1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing the Pantry Panels

I got my truck back from the transmission shop. The shifting problem it was having appears to have been resolved, but I couldn’t tell for sure because before I got to where the roads are smooth the engine threw the same crankshaft position sensor code as before. GAAH! I’m really getting sick of not having  my truck and making repeat trips to and from the shop.

That said, I am pleased with the way the pantry on the Roamer is turning out.

All panels got three coats of Minwax Spar Urethane clear

Top and bottom panels

Insulating the back-side of all the panels

A buddy of mine sold his wooden Pacemaker 43 last year and got a 41′ Marinette aluminum boat. There’s very little insulation in the Marinette, and he said it’s been a rough winter. They can’t get enough power in the boat to keep it warm. That’s bad news for him, but it makes me more and more convinced that insulating the back-side of all cabinet and wall panels that face the hull envelope is worth the effort. It takes an extra day to cut the Buffalo Batt insulation, wet out the panels with epoxy, press the insulation in place, and wait for the epoxy to cure. But it makes a big difference.

Once the insulation is in place, I press it together with whatever heavy stuff is laying around

Wood flour-thickened epoxy is a strong glue for the complex panels

This top panel will box in the pump-out plumbing

Last prep step: build out the floor at the step to the V-berth

Next day, the epoxy is cured and the panels are finally ready to install

Gluing and screwing the framing

After wetting out the cleat framing with epoxy, I apply wood flour-thickened epoxy, then screw each cleat in place. Then the panel edges and the corresponding attachment points get the same treatment.

Galley Pantry #1 is glued, screwed, and clamped in place

The back panel is 1/8″ cabinet-grade, rotary cut mahogany plywood. It’s pretty stuff, but it doesn’t stay flat on its own. At the top, there’s a 1″ x 1″ mahogany cleat that the top panel will butt up against, and that cleat keeps the top edge of the panel flat. But I had to glue and clamp another cleat onto the back-side at the bottom to keep that edge flat, too. It looks like that will work out fine.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing More Pantry Panels


1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Last Galley Pantry Panels

It warmed up for a few days, but over the weekend temps once again crashed below freezing. It’s snowing outside now and the Potomac River is still frozen over. But I did manage to get the last galley pantry panels cut before my kerosene heater ran out of fuel over the weekend. Gotta remember to bring a jerry can of kero next weekend!

Galley pantry #1

Pantry #2, with a big step down to the right, where pantry #3 needs to go

First, I built up the floor

Next I installed 1″ x 1″ mahogany cleats

The straight edge shows me where the plywood base panel should stick out to, so it aligns with all of the others.

Next, I put in the upright cleats that the back panel will attach to

It might seem easy, screwing sticks to plywood panels. But the thing is, nothing is square here…so nothing is easy. If I just made square or rectangular box cabinets, like you’d see in a house, it would be easy. I could even buy them pre-made at a big box retailer. BUT, I’d lose relatively huge amounts of storage space that the missus tells me is essential. To maximize storage, I’m trying to keep the back panels as close to the hull as possible. The hull is curved here, so the cabinet depth varies from side-to-side and top-to-bottom. The cleats need to be installed just so AND they have to be cut on a bevel, otherwise the plywood panels won’t lie flat on them. I’m sure it’d be easy for a pro, but you’d be surprised how long it takes for a weekend woodworker like me to get eight cleats attached in the right spots.

Bottom panel fits well

That one little tiny panel took me 30 minutes to cut and fit.

45 minutes later, the back panel fits pretty good

Getting the top panel cleats installed took another hour

Though you normally wouldn’t use a level on a boat that’s floating, I can use a level for cabinetmaking because I check the level of the whole boat about once a year. Once the floors are level, everything built on the floors can be checked for level, too.

Upper cleats are dry fitted

In the pic above, it looks like the cleats are part of an M.C. Escher print. But, in fact, the bottom surfaces of the sticks are all on the same plane.

30 minutes later, the upper panel is close to fitting

After a few more slices, it fits pretty good!

