Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Another Stitch in Time plus nine (thousand)

I've decided to dedicate this post to the memory of my dad, who passed away last week after battling with diabetes, heart disease, and other maladies for many years. I was hoping to finish my Jimmy Skiff ™ project in time for him to at least be able to see it completed, if not be able to go out on the water with me. He did get to see the pictures, and he seemed to like what he saw. It brought back memories for him of when he used to go fishing with his uncle, and of a few times when he took my brothers and I out in a similar boat when I was somewhere between five and eight years old.

I was understandably delayed in working on my boat for the past few weeks, not only by my father's illness and passing, but also because I had laser eye surgery a few weeks ago, and then I had a nasty cold/flu for about a week. Since I needed to avoid the sanding dust, and the temperatures have still been on the low side most days, I moved on from the sanding and painting to constructing the sail.

Since I had never used a sewing machine before, I started by reading the instruction manual, getting quick overview from my wife (it is her machine), and then constructing the nylon sail bag that I bought as a kit from Sailrite. This served two objectives. First, it gave me practice on a smaller, simpler project, and secondly, it gave me a place to put the sail after it was sewn together. The bag has a square bottom and a draw-string top. I had enough material left over to make another smaller bag of the same style that I gave to my daughter. She was thrilled and I was pleased with the results as well.

Before I started on the sail, I laid out all of the contents of the custom Sailrite kit that I mentioned in my prior post. I re-read the comprehensive instructions included with the kit, and familiarized myself with the hardware, materials, and tools. I will cover these in more detail as I discuss the sail construction process.

The precut 4.4 oz. Dacron panels were all well marked with numbers, lines and labels to indicate the correct order and orientation of each panel. The body of the sail has eight numbered panels, with #1 at the bottom (foot), and #8 at the top (head). I started work on the sail itself by placing the seamstick double-sided basting tape on the seam allowance at the top of the 7th panel. Then I carefully lined up the bottom edge of panel #8 with the seam line on panel #7 and pressed them together. Then I sewed two rows of 3/16" zig-zag stitches along the seam allowance.

The patches for the head reinforcement were pre-cut, labeled and stacked. All I needed to do was to apply the basting tape along the edges of each patch, and then baste the patch assembly in place on the head of the sail before sewing it on with more ziz-zag stitches. It is much easier to build up the 'sub assemblies' and sew them onto the sail panels before sewing the panels to one another. This was not always possible, but most of the time, it was.

The patches are sewn onto the panels, with the smallest one on the bottom of the stack, and then the next larger one, and so on. There were four layers of patches for the head, tacks, and clews.

One great tip that the nice folks at Sailrite passed along is to use a cardboard tube with a slot cut along the length to roll the sail panels within as a means of making it manageable under the sewing arm. I used my table saw to cut the slot in the heavy cardboard tube.

Here is a shot of sewing on one of the batten pockets. The only Dacron sail parts that were not pre-cut were the batten pockets and the reef patches. They did include ample material to cut these out, based on measurements provided in the plans. There is a 4 1/2" elastic strap sewn into the narrow (inner) end of the batten pocket. This is to apply pressure to the fiberglass batten to hold it in the pocket. I will show this better on my next post when I finish the leech edge with a double hem and then sew the end of the batten pocket. I had to leave the last two inches of the batten pocket, unsewn toward the leech (back edge of the sail).

I did as much of the sewing as I could with the machine up on my table saw top and bench. Then as I needed to assemble the panel sections together, I had to clear out space on the floor and spread out there to baste and sew the remainder. This picture shows the tack and clew patches on the foot of the sail, and then the tack and clew reef patches along with the intermediate reef patches. These will have brass grommets pressed into them, and will provide the means for tying the lower portion of the sail up to reduce the sail area in stronger winds.

With the machine placed on the floor, I operated the foot control with my right foot, while kneeling on my left knee. This allowed both sides of the sail material to be rolled up, and I didn't need the tube, which was good, because I didn't have any large enough to roll the material into anyway.

Here is the assembled sail, rolled and stuffed into the sail bag. I still need to add the grommets, luff tape, boltrope, shackles and leech hem. I will cover all of this in my next post. Hopefully, it will only be a few days from now.


Derek Osborne said...

Hey Ron,

I built a Jimmy for my daughter some years ago and converted her to sail this winter. Haven't built the mast yet and need to get the sail done. Do you have an order# from Sailrite I could use to order the same kit?

Excellent blogsite btw. I'm guessing you've got a bit of writing somewhere in your background

Ron Paro said...

Hi Derek,

I'm still having a blast sailing my JS. Last summer I sailed in the WoodenBoat Small Reach Regatta in Brooklin ME, and they printed a photo of my my boat with my son and I in the August 2010 issue!

Thanks for the compliment on the blogsite. Yes, I used to do a lot of freelance magazine and newspaper article writing. That was a long time ago, before my dayjob required so much of my mental energy. Maybe I'll take it up again when I retire.

I'll send you an Email with the details about the sail.


Anonymous said...

Hi Ron,
Excellent blog and it's giving me the confidence to build one of these myself. With the sail, did you use an ordinary domestic sewing machine or was it a heavy duty one? I'm not sure if I'd need to buy a bigger one or if my wife's machine could handle this.


Ron Paro said...

Thanks Grant,

The Dacron I used was 4.4 ounce, which is pretty light-weight. The sewing machine was just a standard home use type, and had no trouble, even sewing through several layers.

This is now seven years later, and the boat and sail are still in great condition after much use.