Author Topic: Making your own wetsuit  (Read 3905 times)

Offline mrodoc

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Making your own wetsuit
« on: May 16, 2020, 10:35:04 am »
Many years ago I purchased for a song a roll of smooth 5mm neoprene. It is still in excellent nick and I thought during lockdown I could make a spare suit. However a lengthy  online search yielded no patterns and adverts for custom made suits. Anybody made their own in recent years. I even have the yellow tape you used to run up the seams (used to see it regularly underground ;))

UK Caving

Making your own wetsuit
« on: May 16, 2020, 10:35:04 am »
Warmbac

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2020, 11:34:09 am »
I'll PM you with a possible suggestion.

Offline T pot 2

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2020, 08:50:27 pm »
When you use your home made wetsuit always take a tin of glue with you to the cave  in which you wish to wear it in.
In the 70s when we made our own we often had to glue them together after putting them on before a trip commenced.
Happy days, thank God for flurries and vortex.

Offline Roger W

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2020, 08:55:40 pm »
 A silly question, but is your yellow tape still useable after all this time?
"That, of course, is the dangerous part about caves:  you don't know how far they go back, sometimes... or what is waiting for you inside."   JRR Tolkein: "The Hobbit"

Offline pwhole

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2020, 12:31:29 am »
When you use your home made wetsuit always take a tin of glue with you to the cave  in which you wish to wear it in.
In the 70s when we made our own we often had to glue them together after putting them on before a trip commenced.
Happy days, thank God for flurries and vortex.

No wonder the carbide flames were so large. And I guess if you missed the pub you could always finish the tin off  :blink:

Offline T pot 2

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2020, 12:59:42 pm »
I remember doing the giants oxlow in a home made two piece suit needless to say it didn't do another trip afterwards. The one piece double lined with sewn seams purchased made to measure from Maggie Aldred was the bees knees.
That wetsuit lasted five years.

Offline Subpopulus Hibernia

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2020, 04:29:38 pm »
My father made his own wetsuit from a mail-order kit back in the 70s. I remember seeing the pattern/instructions that came with the suit with some old caving literature in the attic about 10 years back. Might still be there, but I've no way of getting at it till the end of July...
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Offline Pitlamp

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2020, 08:45:40 pm »
My father made his own wetsuit from a mail-order kit back in the 70s. I remember seeing the pattern/instructions that came with the suit with some old caving literature in the attic about 10 years back. Might still be there, but I've no way of getting at it till the end of July...

Would that be "Aquaquipment" in St. Albans, Herts?
The used to advertise on the back of Descent.

Offline Mark Wright

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2020, 09:43:55 pm »
My first wetsuit was a kit from Aquaquipment in 1980.

Mark

Offline mrodoc

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2020, 11:12:18 pm »
My first wetsuit for diving I got when I was fifteen. It was second hand and expensive at 10/-  (50p). That was the classic yellow tape job. It was better than a woolly jumper and bathers though.

Offline Subpopulus Hibernia

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2020, 11:19:58 pm »
Had a chat with the father over the phone just now and he told me that the wetsuit kit came with all the pieces pre-cut. You got given a list of measurements to take, which you sent off, and then the wetsuit company did all the cutting. So you just had to do the assembly. So the old instructions in the attic are probably just that, assembly instructions, and not a pattern.

He doesn't remember the company, but it was somewhere in England, and in about 78/79, so most likely Aquaquipment.

I googled Aquaquipment, and got the following thread - Pitlamp, did you ever get around to making that suit?

https://ukcaving.com/board/index.php?topic=4397.0

In that thread there's a link to a pattern website, which gives the below 'wetsuit' pattern.

https://sewing.patternreview.com/Patterns/5198
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Offline Subpopulus Hibernia

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2020, 11:22:36 pm »
Also there's this interesting article about early home-built wetsuits on the Red Rose's website

http://www.rrcpc.org.uk/newsletters/NL_V49_N4_A15.htm
Born Salzburg 1691. B.Phil. University of 's-Hertogenbosch 1718. Decorated for bravery during the Third Portuguese War. Mayor of Milton Keynes, Jun 1981 - Jul 1981. Currently editing fourth edition of 'The writings of St. Theodoric of Freiburg'.

Offline mikem

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2020, 09:05:53 am »
They are much cheaper to buy nowadays  ;)

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2020, 09:29:33 am »

I googled Aquaquipment, and got the following thread - Pitlamp, did you ever get around to making that suit?


