Sailmaking 101 - Sailmaking at Home

The images below show the methods demonstrated during "Sailmaking 101" attended in January 2003 by members of the Piedmont Model Yacht Club and those hailing from AMYA Club #28, in the Research Triangle Park area.

The course reviewed the tools required, materials used, current specifications, planning, preparation and assembly of panels, and finishing. Techniques used were gleaned from articles appearing in Great Sails you Can Afford: A Tool for Making them from Scratch by Yourself, by Graves, MY #106, and Making Model Yacht Sails, Part I, by Robinson & Wells. Many thanks to these authors!

If you wish to obtain the drawings and text material provided as part of the course, or comment on the material and techniques presented on this web page, contact Bob Mersereau.

Camber Board Building Instructions

Tools, Material List, Procedures

Notes from February 2006 Class

Notes on Cutting Luff and Leech

Cutting Panel

Cutting the lowest mainsail panel. All Mainsail panels are 14.8" wide, cut at setback angle of 72 degrees angle.

See layout diagrams in 2006 notes.

Sail Layout Table

Four Main panels cut to rough size. Cut panels are placed on sail table (a 24" hollow door) with 1/2" overlap, and 40% position marked.

Desired Overlap

Desired panel overlap. Note 40% marks as well as 1/2" overlap marks.

Dry Fit

Five Panels "Dry" Assembled

using Camber Board

Lowest panel positioned on camber board. Panel placed on camber board,overlapping joint by 1/2", and 40% mark aligned.

See Camber board building instructions.

Camber Board

Camber Board - reverse side.

Second Panel

Second Panel being positioned. Second panel overlaps preceeding one, 40% mark aligned.


Seam ready for seam tape. Both panels are fixed in position using low tack masking tape. The upper panel is rolled back to expose the seam area on the lower panel.


Seam tape positioned. The seam tape is centered on the 1/2" overlap area, and vigoriously pressed down.

Seam Tape

Seam tape carrier being removed. Once the carrier is removed, only adhesive remains on the lower panel. Starting at the center of the seam, the upper panel is carefully "rolled" into position, and pressed down,

Preparing for Sewing

Panels assembled, ready to sew seams

Cardboard Tube

Preparing the panels for sewing. Starting at the sail head, seamed panels are rolled on a cardbord tube to prepare for sewing.


Ready to sew the lowest seam. A zig-zag stich is used, about 1/4" wide, and long. Stitches are sewn through adhesive. We no longer sew the seams, tape does the job. Sewing or not is left up to the maker.

Cutting the Luff

Positioning the oversized sail blank to cut the luff. The head and tack have been positioned with low-tack tape, and the clew is raised bout 14 inches to create an appropriate sail shape.


A long batten used to guide the luff cut, positioned to intersect the head and tack, and to create the desired luff allowance.


An X-Acto knife is used against the batten to complete the cut.


Preparing to cut the leach. Per specifications, a batten is positioned and held with clamps and push-sticks to guide the leach cut.


Leach cut complete. Small uncut sections remain where push-sticks were positioned.

Cutting Foot

Preparing to cut the foot. A lighter batten is positioned per specification using clamps and a long push-stick.


Foot cut complete.

Corner Reinforcements

Ready for sail slides and graphics. Corner reinforcements and grommets have been placed using 1-1/2 oz. sticky-back dacron and #0 (wide) nylon washers.

Last updated on