1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Window Pains

I’ve been working on refitting this 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 since late in 2007, but by far the most tedious, frustrating work has been trying to get windows back in the boat.  “Window pains,” indeed.

Way back in early November 2013, I started digging into the (hateful) aft stateroom portholes, which continue to be one of the most tedious parts of this refit thus far. There are 40 screws in each of the ten original, cast aluminum portholes, and the vast majority of them require drilling to remove. The window glass itself is bedded with a material that’s similar to DAP, and like all very old DAP it’s as hard as old limestone. And judging by the corrosion I’m finding in all of the screw holes, the old DAP didn’t seal particularly well, either. Then there’s the butyl tape Chris Craft used to (kind of) seal the portholes to the window openings and interior plywood…sticky, nasty stuff that resists removal with a scraper.

Hateful screws and a gooey mess

Aluminum screws and sealant that’s turned to stone on one side, with stainless screws and sticky butyl tape on the other. In the pic above, you can see all of the broken heads of the stainless screws holding the flange for the screen in place. Since they’re stainless self-tappers, drilling them out requires a two-step process…very time consuming.

Hateful, nasty little screws

Hateful, nasty little screws

The slotted round-head screws on the paper towel are made of aluminum. They’re used to secure the flange that holds the glass to the frame. The ones on the top of the frame have been fairly cooperative in coming out–most have threads that are coated with white powder (aluminum oxide), but at least they come out. The ones along the bottom and the lower sides of the frames, by contrast, turn to white dust as soon as I put a screwdriver to them. My guess is that condensation on the window and frame runs downhill, collecting on the seam between the glass and flange. Since the DAP sealant has long since stopped sealing, all of that water ends up wicking down the threads of the screws and turning the aluminum to Al2O3.

The undercut, self-tapping flathead screws are stainless, and they’re used to secure the flange on the outside of the frame that holds the screen in place. Since they’re on the outside, they’ve been exposed to even more moisture than the aluminum screws on the inside of the frame. Moisture + dissimilar metals = corrosion, and very few of those danged stainless screws comes out without drilling a pilot hole, then following up with a 3/32 drill to remove the threaded part after the head breaks off.

Broken screws require brute force

Once I’ve got all of the screws out that will come out (and heads broken off the rest), I carefully pry the flanges over the broken off screws. Gotta be careful though, because these flanges are very thin cast aluminum.

Rotten threads pull out as the flange separates from the frame

More brute force to remove the broken screws

Et voilà! One flange removed!

The sense of accomplishment when I finally remove a flange is tempered by the realization that it takes about one hour for each.. And remember, there are two of them per porthole–one for the glass and one for the screen–and there are ten portholes on the boat. That doesn’t include the time it will take to remove all of the broken stainless screws that are still in the window frames, either! Don’t even get me started on them!

Of particular interest in the pic above, though, is the fact that the screen flanges have zero sealant or even paint on the back side. It’s no wonder most of the stainless steel screws that held this in place resisted removal to the point of snapping. But it gets worse…

Having snapped all of the drill bits I need for this part of the job, I’m in a holding pattern until new ones arrive. I don’t know what the deal is with modern drill bits, but they just don’t seem to last as long as the old set my grandfather had. I’ve tried sets advertised as “cobalt,” but they seem more like “cobalt colored” than the real deal. High speed steel and carbon steel bits round off almost immediately when I touch them to the stainless screws. And those “titanium coated” bits are just silly. They dull when drilling through pine! I used to think that “Made in the USA” was the mark to look for on machine tools, but I’m less sure about them now.

In any case, I can’t wait until this part of the job is done.

Next up on our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Window Pains II, the Helm Windshield


One comment on “1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Window Pains

  1. Bill Large says:

    Believe me, it isn’t just you having a drill bit issue. I bought a new “American made” 3/8″ drill bit last weekend to drill mounting holes in a new anchor roller. The roller was 3/16″ stainless and that new drill bit just made it through the third hole. It’s now so dull that it isn’t worth anything.

    I don’t envy you on the window project but as always, I find your blog fascinating reading.

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