1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Mahogany Veneers for the V-berth Cabinet

With the last V-berth cabinet panels cut and dry-fitted, the next step was to apply mahogany veneer to the panels. I tried 3M 90 contact cement to bond the veneer panel to the galley-side of the V-berth door opening, but I don’t care for the way it works. So I’m trying epoxy as the veneer adhesive in the V-berth. But I was a bit concerned that the epoxy would wick through the veneer and show up as a stain on the mahogany face, so I did a test run on a piece of veneer scrap. Good news: in the test, the epoxy didn’t print through!

Testing the veneer for bleed-through

It passes the test!

Cutting the veneer to fit

This is my last sheet of veneer and I’ve got several panels to cover, so I cut the piece very close to the actual size. I don’t want to run out of veneer, and I’d prefer not to have to buy another sheet.

Looks good

The panel is wetted out with epoxy, then coated with wood flour-thickened epoxy

I used Douglas fir marine plywood for this panel, which in retrospect may  have been a mistake. Doug fir marine plywood isn’t flat, and there’s no way to make it flat with hand tools. The lighter bands of wood are much softer than the dark bands, so sanding with hand-held tools just makes the height difference worse. I applied a very thin coat of wood flour-thickened epoxy hoping that it will level out the panel and leave the veneer flat.

A thin coating of epoxy wets out the veneer

Pile lots of flat, heavy stuff on top to press the veneer to the panel

I really need a big, flat table to do this work right. Over at Weaver Boatworks, they have a table with a 1″ thick aluminum plate top and a vacuum bag system that they use for veneer work. I have to make due with what I’ve got.

Next day, the epoxy is cured

The excess veneer is trimmed off

Not bad!

The Douglas fir printed through!!!

Dang it! There’s this one spot where the Doug fir grain didn’t get filled with thickened epoxy. I didn’t even see it until I lightly sanded the mahogany and the low spot became visible. Fortunately, it’ll vanish with a little hand sanding. Lesson learned: don’t use Doug fir plywood for panels that will be veneered.


Comparison of rotary cut and quartersawn mahogany

I really like the original mahogany Chris Craft used, but the more I’m around it in the V-berth the less fond I am of the modern ribbon-stripe with the V shape where the separate veneer edges come together. I think I prefer the rotary cut panel on the left. That panel goes inside the last V-berth cabinet. Since it’s inside a cabinet, I finished it with a few brushed coats of Minwax polyurethane. It looks great! The irregularity of the grain appeals to me more than the stripes. Good thing the rest of the boat will be done in the rotary cut plywood from the stack in the salon!

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: More Mahogany Veneers for the V-berth Cabinet


1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Back to the V-berth Cabinet

Now that the galley-side of the V-berth door opening is topped with mahogany veneer, I got back to work on the last cabinet in the V-berth.

When last we saw this cabinet…it was topless!

There are times when I need a bigger framing square

And there are times when I wish my Makita was a plunge saw

I’m getting pretty good at pivoting the saw squarely down onto the track, which has the same effect as a plunge saw. But a real plunge saw would be best for these kinds of cuts. Unfortunately, they don’t offer the plunge saw with an 8-1/4″ blade, and as a weekend warrior I can’t justify buying another saw.

The rough-cut cabinet top

Next, I dry fitted the mahogany cleats

I level the boat every few months, so the floors are level…same as in a house. So I can use levels when doing the cabinetry, which is something you can’t normally do on a floating boat.

Just about ready

I notched out the back edge to clear the aluminum frame

Not too shabby

Plywood scrap makes a good rabbet gauge

To cut the rabbets for the cabinet top-to-face panel joint, I run my Bosch router along the track for my EZ-One track saw table. To get a tight-fitting rabbet, the height and depth of the cuts needs to be identical on both panels, so I use marks on my handy-dandy plywood scrap to align the panel to the track on both ends, then make the cut.

