The Plan: Originally, the Far Reach had a sit down navigation station where the navigator sat down on the head of the quarter berth. Many boats have a similar design. In my opinion it is a major compromise. You can't sit down if the quarterberth is being used and you can't comfortably perform chart work standing up because the table is tilted aft to be used when one is sitting down. Not only that, having room under the chart table for the users legs requires lot of space--space better used for valuable storage. Also, the icebox on the Far Reach was originally on the port side of the boat, wedged between the 50hp diesel and the stove/oven. Call me silly but that puts the one thing on the boat that needs to stay cold between the two biggest producers of heat. Since we don't plan on installing mechanical refrigeration, we need to have an icebox that is as efficient as possible. These kinds of considerations influenced the decision to relocate and redesign the icebox and navigation station as a single integrated unit on the starboard side. The design is very similar to that used by Larry and Lin Pardey on Taleisin. Kaj Jakobsen built this same design on his Falmouth 34 Astrid.
We have enough space to make the top about 30" wide and 43" deep. I would like to have made it wider but that would require the quarter berth to be too short. There will be a deep book shelf on the outboard side (against the hull). We also plan for the chart table to have a hinged top. After you lift the top up and it hooks on a self-catching latch, you will then lift the "plug" to gain access to the icebox. This provides a completely smooth surface for the chart table. Also, when you want to get access to the icebox, you don't have to remove the chart, just lift the top. The top is hinged and once lifted reveals the tapered plug that lift out for access to the top loading icebox. This design provides for a smooth top for chart work and as additional work surface when not underway. The front will be faced with African Mahogany vertical staving, just like the rest of the boat. Insulation will be comprised of Dow Blue Board about 4-5" thick. Aluminum foil will by glued to each layer of blue board as a radiant barrier.
Laying the Ground Work
To get started I needed to add to the partial bulkhead that forms the aft end of the chart table and the forward end of the quarter-berth. I basically scarfed two piece of 1/2" Okume ply on to the original bulkhead. The original bulkhead was only about 18" above the cabin sole. This top edge went all the way to the hull and then went vertical to the under side of the deck. the vertical part was only about 8" wide. You couldn't do much with it. I could have cut the old bulkhead out and replaced it. And knowing what I know now I would have. But, when I started the rebuild I was not all that confident about my bulkhead installation skills. So, here is what I did. I measured and then cut the two pieces of ply I wanted to add to the existing bulkhead from 1/2" okume plywood. I test fit them to make sure they fit properly. Then I used my router with a 1/8" slot cutter set 3/8" deep and cut a slot across the top of horizontal part of the bulkhead. I did the same for the vertical part. Next, I cut matching slots in the plywood additions. I cut 1/8" x 3/4" splines out of scrap 3/4" marine plywood. I tested everything to check the fit. It looked good. Next, I used my power planer to plan down a 2" wide strip on each side of the joint line where the plywood would join together. I planed the forward and aft sides as well. This allowed me to lay a 4" wide strip of biaxial in the recessed rabbet. Again, I checked for fit. I precut the biaxial strips and the foam wedge for the top against the underside of the deck. That completed the first day.
Today, with every thing pre cut and ready to install the work went quick. I vacuumed and performed a thorough acetone wash down of the appropriate surfaces. Then, I brushed epoxy on the splines and slots and installed the plywood additions. Then, I wet out the plywood along the recessed rabbet. I wet out the biaxial and laid it on smoothing it out to remove any air bubbles. Next, I mixed up some more epoxy slightly thickened with 407 medium density filler. I trowled it on and worked it into the previously installed and sill wet biaxial tape filling in any gaps around the edges. This will ensure I have a flush surface for paint or mahogany staving as the situation requires.
The top edge of the bulkhead/divider addition is not perfectly horizontal. I knew that when I test fit it and thus I made it a little taller than it needed to be. I will use a guide bar tomorrow with a flush cut router bit and trim it level. It will be 35 1/4" high. The 3/4" thick solid ash chart table surface will close down on top of the aft bulkhead. The forward bulkhead will rise above the chart table and match the height of the portside bulkhead that divides the saloon from the galley.
Construction of the icebox and chart table.
To start, I installed some scrap Mahogany left over from the milling of the staving. These cleats established the dimensions for the front and top of the box while the two existing bulkheads define the sides. With that done, I needed to install a frame work to support the bottom and back of the outer box, that will hold the blueboard foam. The available space for the icebox is not big enough for the kind of box I would really like to have. It would be beneficial to incorporate framing that would not take up more room than necessary. I ran across Wally Bryant's website for his boat Stella Blue. He used premanufactured right angle and U channel fiberglass. Though not as stout and stiff as I would like it seemed a reasonable solution given the alternatives (I did not want to use the ridiculously expensive and fragile custom built vacuum panels). I ordered some from McMaster Carr.
