Bimini Top Part 1

This is likely to be my biggest project of the year! 

When my garage burned, the camper kit for my boat burned with it. It's a 1987 model, and let's just say that finding the right replacement would be an arduous task. Why buy something when I can make it exactly how I want it?

Fortunately, my insurance covered the materials to replace it! Hooray for homeowner's insurance!

Because I had to purchase all replacement items within 1 year of the fire, I purchased the materials for the project months ago. I wasn't able to get into the boat to measure it until recently so I am finally ready to get started.

This is not a project I'm just diving into without knowing what I'm doing. The good people at Sailrite have awesome instructional videos and they just released some updated ones that I'm using to help me go about this. I also purchased all materials (except the frame) from Sailrite, so I know I'm in good hands. They even have bimini skin kits, which include everything you need to make your own bimini top, and you can customize various aspects of the kit. Awesome.

First up is the bimini top. This will be a multi-part series because this won't be a once-and-done type of project. 

To be able to pattern the bimini top, I needed to construct a frame to hold the frame. Right? I referenced this video to learn how to build the wooden frame upon which the bimini frame will sit...I am in no mood to attempt to do this on the actual boat, climbing over seats while it's up on the trailer in my driveway. I'm sure my neighbors would enjoy the show, but I'm trying to keep my outdoor F-bombs to a minimum.

Once I constructed the frame, I attached the bimini frame to the wood frame using the hardware that will ultimately connect it to the boat.


I will also say (proudly) that I used my circular saw -- unsupervised -- and did not lose any appendages or sustain any injuries. #winning

The next part of this process required extra sets of hands, so I called in for reinforcements. Several sets of hands showed up and we were able to get the frame stabilized with strapping tape.


I should mention at this point that it was about 92 degrees outside IN MAY which is borderline ridiculous. It made for a sweaty process. 

Following the instructions from the video, I placed strapping tape to the aluminum tubing (so I could draw on it with a Sharpie) and placed double-sided tape on top of the strapping tape to be able to create the pattern. For the pattern, I used Dura-Skrim patterning paper which is really cool stuff. It has filaments embedded into it so that it won't tear easily. It sticks to the double-sided tape but can be easily pulled off and repositioned to get the right tension.

I started with the aft panel (or rear for you non-nautical types).


Next I patterned the fore panel (forward or front). On both pattern pieces, I labeled various things to ensure I knew which was port (left) and starboard (right). These things are important when it comes time to put it all together!


So that was my stopping point for the day. I have to add seam allowances on the pattern pieces and then I'll be ready to start cutting fabric!