Just about perfect

By the way, these mahogany cleats are the ones I made from the original toe rails on the boat. You can see what they looked like when we started this project in my introductory article, The Refit Begins. Every time I see that article, I ask myself what the hell was I thinking?!?!


Mini-plunge saw cuts the cabinet opening

Better still!

Leveling the cabinet interior panel


Mark off the panel position and remove it

Dry fit more cleats, test fit the panel, then glue and screw the cleats in place

Gluing and screwing the cleats on the face panel

Once the cabinet is completely built, I’ll disassemble it and apply mahogany veneers to the exterior faces. The order in which each panel goes back together has to be just right and the fit has to be very good (or better) so the veneered panels come together properly on final assembly. For example, I’d prefer to install the back panel of this cabinet after the top is on, but it won’t fit through the cabinet opening, so it has to be installed before the cabinet top goes on. The order for final assembly will be the face panel, the interior lower panel, the back panel, the top, followed by a filler panel up against the bulkhead. Easy-peasy.

It all needs to slide together and fit perfectly…

kinda like that

Same on the forward edge

Nice fit!

With the cabinet panels all cut and fitting nicely, next I’ll disassemble the cabinet and try out my theory for using epoxy for veneer work. It worked great when I applied 1/4″ ribbon-stripe mahogany plywood to the forward V-berth bulkhead. But veneer is a lot thinner than plywood panels, and epoxy has a tendency of soaking in. I don’t want it to bleed through the backing and stain the wood on the face.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Mahogany Veneers for the V-berth Cabinet

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Fitting a Veneer Panel For the Galley Bulkhead

The missus came out to help on the project. I armed her with a pile of sticks and a glue gun coming up to temp while I started pulling sheets of 1/8″ mahogany plywood out of the stack. Then we got busy finishing up the big panel work that has to happen before I can wrap up the V-berth cabinetry.

That’s a very complex shape

The missus makes a mean stick pattern

Mark off the pattern on the plywood

That’s a very spindly piece of plywood

Pretty good fit, but it needs some trimming

Since the glue gun was hot, we made the V-berth panel pattern, too

There’s a lot of epoxy, fiberglass, and fairing compound residue stuck to the wall here from when we did the V-berth head. That will all have to be sanded off before we’ll get a good panel fit.

Transferring the pattern to the V-berth panel

Not too shabby

Taped off and ready to apply contact cement

I’ve been thinking about using epoxy for the veneer work since it worked so well on the V-berth forward bulkhead panel. But I wanted to give it a go with 3M 90 High strength contact cement, since I’d been seeing in many places that contact cement is preferred for veneer work.

New mahogany veneer is bonded in place

It took 3/4 of one can of contact cement for this one panel, and I don’t like the bond very much at all. Price-wise, the contact cement is much, much more expensive than an equivalent amount of epoxy. Bond-wise, I don’t like that there’s a bit of ‘give’ in the joint. While the panel seems to be firmly stuck in place, when I squeeze the bulkhead and mahogany panel, I can see that the bond zone compresses just a bit, even after letting it cure overnight.

I have another Chris Craft, a 1968 42′ Commander, and the feux-teak paneling on that boat has more than a few spots where the contact cement let loose over time. That, plus the way even 3M’s best are behaving on this one panel has me leaning toward not using it anymore.

Bosch router helps clean up the cabinet opening

Looks good!

After cleaning up the corners of the cabinet opening, that was a wrap.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Back to the V-berth Cabinet

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Wrapping Up the Galley Bulkhead

With the inside of the galley storage cabinet done, next I finished up the galley bulkhead that also acts as the cabinet face.

Need to trim the bottom and cut the cabinet opening

This cut squares up the door opening

The panel’s square…the boat is curved

I’ll remove the mahogany cleat behind this panel and mount the sliding door hardware directly to the aluminum bow deck framing above it.

Looks good!

