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Thread: Sailmaking hack

  1. #1
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    Default Sailmaking hack

    For my Shellback dinghy I cut down an old terrylene jib that was given me to make 2 different sized flying jibs. Neither was perfect but both worked and added to the fun, performance and enjoyment of the boat alot.

    I generally used the cloth orientated as it was in the original sail (it was also originally a homemade sail)

    I have been using these sails on my Gartside 130 for fun and have been enjoying them with much the same results as above,
    Recently I purchased jib off of craigslist for $10, the people selling it had been using it as a sunscreen and I could tell by the way it felt that it's days were numbered(THis kind of burns me up..I get why people do it but wrecking an otherwise perfectly good sail..grrr)


    It seemed to be roughly a laser 2 jib or from something a little smaller.

    11.5' luff, 6' foot.11.8' leech

    It just fit on my Lyre (Gartside 130) and though it's foot was cut a little round(tended to flap) and low(set it about 5' above my sprit) it sure made the boat move in light airs and it was nice to have a properly made foresail which sadly at this time I cannot afford to buy new.

    The other day I took it out of it's bag and as expected it was falling to rags along the leech, one could grap any part of the sail and tear it like tissue paper.

    I have a battered old FJ main that I will never use, strangely in pale red like a mirror sail. It's a well used homely old thing covered with old club markings, very lightweight but the cloth seems decent.

    My plan is to lay this jib atop the FJ main (as they are airfoils in the same orientation) and cut this sail out of it. probably preserving the bolt rope on the FJ main as my luff rope. I have grommets, sewing machine etc, proper thread etc.

    I will probably be cutting the foot a little higher and slightly less round

    My question is (knowing this is a less than ideal situation and I am doing it for fun):

    -for the best results, should I use the tack corner of the FJ main and start from the bottom (have one corner already made and mostly avoid batten pockets),

    -or should I use the middle of the sail.(as shown in the picture)

    -or does it even matter at all and I should just do what's easiest

    At this point being a stupid broke musician I can't afford a new one, or even a reasonably priced used one. I have been nosing around local sail clubs to see what they have but so far so luck.IMG_4015.jpg

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Sailmaking hack

    Alas, all of my old sails are too heavy to be of use to you or you could have them...although I may have an old light air jib from my J-30. If you want to investigate shipping from the US I'll dig around in my sail loft.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Sailmaking hack

    or this(1st option)not sure why the forum keeps reorientaing these pictures but what the heck
    IMG_4020.jpg

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Sailmaking hack

    This sail will be for very light air ,right? not expected to be pulled tight and be an upwind machine?
    Try to tack the sail out better. A pile of simple homemade punches, a sharpened nail in a piece o wood in my case,become very handy, nessessary really.or this was just for illustration prolly.
    anyway, if it's a goof around drifter, i'd do as in pic 1. leave the encapsulated luff rope long,for now.stitch it at the top, adjust the bottom in real time underway.
    you up to speed on sailmaking tape?

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Sailmaking hack

    Despite the supposed "attractiveness" of using a pre-existing luff edge of an old sail for a new jib luff, it is probably the absolutely worst way to start the job, and pretty much guarantees that the performance will be bad. A proper jib luff is not straight, and it is not the sort of convex curve that you find on an existing mainsail. It is nearly always going to be a shallow "S" curve, with its variations from being just a straight line being due to balancing cloth added convexly ahead of the luff reference line to create draft, with cloth removed (hollowing) to make up for the inevitable luff sag which is going to happen in use.

    This is usually plotted on the plan or floor lofting, starting with the luff reference line, which is just a straight line from peak to tack. We then mark the 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 heights on that line and add two more straight lines representing the leech and foot of the sail. Measuring horizontally across the sail from the luff reference to leech reference lines at those quarter heights gives us the chord widths at the sail's one-quarter, one-half and three-quarter heights. Measure those three chord widths. Now we want to add some draft, and typically (or if we don't have prior experience with the boat to show us otherwise) we would use a 2%-2.7% factor, which will yield one foot of draft for every ten feet of chord width, or a bit less.

