There are several excellent Instructables about making sails from polytarps and traditional cotton, but so far none for Dacron. Well, time to fix that!

In this Instructable, I will be making a sail for a Buzzards Bay Rookie, a small one-class sailing dinghy that was popular in Southeast Massachusetts about a hundred years ago. The Rookie fleets were eventually replaced by Optis in the '50s or '60s, but you can still find a Rookie hull here and there. We restored one at the Woods Hole Historical Museum this winter, and I made the following sail for it.

You may be wondering why I would make a modern Dacron sail for a 100 year old boat. Good question. The builder of our boat, Oscar Perry, was famous for boasting that he could build a Rookie in a single day. Given this attitude, do you think Mr. Perry would have used Dacron cloth, seamstick, and luff tapes if they were available to him? Of course he would have! So, although this sail is not period in terms materials, it is most definitely fitting in with the spirit of the original.

Step 1: Tools, Materials, and Resources

Materials needed to build the Rookie sail: 
  • 7 yards of 3.8oz Dacron
  • 4 yards of 5-6" wide, 5-6oz Dacron tape
  • 5 yards of 2" wide, 3.8oz Dacron tape
  • 1/2" wide Seamstick double-sided tape
  • #46 thread, #14 and #16 needles
  • 6" of 1" wide velcro
  • 3"x4" headboard
  • x7 #0 spur grommets
  • x2 #3 spur grommets
  • x8 sail slides
  • x2 12"x5/8" battens
  • x1 18"x5/8" batten
  • Heavy polyester twine for seizings and handsewing (I make this by breaking down 1/2" polyester three-strand  line)
Tools needed:
  • Sewing machine
  • Hotknife
  • Stapler and staple remover
  • Tape measure and a long metal ruler
  • Mechanical Pencil
  • String
  • Thumbtacks
  • Sailmaker's needles for handsewing and seizing
  • Chunk of beeswax for handsewing and seizing
  • Sewing palm for handsewing and seizing
  • Hole cutters for #0 and #3 spur grommets
  • Setting dies for #0 and #3 spur grommets
You will also need enough space to lay the sail out full-size...preferably on a floor that you can stick thumbtacks into.

As we go along through the steps, I will explain what each of the tools are used for, and possible alternatives.

All of the tools and materials listed here can be purchased from: For more information on sailmaking, I recommend The Sailmaker's Apprentice by Emiliano Marino and Make Your Own Mainsails by James Lowell Grant. Both of these books are available on Amazon and Sailrite. 
<p>Nice job! This covers the bases really well. One tip- To get the luff or foot to lie flat, Make one loose fold parallel to the edge about a foot away from the edge. The excess cloth gets sucked up in the fold and your edge lies flat. </p>
great to learn something about the 3d nature of sails and how to make them
Excellent! Love the lofting on your (living room?) floor...
Living room lofting! You might notice I had to loft it port side up, because it wouldn't fit around my furniture the usual way (starb'd side up).
Great stuff! Sail making is no small task, thanks for taking the time to document and share your work.

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