No - but I did rummage through the loft as mentioned in that topic and found various old wetsuits which fit me in one area but not in others. So I cut some of them up and stuck the parts that fitted back together, ending up with a "Frankenwetsuit" which did the job until I destroyed in on a couple of gnarly trips.

Incidentally, following advice in a recent topic, I ordered one of the Decathlon stretchy wetsuits which arrived yesterday. I'm about to try it on in a few minutes in fact. Maybe it'll turn me into a handsome, young, bleached-hair surfer dude. No? Oh well, just a thought.  :lol:

Offline mrodoc

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2020, 11:01:47 am »
I suppose I ought to contribute to the thread with a vintage wetsuit photo! Moderately vintage anyway.  Took it on 5th August 1978 in Swildons 4.

Offline PeteHall

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #15 on: May 18, 2020, 11:19:47 am »
Here is a not-so-vintage photo of a vintage wetsuit. Stoke Lane, 2019.

I was given the wetsuit by a friend; he made it in the mid-seventies and hadn't used it for a few decades, so passed it on. I lent it to my colleague Rob, for his first ever caving trip. It kept him warm and comfortable for the first part of the trip until the arse ripped shortly before we returned through the sump  :lol:

I got a lot of grief from the girls on reception for not getting any pictures after the wetsuit failed!  ;D

Offline pwhole

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #16 on: May 18, 2020, 12:09:34 pm »
I'm a bit concerned for Pitlamp - it's been well over two hours now. Are you stuck? Or just frantically trying to dye the new blond highlights out ;)

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #17 on: May 19, 2020, 05:26:33 pm »
I'm a bit concerned for Pitlamp - it's been well over two hours now. Are you stuck? Or just frantically trying to dye the new blond highlights out ;)

 :lol:

Looks like cool dude surfing is off the agenda for a while I'm afraid. I decided the size "LT" suit which arrived probably wan't quite big enough. Others who know me (and know I have what's called a "light frame") might like to bear your original advice in mind on sizing. That Decathlon offering is a beautifully made suit. It's just been posted back this aft and, once the refund's been made, I'm planning to order the same or a different suit of theirs in the next size up.

I'm not altogether convinced by the zip entry system they use though; I can foresee it being a problem when the going gets hot and sweaty (prussiking big pitches with a heavy load dangling springs to mind.) It also makes dressing a lengthy process as it needs thought and care. Not ideal for dressing / undressing at the coldest place in the universe (Leck Fell in a howling wet gale). But they do other designs and I intend to pursue this until I get sorted.

Offline pwhole

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #18 on: May 19, 2020, 07:40:40 pm »
Yep, that's exactly what I did - ordered a Large and ended up with an Extra Large, though it's the first garment in that size I've ever bought. Reassuringly I've since bought a shirt and some trousers in Large and they fit perfectly, so I'm confident I'm not getting bigger. But I just couldn't move comfortably, whereas the next size up felt like I was wearing Lycra (kind of). Agreed, the neck fastening is a bit tricky and the first (only) time I wore it in anger I had ask Cave_Troll  to help me fasten it. I trusted him as he's a diver. But hopefully it'll get easier as it gets stretchier. It seemed to me it would make more sense to have the zip fastener already on at the bottom end, and then you just pull it closed, rather than engaging the fastener on the open end. I guess this way the tab is out of the way.

Maybe I'll have to put it on again just to feel like it wasn't a total waste of money   ;D

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #19 on: May 19, 2020, 08:10:47 pm »
 :o  The thought of you wearing lycra . . .    :lol:   :clap2:

Having seen the zip design I think it'll get some strain.. I'd advise a regular light application of silicone spray. There is a proprietary product called "Zip Slip" which is excellent (I use it all the time for drysuit zips) but silicone spray will be fine for your wetsuit. It's worth doing regularly as your zip will always be easy to do up and it'll last aeons longer.

Offline pwhole

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #20 on: May 19, 2020, 08:48:37 pm »
Thanks for the tip - I've been needing something like that for ages for lots of things (like my fishing rod holdall), and it's not expensive, so sod it - I'll order some.

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #21 on: June 13, 2020, 12:43:03 pm »
Latest in this saga - I re-ordered a wetsuit identical to pwhole's from Decathlon, this time in size XL. It fits like a glove - am really pleased with it.

But . . . . am I missing a trick regarding fastening the zip across the chest? I locate the open side of the zip into the zipper but I'm really struggling then to close the zip. Anyone else found this difficult / fiddly? Or is there a knack to it? Any advice gratefully received! 

