Chandlery July 15, 2005 Issue

Snap Options

Two easy, inexpensive ways to tame unruly boat canvas.

The new Top-Snapper has a rubberized handle and two working heads. It's a vast improvement over the old wooden-handled model and sells for $5 less.

Boat canvas products—dodgers, sail covers, biminis, cockpit covers, side curtains, hatch covers, etc.—make sailing pleasant. In some cases, covers make sailing safer, like those used on towed dinghies to keep them from filling and becoming unmanageable.

Made now almost entirely of synthetic material, boat canvas shrinks less than the cotton that held sway for many years. (Cotton shrank severely; even pre-shrunk it still shrank.) And despite what manufacturers claim, the synthetic products do too, but to a much less troublesome degree.

Boat canvas is being made these days with very taut fits. That’s desirable because it minimizes flapping and wear. So even a small amount of shrinkage is a problem with the fittings, be they zippers, quarter turn snaps, or the more common snap buttons, of which there are a half dozen kinds. All work to perfection—when new. A few months in the sun and rain, and then the trouble starts.

Then, when the canvas has to be stretched just a bit to get the fasteners to click in, the air can become polluted with invective; thumbs get sprained, fingernails tear, and finger tips are bruised. In some cases, only an individual as dogged and dexterous as a mountain climber will get the final snaps in place.


]For snap buttons, there are two tools on the market that PS knows of (there may be more) to make those last few snaps toe the mark. One is a solid aluminum cylinder, from Tradewinds International of Spokane, WA, with some excellent machining to form the working head. Called the SnapMate, it's a bit short to provide good leverage and a bit slippery. It sells for $21 and is a favorite of truckers because it's easy to carry in a pocket. Truckers' tarps only have outside snaps to deal with.

The other, called a Top-Snapper, is a very recent development by Ironwood Pacific Outdoors. It was first brought out as a single-headed tool, with a handsome hardwood handle, the all-important notched blade in stainless steel and brass fittings. The new, two-headed version is a vast improvement because it now can fasten from either the outside or inside. It also has a soft handle and a good wrist cord.

The 7"-long Top-Snapper works from the outside—and work it does very well. It makes it a snap to apply the needed leverage to fasten or unfasten snaps. To fasten from the inside, you use the longer end of the tool. The Top-Snapper sells for $19.95, a fiver less than the old wood-handle beauty.

By the way, if you want an extension on the life expectancy of the snaps on your boat canvas, take time every season or two to give each a little shot of a dry lubricant from a spray can. WD-40 isn't a bad choice for this. Even better, because it lasts longer and really protects the wee springs, are dabs of Vaseline, which is surely one of the oldest products on the market, but in recent times, on the web, seems to have fallen victim to ill repute.


• TopSnapper, 800/261-1330,
• Tradewinds International, 509/922-4561

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