1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: V-berth Cabinetry Storage Boxes

Summer has officially arrived, but for more than a month it’s been miserable in the tent. When it’s a beautiful day outside, it’s hellishly hot and humid in that plastic bubble. Using fans helps how I feel, but epoxy has a very short pot life even when I use the slowest hardener. It’s very frustrating. That said, I’m still making progress in the V-berth.

Time to install the bed foundation

Glued and screwed gussets

Mark the cabinet cut lines and rabbets in the big bed foundation panel

I use aluminum angle to guide the router

The track saw extrusions work well as a router guide, too

I use this handy little plunge saw with only 1/16″ kerf to cut the cabinet opening

Then I finish the corners with a jigsaw

This will make a nice cabinet door

Cut the last rabbets on the back-side of the foundation panel

The panel is ready for installation

But first, I’m going to make the cabinet box and attach it to the panel. I considered doing it after I installed the panel, but I think it’ll be easier if the box is installed first.

The back of the cabinet box

Trimmed here and there to clear the hull framing

After cutting the rest of the cabinet box panels, I took them home and varnished them. I’ve got a bunch of cans of Varathane, lacquer, Minwax polyurethane and Helmsman Spar Varnish I’d like to use up. The inside of these cabinets is a good place for it.

3 coats of Minwax Helmsman Spar Varnish looks pretty good

Dry fit…looks pretty good!

Dry-fit the box…we’re ready for epoxy

Glued and clamped together

The hot temps in the tent make it challenging to glue the box together. The epoxy kicks really fast. First I wet out the rabbets and the matching panel edges with straight epoxy, then I add wood flour to the epoxy and apply it over the wetted out areas. Next, I fit the pieces together and clamp until I get some of the thickened epoxy squeezing out of the joint. Then I wipe down the joint with alcohol to remove any excess epoxy, and it’s on to the next piece until it’s all assembled.

Next day, epoxy the joints and mate the box to the panel

Support the ends of the panel and weigh down the middle

I have one more box to make, then I’ll insulate everything and install the cabinets.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: More V-berth Cabinetry Storage Boxes

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: More V-berth Cabinetry

Things are moving along in the V-berth, though not as fast as I’d like. In other words, it’s about the same as since I first started this project!


The panels fit nicely

Next, I need to prepare them for installation.

With the panel square to the floor…

…it’s not square to the wall!

The V-berth bathroom wall was cut, fitted, and installed by a clown of a contractor who was working for me a few years ago. Since he didn’t install the wall with the leading edge perpendicular to the floor, everything that attaches to it is off. And that means it takes more work to make things not look too goofy. I’ll eventually put a piece of veneer here, but it would have been nice to have the panel installed right from the start.

Mahogany 1″ x 1″ cleats will back up each joint.

The vertical cleat used to be part of the original mahogany toe rails that I recycled.

All framed out

Looking good!

Bed base panel is level but too tall

Normally, you wouldn’t use a level on a boat. But I’ve leveled the boat by adjusting the boat stands with a 4′ level on the floor. I recheck it every few months to make sure it hasn’t settled and thrown off the level.

Knocking the top off of the panel

Bed base gussets tie all the panels together

Remove the panels and cut the insulation

Wetted out and edge sealed with epoxy, then insulation is pressed in place

The marked off area and the bottom edges will get epoxy sealed

Floor cleats are glued and screwed in place

With sticky epoxy everywhere and super high temps in the tent, I called it a wrap.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: V-berth Cabinetry Storage Boxes

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing the Starboard V-berth Mahogany Wall Panel

With the port side V-berth wall panel installed, doing the Starboard side was relatively easy. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera so I had to use my phone to take most of these pictures. Even with much higher resolution, the phone camera pictures always end up grainier and fuzzier than my old Fujifilm digital camera.

Good fit!

I”m using three clamps to hold the panel in place, but two of those just support it vertically. Only one clamp–the one at the porthole opening–is actually clamping the panel to the boat. And that’s all it takes to get good contact along the leading edge, where it meets the forward bulkhead.

Add another cleat to support the back edge

Final fit checks out…time to cut the porthole opening

Marked from the outside and ready to cut

Not a bad fit

The panel is flush with the porthole opening at the top, but it’s proud of the opening at the bottom. This creates a situation where the porthole potentially won’t have a good seal. It’s supposed to meet up flush with the aluminum porthole opening. Instead, I’ll have to rely on sealant and an epoxy saturated panel edge to keep water from ever coming through here.

The problem: poor fit from Chris Craft

The plywood backing panels aren’t square to the porthole opening. Instead, they’re angled to (sort of) meet up with the hull ribs. It looks like the carpenters at Chris Craft tried to compensate for a poor porthole install. If the welder had done a better job squaring up the 6″ pipe they use for these porthole openings, it would have made things a lot better and easier for everyone.

