A custom helm cover.

Project date: 2010

This is such a simple project that it could almost be done in "Wordless Workshop" fashion, the famous Roy Doty do-it-yourself cartoons of the 1960s and 1970s that appeared in many handyman magazines.

But I digress... rather, I'll provide some in-depth review of techniques used for constructing canvas projects.

This project consists of a canvas cover for the helm. I found some nice grey canvas with cloth backing at the local canvas shop, that I felt would make a nice cover that is both weather resistant and soft on the underside. If you walk the docks at the marina, you'll find many folks throw a beach towel on the helm when they are gone - a sure advertisement in my mind that nobody is home. Conversely, a helm cover just looks like it belongs at the helm, not something that is place there when you leave the boat.

The first decision to make for the helm is how is the cover going to be secured? Velcro, snaps, or just a free-fit cover? For this project, snaps are going to be used. So I replaced the helm screws with snaps in all of the corners and along the perimiter of the dash plate for the cover. I am using standard DOT snaps, but Lift-the-Dot or Common Sense fasteners could have been used.



For this project, I am going to use pattern material, which is basically reinforced plastic sheeting that will not stretch or become deformed. One reason to use DOT snaps is you can then use a Quick-Fit kit with the pattern material to aid in laying out the cover. The Quick-Fit kit is rather expensive, but you can purchase just the snap pins and covers at a cheaper price if you only need a few. Both are available from Sailrite. As shown here, the Quick-Fit kit has DOT snaps with a pin that protrudes on the top. This pin then pokes through the pattern material.

Once you lay out the pattern material, poke it through the material and secure with the Quick-Fit kit's rubber covers. If you use enough of the pins, you can stretch the cover pattern out so that it fits nice and tight. Pretty neat, heh?

As you continue with the pattern, make any cutouts that are needed, as well as marking any areas that need special attention with a Sharpie. If you have any difficult areas that need piecing, you can cut out the pattern as necessary and use tape to form corners or whatever is needed. Strapping or Duct tape works well here.

When you have finished the pattern, it should be an exact representation of what you need to make. Using the pattern method such as this is very easily done, and I think makes for a much nicer finished product than simply "winging" it. All you really have to do is cut out the canvas material and bind the edges, and you are done with the cover. I had thought about making a cutout for the stereo remote (circle in the pattern), but I am glad I didn't as I have since replaced the stereo and no longer had a remote at that location.

I use binding material for many of my canvas projects. Binding can be purchased in many different materials, including Sunbrella that I am using here. Radius binding is Sunbrella that is cut on a diagonal and is recommended for most projects. The angle cut makes the binding go around corners a whole lot easier. Binding is typically available in 3/4" and 1" widths, which is folded over as it is sewn on.

I have a binding attachment for my machine, which I recommend for those of you that have little experience with it. But I am finding that lately, I can apply the binding faster and easier without using the attachment.

Installation of the snaps is more easily done at the boat. Here the Quick-Fit can be used again to help align the completed cover to the dash. If you plan on doing a lot of canvas work involving snaps, buy a Hoover Press-N-Snap tool. It cuts the hole and installs the snaps all in one action. You can also get dies for regular snaps, Gypsy studs, grommets, and so on. It will cost you $100 bucks, but is a worthy investment. I bought mine at Rochford Supply as that was the best price I found.

For the steering wheel, I sewed in a small piece of webbing with a web-snap to bring the two cover flaps together. This is a nice touch to the cover, and makes it all the more professional looking.

The completed helm cover in place. It attaches in literally seconds, and protects the helm from the elements, and keeps peering eyes from looking at all of your expensive electronics.

Rochford Supply


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