Sailmakers lay out, cut, assemble and repair sails that are today predominately made from high tech textiles, such as carbon fibre, Zylon and Vectran, and by a lamination process where woven cloth is sandwiched between two films of Mylar and then baked under pressure. There is a very small market for older synthetic fabrics such as Dacron and natural ones such as canvas.
Not only have sailmaking fabrics changed, so too have many of the processes e.g. in some lofts sailmakers model sails using computer aided design (CAD) which feeds directly to laser cutters which cut the sail panels from rolls of sail cloth, replacing the traditional hand-held scissor method.
Once the panels are sewn together, the sailmakers complete the sail by attaching elements such as the leech and foot lines, protective patches in the areas where the sail will scrape against hardware (stanchions, spreaders), steel rings and straps at the tack and clew, cleats, batten pockets (if required) and sail numbers.
Sailmakers work in sail lofts, which are usually well lit, large spaces, as sails take up a deal of space. They may also from time to time work on-site onboard yachts, either in the water or up on the slips. Sailmakers will usually be employed for a sailmaking company.
Some experienced sailmakers establish their own businesses. Business success in sailmaking, like all enterprises, depends as much on sales skills and customer service as on craft skills, and therefore some business skills training might be of benefit. There can also be considerable costs involved.
You can, in some circumstances, work as a sailmaking worker without undertaking any formal training or qualifications however some employers will prefer that you do. To work as a sailmaking worker you will usually require a Certificate II in Textile Fabrication.
With experience, and possibly some further training, leather goods producers may become a sailmaker tradesperson. This will usually require a Certificate III in Textile Fabrication.
Of course you can work at even higher levels within this occupation and sector, and with further training and experience you can continue to progress along a career pathway that could see you progress to supervisory occupations and also a number of senior management positions.
Earnings, Job and Employment Prospects
For detailed information about earnings, job and employment prospects for this occupation, go to the Australian JobSearch Careers page and click on Job Outlook .
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