Water Sports

How to Replace Canvas Snaps

Bass Pro Shops snaps kit
All-in-one snap repair kits can be purchased and provide serviceable work. More specialized—and expensive—tools may be required, depending upon the nature of the repair.
Courtesy Bass Pro Shops

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Age and cold temperatures both cause canvas to shrink. Couple those factors with the stress from wind and weather, and it’s easy to understand why snaps pull out of canvas. 

The good news is that fixing a snap that has pulled out of the canvas is not all that hard. While some situations may require a pro canvas technician, repairing a pulled snap is often a simple hand process that you can accomplish before your coffee gets cold. This article will cover changing snaps on canvas. Replacing the snaps installed on the boat will be covered in another article.

1. The best tool is called a Pres-N-Snap, available from marine supply outfits like Sailrite and on Amazon. This tool punches the hole and installs the snap in one go, allowing you to use your other hand to hold the canvas. Further, it installs Lift-the-Dot, Twist-Lock and other snaps besides the common button snap we discuss here.

2. Bass Pro Shops offers a 73-piece snap kit ($26.99) that comes with a basic plierslike tool sufficient for installing occasional button snaps. Another tool is a setting tool and anvil ($29.95, sail​rite.com) that you rap with a hammer to set the snap. I find this setup better than inexpensive pliers when installing snaps through thick, doubled-over seams.

3. Assess the repair. Rarely will a snap pull out clean so that you can simply install another one with good service. More commonly, tearing occurs. Installing the new snap at the same location requires sewing or gluing a patch to the underside of the fabric. Make your patch at least four times bigger than the hole. (Bigger is better.)

4. If you don’t reuse the hole, you’ll install the cap close by in a new hole that you punch. Doing so may require a snap extender for the female snap on the fabric to reach the male snap on the boat.

5. I have had success gluing patches using a product called Amazing Goop, available from hardware stores and online. You’ll need to weight or clamp the patch for several hours. If you choose to sew, use Tenara thread (or braided fishing line) and a good-size needle. You may want to remove the curtain, -Bimini or cover from the boat before gluing or sewing, though these tasks can sometimes be done with the canvas in place.

Read Next: Buying the Right Marine Canvas

6. In proper technique, you’d punch the hole through the canvas using a 1/8-inch hole punch (if you don’t own a Pres-N-Snap). Careful use of an awl works in a pinch.

7. Insert the barrel or shaft of the button part of the snap through the hole from the top side of the fabric. Slide the socket part of the snap onto the button’s barrel from below. If using a pliers tool, squeeze hard. If using the setting tool, make sure all is lined up and, with the canvas on a sturdy surface, deliver a sharp blow with your hammer. In effect, you are riveting the button to the socket.

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