Remove even more aluminum rib material below the porthole

I’ve removed about 3/8″ of rib depth just below the porthole opening to smooth out the transition from the porthole opening plywood surrounds to the mahogany cleat attached to the rib. With that much material removed, I’m finally getting good contact between the new mahogany panel and the original porthole plywood surround. But, in retrospect, the best approach would have been to¬† cut out the porthole opening back when the hull was sandblasted and reposition it. My hindsight remains absolutely perfect!!

Rib contact points are marked

Time for insulation

That Buffalo Batt material is very nice to work with. Once I had the insulation fitted, I removed it and wetted out the back of the panel with epoxy, then reinstalled the insulation and pressed it to the panel with scraps of plywood. The next day, it was ready to install.

Ready for installation

I wetted out the edges and contact points with epoxy

All of the mahogany cleats get saturated with epoxy, too

Epoxy thickened with wood flour and cabosil in a 7:3 ratio makes strong glue

Screws around the porthole hold everything in place

Remove the epoxy that squeezes out with alcohol on a rag

Next day, time for the clamps to come off!


With the curved walls finally done, I can finally get going on the cabinetry.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Fitting the V-berth Cabinets

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing the Port V-berth Mahogany Wall Panel

With the V-berth mahogany panels clear coated and insulated, the next step is installation.

Base coated, insulated, and edge sealed

Edges fully wetted out with epoxy

Mahogany cleats get wetted out with epoxy, too

Epoxy thickened with wood flour goes on next

Once the thickened epoxy gets applied to all contact surfaces, everything is a sticky mess and no pictures can be taken. Once the panel is positioned, clamped, and secured with fasteners, I wipe up the sticky mess with alcohol on rags…lots and lots of rags. The secret is not to smear the stuff around. Get some epoxy on the rag, fold it over, get more on, fold again, and when there’s no more clean parts of the rag, throw it out and get a new one. I keep wiping and wiping until all of the sticky residue is gone, which I confirm by holding a flashlight at an angle to the panel. I check and re-check with the flashlight about a half-dozen times, because sometimes more epoxy oozes out and other sticky bits just get missed. Finally, once it’s all wiped up, off come the gloves and it’s time to call it a day.

Glued, screwed, and clamped

In the forward-most upper corner, I had to use two sticks as a lever to push the panel into place. There’s no way to get a clamp or screws in there, but with plenty of epoxy on the backside it’ll be nice and solid by tomorrow.

Give me a long enough lever, and I can make a stubborn plywood panel conform to a complex curve!

Very nice fit on the back edge–no clamps or screws required

The panel is clamped, glued, and screwed at the porthole opening

The panel orientation at the porthole opening is critical, since misalignment can throw off the fit of the porthole itself. The original porthole installer at Chris Craft did a poor job aligning it. The porthole was inset quite a ways from the frames, so I had to do a lot of grinding when I was preparing to fit the panels to bring the frame in close enough for the plywood panel to conform. With lots of screws and the clamp, it looks like this will work out well.

Keen-eyed observers will note what appears to be (and, in fact, is) an upside-down run in the pic above. These panels only got the first of four coats of ICA base clear applied, and the painter lays it on heavy. We do that because epoxy can be wiped off of finished wood, but it soaks into unfinished wood and discolors it. We’ll sand the whole V-berth, eliminating all the runs and surface imperfections, then hit it with another four coats of base, then sand again before applying two coats of semi-matte topcoat.

Next day, the clamps come off

I know, I know…the veneers don’t line up between the two panels. You know what? I don’t care! ūüôā

Not a bad joint

I think I’ll use 1/4 round mahogany trim to cover the joint and bungs

Behind the panel it’s very nicely insulated

That’s a wrap for the port side V-berth panel.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: My Life WAS An Old-School Country Western Song

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

With the port V-berth side panel cut and fitted, it was much easier doing the starboard side. It’s still challenging, but at least I got this one done in only one day.

Backside of the port panel marked for insulation

I’ve been putting Buffalo Batt insulation on the backside of all plywood panels that face the hull. Between that and the spray foam on the hull itself, I’m hoping this metal boat will be comfortable no matter the season. But insulating the back of each panel adds a day to the process of cutting and installing them. Still, I think it will be worth it in the end.

Starboard panel fit surprisingly well on the first try

Other V-berth panels I cut previously

I had these painted last year, but never posted the pix

A woodworker hobbyist buddy of mine calls this ‘wood porn’

So, both V-berth side panels are ready for ICA clear coat. Unfortunately, my painter has been too busy at work and our schedules haven’t matched up. I really didn’t want to have to learn how to spray paint, but this is getting frustrating. Hopefully, he’ll get them sprayed this weekend.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Taking A Break…sort of

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

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