1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Bow Seat Window Interior Panels

I’m still working through my options on the helm station windshield saga, but there are plenty of other things going on with the project to keep me busy. The helm windshield problem affects many other things, though, so at this point it’s unclear whether or not we’ll be able to splash the Roamer as planned in fall 2015. Getting all of the windows installed is one of the things that absolutely has to happen regardless. The bow seat windows have been awaiting installation since 2013, so I might as well get moving on that. There’s just this one little hitch though…

Chris Craft's design had some...issues

Chris Craft’s design had some…issues

The pic above from Day One of our 1969 Roamer Refit, back in December 2007, shows how Chris Craft installed the bow seat windows from the inside, using sealant between the glass and the fiberglass cabin top, all of which was held in place by mahogany bits on the inside. As you can see, that approach did not work well, in part, because it allowed water to pool at the base of the glass. When the sealant at the base of the glass started leaking, which probably started within the first few years (if not months or even weeks) after the boat went into service, it completely destroyed the interior paneling below.

After the paperwork SNAFU was resolved in 2012 and the refit restarted in earnest, I met a woodworker who was sailing the Americas in a steel boat he’d refitted. While overwintering nearby, he developed a following of loyal customers who highly recommended him for my refit. I saw a few examples of work he’d done and eventually contracted with this sailor/woodworker, who described himself  as “good but slow.” Slow was fine with me…it was the good part I was really after, and the price seemed fair.

Motion Windows are best

Motion Windows’ design is best

The pic above shows the clamp-in window design from Motion Windows , in which the window frame seals on the outside, but the only fasteners are on the inside of the boat. In my opinion, this design is the best in the industry since, among other things, it uses no screws on the exterior for rain to eventually find a way in. And since they’re basically flush to the exterior, water isn’t given an opportunity to pool anywhere. The manufacturer specifies no more than 1/16” deflection in the bulkhead to which their window frames are affixed, which seems reasonable since we’re talking about panes of glass that naturally want to lie in single planes. My new windows arrived in 2013.

Out with the original

Out with the original

The shot above is from 2012, when I was remaking the bow seat, and shows the galley window openings with all of the original glass, wood, and bonding compounds removed. The fiberglass is ground back and ready for Mr. Good-but-slow to install new plywood.

Since the three bow seat windows are on three different planes, I felt the best approach was to cut three panels of ¾” Douglas fir marine ply that would fit up tightly to the backside of the fiberglass around the galley window openings, yielding three planes to which the Motion Windows would clamp. Then, the fairing crew on the cabin top would simply make the exterior surfaces flat and parallel (to within 1/16”) to the 1” deep window opening (i.e. ¾” plywood + 1/8”~ 3/16” fiberglass cabin top thickness + thickened epoxy filling in any irregularities and bonding everything together). Finally, I would apply mahogany veneers to the three marine plywood panels and finish it bright before finally installing the Motion Windows.

After explaining all of this to Mr. Good-but-slow back in the fall of 2012, I came back a week later to find something other than what we had discussed.

Not exactly what I had in mind

Not quite what I had in mind

Notice in the pic above that there are not three panels of ¾” Douglas fir marine ply in three planes. Each of the separate elements—the uprights and top and bottom cross pieces–are their own separate planes.

9 planes instead of 3

The hitch: 9 planes instead of 3

While Mr. Good-but-slow epoxied the ten separate panels very well to the fiberglass around the window openings, his approach yielded nine planes instead of three! The planes created by the center upright bits were ~8° off of the planes for the cross pieces installed to either side. Plus, none of the top pieces were in the same plane as their corresponding bottom pieces. Instead of meeting the manufacturer’s 1/16” tolerance for the bulkhead thickness, there were up to ¼” gaps in the corners where the flat mating surface for the window’s aluminum inner clamp ring met Mr. Good-but-slow’s handiwork.

Since this pattern had recurred (to varying degrees) three times with other projects I’d assigned to Mr. Good-but-slow, I let him go when he wrapped up the 4th and last project I had him working on. Turns out that Mr. Meh-and-Slow would have been a more accurate name. As usual…Enter the Boatamalan* to fix the problems caused by the American “craftsman.”

* Boatamalan: portmanteau indicating highly skilled boat workers of Central American origin. They’re actually from Honduras, but Boatamalan rolls off the tongue better. ;-)

Using his mad skills with a grinder, sanding block, a straight edge, and some Awlfair, my Boatamalan fairing crew chief and most excellent painter removed material from the uprights and upper and lower elements so there were three planes—one around each window opening where the window clamp ring lands. The port and starboard-side planes meet the center plane midway through the center uprights, which is what I need for the workaround I came up with for the interior mahogany. I can’t use veneer, as planned, because of all of Mr. Good-but-slow‘s wacky planes outside of the area the Boatamalan faired. Jumping ahead to 2015, I’ll use ½” African mahogany ply to make the finished interior panels against which the interior window clamp ring will clamp.

Luan strips and a hot glue gun for pattern-making

Luan strips and a hot glue gun for pattern-making

And another luan strip

More luan strips for the starboard panel pattern

And another

The vertical luan strip at the middle of the center upright is where port and center panels should meet

The plane of the side panels is offset from the center window panel by ~15°. So if I cut the inner edges of the side panels at 15°, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to cut the center panel side edges square.