Offline pwhole

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #22 on: June 13, 2020, 01:53:36 pm »
Amazing - it seems XL is the 'average' size to go for then! I'm sure you're taller than me though, but if it works that's good news. I also found that zip part the most difficult to overcome, and after 'practising' at home I just about got the hang of it. But on my first trip out I lost the plot and had to get Tim to zip it up for me - oh, the shame. To be honest the most difficult bit is taking it off again after you've got the top part off and then finding your arms are pinned to your sides and you can't get them out! I'm now wishing I'd taken up those gymnastics classes all those years ago.

I did wonder whether having the fastener 'on' permanently at the inner end and zipping it closed would be a better design, but the trouble is then I suspect the fastener would be endlessly getting snagged on stuff, or maybe just gets pressed into bone too much. But it's intended for diving, not caving, so impacts should be minimal anyway.

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #23 on: June 13, 2020, 05:44:32 pm »
I've not really had a problem getting in and out of the suit - just doing up the zip. I'm sure I'm missing something here . . .  For someone used to using a drysuit with a waterproof back-mounted zip (easy when you know how) I'm finding this chest zip particularly fiddly. Can't imagine it being any easier in a howling icy gale with frozen fingers on some Dales fellside.

Offline braveduck

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #24 on: June 13, 2020, 11:05:19 pm »
I used to rub a candle on my wet suit zip ,the wax would get into all the nooks and crannies and keep it
running smooth for ages .
 

Offline pwhole

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #25 on: June 14, 2020, 12:06:51 am »
It's more getting the fastener to engage with the zip in the first place that's the issue - it's very high up on the chest so it's quite a tricky spot to exert some force but with dexterity. It's a Zen thing ;)

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #26 on: June 14, 2020, 03:48:19 pm »
I've finally cracked it. The trick is to hold both sides of the fabric with the RIGHT hand (once the two halves of the zip are engaged together in the zipper) and pull gently to straighten both sides of the zip. Then, with your LEFT hand underneath your right arm, draw the zipper across. This might sound obvious but it isn't when you're used to traditional wetsuit zips.

I agree with pwhole, it'd be much easier if the zip was fixed the other way around - indeed many other brands of wetsuits with chest zips do make them this way. This video gives an example - but I mainly posted the link as it might be useful for anyone else wanting to know the optimum way of getting in and out of chest zip suits. (NOTE: my advice about doing up the zip on the Decathlon suit is different from what you'll see when he does up the zip in this video.)



I'm pretty impressed with the Decathlon "Oliain" wetsuit so far; it's much more comfortable than any "purpose made" caving wetsuit I've ever had. Sizing is slightly weird though; I'm fairly skinny yet the correct size for me is "XL". As mentioned in an earlier post, one of my concerns was lack of ventilation when you get hot. In fact it's quite comfortable to wear with the zip open and your head out of the neck seal, which allows at least some cooling potential. Now I just need to look into topcat's P-zip information (many thanks for emailing that to me TC!) and the job's a good 'un.

Word of advice; the first suit I ordered (size "LT") had to go back for a refund as it was far too small. After several days having heard nothing I had to email them; they claimed they'd not received the suit. Fortunately I'd sent it back Royal Mail signed for; I emailed them a photo of the receipt from the post office, with the tracking number clearly visible - then I got my refund 2 days later. So if you do have to send anything back to Decathlon, I'd strongly advise using this "signed for" option.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2020, 04:13:58 pm by Pitlamp »

Offline pwhole

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #27 on: June 14, 2020, 04:12:23 pm »
Oh god, now I'm going to have to put it on again to practise! But that's OK, I'm missing it, having only used it once since I bought it, and it being a very flexible 'business expense' too - thanks for the tips. I'll try it out and let you know how I get on. Or get in ;)

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #28 on: June 14, 2020, 04:29:13 pm »
I had to persevere before I sussed it out. Facing a mirror helps. Then do it again not facing a mirror!

Go on - go for it . . . . !   :thumbsup:

Offline pwhole

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #29 on: June 14, 2020, 04:34:22 pm »
Luckily the sun has finally come out so I'm going for my daily walk first to see if I can find anything interesting in the woods. I usually do ;)

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #30 on: June 14, 2020, 09:02:29 pm »
Well?     :unsure:

Offline pwhole

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #31 on: June 14, 2020, 10:27:38 pm »
Good grief! It's far too warm to be putting wetsuits on indoors! That took a while to remember the correct sequence and I was sweaty as hell by the time I remembered. And I should have taken my socks off! But yes, I pretty much got it with the zip, though it took a few goes - the top side kept popping out of the fastener before I could pull it tight. It is annoying to not have it already on, but I wondered if maybe the reason it's that way round is that it's less likely to rip the neck panel if it's pulled over the head too roughly? I'm sure they must have tested it the other way around.

