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Old 18-02-2012, 10:07   #16
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Re: Is a canvas/sunbrella Bimini a DIY job?

Yes, it can be a DIY job. I completely agree with cabo_sailor, get the seamark material. I bought mine off of eBay for $4/yd (not exactly the color I wanted, but for that cheap price I bought a ton of it). I've used it for 4 years and it works great.

By the way, I had no sewing experience, but I bought a used good sewing machine at Joann Fabrics, the gals there gave me a 15 minute lesson on sewing, and I used my old canvas as a pattern for the new canvas.

Do a little internet self-learning, and go at it. Took a couple of days to complete, and cost about $500 ($1500 if you include the sewing machine). Looks as good than most, and better than many.

Couple of years later, I made a cover for my Wellcraft 21SL in an afternoon. I tried to document my experience here with some pictures:
Making new boat canvas
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Old 18-02-2012, 18:30   #17
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"seamark" canvas seems to me to be no more then good quality PU coated acrylic canvas. ( I never understand this fascination with funky Trade names )

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Old 18-02-2012, 19:16   #18
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Re: Is a canvas/sunbrella Bimini a DIY job?

If you dont care what the end result looks like, by all means, do it your self with whatever you think is right..
But understand that those of us in the business have been doing the work for years and every stitch, every thread color, and every product has been tried and used and mostly the info we give is what has been learned over the years.
We know what looks good, we know how to fit it, and we stand behind our work..
You can make a dodger from a wal-mart rain coat if you wish, But if you care about what it looks like and the quality of workmanship, you'll have someone who knows what they are doing, build your canvas..
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Old 18-02-2012, 19:26   #19
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Re: Is a canvas/sunbrella Bimini a DIY job?

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Originally Posted by rgp717 View Post
Yes, it can be a DIY job. I completely agree with cabo_sailor, get the seamark material. I bought mine off of eBay for $4/yd (not exactly the color I wanted, but for that cheap price I bought a ton of it). I've used it for 4 years and it works great.

By the way, I had no sewing experience, but I bought a used good sewing machine at Joann Fabrics, the gals there gave me a 15 minute lesson on sewing, and I used my old canvas as a pattern for the new canvas.

Do a little internet self-learning, and go at it. Took a couple of days to complete, and cost about $500 ($1500 if you include the sewing machine). Looks as good than most, and better than many.

Couple of years later, I made a cover for my Wellcraft 21SL in an afternoon. I tried to document my experience here with some pictures:
Making new boat canvas

Make your first one out of cheap fabric, and when it wears out you'll be able to adjust it and then use it for a pattern for a better job on better fabric.

The big problem with DIY canvas work is that most affordable sewing machines cannot sew truly sun-resistant thread. To do your fitting, use the GIANT clips you can buy at Home Depot/Lowe's. That's what you use instead of the pins you would use for more traditional sewing. If you don't pull the fabric extremely tight, the final product will be too loose. It won't help support your frame (if made properly, it should), and it won't hold up in high winds, such as that unexpected thunderstorm.

You can try increasing the amount of waterproof-ness of cheaper fabric by periodically coating it with the clear coating used on house decks. Can't think of the name of it right now.
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Old 18-02-2012, 19:32   #20
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Re: Is a canvas/sunbrella Bimini a DIY job?

I've been doing all my own canvas and upholstery work for many years and I have a Sailrite sewing machine to handle the heavy duty work. Like any other job on a boat, it really helps to have first rate tools and materials. You should cut your fabric with a heated cutter and they are expensive too. It will cost you more on the first job if you buy all the right tools and materials (than if you had a pro do it), but if you keep at it, like I have, then when you acquire the skills and you will be able to replace that first job 5-7 years down the road, and you will save a good deal.
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Old 18-02-2012, 20:05   #21
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Re: Is a canvas/sunbrella Bimini a DIY job?

