The Repair and Maintenance of Marine Canvas
Your canvas - or the petrochemical man-made blends that pass for canvas today - spends its entire life in the sun, weather, salt, etc., rarely getting a break. And since todays wonder fabrics aren’t exactly inexpensive, it behooves you to take a lot better care of it that you probably do. Regardless, it will require repair every now and again. And what better time than a waiting-for-boating-season weekend.
Storing Your Canvas
When you store your canvas for the season do it and your pocketbook a favor. Wash all your canvas and let it dry completely before storing it for the season. Store it in a cool, dry place. If you have any glass-like sections store them flat, but if that’s not possible roll them against a clean dry cloth. Always roll material, don’t fold it.
Check the instructions that came with any canvas you’ve purchased for any brand-specific limitations on cleaning, washing, etc. Identify the type of fabric, then check the manufacturer’s website for any no-nos.
Use warm water, a mild soap solution and a soft brush or sponge. You’re not trying to scrub the life out of it, simply clean it. Do not use household detergents. What’s mild soap? Ivory, Woolite or a soap specifically designed for marine fabric care. Starbrite, Meguiar’s, 303 —Sunbrella recommends the latter’s products for restoring water repellency as well— and others all make specific cleansers.
DO NOT use detergent on the glass, whether it’s Eisenglass or vinyl “glass.” Soft soap, water and a soft cloth only.
Plastic zippers are pretty care free, but as they age and those good ol’ UV rays start working, they can breakdown. Although silicone spray works, I prefer using Shurhold’s Snap Stick zipper lube, sort of a Chapstick on steroids. It provides much more control over where the lube is going. Rub it on both sides of the zipper, then run the zip a few times.
Top Snapper Snap Lube as well as the aforementioned Snap Stick both work on metal snaps. Don’t use petroleum-based products on anything that may come in contact with the material, since they can affect canvas, as well as stitching.
My repair kit contains a variety of thread, including waxed nylon thread for use with a Speedy Stitcher sewing awl (this for very thick material), a sailor’s palm and plenty of different size needles.
Snap repairs require: studs, sockets, buttons in both stainless and nickel plated brass. Setting dies usually come with small snap kits; you can get pro versions, but unless you are a pro, you don’t need them.
Lastly, I’ve got a Zipper Rescue Kit from ZRK Enterprises (541-482-5020; www.zipperrescue.com). If you’re any kind of outdoorsy person you need one of these kits. Get the marine version: $14 including shipping.
One of the best sources for sewing, top maintenance and repair is Sailrite (800-348-2769; www.sailrite.com), but any good chandlery should have what you need.
Wherever you’re working, setting new snaps requires some light hammering. A rubber mat or a roomy (and solid) work table makes the entire process much easier.
Removing Rusted/Busted Snaps
This is simple. Get a power drill or driver (Dremel and the like tools are great for this because of the speed control they allow) with a drill bit a little larger than the snap’s barrel and gently grind it out. Once the lip is worn away the snap will separate. Don’t do this fast; slow and gentle is the key.
Installing New Snaps
Simple to do, difficult to explain. Place the snap barrel though the hole in the canvas. Use the backing plate with a protrusion on it in which the barrel hole fits. Place the male end socket over the barrel (the material will be in between). Take the die with a flared end, place it on the barrel, and give it few stiff whacks. You have just installed one side of the snap. Next, take the button and repeat with its barrel, remembering on which side of the material you want the snap to be. Here’s a video I did about it: www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zj5ucUq1GY.
I’m no seamstress, but when anyone needs something sewn in the family, they come to me. I even have a sewing machine. Regardless of your level of expertise, just get needle and thread and go to it.
Lock stitches work best. It may be a Frankenstein-looking job, but if you do it with strong thread, lock knots and tight stitching, it’ll last almost as long as the what the pros do. Plus, a stitch in time will prevent a small tear, from becoming a tear that requires you to replace the entire canvas. This is especially true, when zipper tape (the material part of a zipper) starts to let go from the canvas.
Most of the zippers boaters deal with are called tooth-type separating zippers. The box is the bottom of the zipper, the separating pins are the pieces that start the zipper. The thing you pull is the slider and the end is called the top stop.
There are a variety of problems that can occur, but none need be fatal, and if you’re in possession of the aforementioned Zipper Rescue Kit, you’ll be surprised how easy it can be done. The kit comes with great directions, too.
One thing: if your zipper is missing teeth, anywhere but the terminal end (where you can use tape to prevent the slider from coming off), you’re going to have to pay for a new zipper. While sewing on a complete new zipper is doable, I think it’s better to send it out for repair. Other than that, the rescue kit can fix it.
Tools for Canvas Care and Repair
• Most sewing work can be done with non-stretch,
nylon-based, waxed line.
• A sailors palm and a Speedy Stitcher are great
for thick or multi layered material.
• A variety of heavy-duty needles, straight
• Zipper Rescue Kit.
• Snap-setting punches, bases and dies.
• A lightweight hammer or mallet.
• A clean, large-enough working surface. Fasten
a 4x8 sheet of ply to horses if necessary.