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

Nice!

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

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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

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Final V-berth Veneers

It is Thanksgiving morning here in the United States of America, so I’d like to wish a happy holiday to everyone who celebrates it. One thing I’m certainly giving thanks for today is that, one by one, I’m knocking out all of the V-berth mahogany panels in this enormous boat project I took on back in late 2007. The final ones were veneers to cover the okoume bulkhead that separates the V-berth from the galley and salon.

First, I made a template out of sticks, using a hot glue gun

Then, I transferred the pattern to the last bit of ribbon stripe mahogany veneer

I used a razor knife to cut the veneer

I wetted out the bulkhead and veneer with epoxy, then messed around with other stuff, like taping off the pretty mahogany cabinetry around the bulkhead, until the epoxy started getting tacky.

Next, I applied the veneer and used a squeegee to ensure 100% contact

For an hour or so, I’d come back and hit the veneer with the squeegee to make sure no air bubbles developed. After a while it became clear that, having been rolled up for a long time, the veneer really wanted to return to the rolled-up shape. It was only the edges that were curling up, but something had to be done to keep them in place.

Sticks, clamps, and more sticks keep full contact at the edges

Next I wetted out the ‘desk-like structure’ top panel and clamped it in place

It looks goofy, but it works!

101 uses for having a level on the boat. #97 is using it to apply even clamping force across long surfaces.

Next day, off come the clamps

And on goes the cardboard

I don’t want any scratches to happen while I wrap up the V-berth

Next I wetted out the last bulkhead panel with epoxy

Wetting out the 1/8″ mahogany plywood veneer panel took some gymnastics

The last thing I need is sticky epoxy getting spread around in here. If I get epoxy on the face side, it will most likely leave a visible stain when it’s clear coated.

2″ tape works pretty good as ‘panel handles’ for 1/8″ plywood

The panel is in place, but I need sticks and clamps to hold it there

After hitting the panel with a squeegee many times, I went and got a pile of sticks, blocks and clamps to hold the veneer panel tight to the bulkhead.

Every stick, wedge, block, and angle is just so…

More sticks at the top

It took about 45 minutes and three tries to finally get everything to stay in place. I’d almost get this Rube Goldberg clamp contraption done, then one stick would slip, fall, and take out everything around it. But eventually, they all cooperated and I backed away very, very slowly.

Next day…the last panel is in!

So…that’s a wrap for the V-berth mahogany panel install. I’ve still got a bunch of moldings to make, but I’m having trouble with my jointer. I think I need a new one…a Grizzly 8″ with the helical carbide cutters would be nice to find under the Christmas tree this year. Time will tell if Santa’s listening.

But for now…Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: More Galley bulkhead Veneers

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Final Installation of the Last V-berth Cabinet

With the last V-berth cabinet panels veneered and clear coated with ICA base, it’s time to finally install them.

Dry-fitting is done…time to disassemble

Here we go!

First, I marked off where the back of the panels need insulation

Next I wetted out the areas to be insulated with epoxy

After cutting the Buffalo Batt R3 insulation to size, I pressed it in place and left it to cure overnight.

Next day, all of the insulated panels are ready for install

The cabinet front and interior bottom panels are glued and screwed in place

After I installed the fasteners, which are all out of sight when facing the cabinet from the front, I used alcohol on a rag to remove any wood flour-thickened epoxy that squeezed out.

That turned out nicely

Pressing the back panel in place required many sticks

I’m only using epoxy on the back and side panels because I don’t want visible fasteners. The back panel also got insulated, like every other panel that faces the hull envelope.

Next day, out come the sticks!

Next, the cabinet top got glued in place

Then I prepped the porthole area for the next mahogany panel

The contact areas all got wetted out with epoxy

Next I applied wood flour-thickened epoxy as the glue

I use a homebrewed wood flour/fumed silica mix at a 7:3 ratio for panel bonding, and keep adding it to the epoxy until it’s the consistency of creamy peanut butter.

Put the panel in place, and use lots of sticks to keep full contact at the edges

There are stainless screws around the porthole opening that pull it up nice and tight, but the edges need a bit of help in spots to keep the joints good and tight. If you look at the picture above, you’ll see clamps holding sticks, that are pushing other sticks to hold them in place because they’re pushing up against other sticks that are pressing the panel edges into place. It looks goofy as can be, but it works pretty well. What sucks is when I just about get the whole Rube Goldberg contraption done, then I bump one of the mission-critical sticks, which falls out of place and takes out all the rest. Using this stick-clamp method, it’s taken as many as four attempts to finally get it right. Then I back away very, very slowly and head home to let the epoxy cure.

Next day, the sticks come off!

Nice!

I still can’t believe how tight I got that joint

The last cabinet panels are installed!

It’s a dusty mess inside the V-berth, but it’s nice to have the cabinet panels done. I’ll make moldings later to cover all of the plywood edges. But first, I’ve got some veneer work to do.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Final V-berth Veneers

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Final Dry-Fitting the Last V-berth Cabinet

I applied mahogany veneers to the last of the V-berth cabinet panels, so the next step was to spray them with ICA base coat clear and finish the dry-fit.

