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Thread: The quest for cotton sails - part one

  1. #36
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    Default Re: The quest for cotton sails - part one

    Ok, the sewing machines I've used can make pretty small zig-zag stitches so I don't quite buy that, but that the seams are buried better I could see.
    Quote Originally Posted by Todd Bradshaw View Post
    It is still standard procedure for regular zig-zag seaming. Post#29 in this thread, last paragraph and look carefully at the photo of the seams on the Dacron sail above.
    The point I was trying to make is that it doesn't matter all that much for performance, not that it's bad practice. I could be wrong, but that's my understanding.

    /Mats

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  2. #37
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    Default Re: The quest for cotton sails - part one

    Yes, you most definitely could be wrong. I'm not sure where you get some of your information, or where your "understanding" comes from, but many of your conclusions don't seem to be based on actual experience. In this case, the stitch going just slightly over the edge of the seam on a Dacron sail helps to prevent yarns from raveling out along the cut edges. If you are sewing Dacron sails, you should generally be doing this on your panel seams and most others if they involve a cut edge. Not doing so is the "bad practice".

    DdCN0684-(1).jpg

    I have said before that good sailmaking is pretty much learning to juggle a whole bunch of small factors which contribute to the quality of the final product. If you intend to become a good sailmaker you should be doing everything you can to make the best product possible. Placing stitch lines properly on Dacron sails is just another one of those things.

  3. #38
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    Default Re: The quest for cotton sails - part one

    Well, if it is really important, I see that as a reason not to use straight stitches.

    My information comes from many sources, not least what you have told me. In this case probably from a book, I would had thought sailmaker's apprentice, but since you disagree and you as far as I know like the book it was probably another one.
    I've said it before, I am not really questioning you or disagreeing with you (usually, it has happened), it's more of a wish to understand and to learn.

    /Mats

    Elected Swedish Yourneyman of the Year 2019

  4. #39
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    Default Re: The quest for cotton sails - part one

    To circle back to the philosophic underpinnings of this idea, and so we can quantify a little better the differences between natural and synthetic fibers, here is a link to an article that cites a few scientific studies on this subject. In summary, both polyester and cotton have environmental impacts associated with them, but they are by no means equivalent.

    Cotton as it's currently grown is very water intensive, and there is ecological waste created by fertilizers, insecticides and chemical dyes. Some of this is fairly inherent to the plant, and some is due to unsustainable agricultural practices.

    The article's focus is on cotton, so less is said about polyester, but a key takeaway is that the equivalent emissions for producing a polyester t-shirt is an estimated 5.5 kg CO2e, while a cotton shirt produces 2.1 kg CO2e. I've seen someone on this forum in the past claim that synthetics have lower life cycle emissions, but I don't think that's at all true. This is in addition to things not mentioned by the article: oil spills, the effects of fracking, plastic waste deposited into our water systems, yada yada it's big petroleum and you get the picture.

    Personally, I come down on the side of cotton being the more sustainable choice, especially since improving cotton farming practices seems a more likely future than oil companies becoming a sustainable industry.
    Last edited by Anthony Z; 07-23-2019 at 03:54 PM.

  5. #40
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    Default Re: The quest for cotton sails - part one

    I'm acting a bit like the devils advocate here, but anyways...
    The kgs of CO2 for manufactoring isn't everything. You need to take many other aspects into account.
    How long does the product last?
    How is the waste handeled once the product is thrown away? (This ofcourse depends on your country/state, if you have a working recykling system or not.)
    Then it depends on how the synthetics are made, they can be made out of corn or wood, it doesn't need to be oil (but which way is more environmental-friendly I cannot say, again many factors).

    /Mats

    Elected Swedish Yourneyman of the Year 2019

  6. #41
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    Default Re: The quest for cotton sails - part one

    Fair points, and I did try to address as many factors as possible.
    I don't think any sailcloth is made from those sources you describe, though. And that doesn't address the fact that even if you make polyester from bamboo, it is structurally identical the petroleum product and will still have those downsides.

  7. #42
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    Default Re: The quest for cotton sails - part one

    Isn't this boat supposed to be built from plywood? Preferably a tropical species from the rain forests and held together by epoxy resin and fiberglass? Have you calculated the environmental impact of all that stuff as well? Yet you're worried about the difference between 74 sq. ft. of 3.8 oz. Dacron, vs. a similar amount of cotton? Better modify that, because the Dacron sails have the potential if well cared for to substantially outlast the cotton ones in terms of delivering decent performance and holding their shape with minimal maintenance over their lifespan.