All contact surfaces got wetted out with epoxy

Then I topped it with epoxy thickened with wood flour and cabosil

When I added the panel to the bulkhead to the left of the V-berth door opening to fix yet another screw-up by “Mr. Good But Slow,” I cut a slot up the sides and on the top so I could use mahogany splines to strengthen the joints. I cut a slot in the cabinet face panel to match the one at the top of the bulkhead panel. After sliding the panel in place, I tapped in the spline then screwed the panel in place.

I also put a patch in where “Mr. Good But Slow” had cut an unnecessary hole for some reason

The galley bulkhead is finally done!

Next I need to make a pattern and cut the veneer panel that will face the bulkhead on the galley side, then I’ll finish things up on the V-berth side.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Fitting a Veneer Panel For the Galley Bulkhead

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Wrapping Up the Galley Storage Cabinet

While building the last cabinet in the V-berth, I realized that I have to finish the galley storage cabinet so I can finish the galley bulkhead installation, then apply pretty veneers to either side of the bulkhead so I can cap the edges of the plywood around the V-berth door opening with mahogany moldings…so THEN I can finally wrap up the V-berth.

It’s all connected

I started by finishing the mahogany cleats that the cabinet panels will attach to.

Cutting cleats

Spray foam insulation cleaned up, and cleats dry fitted

Cleats are all fitted

Leftover ribbon-stripe mahogany panels are just the right size

I’ve written before about the hard choice when it comes to keeping plywood scraps in the hope that one day they’ll be useful versus space constraints that favor throwing out scraps. Turns out it was a good choice to keep these long and skinny pieces of 1/4″ mahogany plywood.

Mark the cut points with a fine-point Sharpie

Use my EZ-One track saw to cut off the excess

Awesome little time saver

I use a shop vac attached to a Dust Deputy vortex separator for dust collection when working my saw and other power tools. Having to walk over and turn the shop vac on and off was inconvenient, so I use this indoor/outdoor remote control switch instead.

$13 on Amazon

Nice fit

Two down, one to go

Last one looks good

Dry fit is done…time to glue up

Getting creative with clamping devices (AKA sticks)

Next day, trim and final fit the back panel


Insulating the back panel with Buffalo Batt nonwoven fabric

Wet out the edges with epoxy and get ready to install

Epoxy thickened with wood flour and cabosil is the glue

More creative uses of ‘clamping devices’

That’s a wrap for the galley storage cabinet interior

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Wrapping Up the Galley Bulkhead

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Cutting More V-berth Cabinet Panels

I’ve been knocking out the V-berth cabinetry one panel at a time, starting on the starboard side with the head (AKA the ‘throne room), followed by the bed foundation, the curvy side walls, the forward bulkhead, the closet, the upright walls around the bed, and finally the ‘desk-like structure‘. I just have one more cabinet to make, a few moldings, and some veneer work, and the V-berth cabinetry will be wrapped up. But as I was cutting the panels for that last cabinet and thinking about what shape to make the V-berth door moldings, it occurred to me that I’ve got to finish up the galley storage cabinet before I can complete the V-berth.

The porthole surround panel fits very nicely

It will look a lot better after I put the mahogany veneer on.

Next, I cut the lower cabinet upright panel

For angle cuts on plywood, I use the edge of my tracksaw as a guide for my old beater Skilsaw.

Not bad for the first cuts!

A few more slices, and it fits nicely

Yes, I use a level on a boat

Every six months or so, I check that the floors of the boat are level fore to aft and port to starboard. I adjust the boatstands as necessary. This allows me to use a level, which is something you could never do with a boat that was on the water. I used the level to mark the height of the lower cabinet panel on the porthole surround panel, so I could take measurements for the top panel.

Pocket screws will secure the aft edge of the panel

A mahogany cleat and screws will secure the forward edge.

