Using nylon monofilament in place of copper wire

I built a MC16.5 from plans last year and I've had a lot of fun with it since.  This year I'm planning to build the outrigger sailrig.  I'm thinking of stitching the amas with 125 lb breaking strain nylon monofilament instead of copper wire.  It's a bit thicker than the wire (1.2 mm) but still strong enough to cut through the okoume plywood if you over tighten it.  Obviously you can't just twist the ends together, you have to tie them with a suitable knot, put a short length of dowel through the loop and twist.  If you do two at a time you can then lock the tommy bars together to hold the tension.

 As I see it the advantages are:

Cheaper than copper

Nylon doesn't work-harden, so you can tighten and release stitches as many times as you need to while straightening the hull prior to filleting

Nylon becomes invisible when embedded in epoxy


It's a bit more fiddly than just twisting with pliers 


Anybody like to comment?


8 replies:

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RE: Using nylon monofilament in place of copper wire

You would be creating a whole lot of extra work for yourself to save maybe $5 on copper wire. -Wes

RE: Using nylon monofilament in place of copper wire

I personally like being able to twist/untwist the copper and also kind of like the flecks of wire left in place.


RE: Using nylon monofilament in place of copper wire

I've always been intrigued by the idea for the same reasons you mention, but haven't tried it.  I you do it as an experiment we'd would like to hear about it.  I agree with the response that at first blush, it sounds like more work.

Side note, which may hijack your post (hey, it's what I do!): I have heard that early in the history of the stitch-and-glue technique, it actually involved stictching with a continuous piece of material.  John Harris or Laszlo or others with in-depth knowledge of the history may be able to educate us here. 

I've often wondered if they used monofilament, rather than copper, for this kind of "sewing" operation. The question is, if you are tensioning a long sewn seam, rather than a single stitch, then the thread needs to be slippery enough to tighten evenly all along the seam.  Wouldn't nylon be slipperier than copper wire?

But for some reason, the idea of single stitches of copper or cable ties has prevailed, so it obviously proved superior.


RE: Using nylon monofilament in place of copper wire

I've settled on using plastic cable ties, and then removing them after "spot welding" the panels together with little dabs of thickened epoxy.  Without the need to cover up the stitching, narrower fillets are possible - which to my eye do look much nicer. 

Yes, the holes for copper wire can be a tiny bit smaller, but to me there isn't any difference.   I have gone the copper wire route also, but that seemed like much more of a hassle.


RE: Using nylon monofilament in place of copper wire

I am having a hard time understanding this entire debate.  I see nothing that has any advantage over copper wire when all is said and done.  As mentioned, cost is neglegable.  The only down side is the cold working that on occassion leads to broken wires which are easy to replace.  No mater what you use, you must remove the stiches if you want small fillets.  If you are worried about what you see on the finished boat, you will have copper dots if you leave the stiches in and brown dots if you take them out (assuming you don't do some extreme color matching)  If you use cable ties, or anything else that requires larger holes then you will have larger dots.  why do that?

Regarding a single running stich:  You would give up the ability to vary the tension as needed to make verything fit correctly.

By the way, I have one boat with stiches reamining and one with them removed.  From 6 feet away, you cannot tell the difference however the fillets on the later are smaller.


RE: Using nylon monofilament in place of copper wire

You can clip the wire on one side of the twist, heat the wire close to the hole w/ a soldering iron, soften the epoxy and pull the wire out.  You will have to then patch the hole with a dot of epoxy. Extra work but you have no wire.

RE: Using nylon monofilament in place of copper wire

You don't even have to patch the holes; they fill automagically when you apply the glass. This technique does work well, but is only needed on a few wires if you are careful about welding your joints. -Wes

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