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!


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: 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: 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

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

After an unfortunate week lost to adding more coats of Imron MS1 to the toe rail, some of which will have to be sanded off to respray because of professional painter incompetence, I went back into the V-berth and made more progress toward wrapping up the ‘desk-like structure.’

Flat sawn mahogany plywood wetted out with epoxy

For the V-berth cabinetry, I used 1/4″ ribbon-stripe mahogany plywood that I was able to buy at a bargain price because it was leftover from a big sportfisher build at a local custom boat manufacturer. While the flat sawn mahogany plywood I’m using elsewhere on the boat is attractive, it looks quite different from the quarter sawn ribbon-stripe. I used a sheet of the flat sawn for this one panel on the ‘desk-like structure,’ and I have some small pieces of the ribbon-stripe leftover, so I used one to cover this panel and make it all consistent.

Lots of clamps press the panels together

A little peek at the ribbon-stripe

Next day…looks great!

The last ribbon-stripe panel, back from the paint shop

The “desk-like structure” corner molding is also coated with ICA base

Wetted out with epoxy and clamped in place

The step-up for the ‘desk-like structure” is glued, screwed, and clamped in place

Next day…looks good!

Looks even better with the hatch in place

Next, I glued and screwed the air conditioner base frames in place

With sticky epoxy in the way and the weekend clock run out, that was a wrap. I’ll be covering all of the exposed plywood edges with mahogany moldings, but that can be done at any time.

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