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If you dont care what the end result looks like, by all means, do it your self with whatever you think is right..
But understand that those of us in the business have been doing the work for years and every stitch, every thread color, and every product has been tried and used and mostly the info we give is what has been learned over the years.
We know what looks good, we know how to fit it, and we stand behind our work..
You can make a dodger from a wal-mart rain coat if you wish, But if you care about what it looks like and the quality of workmanship, you'll have someone who knows what they are doing, build your canvas..
I have been in the marine industry for over 30 years and my experience with canvas shops for boats has been abysmal for a long time. So many times, and as recently as 4 weeks ago, we have tried to get work done on our boat. Everything from complete new cushions for the main salon to a bimini to side curtains, etc. My most recent example is typical of our experience. I have called 6 different local canvas shops. Two said they were very busy but would call me back in a week to make arrangements to come out and measure. Never heard from them again. The other four of the six made appointments to come to the boat to measure. Three never showed up and the fourth did come out and take the measurements. That one said they would get back to me in a few days with the estimate. Never heard from him again. I just ordered all of the foam and materials to do the work ourselves. This is not the first time we have been down this road and it is not just our experience. It is not a location thing since we have faced this situation in Maryland, Florida and South Carolina. We have talked to many, many boaters with pretty much the same story. We tried to get someone to the boat in Beaufort, SC to replace our Bimini and the issues were exactly the same. So we built our own, The Trawler Beach House: A Trawler Makeover , based on information from a book we had. I think it is called the Big Book Of Boat Canvas . It was not that difficult. We do have a Sailrite sewing machine but the money we have saved doing it ourselves more than paid for the machine. Was it as perfect as a professional would have done, maybe not. Does it still look good, everyone that sees it seems to think so. Did we save a butt load of money, you bet. That's our story and we're sticking to it. Chuck
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Old 19-02-2012, 08:41   #22
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Re: Is a Canvas / Sunbrella Bimini a DIY job?

goboatingnow: For me, I wasn't fascinated by the name 'seamark'. It just so happened to be the only waterproof canvas name I know. "PU coated acrylic canvas" -- good tip.

By the way, my sewing machine is a 1990 high-end Husqvarna. The sewing machine is powerful and has no problem punching thru 6-8 layers of material.

And I would say that it's true that my stitching is not as good as a professional shop. For thread, I used the strongest upholstery thread I could find (but it's not strong enough -- every 3 years, I pull my homemade seamark canvas down, and spend an afternoon, re-sewing large portions of the edges). Now that I think of it, I did my DIY canvas job 6 years ago. And I leave my boat and canvas open to the Ohio winters (my boat is set up in the parking lot, my canvases are up, and it is NOT covered with shrink-wrap). Next time, I'll try one of the threads recommended here.

Nonetheless, it still looks good and functions very well, and the hassle of one afternoon every couple of years is so worth it (to me) vs the cost/hassle of having a professional shop do it. Finally, let me say I am a hard-core DIYer; do all my mechanical, electrical, plumbing, framing, etc. work on my boats, cars, and homes. Making your own canvas is a challenging job but doable.
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Old 19-02-2012, 09:06   #23
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Re: Is a canvas/sunbrella Bimini a DIY job?

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I have been in the marine industry for over 30 years and my experience with canvas shops for boats has been abysmal for a long time. So many times, and as recently as 4 weeks ago, we have tried to get work done on our boat. Everything from complete new cushions for the main salon to a bimini to side curtains, etc. My most recent example is typical of our experience. I have called 6 different local canvas shops. Two said they were very busy but would call me back in a week to make arrangements to come out and measure. Never heard from them again. The other four of the six made appointments to come to the boat to measure. Three never showed up and the fourth did come out and take the measurements. That one said they would get back to me in a few days with the estimate. Never heard from him again. I just ordered all of the foam and materials to do the work ourselves. This is not the first time we have been down this road and it is not just our experience. It is not a location thing since we have faced this situation in Maryland, Florida and South Carolina. We have talked to many, many boaters with pretty much the same story. We tried to get someone to the boat in Beaufort, SC to replace our Bimini and the issues were exactly the same. So we built our own, The Trawler Beach House: A Trawler Makeover , based on information from a book we had. I think it is called the Big Book Of Boat Canvas . It was not that difficult. We do have a Sailrite sewing machine but the money we have saved doing it ourselves more than paid for the machine. Was it as perfect as a professional would have done, maybe not. Does it still look good, everyone that sees it seems to think so. Did we save a butt load of money, you bet. That's our story and we're sticking to it. Chuck
You are probably dead on with what you say.. but If you think that us canvas people are setting around on our butts, your wrong.. Right now, at the start of the season, I'm booking jobs 3 to 4 months out on full inclosures.. working 10 to 12 hours a day , 7 days a week.. and my price is high, damn high..
We push quality first and formost above everything else and people pay big bucks for that.. I've tried putting people to work, addvertised, and even had the local TV station out..
you can check out the interview my doing a search of OXBOW CANVAS..
and after interviewing over 300 people, and putting 6 to work, we are back down to 3 people, my wife, my son, and I.. even after showing someone 3, 4 or 5 times how to do something, they still decide to do it their own way and do it wrong.. but when Friday comes around, they sure want that paycheck..
This is a little thread drift but quality people with good work ethics is a thing of the past..
My last person here for example,
Said he had over 10 years experance.. I started him out at 35 per hour and full benifits..
The first full inclosure he built needed work and wasnt quite right, and took me a week to fix.. and I said Me as I put him on another job and I fixed the mess..
The second job he set the zippers to tight and the rear of the top had that nasty dog-leg pull from the outside.. asked him to fix it befor he went any further and his fix was to RE-PUNCH the holes and re-locate the snaps at the arch, leaving holes in the fabric where he pulled out the old snaps..
We dont allow that type of work around here so he's gone..
so the next time you decide to blame the canvas guy for not comming to your boat, try blaming the work force we try to find employees in..
My son put it best when he said, " When looking for an employee, you're fishing from a pond of the un-employed"
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Old 19-02-2012, 12:03   #24
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Re: Is a Canvas / Sunbrella Bimini a DIY job?

