Canvas Work – A Break From Dinghy Restoration

Sanding fiberglass ranks low on my list of favorite things to do, and I had the “itch” to do something else for a day (pun intended). I had ordered twist button canvas fasteners from Sailrite.com after researching price. I bought six sets (eye, twist fastener, and backing plates) for $.94 each. They were far and away the least expensive place to get them, even with shipping added in (about $6). A set of four would have cost so much more at West Marine ($14 for two sets) and approximately $2.60 each at Defender Marine. If there is any way you can avoid buying anything at West Marine, you should. On average, West marks up their prices at 1/3 above any other place on the web, and often above any other chandlery in town. Their stock in trade is convenience – one-stop shopping (or so they hope). On other items, they simply fleece the customer. There is no reason on earth to charge the sort of prices they do for some products, except that – amazingly – people will buy it anyway to avoid having to plan ahead. Occasionally you can get an item on sale at West that is a reasonably good deal. That’s the only time I really consider buying at West.

Oh yeah. . . the project!  I purchased a used headsail deck bag with my “new” (to me) jib, but it was a bit worn in one area.  The aft closure of the bag depended on UV damaged hook-and-loop fasteners. The hook-and-loop tape and had lost most of its grip, and I planned to change the closure method with canvas twist-and-eye sets. I don’t really like snaps – they corrode, can be difficult to operate when they age, and can lose their grip. These twist fasteners are fool-proof, don’t hurt your arthritic hands because they don’t become difficult to operate, etc..

Image from sailrite.com. This is what you get in one set. As you can see, the eye is fitted into one side of the canvas, and the twist lock into the other.

Image from sailrite.com. This is what you get in one set. As you can see, the eye is fitted into one side of the canvas, and the twist lock into the other.

I installed 4 sets right through the hook-and-loop tapes – and I managed to install both male and female pieces facing the right direction in the correct sides of the work piece! I’ve found that the most effective way to form the holes through acrylic canvas (like Sunbrella) for the eyes and the push-through points is to use a soldering iron. Just get the iron hot, set the piece  where it should go, and touch the iron to the fabric several times. It will melt the material while forming a hole, and seal the fabric threads at the same time. This probably will NOT work with regular cotton duck/canvas. You’ll have to some sort of cutting tool for that.

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The piece of green webbing above was used to form a loop in the back of the bag for support off the deck.

Webbing sewn into one side of the bag - not one end on either side of the bag - that would have made stowing the sail very difficult.

Webbing sewn into one side of the bag (starboard side) – not one end on either side of the bag – that would have made stowing the sail very difficult.

I sewed down a preexisting length of hook-and-loop tape to form a loop on the forward top of the bag (it was originally intended to go around the forestay), and fashioned a harness from line. The line is temporarily knotted into the correct length and shape. Next week I’ll get a couple brass snap hooks from the hardware store and substitute them for knots. That will expedite stowing the sail and hoisting the bag when needed – I won’t be standing on the bow retiring knots each time.

Here's the harness, knotted to the right length.  The jib halyard lifts the whole off the deck when managing the ground tackle, and keeps it off the deck when at the slip or at anchor.

Here’s the harness knotted to the right length. The jib halyard lifts the bag off the deck when managing the ground tackle, and keeps it off the deck when at the slip or at anchor.

I used my Speedy Stitcher sewing awl to attach the loops. This is a great tool for a job like this. I’ve also used it to repair sails in place (on deck). It goes fast, and is practically the only way to sew a locking stitch by hand through the heavy materials we use as sailors. I’ve easily and quickly sewed heavy gauge leather chafe patches on canvas with it. An interesting price comparison is observable here:  This tool sells for $36.99 at West Marine, but you can order it through Amazon for $11.90.

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