I used doorskin ply and a hot glue gun to determine the exact location for the right angle fiberglass. Once I was satisfied, I cut them to length with a saber saw and installed them with 1/4" bolts. I then cut the u channels to lay flat on the right angle pieces. Satisfied that everything lined up, I removed the assembly and painted the bare fiberglass with Interlux BilgeKote paint. Tomorrow I'll reinstall the frame and begin building the templates for the 1/4" ply bottom and back.
Photo album below. After the additional U Channel fiberglass arrived I permanently installed the premanufactured right angle fiberglass. I through bolted them with 1/4" bolts, washer, and nuts. Next, cut back the sides of the U Channel fiberglass so they would fit flush on the right angle fiberglass. I installed them with a dollop of thickened epoxy and screwed them to the right angle pieces. With that completed I installed sacrificial 3/8" thick mahogany strips against the plywood sides and on top of the ends of the U Channel pieces with self tapping screws. My thinking was that the I would anchor the plywood panels to the mahogany strips. That way, if I ever had to cut the icebox out I would not have to chop into the bulkheads that from the sides of the outer box. The sacrificial trim pieces match the thickness of the mahogany staving and therefore I have an even depth to fill with 3/8" foam isopore mat before I start installing the blue board.
Next, I used doorskin strips and my hot glue gun to make templates for the plywood outer box back and bottom. After cutting out the plywood I test fit the panels to make sure everything fit correctly. Satisfied I screwed to the U Channel cross-pieces and filleted the horizontal edges with thickened epoxy. Before it was fully cured I applied a single layer of 1708 biaxial to the two joints and covered it with release fabric. I don't use it often but the fabric helps to really smooth out the tape and eliminates the amine blush. I want the tape to be as smooth as possible before I install the blue board. Once it cured I removed the panels and took them into the shop. I applied narrow strips of biaxial to the back side of the joints (they needed to be narrow to lay between the U Channel cross pieces otherwise the panels would not lay flat. Then, I applied two coats of epoxy to both sides of the panel and let it cure. While it was curing I fabricated some insulation to lay against the hull under the icebox. This does not have anything to do with the icebox directly--it's just hull insulation similar to what I installed behind all the ceiling strips. But I did double up on everything laying in two 1/4" panels of blue board sandwiched between the two layers of reflectix. I used metal ducting tape to seal the edges and them slid it up and under the framing for the icebox.
Last, I reinstalled the cured plywood panels and filleted them in place against the sacrificial mahogany strips.
I spent the last few days cutting the foam panels for the icebox. There are some complex bevels so it took time . . . there were a lot of trips up and down the ladder from the boat to the shop, back to the boat, then back to the shop, over and over. All the corners are staggered. I'll apply bedding compound along all the joints. The fit is pretty snug. I have seen only a couple of places where I might try to squirt in some one part expanding foam. So far, it has not been that difficult, just time consuming.
I continued to make calculations regarding the interior volume of the box as I added each layer and stopped when I got to about 5 cuft. I'd like for it to be a little bigger--about 6.5 - 7 cuft but I just don't have the space. I never really considered the Glacier Bay SIP panels though this is a perfect scenario for them. They are darn expensive. I understand they would cost about $1500 for this size project. Not doing it. I'd rather put the money into something else. Though it would be painful, I can rebuild the box with the SIP panels if it performs poorly though I have high expectations.
I am primarily using the Pardey's Care and Feeding book for the design and construction of the icebox. But, I have also researched other publications as I prepared for the project. Nigel Calder has written a fair amount about refrigeration and a little about icebox design. In fact, at the moment, I am in the middle of a little conflict between my sources. The Pardeys recommend foil between every layer of foam. Nigel Calder says the radiant barrier should only be on the outside. He claims the foil, when place between two layers of foam will trap the heat since it can't pass is back to an empty space. The Pardey's have 3 1/2" of foam with foil between each layer and claim they can keep block ice in their box for "14 days in the deep tropics and 21 days temperate climates." That is a long time for ice. So, I am thinking about which way to go. While I think about this I have shifted to another project.