    We draw-in these small, calculated draft measurement amounts forward of the luff reference line at each height. Now we need to allow for the luff sag, which is going to happen, and which is not preventable. Typically, we figure on 1" of sag for each 10' of luff length unless we have on-water test results showing more. We have already extended our chord lines out ahead of the luff reference line a bit to create draft, and now we are going to back those amounts down a bit to make up for sag. At the luff midpoint (1/2 height) we deduct the full sag amount. At the 1/4 height and 3/4 height levels we deduct 75% of that amount. So, we have added cloth forward of the reference line to create draft and then subtracted a portion of that amount for luff sag. The final luff shape is then going to be a shallow "S" curve which is slightly concave up high on the luff and then slightly convex down low. On a used jib, the best thing to do is likely to be cutting off the old luff tape, moving back a few inches and building a new luff to the proper shape.

    The big question is the condition of the cloth, as it has probably lost a lot of strength and stability, which may mean that it isn't worth the labor and time to attempt to make it a good jib, rather than just a beater that might last a year or two. There will also be some work required on the other two edges (leech hollowing and a few broadseams to prevent flapping). You may be starting to see why most real sailmakers won't consider wasting their time and your money cutting up old sails to make different ones.

    A typical jib building plan:

    jib plan.jpg

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Sailmaking hack

    As usual thanks Mr. Bradshaw for your excellent and through information. I will put it to use and cut off the old luff rope and reshape with a new one. If I can get a sail which lasts me a couple seasons that's perfectly fine for me and I enjoy having a winter project that at this time I don't need to pour money into.

    Thanks Wizbang dreadlock moisturizer bot too! If you meant seam basting tape then I'm aware of that and have some. Was there another type of tape you were referencing?
    To make them lay better I had strung up the clew about 3' in the air and tensioned it too. however tacking it all down would probably be better...time to move to the carpeted room

    When I had the luff of both sails tensioned and mostly lined up, you could really see the hollow(and almost S shape) in the jib as compared to the main.
    IMG_4022.jpg

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Sailmaking hack

    Quote Originally Posted by Hugh MacD View Post
    Alas, all of my old sails are too heavy to be of use to you or you could have them...although I may have an old light air jib from my J-30. If you want to investigate shipping from the US I'll dig around in my sail loft.
    Thanks very much! That's very thoughtful of you. I think the shipping would be very costly, Cross border shipping has ballooned in price in the past couple years.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Sailmaking hack

    If just for relaxed sailing, and perhaps getting basic sailmaking skills, reusing an old sail is fine. Learning by doing. However, you may get bad habits that are hard to unlearn.
    So I wouldnīt worry too much about the S shape, the round of the foot, etc, IF youīre just doing it for casual sailing. If you however want to learn sailmaking to a degree, read Sailmakerīs Aprentice, listen to Todd, and get new fabric. Depending on the kind itīs not really that expensive if you take into account the life time of the sail.

    /Mats

    Diagnosed with autism. Sorry, not much I can do about it.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Sailmaking hack

    Thanks I've been contemplating that book, trying to find a used copy. If shipping from theStates wasn't so expensive these days I would also contemplate a sailright kit. They're great deals but the exchange rate and current shipping rates make them very expensive.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Sailmaking hack

    If I was going to buy a couple of books which would teach me what I needed to know in order to design and build sails, I would absolutely start with the little paperbacks that Jim Grant (the founder of Sailrite) wrote. These are the books that taught me how to build sails, and I still occasionally will crack one open if I can't remember a formula for something. The full set consists of six - Mainsail Construction, Jibsail Construction, Spinnaker Construction, Stormsail Construction, Staysail Construction and Sail Repair. They are available either in a full set, or individually for around $10 each. You can't buy better, more straight to the point explanations of what you need to know to design and build a sail. They don't get into fancy finishing, so what you learn there is up to you and other sources, but the critical aspects in the basic design and construction are all in there, and in my opinion, they are explained better than any other source that I have seen.

    https://www.sailrite.com/Jibsails-Th...n-Construction
    https://www.sailrite.com/The-Mainsail-Manual-Book

    I did a stretch working at a book bindery that a friend owned and hard bound mine. Of all the books on the shelf, they are the ones most often used.

    books.jpg

    Also, since sailmaking has to do with more than just the sail's luff or other edges, the best way to make a good new sail from an old sail is probably going to be cutting out the seams and just salvaging long strips of fabric to start over with. Chances are that the seams on the old sail aren't the seams which should be part of the new sail. If they are broadseamed at all, it won't be the proper amount or in the proper places and if they aren't broadseamed, there will be places on the new cut where they should be.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Sailmaking hack

    Todd, great posts.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Sailmaking hack

    Those pamphlets are good, but I donīt think that I would recoment them for a novice sailmaker

    /Mats

    Diagnosed with autism. Sorry, not much I can do about it.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Sailmaking hack

