Dire Need of Sail Material..but where?

I built some sails out of 2.0 mil mylar/polyester I got off the GBMY website and loved 'em. It’s time for more.

…except GBMY is closed for the holidays! This is a problem because the ‘race’ the sails are for is during the break. I need sail material! Where do I get it? Who sells the same or similar stuff?


Try Dick Blick Co. for mail-order. http://www.dickblick.com/
Depending where you’re located there may be a local store close by too. A local engineering/blueprint supply house may also be a source for this material.

Good luck

You might also try McMaster-Carr http://www.mcmaster.com/

They have everything & a very fast turn around time.

I’ve been through the McMaster book a few times. What exactly do you get from there for sail material?


Yeah, I guess I don’t quite know what I’m looking for in those catalougs. Obviously what I want isn’t listed as ‘sail material’… what is that stuff used for in the real world? Some kind of tracing paper?

I’m hoping for a little more direction, myself. I got so far as to discover that Mylar is DuPont’s name for a polyester resin, so presumably McMaster-Carr’s polyester film without adhesive, in thicknesses of about 0.002" (2 mils), is the same as 2 mil Mylar sold as sail material. Presumably. I’m not quite confident enough of that to place an order, however.

I did order latex rubber from McMaster-Carr to use with the “German rubber method” last year, and the order arrived quickly. That wasn’t during any Christmas rush, though.

Mike Biggs

Yes, Mylar is simply the trademark brand name for polyester film (PET).
One of the nice thing about the M-C online catalog is an excellent search feature. Simply enter “mylar” or “polyester film” & it will take you directly to the correct page.

It’s major use for “our” purposes is drafting film. Lines/designs drawn on the film allow for blue/white print reproduction. Sensitized paper placed under the mylar drawing, and exposed to UV light source causes lines (or background) to appear white or blue when exposed to ammonia or similar reactive chemical vapor. (This is the old method). Mylar can also be used to draw/print on for design work, and if done in pencil, can be erased without the film degradation often associated with paper based drawings. Thus the suggestion to visit an engineering/blueprint store since they will have it on a roll as a print-out medium for large laser printers.

While it is available clear, I would suggest a translucent (white haze) or opaque (can’t see through it) finish, as it is easier to see on the water (clear is hard to see cause you can see through it) and the translucent/opaque types have a “tooth” to it (surface roughness) that allows you oto use a SHARPIE marker to add class logo and sail numbers. Art stores will carry the clear stuff to use as a protective cover for artwork, documents, etc. or sheet opaque for use for sketchs, drawings or small design drawings. If you sail design (panels) fit pre-cut sizes, buy sheet mylar - but if sail panels are quite large, you may have to invest in a roll (expensive), go together with others in your club, or see if an engineering blueprint company will cut linear feet off a roll.

Hope this helps you understand what it is originally used for. Obviously, if adhesive backed, anti-static, colored, etc. it has a special use.

Good to be reminded that we probably don’t want the clear. Unfortunately, clear is all I see in 2 mil thick polyester film from McMaster-Carr. Too bad.

Might have to look elsewhere…

Mike Biggs

Not sure how well it works, but consider a very light coat of paint - or the type of stuff designed to “frost” your bathroom windows. Can’t remember the name of the stuff, but that “might” work - sold at Wal-Mart etc. locations.

I have ability to use my airbrush to spray aluminum oxide “dust” which gives a frosted appearance (opaque) to the film.

Just a couple of thoughts

Nobody using draft lines any more ?

No, very few real draughtsmen (one’s that used drawing boards) left, we now use CAD, faster but not as much fun. You felt you were in control of the drawing when you sat to a drawing board and every draughtsman had their own style of lettering. Now I wear glasses because I can’t see the 17" screen in front of me (Been using CAD for 15 years now). I still have a few film drawing hanging in cabinets at work not yet CADed-up.


I see they offer 1.5 mil translucent film, but only in large rolls costing $70 USD. I have spray painted the clear with good results & have also found that the clear is actually quite visible. The high reflectivity allows you to see the sail shape

If you are willing to place a large order, you can get polyester film here http://www.plasticsuppliers.com

If you just want to place a small order check out any of the following sites.

Uh, I’ve seen clear Mylar on a couple of boats, and all too often the sails “disappeared.” Don’t remember now whether that was ten percent of the time, or less, but it was disconcerting. I’d just forgotten I’d seen that when I started looking at the polyester film on McMaster-Carr.

I do intend to check that source for the translucent material. On the other hand, I may just stick with the TriSpi (which I order from Hang’em High, mentioned in a previous post), which I think is still polyester film, just with a nylon mesh for additional strength. Since the clear film sails I remember seeing earlier came with the comment that they didn’t last very long before stretching out of shape, I’m maybe not all that anxious to try a change to un-reinforced polyester film.

It’s great to have a resource such as this forum!

Mike Biggs

Relaying the following from JayDee in the U.K. for informational purposes:

We have in the UK, Florists wrapping “Paper”, not paper at all, but a very
strong plastic sheet printed with "Happy Birthday " etc on it. I have made sails with it using double sided sticky tape, its very thin and strong too, a German guy came fifth in the Marblehead Worlds with sails made of it.

Get down to the flower shop and have a good look at what they wrap the flowers in, buy some and buy the Wife a bunch while you are in there !.
If the USA stuff is as good as ours is, tell the Forum and give me a mention !!.

Wishing you all a VERY Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year

I too have made sails out of florist’s wrap - much to the amusement of fellow club members. I have used it to test my sailmaking, before commiting more expensive materials to the cutting knife.

My Victoria has had a florist wrap jib for all of the 2006 season, although it was only ever intended to be temporary. The only comment I would make is that it tears a little easily and will also crease easily. It is also darn noisy when the sails are luffing on a windy day.

Clear 002 is what I use for EC12 mains. From Dick Blick, Dura-lar. I hate clear sails but I do not mind them after I put a checkerboard pattern on them using one of the various white “opaque paint marker” or "opaque pigment marker"s. I think they are white acrlylic. Craft aisle or perhaps Hobby Lobby.

Drafting film is great since it comes off the roll FLAT. Dura-lar can be a challenge to make be flat. Not flat gives you S-bends and one tack sails or if you put the curve vertical it can give you a curled foot on the sail.

The dura-lar makes a killer EC12 main tho. It might be a little stiff for smaller boat.

I ended up ordering the 2 mil Mylar from McMaster-Carr afterall. A roll 40 inches wide by 25 ft for $30US. I placed the order maybe last Thursday, and the stuff arrived today (along with other stuff I ordered that has nothing to do with boats, one item of which was heavy enough to require shipping by motor freight).

Besides the advice in this thread about various paint treatments, I came across a mention somewhere else about using a ScotchBrite pad to make the surface opaque. While I do have such a pad around here somewhere, I ended up just using sandpaper. I had some high spots on my work table, and sanded a couple of small holes through the sails on my first effort, but these are for my backup boat, anyway. It’s usually sailed either by a prospect, or a friend who’s having equipment problems, so I’d just as soon it didn’t beat me and my #1 boat. :wink:

I plan to use Sharpies for the sail numbers and other required ID as usual, and maybe for some draft stripes. I may try airbrushing on some other color, to satisfy the artistic portion of my engineering soul (I just love oxymorons), and to make my boat easier to pick out in a crowd.

Mike Biggs

just wondering, could you scuff the clear film with a green scotch pad to make it opaque?