Port-side pattern at the complex corner

Port-side pattern at the complex upper corner, where nothing is square

So…if I’ve done my calculations right, starting from the top in the pic above…the top edge for the side panels will need to be cut at 45°. The short vertical bit needs a 15° cut, followed by another 45° cut for the short horizontal. Then, the long vertical (or is that diagonal?) outer side edge needs a 21° cut, followed by 45° across the bottom of the panel. And I’ll need the aforementioned 15° cut for the inside edge that will meet the center panel.

I’m not a professional woodworker, and I’ve never done this kind of stuff before. What could possibly go wrong??? 🙂

Patterns laid out on the 4' x 8' African mahogany ply

Transferring the patterns onto the 4′ x 8′ African mahogany ply

The mahogany ply in the pic above is lying on my Eureka Zone EZ-One woodworking table. For breaking down big panels in a small space with extremely precise cuts, you can’t beat this table and the track saw that goes with it.

Cross cut then rip

Cross cut then rip to the marks from the patterns

Final angled cuts get the panel close to the final size

Angled cuts get the panel close to the final size

Jigsaw went off the line

Jigsaw wouldn’t stay on the line

I tried to use my Makita jigsaw for the complex upper corner cuts, but with the base set at 45° I couldn’t keep the blade from wandering off the line. Time to break out the heavy hardware.

Roll out the Shop Smith for complex angle cuts

Roll out the Shop Smith for complex angle cuts

Though the bastard thieves took most of the attachments for my Shop Smith when they cleaned me out in May 2014, I’m guessing the base machine was [fortunately] too big for them to take. For the complex cuts I need to make on these panels, the Shop Smith table saw and bandsaw should get the job done.

Set the table saw and band saw to 45°

Set the table saw and band saw to 45°

Done and done

Done and done

I had to finish the cuts by hand where the two angles meet in the corner, but it turned out pretty good.

45° cut along the bottom (and top) went right to the line

Verify the cut line for the 21° edge cut

Verify the line for the 21° edge cut

My biggest fear is that I’ll get the orientation wrong on these angled cuts and go the wrong way. With each successful cut, I got more and more nervous that the next cut I made would turn the panel into scrap.

Setting the table at 21°

Setting the table at 21° for the last cut

Booyah. Fits like a freakin' old school pro did it

Booyah. Fits like a freakin’ old-school pro did it

I did not take video of the happy dance I was doing after this piece clicked into place, nor would I show it to anyone if such a video existed. But rest assured…there was, indeed, a happy dance. 🙂

Jigsaw out the rough window opening, re-fit and mark the actual opening

Cut the rough window opening with a jigsaw, re-fit, and mark the actual opening

I also marked the high spots where the crazy planes from Mr. Meh-and-Slow‘s marine plywood install impinged upon the mahogany panel and stopped it from seating flush.

Grind down the plywood, creating low spots

Creating low spots on the back-side and cutting the final window opening

BOOM! One panel down…two to go

Rinse, lather, repeat...nice fit!

Rinse, lather, repeat…nice fit!

Now go outside and mark the window opening and any points where Mr. Good-but-slow‘s Douglas fir plywood is high.

Cut the port-side panel window opening and make low spots

Port-side panel final window opening cut and low spots ground out

Two down, one to go!

Two down, one to go!

The moment of truth...

The Bosch rangefinder moment of truth…

Measured between the inside edges of the two outer panels, there’s 1224mm at the top…

And 1222mm at the bottom

And 1222mm at the bottom

OK, I’m sure a real pro would nail it dead on, so I figured I’d be happy if I got it within 1/4″ (~6mm). But 2mm off over the height of the panel comes to only 0.03 degrees off on my final cut. I have no idea how I did that, but not too damned bad if I do say so myself! And I can easily make that up when I cut the final center panel.

More happy dance… 🙂

Back to the EurekaZone track saw to cut the center panel

Back to the EurekaZone track saw



Et voila!

Et voila!

One of the cooler features on the boat

One of the cooler features on the boat

The center bow seat opens, which is one of the neater updates we’ve done to the original design. When we’re out in an anchorage or under way, we’ll get great airflow through the galley and salon. Venting heat from cooking in the galley will be a breeze, too: just flip the window open and lock it in place.

I need to take the panels off again and send them to the Boatamalan to be coated on the inner mahogany surface with ICA clear coat base before I epoxy them in place and install the windows for good. This is the same approach I used with the aft stateroom bulkhead walls, which turned out surprisingly nice. Resolving the problems created by Mr. Good-but-slow and getting the panels fitted is a huge step toward getting the glass in and [hopefully] splashing in 2015.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Aft Stateroom Head Walls


8 comments on “1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Bow Seat Window Interior Panels

  1. Kent says:

    Any forward movement on getting the Engines installed?

  2. Doug says:

    Great job! Love the blog and love your consistent quality first approach.

  3. stingrayl82 says:

    Just goes to show, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Great job, as usual.

    • 1969roamer46 says:

      Thanks! I don’t know what the deal is with the American “craftsmen” in this area. It doesn’t seem to matter what rate they charge, the end product just isn’t right. But doing everything myself takes sooo much more time!

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