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jbarros 05-01-2003 08:52 AM

Sailmaking kits vs. building my own.
Hi all,

The winds have picked up here, and I''ve finaly gone down from my 150 to my hundred, and have discovered that it''s shape is only slightly worse than if I were to just tie some bed sheets up to the forestay. SO... I need a new 100. Luckily, this happens to corespond with my wanting to learn to make sails.

So, since this is my first one, should I start with one of the precut sail kits? One which will probibly have everything set up properly, and simply stitch it together, and possibly learn something? Or do you think this would just be an instruction following, with no real educational value, and I should just spend the time to read up, buy some dacron, and get started?

I''m definatley looking for education more than convience, so I dont mind taking more time, but that being said, I do need to get a functional sail out of the deal as well.

Thanks. :)

-- James

Jeff_H 05-01-2003 10:13 AM

Sailmaking kits vs. building my own.
Designing sails has evolved into a very sohisticated art and science. The best lofts have this science down pat to the point that they are using fabrics woven with specific load biases and with careful stress mapping. Careful orientation of the fabric (within 5 to 10 degrees) can make a huge difference in the strength, stretch minization, speed and durability achieved in a particular sail. I do not believe that the kits offer that level of sophiscation that is offered by most major sail lofts.

I would think that perhaps the best way to learn sail making is to take a job in a major sail loft. Today most designs are done by sophisticated computer programs. If you worked in a loft they would probably give you off hour access to the program and a decreased cost to purchase the sail panels.

It should be noted that the better lofts tend to do better fabric testing to make sure that they are getting what they ordered. They routinely reject fabric as unacceptable. That fabric goes to lesser quality lofts (including as I understand it, some kit lofts)and lofts with less buying power. The bigger company''s no longer cut sails at the local lofts but have the panels machine cut and marked at a central cumputer run facility. The sails are then assembled at the local loft.

The difference between a well designed aand poorly designed sail or one with poorer fabrics (even if they come from the same fabric manufactuers) is very significant and can really shorten the useful life of the sail, reduce its performance and result in greater heeling and less control. I woould discourage you from trying to design and make your own sails but I am also not a very big fan of the kit sails either.


rehernden 05-01-2003 04:33 PM

Sailmaking kits vs. building my own.
I made two sails for my 35'' sharpie ketch from Sailrite kits. I did not learn anything about sail making by sewing them together. I just wanted to make them too since I had also built the boat. As far as the quality of sail cloth, seemed ok to me. I told them how they would mostly be used and they recommended the proper material. They have held up ok. The only problem might be the dacron thread they sent. I used it to also make the covers and after three years the stiching on the top needed to be re-sewn because of UV. If you want to learn sailmaking I think Jeff_H might have the right idea in working for a loft. Seems like you could spend alot of money on sail cloth thru trial and error.

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