUILDER
Sails01.jpg

 This new manual incorporates our old "Manual of Sail Making for the Home Boatbuilder" but now also includes several new sections. These include a discussion of the most popular rigs used for dinghies, dayboats and yachts (traditional and modern), how to balance the rig with the hull of a boat (for those wanting to change rig), how to design and make a simple Junk Rig, a lengthened section on re-cutting (altering) existing sails (for those using 2nd hand sails from another design), positioning deck gear and fault finding, how to purchase new sails from a sail maker (including a list of UK sail makers) and a list of companies who sell sail making materials and tools.

 A large part of the manual is still dedicated to making your own suit of sails - rather than being a mystery, the construction of a sail is broken down into it's different structural parts in much the same way as the hull structure of a boat with 76 clear diagrams showing the construction techniques used to make up the components of the sail. The chapters include a detailed look at the different stitches and seam constructions used, finishing techniques, step by step guides to the making of both Bermudan and Gaff/Gunter/Lug sails and Headsails. Also included is a section on the re-cutting of old sails and on fault finding. The whole manual will give the owner who already has a suit of sails, a better understanding of how his sails work and what may be wrong if he has a problem with them.

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Unless you plan on making radial cut sails the main and jib are pretty easy to design and loft with very basic tools.

A batten that will bend evenly , pencil, measuring tools , string line etc.

It really is great fun learning how to shape a sail using luff curve and seam taper and then modifying the sail by  playing with these variables. 

I'd go that route before looking for software because of what you will learn along the way.

If you have the time and inclination I think it is well worth it.

 

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8 hours ago, stinky said:

If you have a local loft nearby that actually makes sails, they might be willing help you out with design and plotting and leave the assembly to you. 

That would be giving the fun part to the loft and keeping the boring part for yourself and severely limit what you learn.

But if you just want sails it would be one way to go.

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Yeah I agree with hatter... but i am not against using tech.  Both of my deals fell through on my dinghies I was trying to buy (sold out from under me).  So the sail project is on hold for a sec.  I am still researching the tech side and might build a plotter.

new question though can you dye sail fabric? I haven’t found purple Dacron.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 6/27/2019 at 11:27 AM, Defy said:

In my never ending quest to learn stuff I have decided I need to learn how to make sails (main, jib, and spin).  I have no disillusions about this sail being any good, yes probably cheaper to buy a new one,  but the process of learning how to make one should be fun and I can make my girls the purple sails they want for their boat!

As the title states this is for a dingy (Laser and a Topaz Taz).  I have sewing skillz mostly quilts and a few bigger sewing machines including a sailrite LZ1, so I should be good on equipment. 

Questions:

1) Does anyone have links to how to guides or software for making smaller sails?  Initial plan is to use old sails as a pattern and just figure it out.  

2) Outside of Sailrite, where is the best place to get material?  Dacron for the main/jib, nylon for the Spin?  

3) I read somewhere that there are places you can send sail designs to and they will cut all the patterns for you and you just do all the sewing?  Is that only available to the lofts or can any joe schmo get that done?

 

 

On 6/27/2019 at 4:56 PM, The Mad Hatter said:

I went down the same path around 30 yrs ago. Main and jib, no problem. A good shaped Spinnaker may be a bit trickier. 

The learning process was a lot of fun and the ability to modify the sail between weekends really helped with the learning.

Get your old sails  out and make sure you also measure the seam taper and luff curve so you have a starting point .

The best of luck.

It is easier than you think. I started in 1976 and did it for 11 years, This was when we measured the boat and drew the rig and deck line to get the proper clew height off deck. a proper architects rule and graph paper is essential.

Then you draw the sail out on paper when you have the luff, foot and leech dimensions. Figure out where you want the draft to be.

Are you just going to make it a traditional layout or a radial. Once again, it is easier than you think.

Full, Flat how much luff curve to you want?

Once again, it is easier than you think. A good sewing machine is helpful. My wife bought a home Bernina w/puller which could easily sew a sail. She wont let me have a control specialists set it up so I can use it without foot pedal. I'd like to make a nice Spin/Daisy Stay'sl for my boat.

 

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We've designed, cut, & assembled three sails for our SJ21: blade jib first, then partial-battened mainsail, then a nylon Code Zero/drifter. All three turned out fine, tho certainly we got better with practice! They've held up brilliantly to abuse and perform more or less exactly like we hoped they would. Laid them out using Sailcut software and a metric tape measure. It was fun, educational, and if your time is cheap, it can save you a lot of money.

That said, when the time comes to add a 300sqft roller furling genoa to our 30 footer, I'll pay the folks at Island Planet to run one up. That's more Dacron than I care to wrassle around the living room floor.:mellow:

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