I just need to bevel the back edge a bit to close that joint

I’ve used my Shopsmith jointer before to bevel plywood panels

Unfortunately, the HHS jointer blades Shopsmith requires don’t hold up when jointing plywood edges

The jointer blades held up well enough to finish the panel. And since that was the last of the pantry panels to fit, the next step was to disassemble the whole thing and take the panels in for refinishing someplace warm.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Flagship Marine Air Conditioners Have Arrived

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Still More Galley Pantry Panels

I’m still working on the galley pantry cabinets. I also finally found a fitting that works to attach the pump-out deck fitting to the 1-1/2″ PVC pipe I use for the plumbing.

2″ pump-out deck fitting

Fernco 1-1/2″ pipe coupler just fits

I use PVC pipe for blackwater plumbing

Back to the cabinets, the next step starts with 1″ x 1″ mahogany cleats

Next I fit the bottom panel

These cabinets are a bigger challenge than I wish they were. You may recall that I initially intended to install the upright panels perpendicular to the step from the salon to the galley. But to make the cabinets work with the original joinery that remains, I had to install the upright cabinet panels such that the bottom panels and top panels inside the cabinets aren’t simple 90° angles at the cabinet face; they’re parallelograms! It takes much longer cutting and fitting these parallelogram panels than it would with 90° angles.

Next the back panel gets cut

Lookin’ good!

The upper panel cleats went in next

You’d think these 1″ x 1″ mahogany cleats would be a breeze to cut and fit. But my table saw is under the bow of the boat at the front of the tent, as is my Shopsmith and its bandsaw, jointer, and other attachments. So if it’s not a simple cut (I keep my double miter chop saw up in the salon), to make each cut I have to go up the steps to the aft deck, across and down the ladder, then out of the tent at the stern, walk forward, re-enter the tent at the front, cut the piece, and schlep it back up to the salon. It only adds a couple of minutes for each cut, but when I’m doing multiple cuts and jointed edges just to get a few cleats installed, at the end of the day it’s consumed a lot of time.

Followed by the top panel

The top-to-back panel joint isn’t tight; the camera is too kind

There’s a good, solid 1/16″ gap in this joint, where the mahogany should touch. The back panel is angled to follow the curve of the hull from bottom to top, and the top panel angles up, which opens up the joint. So the top panel back edge needs to be trimmed at an angle to tighten up that joint.

Mark the edge with a Sharpie, and run it over the Shopsmith jointer a few times with the fence set to 7°

With each pass, more and more of the Sharpie mark disappears. When it’s all gone, the edge is jointed to 7°.

7° on the nose

Now THAT’s a tight joint!

Galley cabinet #2…done

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Last Galley Pantry Panels

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: More on the Galley Pantry

It’s been below freezing for the better part of two weeks, with overnight lows dropping as low as 3°F, so I haven’t been too enthused about going to the boat, and I’ve been slacking on my blogging, too. But I have been enjoying decking out the shooting range I’ve got in the back 40 at the house. Turns out old circular saw blades make great targets! But with daytime highs well below freezing and a brutal wind chill, I can only empty a few mags (Maryland has an idiotic 10-round mag limit) before I have to head back inside where it’s warm.

Anyway, before the brutal cold came to visit, I did get more of the galley pantry cabinetry done.

Where I left off

First, I installed 1″x 1″ mahogany cleats for the back panel

Those cleats were the ones I recycled from the original mahogany toe rail.

Then I installed cleats for the bottom panel

And my ShopSmith bandsaw helped me make the upper cleats

Looks good

Bottom panel fitted

Back panel fitted

I need to secure the top of the panel to the deck frame

That works

Next, I had to make a box for the pump-out hose fitting

That’ll do

I think this will work

A very old scrap of mahogany I’ve been saving is just the right size

There’s always that question of whether to keep or throw out mahogany plywood and solid stock scraps. I generally lean toward saving scraps, and it turns out this one was worth keeping.

EurekaZone track saw helps clean up a nasty edge

I use my carbide-tipped saws to clean up edges rather than the jointer. The HSS jointer blades on my ShopSmith dull quickly when cleaning painted or varnished edges. That will be less of an issue once I get my new-to-me MiniMax FS35 jointer properly tuned up. It’s been too cold! When overnight temps drop to single digits Fahrenheit, 800lbs blocks of iron hold the cold for a long time!


ShopSmith bandsaw lops off a slab of mahogany

This is yet another little chunk of scrap I’ve been hording that came in handy. It was a leftover from the new salon hatch frames.