That all sounds really good, so do you tell people you are coming and not show up because you are so busy? I have no problem with someone saying they don't have the time or manpower to do a job for me, I do it all the time. But don't waste my time waiting for you because you set up an appointment and then don't show up or call and say your not coming. That is not very "professional". Chuck
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Old 19-02-2012, 13:24   #25
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Re: Is a Canvas / Sunbrella Bimini a DIY job?

You're right about that chuck, and if you set an apointment, you need to keep it..
Where I catch a lot of crap is when someone drops something off and says do it when you get the time and two weks later, they dont understand why it isnt done, even thou you've told them how backed up you are..
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Old 15-08-2013, 21:24   #26
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Re: Is a Canvas / Sunbrella Bimini a DIY job?

Yes, a canvas bimini top can be a DIY job.

It is not easy. It takes a long time. Mistakes are made at the same speed as doing the job correctly.

When my canvas enclosure degraded I bought a commercial machine, Sunbrella Supreme fabric, Strataglass window material and ALL the materials and tools to complete the job.

The end result is not perfect, but fits WAY better than the factory enclosure ever fit.

This enclosure is almost fully watertight in deluge conditions, w/ just a couple of drops becoming visible after an extended downpour, the factory enclosure needed towels in many locations.

Many times I would be staring at my pattern, trying to think how to get the end result I wanted, before I figured out the solution. This is NOT easy.

This is not for everyone, but it can be fun and it can be very useful for the long-term.


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Old 15-08-2013, 23:16   #27
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Re: Is a Canvas / Sunbrella Bimini a DIY job?

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Yes, a canvas bimini top can be a DIY job.

It is not easy. It takes a long time. Mistakes are made at the same speed as doing the job correctly.

When my canvas enclosure degraded I bought a commercial machine, Sunbrella Supreme fabric, Strataglass window material and ALL the materials and tools to complete the job.

The end result is not perfect, but fits WAY better than the factory enclosure ever fit.
Wingless, you did a wonderful job. Not an easy task with all the curves, variations in material and precision required. Well done!
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Old 16-08-2013, 18:31   #28
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Re: Is a Canvas / Sunbrella Bimini a DIY job?

Wingless- that's beautiful work!
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Old 21-08-2013, 21:02   #29
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Re: Is a Canvas / Sunbrella Bimini a DIY job?

nice job, and love the supreme with the interior color.. not many go to that extreme..
and as said before, anyone can build an inclosure or a bimini but will it look pro when its finished and does it look good enough to put on your boat..
I,ve always had what I called a 500 thousand dollar attitude when it comes to boat canvas.. and that is, as if every boat you worked on was worth that amount.. with that in mind, only the best is good enough.
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Old 21-08-2013, 21:08   #30
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Re: Is a Canvas / Sunbrella Bimini a DIY job?

something else to ponder.. when doing canvas work on your boat, you can always think outside the box by using two different colors together for a richer look........
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