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #32 on: April 03, 2021, 09:51:14 pm »
I just found that the price of the Oliain wetsuit from Decathlon has changed from £129-99 to £199-99.  :o  I think they're manufactured in France, so this is probably the fault of all those people who were conned into voting for Brexit.

Having said that, I've caved (and cave dived, in combination with other neoprene garments) a lot in the suit since I bought it and I do like it, so I'd be tempted to fork out even this much for a replacement. Some of the very similar competition would set you back >£300 if you were daft enough to spend that much on something that may not last too long if caving seriously in it.

Incidentally Decathlon does also sell what looks like an equivalent Oliain 4 mm / 3 mm suit but with a back zip for only £69-99. (I don't get on with back zips though.)

Offline pwhole

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #33 on: April 04, 2021, 12:27:41 am »
Wow - in that case I'm glad I got it when I did! And I'm still waiting - one use only. But surely soon. As soon as we're allowed I'm going to go down the Lower Bung Streamway and just sit in it for an hour ;)

Offline PeteHall

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #34 on: April 04, 2021, 07:36:15 pm »
I know you don't do Facebook, Pitlamp, but I've picked up a couple of virtually new wetsuits for about £30 each recently on Facebook marketplace. A Warmbac Speleopro and a Beaver Icelandic Ultra.

There are loads of people selling virtually unused kit on there for very cheap, usually not the latest model though. Presumably, they have tried diving abroad, bought all the kit and then given up after one or two UK dives...

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #35 on: April 04, 2021, 07:52:57 pm »
I'm not a Yorkshireman - but you've got me interested!   ;)

Offline scratch

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #36 on: April 04, 2021, 08:24:26 pm »
All our Eldon and other clubs around in the late 60/70's were made by Paul Deakin measured by Eileen Hartle at Hartle Tours in Buxton and you did not carry a tube of glue, you glued when dry or when an arm was coming off.
In the late 60's at the PSM I saw a French caver's wife with bell bottom wetsuit trousers (French Style)

Offline JasonC

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #37 on: April 04, 2021, 08:27:51 pm »
Had a chat with the father over the phone just now and he told me that the wetsuit kit came with all the pieces pre-cut. You got given a list of measurements to take, which you sent off, and then the wetsuit company did all the cutting. So you just had to do the assembly. So the old instructions in the attic are probably just that, assembly instructions, and not a pattern.

I can remember making my first two wetsuits in the mid-70s.  I'm fairly sure the neoprene came marked-out bu not cut, so all you had to do was cut and glue... and if you wanted something that had a chance of lasting, sew up the seams with nylon line, and tape.

Cutting wasn't as easy it sounds, due to the need to get nice square edges.  Obviously a nice sharp craft knife is the thing, but being young and stupid, I just used scissors which meant you got little steps in the seams every few inches, which were a point of failure.

The great debate amongst my friends was smooth vs sharkskin, and one-piece vs two-piece.
I favoured a smooth one-piece (where you get hole under your crotch) and my mate went for a sharkskin two-piece (where the crotch strap detaches itself).

Sharkskin was reckoned to be harder-wearing, but the smooth was easier to patch when it went....

Offline Mark Wright

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #38 on: April 04, 2021, 09:47:38 pm »
Mine was a 1979 Christmas present from my mum and dad. A two piece sharkskin. I really enjoyed the building experience, though that could have been the glue. 

Offline Fulk

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #39 on: April 04, 2021, 10:53:40 pm »
Hmmmmm . . . well I remember making my own wetsuit way back when. I also remember that unlined wetsuits were awkward to get on, but if you sprinkled the inside with a good dose of talcum powder it made it so much easier to get it on. So one day I went into a branch of Boots the Chemist with a friend who was going to buy some talcum powder to put inside his wetsuit. I said, casually, conversationally, to the assistant, ‘You know, he wants it to put inside his rubber suit’. Well, I don’t know which was the dirtiest look – my friend’s or the Boots assistant’s.