Shopsmith jointer was just the right size to clean up the face from the bandsaw cut

Not bad for scrap!

Screwing it together

Bosch router rounds off the edges

It was tough holding it in place while I ran the router over the edges. I could definitely see the benefit of having a stationary router table.

Sanded and ready to temporarily mount

Not bad for a “scrap box”

That’s a wrap for the first pantry interior panels.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Still More Galley Pantry Panels

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Roughing Out More of the Galley Pantry

Winter 2017 has arrived, and I’m still making headway on the galley pantry cabinets. It was winter 2007 when we first started working on this project. A lot has changed in ten years.

Back then, a massive government socioeconomic experiment in mortgage lending had (predictably) created a housing bubble, and everybody had more money than they knew what to do with. That drove up the price of boats to the point where even 40-year Chris Crafts in rough shape were going for a lot of money. When I heard about this Roamer and that “all it needs is engines and a paint job” AND that I could buy it for $1…sounded like a real bargain.

Since then the bubble burst, taking down the global economy and with it (eventually) the price of old boats. As usual, the people who started the grand experiment said everything went to hell because there weren’t enough people like them regulating things. It always seemed to me that the best way to avoid crashing the global economy when a massive socioeconomic experiment fails is to keep the government out of the socioeconomic experiment business.

That said, the first thing to tank was housing prices and, though it took a while, eventually boat owners had to acknowledge the new market reality. In 2006, I recall a late-60s Chris Craft Commander 60 sold for a half-million dollars. Fast forward to 2015, and a very nice, shed kept, running and driving 60′ Commander  sold for far less than we’ve put into this Roamer.  I had to stop visiting yacht sales websites…it was too depressing. We’d progressed so far and spent so much on this Roamer that we’d passed the point of turning back. With the new Cummins engines installed and the paint job done, all that was left was a bit of carpentry.

Just a bit…

Anyway, it’s ten years later and I’m still spending pretty much every weekend in the boatyard tent. On the up-side, I learned how to weld aluminum and stainless, and my woodworking skills are getting better all the time. Which brings me to the latest bit of the project: the galley pantry cabinets.

A heavy coat of epoxy seals up the 48-year old galley floor

The old marine plywood in the galley floor drank up a lot of epoxy, but now it’s sealed up and ready for another half-century. I’ll sand it and top coat it later.

The leading edge of the vertical cabinet panels all need to line up

I used a framing square and  6-foot straight edge to mark a line that all three pantry panels will have to come out to.

Uh…Houston…we have a problem

So, my plan was to have the pantry cabinets come out far enough that they line up with the original mahogany above. But the line I marked at 90° to the bulkhead would inset two of the three vertical pantry panels. The original mahogany panel conforms to the deck, and at this point the beam is getting narrower as it gets closer to the bow. So the cabinetry will have to follow the upper panel instead of being 90° to the bulkhead. Everything is complicated on a boat…

A Framing square and two straight edges show me how far off the cabinetry would have been

That’s the line. Time to cut panels.

The pantry panel I cut last week makes a good pattern for the second one

And another sheet of mahogany plywood came out of the stack. If I did my calculations right, when the stack of plywood is gone the interior should be finished. So every sheet that comes out of the stack reminds me I’m getting closer to being done.

The second pantry vertical panel needs a bit of trimming

I need to make sure there’s enough clearance for the pump-out plumbing

Yes, the holding tank pump-out plumbing will be in close proximity to the galley pantry…where food will be stored.

These boats didn’t have holding tanks or pump-out fittings when new. The deck fitting that was here when we got the boat was for potable water. But since I’ll be using the OEM chromed bronze water fills instead, and holding tanks are required now, I decided to use this hole in the deck for the pump-out fitting.  In retrospect, I should have welded up the hole and relocated it further outboard, but it’s too late now. I’ve got some ideas for the cabinetry that should conceal the pooh plumbing.

The top of the mahogany panel fits pretty well, and there’s plenty of room for plumbing

Need to take a bit off the bottom

Lookin’ good!

Nice and square to the floor

Two down, one to go

The last panel has the most notches where it meets the deck

Boom. Done.

I’ll use solid mahogany stock to make the face frame that will attach to these three vertical panels. Overall, I’m pleased with how this is coming along. I just wish I was faster. It took a long weekend to get just these two panels fitted…

Merry Christmas 2017!

