Make Your Own Wetsuit

Jopo

Active member
One of our group of intrepid explorers spent a week cutting and gluing a Dolphin kit. First trip in P8 he found that using the correct glue would have been better. Bits of his effort were still circulating in the pool at the bottom of the first pitch a couple of weeks later.
Those of us who could not afford the lined kit put the single skin on inside out and glued nylon tights on.
 

paul

Moderator
A friend of mine had a wetsuit with a red nylon lining and a built-in hood. He cut off most of the hood leaving a large stand-up collar making him look a bit like a caving Dracula. The wetsuit was in the usual state after several years of regular caving use, and when he wore it to try out windsurfing, he was told off for "being scruffy".
 

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
Evaporation causes cooling. Neoprene with an exterior lining doesn't shed water as well as one unlined on the outside, so more water is held in the material, so evaporation (and therefore cooling) goes on for much longer.

I agree that unlined suits are anything but robust. My preference is for a single lined suit (with the lining on the inside). They're warmer, and retain better handling (as there's less nylon involved to shring and turn the suit to cardboard). But they're less flashy, which some people find important, for some reason.
science! (sort of)
 

Fulk

Well-known member
I wasn't arguing the point about cooling, but the overall notion 'fashion at the expense of function'; given that a lined suit is more robust, it's not fashion that dictates its use.
 
Sometime late 1959/60 a friend told me that Cockers sport shop over in Burnley had just got a single sheet of this newish Neoprene stuff in stock. Full wet suits were available but way out of our price bracket. We had not come across bare sheets of the stuff being on sale before. So I asked him to get it for me. When it arrived it was more like thin foam rubber than the Neoprene we knew, but what really upset me was it was pinkish red.
I did make it up into a suit but the verbal comments that came my way went on for many months.
But it was warmer than dry/wet grots!
 

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langcliffe

Well-known member
Only the rich could afford neoprene with lining. The nylon certainly made them easier to get into. Us impoverished cavers had to make do with unlined neoprene and required large amounts of the cheapest talcum powder to help us slide into them.

I wore tights under my single-skinned wetsuits. It seemed to work at the time.
 

tamarmole

Active member
As a skint caver back in the 90s the late great Barry Andrew donated me an antique home made wetsuit, yellow tape down the seams. I spent a huge amount of time gluing it back together and patching it with random bits of scrounged neoprene. The suit got so bad that I had to be gaffer taped into it. The final straw came when the zip ripped away from its moorings on the wrong side of Swildon's sump one and I had to exit the cave bare chested.
 

Mark

Well-known member
I started going to BSAC diving lessons at Glossop Rd baths in Sheffield in the 70s, after a few lessons we were asked to bring our wetsuits for our first lesson with cylinders.

I washed my BC products home made wetsuit "very thoroughly' in the stream opposite Carlswark's Eyam Dale shaft, following a proper grotty digging trip.

At the lesson I was looked at with disdain, as I closed my cheap zip with pliers and fastened the long disintegrated Tenax studs with bang wire.

Cylinders on, stride jumping into the pool, I swam along the bottom to other end, convinced that I had nailed it, only to surface to screams from the instructor to get out of the f***ing pool.

I turned round to see the next student, swimming in almost zero viz, through the cloud of big dig tailings, that had been lurking in the lining of my wetsuit.

I wasn't invited back.
 

Fulk

Well-known member
I remember once the zip of my wetsuit packed in, just as I was about to go underground. So I 'found' a length of fence wire and poked it through the nylon strips on which the zip was located, in the manner of lacing up a shoe.
 

Jenny P

Active member
I recall a fellow club member who made his first wetsuit out of lined neoprene - the lining was a fetching baby-blue towelling-type material. He did all the right things, followed the pattern and glued it all together but didn't have time to stitch the lining together, as was advised in the kit instructions, before he set off down Easegill.

Needless to say the main front to back seam of the trousers came from to together and he exited the cave feeling rather chilly in a pair of waist length waders.
 

Jenny P

Active member
I also made my first wetsuit out of other people's "cuttings" back in 1965. At the time the neoprene came in sheets (probably about 2 ft by 3 ft I think) and I had one complete sheet of single-skin but that was all. However, nothing daunted, I begged the cuttings left over from other people's efforts and they willingly handed them over because at that time no-one had twigged that you needed to patch wetsuits constantly.

I stuck the bits together crazy-paving fashion until I had a set of pieces big enough to be able to lay out the pattern pieces on them; then duly cut out the sections and glued it all together to make a jacket. (I made the single sheet I had into a pair of Bermuda shorts wet-pants and had to wear woolly socks and kneepads.) I didn't have a zip but and couldn't find a long one to buy, so took apart an old anorak to get the zip, which I glued into place down the front of the jacket. The turn-buckles for the tail were a bit harder but I found some lengths of narrow nylon tape, glued four under the front of the jacket, two either side of the zip, and the remaining four along the end of the tail-piece. So when it was all done up I had 4 neat little bows strategically placed at the front.

It was all reinforced with yellow tape so looked distinctly odd as the tape outlined the crazy-paving. Later I begged some more bits and extended the Bermuda shorts into full-length bottoms and I even made some wetsocks. Knee- and elbow-pads were added even later and that suit lasted me for several years because I always wore a boiler suit over it to protect it and religiously patched it after every outing. It also fitted a darned sight better than the ready-made one I bought to replace it when it finally died.
 

Graigwen

Active member
One advantage of single skin unlined wet suits was that it was easy to make good repairs to abrasion damage. You just cut out the damaged area with a razor blade, then went to your bag of off cuts left oved from the original construction, found a large enough scrap then cut it to size and cemented it in. Good as new!
 

Graigwen

Active member
One slight disadvantage of single skin unlined wet suits was that it was true that cemented joints were stronger than the original material. Therefore under stress tears developed parallel to joints, but just inside the original material.
 

pwhole

Well-known member
I also made my first wetsuit out of other people's "cuttings" back in 1965. At the time the neoprene came in sheets (probably about 2 ft by 3 ft I think) and I had one complete sheet of single-skin but that was all. However, nothing daunted, I begged the cuttings left over from other people's efforts and they willingly handed them over because at that time no-one had twigged that you needed to patch wetsuits constantly.

I stuck the bits together crazy-paving fashion until I had a set of pieces big enough to be able to lay out the pattern pieces on them; then duly cut out the sections and glued it all together to make a jacket. (I made the single sheet I had into a pair of Bermuda shorts wet-pants and had to wear woolly socks and kneepads.) I didn't have a zip but and couldn't find a long one to buy, so took apart an old anorak to get the zip, which I glued into place down the front of the jacket. The turn-buckles for the tail were a bit harder but I found some lengths of narrow nylon tape, glued four under the front of the jacket, two either side of the zip, and the remaining four along the end of the tail-piece. So when it was all done up I had 4 neat little bows strategically placed at the front.

It was all reinforced with yellow tape so looked distinctly odd as the tape outlined the crazy-paving. Later I begged some more bits and extended the Bermuda shorts into full-length bottoms and I even made some wetsocks. Knee- and elbow-pads were added even later and that suit lasted me for several years because I always wore a boiler suit over it to protect it and religiously patched it after every outing. It also fitted a darned sight better than the ready-made one I bought to replace it when it finally died.

Do you have any photos of this 'sculpture' in action? ;)
 
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