    Why not? They seem to have worked fine for me. I had been a Hobie Cat and Sunfish (AMF) dealer and had worked flying, inspecting and repairing hot air balloons, so I knew how to use a sewing machine, but didn't know anything about designing or building sails. With no formal sailmaking instruction ever, those little books became my primary textbooks, and I seem to have turned out to be a fairly decent sailmaker.

    assorted-sails.jpg

    mix2.jpg

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Sailmaking hack

    I found this book useful
    Small Boat Sails
    Jeremy Howard Williams
    Used on Amazon, cheap

    F95163C2-5A27-4DA6-BCF5-F332618E14CB.jpeg

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Sailmaking hack

    So this is a book on making sails? Sorry for the obvious question, I was trying to find information on the book, mostly find comments on the books condition.

    Quote Originally Posted by Canoeyawl View Post
    I found this book useful
    Small Boat Sails
    Jeremy Howard Williams
    Used on Amazon, cheap

    F95163C2-5A27-4DA6-BCF5-F332618E14CB.jpeg

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Sailmaking hack

    It is perhaps more about how sails work than how to stitch them up.For the $5 or $6 (used) it is a very inexpensive education

    I have an old friend that is a succesful sailmaker (modern) and he would recut an old sail for little money. He put better sails in the dumpster than I could ever make myself. At the time I was trying various rigs on specific small craft and this was an inexpensive way to try them. Gaff, sprit, lug, lateen, you name it and I learned a lot.I also learned that some details make all the difference and some are not so important. He charged $50-$75 a sail, maybe 100 ft sq
    .
    The author was a sailmaker of some notoriety, his larger and more comprehensive books are important, but dated. Materials and techniques have changed
    (If there is a sailmaker nearby, you might find that for them disposing of sails is a problem...
    I once picked up a sail from an old 10 meter that had been recut from an old racing schooner. It took a forklift to put it in my truck and I made all the walls for a boat shed with it 30 x12 x8 ft high. About a 1/16" thick, I think it originally came from Shamrock V The batten pockets would take 1x6's)

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Sailmaking hack

    Sure Todd, good for you. I still donīt think theyīre the best starting points for most novices.
    I wasnīt terribly impressed by Smal Boat Sails, but I can see it as a fairly good entry point.
    However, Iīd still recommend Sailmakerīs Aprentice as the first piece of literature on the subject.

    /Mats

    Diagnosed with autism. Sorry, not much I can do about it.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Sailmaking hack

    The word "hack" is like a bit of bad seam that needs to be ripped out and re stitched....or does it ?
    most of us cannot get our head around making our own sails, let alone re cutting an old one.
    just as there are funky dorys there are finely crafted rangeleys
    I get more pleasure from my funky recuts than storebought sails.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Sailmaking hack

    The Sailmaker's Apprentice is a monumental book, but my gripe has always been that the subject is too broad to really single out and cover all the things that really need to be covered. As I have said before on numerous occasions, sailmaking is not all that difficult, but there are an awful lot of little aspects which need to be juggled and accounted for in order to really make a good sail. The small Grant paperbacks get right to the point for beginners, and they can be cutting and piecing a sail together while Marono or Jeremy Howard Williams are still burying the reader in text to sort through. I find them better at furnishing good text and illustrations (especially Marino) covering more advanced and/or finishing details than as the first text to seek out. Granted, I had been making sails for nearly 20 years before The Sailmaker's Apprentice came out, so it wasn't a part of my learning curve. Perhaps it would have been more valuable had I been just starting out at that point.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Sailmaking hack

    Yes, sailmaking makes me think back to when I took a course on device driver development and the teacher said something like "itīs very easy, really, but there are so many things you need to get right. Itīs like bleeding to death from a hundred paper cuts".
    Sailmakerīs Apprentice can seem daunting, thick, lots of stuff in it, but you can pick and chose what parts to read.
    But to each their own, Small Boat Sails, The Grant pamphlets, or Sailmakerīs Apprentice, whatever floats your boat.

    /Mats

    Diagnosed with autism. Sorry, not much I can do about it.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Sailmaking hack

    As to the Wizbang approach to sailmaking, though it may be cute to go low-tech (or maybe no-tech would be a better description) it's all a matter of what your standards are and what you are willing to accept in terms of quality, craftsmanship and performance. Nobody has to go sailing these days, so do it to whatever level you are comfortable with. Obviously if I turned stuff like that over to my customers for money, I wouldn't be in business for long.

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