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Old 24-09-2007, 14:10   #1
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Is a Canvas / Sunbrella Bimini a DIY job?

Wondering if anyone has had success with the bimini kits available at places like West Marine?
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Old 24-09-2007, 14:37   #2
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We had one on our boat when we bought it. It was a Taylor made unit I believe. Pretty cheesy, couldn't sail with it up. The thing had flimsy aluminum tubing and webbing straps to hold the front and back down and in a strong wind it felt like the whole thing was going to shake itself off the boat. The material wasn't real Sunbrella it was kind of a vinyl/fabric type of thing. I sold it for a hundred bucks.

Ended up having a new dodger/bimini with full enclosure made. Cost $3500 for the whole thing and it was the best money we've spent yet on a boat.
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Old 24-09-2007, 14:54   #3
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Sailrite has some excellent kits - I haven't done one myself, but have heard lots of good things (and have been a happy customer of theirs for years).

Cheers,
Steve
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Old 24-09-2007, 15:16   #4
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Bimini

Darrell,

There are a lot of boats on the bay that have the prefit bimini with frame that comes from West Marine. In fact my boat came with that type of bimini. I don't know their whole catalog, but the ones I have seen in the stores are designed for powerboats. These will have two problems. First they may not cover the whole cockpit. That is a matter of personal preference. The second and most important is that many are not designed for sailboats. Because of this they will not have a window to see the mainsail and they will be missing the backstay slot. If you are halfway good with a sewing machine and willing to spend the time both of these issues can be fixed without a too much work. Anyway installing them is easy enough.

The biggest plus for getting one custom made is that it can be designed to make it easier to get into and out of the boat. The off the shelf jobs do not take into consideration where the life lines, gates, etc. are in your particular installation. Finally if you feel up to it the consignment store may have a frame in stock that is wide enough to fit your boat. If it does making the bimini panel is easy enough.
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Old 24-09-2007, 16:23   #5
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If you have a knack for sewing and crafts, as well as geometry, I'll second Sailrite. They offer everything you need to do any canvas work.
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Old 24-09-2007, 20:46   #6
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Bimini construction

I sew for a living and could take you through the steps for fabricating one. Its really quite easy if you have a machine that will handle tex 92 thread. Bending the frames is easy also. All you need is a jigsaw a couple small pieces of plywood , and the tubing stock and fittings. You can build a fine stainless frame for under two hundred, Rochford supply sells aluminum frame kits for seventy five bucks. They have the lowest prices for fittings and canvas that you will find anywhere. Stainless fittings for under three dollars, some canvas for under two bucks a yard. check out the topgun seconds and shorts for around five. if youd like a primer on bending and patterning Id be glad to share my methods. Heres that site Rochfordsupply.com Stitchin Steve
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Old 25-09-2007, 06:09   #7
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Originally Posted by forsailbyowner View Post
I sew for a living and could take you through the steps for fabricating one. Its really quite easy if you have a machine that will handle tex 92 thread. Bending the frames is easy also. All you need is a jigsaw a couple small pieces of plywood , and the tubing stock and fittings. You can build a fine stainless frame for under two hundred, Rochford supply sells aluminum frame kits for seventy five bucks. They have the lowest prices for fittings and canvas that you will find anywhere. Stainless fittings for under three dollars, some canvas for under two bucks a yard. check out the topgun seconds and shorts for around five. if youd like a primer on bending and patterning Id be glad to share my methods. Heres that site Rochfordsupply.com Stitchin Steve
Thanks for this great offer I'm sure many could benefit from your expertise... but, I don't have a sewing machine.

