Using of cloth sails

Manual how to use cloth sails to download in PDF HERE


Sails are indispensable for sailing ship.I accept plastic sails only as a pattern for real cloth ones. I offer great quality cloth sails made on CNC sewing machine, because it’s problem for lot of people to make cloth sails by themselves. Historical technical details are considered during production to be the most similar to their original template as possible. It is possible to order patinated sails and/or with printings. It is also possible to buy canvas itself. 

Canvas, cloth, stitching – batiste – 100% cotton, grammage – 88 gms. Stitching is also by thread from 100% cotton or colored synthetic threads.


Before you buy them

Scale - Before you buy a sails, you must take ito consideration what the model, in which the scale will sails. Large scales from 1: xx up to 1: 150 you can buy sails sewn with all the details such as curved edges, reef band, side and corner, or additional reinforcement lining sails. In  scales 1: 160 and more are recommending only sails sewed on the canvas, which further adjust.

Set up sails on ship – It’s good to think first about if you want to have all sails on your ship or just some of them. You can for example leave studding and stay sails. And then if some of them will be furled, or partly furled sails. Here I recommend to buy standard sails or shortened and oppositely skewed sails for imitation of convoluted sails while they don’t too much big bundle on yard.

Patination and printing – Sails was colored to dirty beige mainly because of impregnation and by using. Some of sails was made by colored clothes especially on galleys and xebecs. There were blazons, crosses etc. on some sail. It’s good to take in consider also these things before order.


Preparation of sails

There is some following steps need to be done before we place the sails directly on our model:
Painting of sails:
Some ships had sails from cutton cloth, which whiten out by using in salted wind and by sun, especially American’s ships, like USS Constitution, their schooners and brigs. So for these cases I recommend leave this sails white. Most of other sails had beige or glaucous color. We can reach these colors by patination in strong leachate of black tea, coffee, alcohol stain or paint for fabrics. The longer cloth is in solution the darker cloth is. For these cases I provide a piece of cloth with sails, so you can make a test.

Painting in onion peelings didn’t provide good results in my hands. Color was “old-yellow” after treatment and then even more yellow after stiffen sails by Sidolux (acrylic varnish) for shape stability. It is possible that my peelings wasn’t dry out enough or too young onion.

Iron out your sails after dry out and cut off rest of redundant threads.

Finishing sails – Bolt rope and Reef rope, Bowlines:

Accessories of sails: Circuit of Sails is toughened by bolt rope. It is sewed from the back edge of the sail. Earrings are made by ropes in sail corners – see picture. Sail was attached to the yard by upper earrings and tensioning and cassation ropes, hazels and reins was attached by lower earrings. There was also other earrings around the perimeter of the bolt rope for sail manipulation. In Reef Band were attached ropes Reef points for tucked, shortening the size of sail area.




Popis vzhledu Francouzských plachet z r. cca 1750 najdete třeba:
V odborné literatuře, v knize The Seventy-Four Gun Ship vol.3

Popis anglických plachet ze stajného období:
HERE, or


Bolt rope – Bolt rope diameter was the same as other ropes for relevant shrouds. Bolt ropes of Course sails had diameter ¾ of diameter lower shrouds, top and topgallant sails had the samediameter as relevant shrouds. Other sails had proportionally thinner ropes.
You can attach cringles to bolt rope before you attach the sail itself to yard in big scale models (from 1:xx to 1:100). These cringles were used for other control ropes. Stretch bolt rope around sail and then mark spots for cringles; you need to leave long overhanging ends of rope. You need to remember, that bolt rope is from one piece around sides and lower part of the sail. For this reason I recommend to glue cringles to the rope and rope to the sail by each side. We make cringles from the same rope and glue it to the bolt rope by superglue or we can wrap it around to the rope by thin thread as on the picture:

Attach of the bolt ropeFind out what is the right position of sail and how it is oriented, before you start to attach bolt rope. Each sail has wider bends on the side of yard attachment, but be careful it’s not thickening by another cloth. We can sew the bolt rope to the sail or in the most cases glued by flexible gel super glue. We can make work easier when we hold sail by self-locking tweezers, or between two girders, so rim of sail stand out only partly above edges. Then apply the gel glue to the edge of the sail. Gel glue is drawn directly from the tube to the edge of the sail. A forms a gel coating that is not absorbed into the sail. A taut rope be pressed into the adhesive. For better and faster drying it’s better to little bit moisten the bolt rope. Then we make cringles on the lower corner of the sail (the best way is to wrap around skewer), to have the same size on both sides. We wrap cringles by thread in corners. Than we make the same in other sides of the sail.​

Reef points – Reef points are ropes, by which sail was attached to the yard, when they wanted to reduce sail area. They was threaded through reef band, which thickened the sail. There was a node by the sail to prevent the sail from side moves. We make reef points from thinner rope. After threading through the sail we trim them to the same length.

Bowlines – Bowlines served to shape the side hem of the sail to prevent capturing wind from front side. Design differed according to time and place of ship construction. It’s appropriate to attach bowlines in this phase or when sail is on the yard. It’s harder to make bowlines when the sail is already on the kit.

Different types of Bowline:


Attach of the sails to the yard and stay:

Yard sails - Fix the sail to the yard at the moment when other equipment is attached to it - pulleys, or footrope. Again we take care where it is top or bottom and front or back of the sail. The way how to attach sail to the yard was changing during time and it’s aptly illustrated on the picture see below.

Stay and Jib sails - were hung on a stay using rope wrapped around it. Stay sails were later attached to the stay using clips so called “Hanks” which were sewn to the sail and threaded onto the stay.​

Shaping of sail:

Give shape to sail is last step before attaching a yard with the sail to the mast. Methods are different. Someone shaping sail by plastic originals, somebody else according to bottles with corresponding diameter. I'm using a procedure where I stablish the finished sail into the frame. Corners of the sail in such a way as if it were attached to the ship, see Fig. 

First we thoroughly iron the sails in order to be straight, without folds and scratches. I paint the sail with chosen stiffening varnish (Ideally matte acrylate paint, or strongly diluted dispersion adhesive )  You can also use another stiffening, depending on your own experience! You can also use the classic liquid starch on canvas. For smaller sails, we can also use a common hair spray. Dilution of the impregnating solution is chosen to be well soaked into the sail, do not create a visible layer after drying it. Solution have to be pretty soaked, the sail solid and hold the shape well. I dry impregnation by hairdryer and get the optimal shape. At the moment when sail drying I do different folds in the corners, or folding if I want them to be on the sail. It is particularly important to do so when making furled, or partly furled sails. In the case of furled sail we furl it all and directly tie to the yard.

If you buy sails with a print, you can not use to impregnate paint of acetone-based, as it will damage the print!

Now the sail is ready to be attached to the boat (mast), where we already have stretched rigging. I prefer when I have installed all the rigging before assembly of yards. Running rigging is attached to the tie place of the yard on the boat including decorative scrolls ropes.

I hope this manual will be useful during building the models. Please contact me if you have any questions. I will help you if I can.

I wish you many beautiful models with great rigging!

Source of images:

book - Historic Ship Models from Wolfram zu Mondfeld web - 


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