Cutting out the hatch panel from the cabinet interior base

This little MasterMind 800344 3-Inch Circular Plunge Saw is great for cutting cabinet door openings. The kerf is 1/16″, which makes for fairly tight-fitting hatches and doors, and it plunges to cut 3/4″ plywood. The dust collection is the best I’ve ever seen–absolutely no dust gets out. The reason the dust collection is so good is that the blade is almost entirely enclosed. The down-side to that is that you can’t see where you’re cutting. The solution is to make a test plunge part-way into a piece of scrap 1/4″ ply, then use that as a jig to set the track against which you run the saw to make the cut. I also put marks on the saw base to indicate where the kerf begins and ends when you make the plunge. It’s pretty slick.

Cabinet interior panels look good

I really like the look of that rotary cut mahogany plywood.

Rotary cut vs quartersawn mahogany veneer

I had to remove material from the back of the porthole surround panel

The 1/4″ Douglas fir marine plywood that I used for the porthole surround panel is thicker than the 1/4″ cabinet-grade mahogany plywood I used in the V-berth. The Doug fir panel got even thicker when I put the mahogany veneer on, resulting in a pretty big step from one panel to the next. I could use a molding to hide the joint, and I still may. But I wanted to get the two panels at least appearing to be the same height. So I used my Bosch router to remove material from the back of the porthole surround panel where it meets the mahogany backing cleat. That brings the two panels into nearly perfect alignment.

I used a hand plane to finish the beveled edge of the cabinet face panel

Nice and flat bevel from the cleat to the veneer

Once all of the edges were done, I sanded the veneer faces with 240 grit Mirka Abranet sandpaper and sent them to my painter for coating. They came back looking very nice.

Looking good

Cabinet interior panel with hatch panel removed

That hatch panel will give me access to the welded-in thru-hull for the V-berth AC raw water outlet.

Cabinet bottom panel with the hatch panel in place

You can barely tell that there’s a hatch cut in that panel. That’s what I really like about the tiny kerf from the MasterMind plunge saw.

This is fitting together pretty well

Once I’m done dry-fitting and glue all of these panel edges together with epoxy, I can’t be fumbling around putting panels in place, then removing them because I got the order wrong. The porthole surround panel makes a big photographic impression, but from a practical standpoint it’ll be the last panel to go in when I do the final installation.

Yeah, baby!

Cabinet top to porthole surround panel fit is amazingly tight

To be perfectly honest, I have no idea how I got that fit so tight. You couldn’t insert the tiniest edge of a razor blade between those two panels, and that’s just pushed together, with no epoxy gluing the joint yet! I’m completely mystified as to how I did it! I’m not complaining, mind you…but it’s still a mystery.

The top panel to the ‘desk-like structure’ is loosely placed

Not too bad, if I do say so myself!

To preempt a question I’ve gotten several times before, all exposed plywood edges will eventually be covered with solid mahogany moldings of some sort or maybe edge banding. Cabinet top panels will have fiddles, which are moldings that stick up above the surface of the panel to keep things from sliding off in rough seas.

I’ll also say again that, with the last panels dry-fitted and the full impact of the ribbon-striped mahogany in full view, I think it’s too…consistently stripey, if you get my meaning. Especially when compared to the more irregular grain of the rotary cut mahogany I’m using for the rest of the boat (and the interior cabinets in the V-berth). Now, if we were talking about older ribbon-stripe veneers, where the stripes are wider and the logs they were cut from were of greater diameter…those win, hands-down, every time. But, alas, they’re not making mahogany veneer and plywood anymore like what Chris Craft was using back in the day.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Final Installation of the Last V-berth Cabinet

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

With one V-berth panel veneered, I got busy on the remaining two. The epoxy print-through problem I was worried about that didn’t manifest on the first panel …turns out it’s a real thing.

Interior panels are looking good

It’s time to veneer the face and top cabinet panels.

There’s just enough veneer leftover

I cut it pretty close on the veneer, but fortunately there was enough to do all of the panels. I didn’t want to have to buy another sheet just to do the top.

Brushing on epoxy to wet out the panel

Then brush on some wood four-thickened epoxy

I used wood flour-thickened epoxy on the first panel I veneered because the Douglas fir marine plywood I used there isn’t flat; something had to fill the low spots between the grain. That approach worked pretty good, but the more I think about it I’m not so sure I needed to do the same thing with these okoume panels. They’re nice and flat already. Too late now, I suppose, but lesson learned.

Wetted out and topped with thickened epoxy

Next, I wetted out the veneer and applied it to the panel

Then I clamped it all together

Good squeeze out = good contact

Next day, the clamps come off

Nice!

Uh oh…epoxy leaked through

That spot isn’t too bad. It’ll sand out…nobody will ever see it once it’s top coated with varnish.

Gad!

The epoxy not only leaked through here, enough came through to soak into the plywood panel I used as a table top. Fortunately, the fir pulled out of the panel and stuck to the mahogany. That can be sanded off. It would have been unfortunate if the mahogany had pulled off.

Fortunately, a bit of sanding fixed it all up

Lessons learned:

  1. Epoxy makes a good veneer adhesive;
  2. Thickened epoxy is probably unnecessary for flat plywood, like okoume;
  3. Brushing on the epoxy puts too much on the surface; a roller would be better;
  4. Clamping helps ensure 100% contact while the epoxy cures, but it also pushes epoxy through the veneer if too much is applied; and
  5. A non-stick surface for the table would be much better than bare wood…a sheet of shrink wrap plastic might suffice.

That’s it for the veneer work on the V-berth cabinet. Now the panels have to go off to the paint shop and get coated with ICA base coat clear before I install them.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Final Dry-Fitting the Last V-berth Cabinet

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.

Nice!!

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