I'm going to check out the link you supplied though. Maybe I can do my own frame and save some money there.
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Old 28-09-2007, 13:56   #8
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If you're wanting a sewing machine don't buy anything from Ebay that advertise they are "Industrial "type and show great photos of it sewing thru layers of leather and sunbrella...they won't cut it.
You can search for a good used commercial machine with a walking foot feature and find one for less that the "ebay bargains"
Been there done that !
Have a great industrial machine that l paid $450. for.. it's old but will stitch thru 16 layers of sunbrella without slowing down or breaking thread/needles.
And it's fun !
Dave
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Old 28-09-2007, 13:58   #9
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Oh ya...don't use aluminium for the frames...only stainless...you won't regret the extra cost!
Dave
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Old 29-09-2007, 04:56   #10
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Oh ya...don't use aluminium for the frames...only stainless...you won't regret the extra cost!
Dave
Bimini & Dodger frames should be made of 7/8" or 1" diameter, type 316 stainless thick-wall (.065" 16 gauge, or .083" 14 gauge) pipe, (not light 18-20 gauge tubing), and with stainless (bolted, not screwed) steel fittings.
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Old 29-09-2007, 05:21   #11
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Gord makes some good points about the proper materials. You can also get cheap 300 stainless fittings dirt cheap that will rust really bad! The 316 stainless fittings are not $3 unless they are stolen. The dodger is the hardest canvas part to make and have it fit tight and hold up. To make a pattern you can cut material from, place double sided tape over the frame when it's all complete and use a reinforced plastic material that cuts easily and won't stretch. Lay this over the tape and cut the patterns out with a razor blad in place. You then have to add seam allowances and other extra fabric. Don't forget to figure out how you'll be able to take it off and on without totally taking the frame apart. When complete is should be very tight with no wrinkles. You'll need to fit it at least twice and make minor adjustments.

The last trick is to bury as many seams as possible. Bury all zippers totally so no UV can get them. This will protect the threads from UV and reduce the leaks. Sewing good high quality dodgers is not easy even for a pro. You can make a pretty crappy one quickly but one storm or a year of UV may tell a different story.

If you want something you can cruise with you want a first rate set of canvas. Your first attempt on a sewing machine won't make the grade. Perhaps buy some throw away fabric and make a couple first before you buy the real materials.
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Old 25-10-2008, 07:48   #12
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Sunbrella canvas dodgers

I am interested in having a new sunbrella dodger made for my boat.
Can anyone out there tell me what I can expect to pay to have one
made??
Thanks,
Gaston
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Old 25-10-2008, 09:56   #13
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It really is hard to say. It is easy to make a cheap dodger and I would say the price ranges might be double depending on the grade of materials and workmanship. Asking for the lowest price usually means they will do a quickest job so you can save money. I really think prices can range double just based on what you may ask for. People that really know take a lot more time to bury more seams and get a perfectly tight fit.

I would find someone local that can measure your boat and will fit it. Maybe talk to sailors in your area and ask ones that have a dodger you really like who did the work. Now is the best time to start shopping for a dodger since it is off season in the Northern Hemisphere. Find a person you can interview and inspect other work. You should be able to examine past work and find someone that does good quality work. If you talk to them they should be able to convince you that they know how to do this work. Picking the best person that will do the work is the key. You can't expect good results if they don't custom fit it to your boat.
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Old 25-10-2008, 10:09   #14
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Costs my vary greatly dependent on your location, time of year,material selection etc etc. but the range may be from $800 to 2500 bucks ask around at the local yacht clubs/marinas and look at a few before deciding.
Dave
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Old 25-10-2008, 13:07   #15
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As a small aside, I recently had my dodger and bimini replaced. Rather than sunbrella I used seamark (check it out at Sailrite). I liked that it was waterproof rather than water resistant. Basically it is sunbrella on one side with a vinyl coating on the interior. The canvas man told me it added about 10% to the price.

Total cost for replacement, SW Florida was ~$2300 including tax. That was for a dodger, bimini, bridging section between the two. It was also specified that the new canvas had to be compatible with the existing sun screens and vinyl screens. The sunscreens are basically phyphertex (sp?) with zippers.
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