In between work on the bunk boards I continued to work on the icebox. After thinking about the options for the installing the foil radiant barrier, which I mentioned in the last post, I decided to stick with the same technique used by the Pardey's . . . after all they have built several ice boxes and have been pleased with the performance. The panels were already cut and ready to go. So, I set a table up outside the SRF and laid out all the things I needed. I started with the 1/2" thick blue board (the outer most panels) and sprayed on some contact cement. I applied the foil. Beautiful. Then, I transitioned to the 1" thick blue board panels. I sprayed on the contact cement and stood there mortified as the foam melted in front of my eyes!! What the heck? I examined the foam carefully. I compared the 1" thick to the 1/2" thick foam. The 1/2" thick foam has a thin membrane of clear plastic covering both sides. The 1" foam does not. I tested a few more samples. Sure enough, it appeared that the thin membrane of plastic was preventing the adhesive from melting the blue board. I called 3M (the contact number was on the blue board). I talked to the tech rep. "Well, you are probably using a solvent based aerosol and they are not compatible with the blue board." Yep, the first ingredient on the can was acetone. I asked why some panels have the clear plastic and some don't. All he said was "some have them and some don't." WTFO, as we say in the Marines and if you don't know what that means I bet you can figure it out. He suggested I used construction adhesive that comes in a tube and emailed me a list of suitable products.
I thought about this for about 10 minutes. I thought, "Well actually this is a lot easier. I will go with Nigel Calder's recommendation and just have foil on the outer layer, which I already have." Problem solved. I placed each layer of blue board in position to check for fit, then I removed that layer and squirted Great Foam (also by 3M and yes it is compatible with blue board) at the corner joints to reduce the chance for air gaps. I fit the panels in tight and stayed there for about an hour making sure the expanding foam would not push the panels out of position. Satisfied, I stopped work for the day.
This morning, I applied another coat of varnish to the bunk boards and then went back to the icebox. Rats, two of the panels were pushed out of position by the foam. So, I spent a couple of hours carefully removing the affected panels and then scraping and cutting the excess foam away. I cut a couple of new panels and continued with the icebox build.
The next step was to build some more templates with doorskin strips and the hot glue gun. Then I used the templates to cut 1/4" BS 1088 Marine ply which will serve as the inner box. I test fit the sides in place. Satisfied with the fit I finished up work for the day.
(Photo gallery below) The next step in the construction of the icebox was to cut the top. I had to consider how big the opening needed to be and how much room I would have for the top to swing up to get to the plug underneath. One thing for sure is that I had to be able to get a 25lb block of ice through the opening. After several measurements and some consideration on the different options I made a template and cut the top. I test fit it to make sure everything fit. The parts were snug but that would leave me with a little wiggle room for trimming if required. I moved the work table that is normally in the SRF, and under the stern of the Far Reach, into the woodshop. I took the panels into the wood shop and sanded them on both sides with 80 grit on a RO sander. I vacuumed the dust. Next, I set about cutting the 10oz cloth I would used to cover the panels. I decided on one layer of cloth on the outside of all the panels and one layer on the inside except for the bottom and two back panels which would received three layers. I want the bottom and back had to be extra strong to take the load of what could end up being nearly 100lbs of block ice.
I laid the cloth on the ply and mixed up West Systems 105 resin with 207 special hardener. The 207 dries very clear and does not leave amine blush which I did not want to deal with for this project. I may in fact leave the icebox interior with a natural finish as I don't have any confidence that paint would last on the interior of the box. When I add more coats of epoxy to fill the weave I might also add white pigment . . . but I remain undecided. Anyway, I laid the cloth out and used a short bristle chip brush to lay the epoxy out on the cloth. I used a west yellow squeegee to stroke the epoxy out and then leveled it with a disposable 3"foam brush. When the epoxy was green (about three hours later) I trimmed the overhanging cloth right to the edge of the plywood with a razor knife. After another couple of hours I flipped the panels over and applied the cloth to the other side. For the three panels that received three layers of cloth I applied them one after the other. I squeegeed smooth and tipped them with a foam brush. About three hours later (after watching the Packers clobber the Texans) I trimmed the remaining overhanging cloth.
Next day, I test fit the cured panels and they fit just fine. I needed to come up with a plan for the drain. I messed around all day sorting out what to do . . . researching my books . . . looking on line--very aggravating. I finally decided I would use a through hull and barbed tail piece. I drove 30 miles to Ace Marine in Moorehead City to get what I needed. Back at the shop I drilled a hole through the bottom panel and test fit the through hull. I did not like it. It stood a 1/4" proud of the bottom. I think I knew that would be the case but I was looking for an easy solution. Unless I counter sunk the through hole (which requires adding a reinforcing block under the panel) there would always be water sloshing around in the ice box whenever it contained ice. I pulled out my copy of the Pardey's "Care and Feeding of the Sailing Crew." In it they have a drawing for making your own drain. Since it was late in the day I decided to give it a try.