    And what happens when you finally decide to sell that boat and move on to something else? Don't think for a minute that it can't happen to you or to any of the rest of us. Life changes over time. I think I counted up once that I've owned something like 24 different kayaks over the years. At any given point, I probably would have told you that the current one was the last one I'd ever want to own. I could still say that today, and it's probably no more accurate now than it would have been 40 years ago. If your hull is sound and you sell the boat, the new owner may not be happy sailing around with a pair of inefficient cotton sails made by an amateur. In that case, he may order new ones. They are far more likely to be Dacron than cotton, and there goes your minimal environmental impact, right down the drain.

    I can certainly see why someone might say that they wanted to try cotton sails just to see what they were like and that they were willing to take whatever sort of performance and maintenance hits came with them. They would also need to understand that if they ever wanted their boat to live up to its full potential as a sailboat, they would likely need to replace them with synthetics. The environmental impact issue, on the other hand, seems incredibly weak justification here when you consider the whole picture.

    Wouldn't the true ecological approach be to buy an existing older boat, fix it up and keep it out of the landfill?

  8. #43
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    Default Re: The quest for cotton sails - part one

    Quote Originally Posted by Anthony Z View Post
    Fair points, and I did try to address as many factors as possible.
    I don't think any sailcloth is made from those sources you describe, though. And that doesn't address the fact that even if you make polyester from bamboo, it is structurally identical the petroleum product and will still have those downsides.
    Fair ponts back to you.
    I agree about sailcloth is probably not made from wood, at least not yet.
    Over here, most plastic shopping bags are, though.
    I'm probably going to get jumped on by a chemistry expert now, but I think oil and wood is basically the same thing, oil is more "compact", if you will, but oil was made from wood and some other stuff like dinosaurs and whatnot.
    I'm not familiar with the process of making plastic from wood, but I know it's being done, BUT I am not sure the technique is all that environmentally friendly, it could very well be that plastics made from oil causes fewer problems.
    The biggest problem with oil is that we fuel our cars and planes with it, the second biggest perhaps is that we don't take care of our trash.

    /Mats

    Elected Swedish Yourneyman of the Year 2019

  9. #44
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    Default Re: The quest for cotton sails - part one

    Quote Originally Posted by Todd Bradshaw View Post
    Isn't this boat supposed to be built from plywood? Preferably a tropical species from the rain forests and held together by epoxy resin and fiberglass? Have you calculated the environmental impact of all that stuff as well? Yet you're worried about the difference between 74 sq. ft. of 3.8 oz. Dacron, vs. a similar amount of cotton?
    This is no argument, these facts makes it more important to be a bit environment friendly with eg the sails.
    The rest of the post I agree with you.

    /Mats

    Elected Swedish Yourneyman of the Year 2019

  10. #45
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    Plus, I'd already gotten half way through building the boat before considering this XD

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  11. #46
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    Default Re: The quest for cotton sails - part one

    One good use for blown out cotton sails is that they can be cut up and made into clothing which can look very salty!
    Jay

  12. #47
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    My quote from James Lawrence Sailmakers came in.

    "
    We have a fantastic supplier of this range of superb natural cotton sailcloth, which has a close weave and a lovely feel.

    Prices as follows –

    To making up a new balanced Lugsail, with one reef******* -************* 826

    To adding the additional reef in Lugsail****************** *************** -************* 74 extra

    To making up a new sprit boomed Mizzen*********** *************** -************* 304

    *To adding the additional reef in Mizzen*************** *************** -************* 48 extra
    "
    Definitely an expensive option, but would address Todd's concern of putting garbage sails on an otherwise fun boat.
    I'm very intrigued by their supplier of sailcloth, and I wonder who is making it.

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  13. #48
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    Default Re: The quest for cotton sails - part one

    Yes, a very expensive option- and a very vague quote.

    What is the weight of the fabric
    How are the edges finished? - Bound, roped, hemmed?
    What are the cuts? - Vertical, cross-cut, mitre?
    What is the panel width and will it be the same for both so that they match?
    Corner patch style?
    etc.

    There is no reason to suspect that they will do anything but excellent work, but just between you and me, if I'm going to lay out that kind of cash for anything at all, sails included, I'm going to need a lot more specific information about exactly what I'm buying. As small as these sails are, you are definitely up into the "custom built" range and should be consulted on some of these issues.

  14. #49
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    Thanks Todd! The rest of the email had some, but not all of that information. I'll make sure to ask a few follow-ups.

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  15. #50
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    Default Re: The quest for cotton sails - part one

    Quote Originally Posted by Plyboy View Post
    How experimental are you feeling? Home Depot has canvas drop cloths in 8 and 10 oz
    I have never gotten better than 1 season out of 10oz cotton sail covers. Sails would need not only to be allowed to dry after use, but not left in the sun.

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