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

Things have not been going smoothly recently. My painter’s schedule and mine continue not to match up, and until the plywood we previously painted with ICA base coat clear gets the top coat, I can’t install them. That’s holding up the porthole installation, which is a big item that has to be done before the boat comes out of the tent. On top of that, a couple of big trees near my house had to be brought down, and I’ve been spending more time fixing my chainsaw than running it. Occasionally I do get out to the boatyard, though, and I managed to get one of the side panels in the V-berth to fit.

Luan plywood wasn’t flexible enough

These V-berth side panels are a complicated shape and, depending on how you orient the pattern, you can have a longer edge on one end of the panel or the other. When I cut the luan test panel, I made the trailing edge the long one. But when I clamped the leading edge in place and then pressed the trailing edge up against the cleat all the way to the bottom, a hard line formed in the panel. It just didn’t want to be forced into that shape. After staring at the luan panel for a while, it dawned on me that the panel would fit better if the trailing edge was the short one.

Tracing the pattern onto the mahogany plywood

Chris Craft had a shelf running along the base of these side panels. The paint line in the picture above tells me where the plane of the original shelf was. Since the panel is curved when installed, the bottom edge of the panel when it’s flat will be cut on a curve. When the panel is pushed into position and conforms roughly to the shape of the hull, in theory it should yield a fairly flat line. Using a ruler and a miter protractor set to the angle of the leading edge, I marked off where the line will be on the new plywood. Then I connected the dots and got busy with my jigsaw.

First cut done

The curve is more dramatic at the leading edge because that’s where most of the curve is in the Z plane.

Nice fit halfway through the cleat at the trailing edge

Porthole cutout needs a little trimming

Leading edge needs a bit of trimming at the bottom

A pro would probably nail it the first time around, but I’m no pro. The way I figure it, it’s better for a weekend wood warrior to cut a bit oversized and adjust than to risk cutting it too short.

The leading edge is pretty close

It’s not a “cabinet-grade” joint, but It’s close enough to cover with a molding.

Flat fit at the porthole

The porthole fit is the most important one, since if it’s not flat the porthole itself won’t fit in the opening right. I’m glad I took the time to sand down the aluminum frames and cleats so the panel would lay flat on the plywood that surrounds the porthole opening.

Zero contact on this cleat at the bottom

There are fasteners that will hold the porthole in place, and I’ll use epoxy to bond the back side of the panel to the cleat where there’s contact. Even though it’s floating free here, the bottom edge will tend to stay in place regardless. A shelf running full length near the bottom will tie it into the rest of the cabinetry around the bunk.

Full contact with this cleat

Good fit on the trailing edge


This job would have gone a lot smoother if I wasn’t working solo. Wrestling that panel into shape and then holding it  was a real challenge. The winning approach, which took a while to figure out, was to attach oak handscrew clamps very tightly to the cleats on either end just at the height of the bottom of the panel. Then I attached additional clamps under the handscrew clamps to keep them from rotating. This is very important, because when either of the clamps rotate, the panel slides off suddenly and the guy trying to install the panel gets really mad and wants to start throwing stuff…

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


2 comments on “1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Cutting and Fitting the V-berth Port Side Mahogany Panel

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