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: A New Tool–MiniMax FS35 Jointer/Planer!

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Last Galley Bulkhead Veneer

I hadn’t been to the tent in two weeks, first for Thanksgiving weekend and then to prepare for the local holiday boat parade. It was nice to take a break, but that also got me thinking about how much of my life I’ve spent on this thing. It’ll be nice when it’s all done, but if I had a ‘way back machine’ I would never have started this project. Then again, I’ve been doing this long enough to recognize when I’m in a slump because things aren’t progressing as well as I’d like. I’ll come out of it soon enough.

That said, we decided on “Merry Grinchmas” as the theme for the boat parade. I made a sign that said Merry Christmas/Grinchmas using 12v strip LEDs, with the “Grinch” and “Christ” parts switching back and forth. The Grinch letters were green, and there were ~200 soldered connections to make it all work. On the bow, the missus took on the role of Grinch, with friends playing Whos. There’s a yellow-LED framed sign up there that has three LED hearts–a little, shriveled one, then two sequentially bigger ones.  In retrospect, it would have been better to use plastic poultry fence for the backing on that sign. The white shrinkwrap plastic lights up from the floodlights we need for the actors, which makes the red hearts less visible. When the Whos’ song comes on, the Grinch hearts grow and everything lights up. I thought we captured the Grinch story in a repeating 1:07 skit, but–alas–the judges didn’t give us any prizes. Instead, they gave a prize to a boat with the theme “co-exist,” an inherently political theme based on the bumper sticker. What’s the world coming to?

Anyway, here’s the skit as performed in our slip back on the dock:

Now, back to the Roamer.

I got the last galley bulkhead veneer panel cut and installed.

I used a hot glue gun and sticks to make a pattern

Then transferred the pattern to the 1/8″ mahogany plywood panel

Trimming a bit from the leading edge of the original woodwork allows the plywood panel to slide in for a nice joint

Test fit looks good


The bulkhead is sanded and ready to be wetted out with epoxy

Not too bad for the panel-to-panel butt joint

Ready to roll on the epoxy

After wetting out the panel and bulkhead, I waited for the epoxy to get tacky

2″ tape tabs allow me to place the panel without touching the edges

I don’t want to get epoxy on the mahogany face of the panel.

Every stick serves a purpose

I use a squeegee to push air bubbles out and ensure 100% contact. But the edges of these panels sometimes lift off just a bit, so I use sticks, boards, clamps and plywood scraps to hold everything together while the epoxy cures overnight.

Next day: looks good!

Cover everything with cardboard and call it done

I seem to be working from the bow back toward the stern, and I’d like to put in as much cabinetry in the galley and salon as I can so long as it doesn’t impinge on my plywood panel cutting space. There’s a lot of cabinetry in the galley and salon that’s under the side decks, and it won’t get in the way if I install it. So I’ll start on that next. The new air conditioners also arrived, and I need to install the one in the V-berth so I can finish up the cabinetry there. I just wish it’d all go faster.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Roughing Out the Galley Pantry

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: More Galley Bulkhead Veneers

With the V-berth mahogany panels all installed, I continued the theme by cutting and installing veneer panels on the galley bulkhead.

Middle galley bulkhead veneer panel is cut and ready to epoxy in place

Rolling on just enough epoxy to wet out the surface but not saturate or have standing pools is the key, I’ve found.

Bulkhead and veneer panel are wetted out

Give it an hour or so to start to get tacky

Custom panel handles made from 2″ tape

The panels are wetted out all the way to the edge, so if I touch the edges when installing I’ll end up getting epoxy on my gloves and spreading it all over the place. The little tape tabs allow me to position the panel without ever coming near the edges.

That went well

After hitting the panel with a squeegee several times over an hour or so, some of the edges still wanted to lift off the bulkhead just a bit. So I put some  sticks in place to press the edges into full contact.

Next day: galley bulkhead #2 is installed

I should probably note here that very little of these veneer panels will actually be visible once the cabinets and fridge are in place. When you open the cabinets you’ll see them, and they’ll be visible between the countertops and upper cabinets. But there won’t just be a big wall of plain wood.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Last Galley Bulkhead Veneer