Offline Graigwen

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #40 on: April 05, 2021, 12:12:15 am »
Ah yes, the talcum powder. I had almost managed to obliterate the memory of that.  Here is Mrs Trellis's account of a first visit to Llygad Llwchwr in late 1966 or early 1967:

On our first visit there we were welcomed incredibly warmly by the farmer's wife. She immediately gave us permission to cross the land and, when we asked her for a barn to change in, insisted that we use the front parlour of the farmhouse. This was complete with harp, piano, antimacassars—the full monty! A liberal dose of talcum powder eased the wet suits on and turned the front parlour into a snow-laden Santa's grotto. The conflicting fragrances of the different brands of talc was redolent of the type of establishment occurring in ports of call rather than a chapel-reared farmhouse parlour. On returning from caving there were steaming mugs of coffee and bara brith. Such halcyon days!

Available online at:  https://www.abercavers.co.uk/thrutch/015/#h-02


.

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #41 on: April 05, 2021, 07:20:44 am »
I could never really understand why unperfumed talcum powder was always more expensive than the smelly stuff.

Offline Addy

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #42 on: April 05, 2021, 08:45:19 am »
We bought ready made wetsuits in 1978 from Wemlor Marine who, I seem to remember, advertised in Descent or one of the climbing mags. Took measurements as per the guide and sent off the dosh. We could have bought them as kits but it was little more to have them taped and stitched - fully assembled. They were 4mm shark-skin neoprene and lasted for ages (with various repairs and patchings of course).
My suit was nicked with the car and all my other climbing and caving kit in 1984. >:(

Bought a Warmbac suit from eBay a few years ago and that's still in use...  ;)
Why?

Offline pwhole

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #43 on: April 05, 2021, 12:43:00 pm »
I could never really understand why unperfumed talcum powder was always more expensive than the smelly stuff.

They have to take all the Uranium out of the unperfumed ;)

Offline Wolfo

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #44 on: April 05, 2021, 02:01:40 pm »
Maybe ask yrammy  ;)
I remember from some old forum contest she had a pretty peeling experience with selfmade suits.
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Offline NickRT91

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #45 on: April 08, 2021, 04:02:01 pm »
After a little bit of digging for patterns I found this: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/992148995/kwik-sew-2335-1990s-men-wetsuit-sewing

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #46 on: September 13, 2021, 12:49:59 pm »
I just found that the price of the Oliain wetsuit from Decathlon has changed from £129-99 to £199-99.  :o  I think they're manufactured in France, so this is probably the fault of all those people who were conned into voting for Brexit.

Having said that, I've caved (and cave dived, in combination with other neoprene garments) a lot in the suit since I bought it and I do like it, so I'd be tempted to fork out even this much for a replacement. Some of the very similar competition would set you back >£300 if you were daft enough to spend that much on something that may not last too long if caving seriously in it.

Incidentally Decathlon does also sell what looks like an equivalent Oliain 4 mm / 3 mm suit but with a back zip for only £69-99. (I don't get on with back zips though.)

UPDATE - which may be of interest if you had considered one of these.

If you're similar to me (6' 2" and fairly light frame) you'll need an XL size. XL seems to have been out of stock for a while though. I've been waiting for them to become available again because mine's been hammered this year and I wanted one to put by as they're so comfy - despite the now exorbitant price due to Brexit.

I saw today that there are some available again in XL and the price is now a bit less at £179-99. But there were only four in stock. If you want one you'll find there are now only 3 in stock (as I type) as I just placed an order. The up to date link is:

https://www.decathlon.co.uk/p/men-s-4-3-mm-neoprene-wetsuit-surf-900/_/R-p-302344?mc=8504145&c=BLACK

Offline yrammy

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #47 on: September 14, 2021, 07:47:04 am »
My mate made his own wet suit but cut our one leg piece one way and three leg pieces the other   half a leg was always inside out. .

My first attempt - unlined very thin neoprene  - got wrecked on its first trip  - Ireby Fell I believe. Mended it with masking tape for the send day caving - I looked a little like The Mummy.   

Photo two - no comments on technique and equipment please - surprisingly I survived :-)

Offline Mark

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Re: Making your own wetsuit
« Reply #48 on: September 17, 2021, 08:28:42 pm »
I think it was Norman Flux who was given a bag of bits of neoprene (lined and unlined) (3 - 6mm) (sharkskin and smooth) from Namron in Sheffield.

He stuck all the bits together and made a piece big enough to make all the bits of a wetsuit using a second hand pattern.

The resulting harlequin wetsuit dropped to bits on its first trip.

 

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