Sunday, 29 June 2014

Making a New Sprayhood

The boat budget has probably been revised half a dozen different times, so, a new sprayhood was more of a nice to have than a necessity, even though the old one was a horrible faded red. The problem was that looking at our newly painted hull, made the sprayhood look even worse than it had originally done. It annoyed me every time I looked at it, so I decided, after pricing around a bit, that whilst we could not afford to buy a new sprayhood, we could make one.

Whilst I have quite a heavy duty domestic sewing machine (Elna 520 Experience), the trouble is that it was not going to cope with more than 4 layers of acrylic canvas, no matter how big the needle I used, so I ended up picking up a Westminster 671 semi industrial sewing machine. On the whole, it is an ok machine. Not sure I would recommend it though. I think, rather spend more money and get something better. Ideally, you want something with a much longer arm and better foot clearance. When you are sewing large bulky bits of fabric, it is quite difficult to feed it through a small arm gap, even once it has been rolled up. Equally, you need to be able to lift the foot further up, when sewing multiple layers of fabric.

Once we had decided, I was definitely going to go ahead and make a new sprayhood, it was time to template the old one, which meant cutting it up. There was no going back after that! So I hesitantly cut up the old sprayhood and traced the fabric pieces onto brown paper. I then ordered colour swatches of PU coated Acrylic canvas from C&J Marine. I ended up choosing 'Admiral Dark'. The fabric was delivered promptly and was well packaged.

Once the colour was selected, I ordered: 3 metres of the canvas, 1 metre of the clear window material and 1 metre of their Navy PVC (matt finish). C&J Marine were quick with their delivery and well priced. I left the ordering of the Lift-The-Dot® fittings until I had finished the sprayhood.

The next step was to cut out the canvas panels. I ended up doing this on the lounge floor, as it needed maximum space to ensure the panels were sitting flat and that I had maximised the canvas, leaving as little wastage as possible. Even with 3 metres of fabric, it was going to be a tight fit.

Once the canvas had been cut out, it was down to the serious business of sewing up the panels. I broke a few needles as expected, I had to change back and forth between my machines, although I have to say, I ended up using my Elna far more than I did the Westminster. I ended up mostly using a size 18 Jeans needle on the canvas and a Size 16 leather needle on the PVC grab section and on the windows. I also had to use the walking foot, to ensure the layers of canvas, pvc and plastic were fed through at the same rate. There were some sections, which were just so awkward to sew due to the fabric having to be held up to stop the weight dragging on the feed dog and....and of course, by the end of it, my shoulders were absolutely killing me. The other issue was that the plastic windows kept on sticking to the machine, so I ended up sticking masking tape all over the bed of the machine to move the panels along a bit easier. 

There are still a few Lift-The-Dot® fittings that need to be positioned to properly tension the hood but other than that, it seems to have worked out better than expected.

The point is, I did it and it looks good. Would I do it again? NO!! Absolutely not. The £800 (base price) one would pay is definitely worth it. The only way I would attempt this again, is if I had a serious industrial machine.

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