Waagmeester Canvas Products, Inc.
|1222 NE Alberta St|
Portland, OR 97211
It's possible that when W.H. "Bud" Waagmeester opened his canvas and awning shop at NE 12th and Alberta in 1945 he dreamed that one day his two sons, Dale and Steve, and grandson, Erik, would be division heads of the three-prong "canvas" business. You see, Bud was a practical dreamer. He began working at 13 and he always had a vision to "find a need and fill it."
Today the Alberta Street location includes the canvas shop where Steve began working after school and weekends, the sail loft that Dale built into one of the most respected sail building lofts in the world, and the awning division managed by Erik (who also manages Outdoor Environments, the awning showroom and garden oriented gift shop on Portland's west side.)
Bud Waagmeester learned his craft as a sailmaker's mate in the Navy. He made lifeboat covers, turret covers, winch covers and more. He served aboard the U.S.S. Lexington and even did uniform alterations for many of the crew. He made sails for the Admiral's pleasure boat and pulled on the all-Navy-whale-boat-racecrew, "because the food was better."
Bud is generally credited with inventing the small boat folding top. The idea was strictly to keep rain off local salmon fishermen. Early tops had roll-up front and side flaps, and "windows" came later.
In those early days the Alberta Street shop was a home base for many old square-rigger sailmakers. All the finish work and bolt-roping was done by hand. Young Steve and Dale were regaled by many a seafaring yarn spun by old timers who had been there, and done that!
Even though the shops are still known as "canvas shops," there's not a whole lot of heavy canvas fabrication. Today boat tops and the wide range of custom-made covers for rails, winches, bridges, doors, windows, hatches, seats, windlasses, dinghies, motors, biminis and the like, are made from vinyl and acrylic fabrics like Sunbrella. And, instead of the old canvas buff or pale green, a rainbow of colors as well as white and black are available.
Bud made canvas sails for the local sailors in the 40's - 60's. He made them from heavy canvas for the bigger boats and fine, long-staple Egyptian cotton for the smaller ones.
Dale learned his way around the sailmaking art in the canvas/cotton era but by the time he began making sails full-time in 1973, synthetics like Dacron were the fabric of choice. Today of course, Mylar and Kevlar are also used along with state-of-the-art Technora and PBO fabrics. Dale used 60 of the first 300 yards of Technora ever created to make sails for a happy customer.
Waagmeester Sails grew rapidly and in 1989 they introduced the first computer driven sail plotter in the Pacific Northwest. In 1995 the Portland firm joined the Banks Sails Group. "We think they are the first sailmaker good enough to associate our name with," Dale said. Now the NE Alberta Street loft, which by the way, has expanded to cover the whole block between NE 12th and 13th, is one of three Banks lofts in the US to get proprietary software from Banks' English headquarters.
Waagmeester always made custom canvas awnings, those old striped jobs with the pull-cords and little galvanized pulleys. Today's awnings are a far cry from that. The very popular lateral arm style can be electric or manual and many are made with welded arms and long-lasting vinyl coverings. The new look also includes clever lighting techniques and graphics for a whole new feel.
Steve and his son Erik Waagmeester have been exhibiting the awnings at the Portland Home and Garden shows for years and they also use their west side showroom, Outdoor Environments.
Ever since Bud Waagmeester opened his doors with a vision in 1945,
Waagmeester Canvas Products, Inc.
|HOME || HISTORY|