1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Preparing to fit the V-berth Mahogany Panels

With the new mahogany panel installed on the V-berth bulkhead, next I had to fit the side panels. I knew this was going to be a challenge, and I’ve been mulling over how to tackle it for a few years. The approach Chris Craft used involved 1/4″ medium density fiberboard, which (with enough screws) can be forced to contort into shapes that plywood doesn’t like to take. But I want to use mahogany rather than painted fiberboard, and of all the berths on a boat, the V-berth is the most ‘boaty’…I wanted the walls to follow the curves of the hull. But first, I needed to adjust the aluminum frames and the cleats that a clown of a woodworker installed a few years ago so the curves would be smooth.

The OE fiberboard panel

I saved this panel during the disassembly phase back in 2008 because I thought it would come in handy as a template. Recently though, I realized that fiberboard makes a great pattern for new panels made of the same material. But when using different materials with very different properties, it’s only useful in the roughest sense. More on that later.

Cleats installed by a former woodworker didn’t make smooth curves

The spray foam insulation and aluminum frame in the pic above obscures the mahogany cleats a bit, but if you can see the two pieces of wood don’t even come close to lining up. I’ll have to sand that down to make a smooth curve.

Completely meaningless cleat

I’m not sure what the woodworker was thinking putting that little mahogany cleat up above the porthole. I mean, I understand why it might be best to have a cleat there to support the plywood, but for that to happen the cleat has to be a very different shape so it aligns with the plane of the porthole surround plywood. A profile shot might make the point clearer.

See? Completely meaningless cleat! No way plywood could make that bend

On the bottom side of the round porthole opening, I’ve got some Chris Craft goofiness to deal with.

The mahogany  cleat is proud of the plywood porthole surround, but so is the aluminum frame

There’s no way 1/4″ mahogany plywood will warp enough to seat on the plywood that surrounds the porthole opening, so I have to sand down the mahogany cleat and the aluminum frame here.

Finally, ready to test the fit the pattern

I attached a cleat to the new mahogany panel that tracks the shape of the closest frame cleats. But since the mahogany panel added thickness to the bulkhead, the original fiberboard panel  needed some trimming to get it to fit again.

Close-enough fit at the top

Close enough at the bottom, too.

Fiberboard panel finally matches up to the round porthole opening

I need to trim a bit here

Next I took the fiberboard off and traced the outline on a sheet of cheap luan 1/4″ ply. It was looking pretty good until I tried to fit it up to the V-berth frames.

 

What fit well as fiberboard doesn’t fit well at all with plywood

Turns out plywood is a lot less flexible than fiberboard, especially when you try to make it bend in the X, Y, and Z axis all at the same time. No amount of clamps helped. When I tried to make the panel conform to the V-berth wall curves, I could only get two of the three axes to work at once. And that’s when it occurred to me that if there is a big difference between how fiberboard and cheap luan plywood behave, it was likely that the mahogany panels  would also be different than the cheap luan.

I’m going to ponder a bit more on this before giving it a go. That mahogany plywood isn’t cheap, and I don’t want to end up with expensive scraps.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Cutting and Fitting the V-berth Port Side Mahogany Panel

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7 comments on “1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Preparing to fit the V-berth Mahogany Panels

  1. Hi Q,

    Like most boaters I love the look of a rich mahogany wood interior. However sometimes too much wood in a small space can be a bad thing. Soft goods can help balance what might otherwise be a bit overpowering “room of wood”.

    You might want to consider constructing your v-birth hull walls out of a padded vinyl backed by fiber board. If you are doing wood walls at both ends of the v-birth as well as the bunks and drawers you could make the space seem larger and softer with a vinal side wall approach. This is what Hatteras did on my boat (1989 40 DC) and it really seems to work well (photo’s on HOF “Lake of the Woods”). In my boat it appears that they used a wood backing and then added about 1 1/2 ” of foam and covered with a “high quality” cream colored vinyl. I cant find any fasteners so I am not sure how they achieved a clear wall of vinyl. My kids find it comfortable if they sit up or lay up against the side of the bunk. It is also easy to clean and after 28 years there has been no mold at all. Anyway it could potentially save you the problem of trying to fit expensive mahogany panels and creating a room of wood.

    Mark

    • 1969roamer46 says:

      Hi Mark!
      I get what you’re saying about too much wood. The headliner material I’ve got is oyster white from Whisper Walls and, as the name implies, it’s also used for soft walls. I considered using it for these panels but decided I’d end up with too much oyster white with the headliner and side panels in the same material. But you make a very good point about padding the walls around the bunk itself. In today’s article, I explain how I finally got the plywood to cooperate, so mahogany it is. But for the vertical walls I’ll have supporting the shelf, I think I will go with the headliner/soft wall material. It’ll provide a nice contrast and break up that wood a bit.
      Cheers,
      Q

    • 1969roamer46 says:

      Hi Mark!
      I get what you’re saying about too much wood. The headliner material I’ve got is oyster white from Whisper Walls and, as the name implies, it’s also used for soft walls. I considered using it for these panels but decided I’d end up with too much oyster white with the headliner and side panels in the same material. But you make a very good point about padding the walls around the bunk itself. In today’s article, I explain how I finally got the plywood to cooperate, so mahogany it is. But for the vertical walls I’ll have supporting the shelf, I think I will go with the headliner/soft wall material. It’ll provide a nice contrast and break up that wood a bit.
      Cheers,
      Q

  2. Jah Mackey says:

    BTW…I LOVE YOUR PROJECT…I’M A FAN!!! THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR EXPERIENCE!!! CANT WAIT FOR THE BOOK..MOVIE OF THE WEEK..LOL LOL LOL!!! GREAT FOR DIY’ers, FOR BOATERS…FOR ANYONE WHO EVER WANTED TO GIVE UP ON THEIR OWN STUFF!!!!! THANK YOU…

  3. Jah Mackey says:

    you might try steam….install panel…let dry…remove panel..seal..reinstall…see booklet for inspiration….. https://www.leevalley.com/us/html/05F1501ie.pdf

    • 1969roamer46 says:

      Thanks Jah. I used to own a 52′ Chris Craft Connie, so I’m familiar with steaming solid stock. But this is a 4×8 sheet of 1/4″ expensive mahogany plywood, and I was planning on trying to warp it in three dimensions. Steaming won’t help there. I’m going to adjust my approach and accept less curvy lines instead. But thanks for the suggestion!
      Cheers,
      Q

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