Looks good

The reasons this cabinet is this shape…

The aluminum frames stick up proud of the floor here, and there’s an aluminum pipe welded to the hull that was originally the V-berth head sink drain outlet. I’ll use that as the raw water outlet coming from the marine air conditioner that will be inside the ‘desk-like structure.’ I need access to the raw water outlet for hose maintenance, so I’ll make a cabinet space in here with a removable bottom panel.

Then it dawned on me: gotta finish that galley storage cabinet

As I was doing all this cutting and fitting, I was thinking about the molding that will go around this door opening. There will be a sliding door, so on the left side the molding will have to have a pocket for the door to slide into. The molding will also cap the edge of the plywood. But the okume plywood is not pretty, which means I also need to cut and fit the 1/8″ mahogany plywood I bought for the galley bulkhead walls. I have some leftover ribbon-stripe veneer that I’ll use on the V-berth side of the door opening. But to install the mahogany plywood on the galley side, I first have to wrap up that storage cabinet over the door opening that I haven’t touched in more than a year.

So…that’s the path forward.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Wrapping Up the Galley Storage Cabinet.

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: More Work On The V-berth ‘Desk-like Structure’

The V-berth is coming along slowly, but it’s looking pretty good so far. I just got a call from Flagship Marine, and they say my air conditioners will be on the way soon. So I need to get the HVAC space in the V-berth ready. Since there will be plumbing going to and from the unit, unlike most other panels on the boat, I need to make sure that the panels in the HVAC space are solidly attached but can also be removed if I have to do maintenance, like hose replacement.

The V-berth concept drawings didn’t have a lot of detail

What I called the ‘desk-like structure’ is turning out to be more of a decorative HVAC cabinet and step-up to climb into the bunk.

The air conditioner base frames are glued and screwed in place

Insert (or remove) the base panel by rotating it diagonally

Slide the base panel under the two cleats on either side, then rotate it to square it up with the sides.

Squared up…then push back

Nice fit…with a coat of epoxy on all the edges, it should be just slightly snug

Final test fit for the back panel

The back panel must be removed in order to remove the base panel. Because the HVAC unit draws room air from within this space (after it goes through a return grill with a filter), there can be no leaks to the bilge or hull envelope. So every joint has a cleat backing it up or is otherwise tight to adjacent panels. The fit looks good, so now I’ll seal up all faces and edges.

A heavy coat of epoxy seals up the wood

I’m not worried about making this panel pretty. It’s a 1″ thick piece of 1969-era plywood that was originally part of a bulkhead on the boat. I removed the latex paint that somebody rolled on, but since it’s inside a mechanical space that’ll rarely be seen, that’s as clean as it’s going to get.

The marine grade Douglas fir back panel gets white-tinted epoxy

Cutting the final panel

This panel will have the HVAC filtered return air grill in it

Flagship is a dealer for Marine Systems, Inc., a company that makes HVAC grills and ducting parts for marine and RV applications. I considered making my own grills, but some things are just better off left to specialists. And I like the fact that their ducting parts are plastic. Metal duct parts would have been a lot cheaper and readily available locally, but then I’d be dealing with rust eventually.

The side to side fit is looking good

Need to lop a bit off the top

EZ-One track saw makes straight cuts a breeze

Next, I glued and screwed the top and rotated the base in place

Not bad!

That turned out OK

Looks better with the step hatch in place

Ribbon-stripe mahogany panel tops the whole thing

I was tempted to epoxy the 1/4″ mahogany  top panel in place and call the ‘desk-like structure’ a wrap, but it occurred to me that the back edge of this panel will hide the corner joint for the panels that go to the left of it. So I’m holding off on finishing this until I get the porthole window surround panel and the base panels below it done.

Oh! And if you’re looking for 12v LED overhead lights, an online buddy alerted me to these Quick brand marine overhead lights on ebay for $25 a pop. They put out a lot of uniform light for only 6 watts. I bought ten for the salon!

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Cutting More V-berth Cabinet Panels