Friday, October 24, 2014

Quilting Techniques for Amateur Boatbuilders

Most of us learn boatbuilding techniques and tricks as boys, from our fathers. Michael Vermeersch, builder the Didi 950 prototype, sent me this tip that he learned from his mother. Her hobby was quilting, a pastime that I had never considered to bear any relationship to building boats.

The methods that quilters use to cut through multiple layers of fabrics can be useful for cutting fibreglass fabrics.

The Didi 950 has a structural grid in the bottom of the hull, to carry mast, rigging and keel loads. This grid is an egg-crate layout of plywood members comprising backbone and transverse framing that interlock with each other and are encapsulated in multiple layers of fibreglass. Covering these members involves cutting many pieces of fibreglass fabric to odd shapes and for multiple layers. Mike recognised this as being very similar to what his mother used to do when practicing her hobby.

Quilters rotary cutter and cutting board, with glass fabric and template.
In Mike's own words. "The cutter has a replaceable sharp steel wheel.  The mat has a "self healing " rubber surface that the wheel can penetrate for a clean cut.  This setup is typically used by quilters who need to cut a large number of precise fabric pieces.

I tried it with the 25 oz glass tape as well as the 12 oz 0/90 cloth.  It seems to work well.  There are repetitive pieces in the structural grid.  I made patterns out of rosin paper (used under hardwood flooring, available at Lowes and cheap).  I then stacked layers of the 12 oz and cut multiple pieces in one shot.

It worked with up to 4 layers of 12 oz, probably would work with more.  It leaves a cleaner edge with less unraveling than a shears or scissors.  Since the cutter rolls it doesn't pull strands like a knife."

Having myself cut many yards of fibreglass fabrics and mats, I have experience of the difficulties in getting nice clean edges that don't unravel or drag out of shape. Following this technique from the ladies might make all the difference to the neatness of your glasswork.

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