I used a large 3/8" diameter nail (I use them when layout out foundations) as the mold. I wrapped it in packing tape. I covered a small piece of ply with packing tape and set the nail through a hole in the plywood. I waxed it up with Minn Wax and laid three layers of 1708 biaxial over the nail. Then, I wrapped the nail with 6" wide biaxial and covered that with some 10oz cloth tape. It took a while to get the biaxial to bend properly and stay put. The finishing tape over the top helped. I left it for several hours while we watched Monday Night Football. After watching Peyton Manning and the Broncos' amazing come from behind win over the Chargers (you might have noticed we watch a lot of football . . . I am lucky that Gayle is a NFL junkie), I went back out to the shop and looked at the drain. I hammered out the nail--it was in there tight even with the packing tape and wax. I had to use a long puch to hammer the end of the nail down through the epoxy tube. Finally, I trimmed the base with razor knife while it was still green.
This morning, I ground the base to a 1 1/2" diameter flange. I beveled the base with a file. I used some chisels to bevel to hole to match the drain flange. I counter sunk the base slightly to allow for thickened epoxy. In the photos the drain looks kind of crooked like a horn. Don't let that fool you. The center of the hole is perfectly straight and round due to using the nail as a mold. Eventually, I'll cut the drain tube down to the correct length, but for now I'll let it run wild.
Next, I sanded the panels with 80 grit on a RO sander. I vacuumed the panels and wiped them down with acetone. I applied two coats of epoxy to the edge grain. I lined the corners of the foam inserts in the icebox with sheet plastic and taped it in place. I positioned the panels and wedged them in place with blue board strips and clamps vice copper wire (it seemed simpler and easier to do it this way based on the foam holding everything in proper alignment). I applied thickened epoxy fillets and left it to cure. Tomorrow, I will attempt to pull the ice box out, move it into my shop, and tape the outside corners. I also need to apply additional flow coats of epoxy to fill the weave of the cloth and position cleats for the sliding trade and the center divider. So far, so good.
After the fillets cured overnight, I pulled the icebox from the boat. Though it was snug, as it should be, it came out without fuss. The fillets look good. Once I had it in the shop I rounded over the outside corners with a 1/4" round over bit in my small router. I dressed the edges with a cabinet file as necessary. Next, I filled the gaps on the outside corners with thickened epoxy. For those readers that have never done "stitch and glue" plywood construction the outside gaps are key to a strong joint. After the epoxy started to kick I applied a single layer of 10 oz unidirectional tape over all the outside corners. I normally use 1708 biaxial for taping but in this case I did not want the tape to stand proud of the ply and create air gaps on the outside of the box. I also feel the box is very strong with thick fillets and is well supported by the compartment itself. I briefly considered planing the edge down to recess the tape but that seemed like unnecessary overkill. Applying the tape finished the day.
Today, I cut the right angle pre manufactured fiberglass stock to the appropriate length to support a center divider. I would like the divider to be in the center but since the box is only 20" wide, 10" wide compartments would not easily accommodate our 25 lb blocks of ice we make from standard Rubber Made wash basins (the box should easily handle 75lbs of block ice and I think with a little work we could get 100lbs of ice in it with room for food, etc). So, I moved the divider over till they better fit. Also, the smaller section will accommodate a gallon of milk. I don't know if that is important but it seemed like it might be useful with soon to be teenage kids. I build a mock up for a sliding tray to be made in SS 20"L X 12"W X 4"D. I used Styrofoam and was only concerned with outside dimensions for the mockup. As I suspected, the tray will not fit through the opening in the top lid. That means the tray will have to be built in two parts and bolt together--not a big deal.
Next, I thoroughly sanded the inside of the box with 80 grit. I vacuumed it and took it back up to the boat. I drilled a hole down through the blue board and the outer plywood box bottom that the blue board sits on. Then I positioned the box with some sheet plastic underneath and wet the beveled end grain of the hole in the inner box as well as the underside of the beveled flange on the drain. Next, I mixed up thickened epoxy and troweled it onto the underside of the drain flange and pressed it into position wiping up the squeeze out. I let it sit for about half an hour and then applied a single layer of 10oz cloth about 4" diameter, with a small hole for the drain itself, over the flange and the bottom of the box and wet it out with 105 resin and 207 hardener. That completed the day's work.
(Photo gallery below) For the last several days I have continued to hammer away at the icebox. After installing the drain with thickened epoxy and cloth I left it to cure. The next day I removed the ice box and took it back into the shop. The drain really looks and feels solid. I have zero concerns about any leaks with this set up. Next, I positioned the sliding shelf and divider brackets (manufactured right angle fiberglass) and drilled small holes to secure them with #8 flat head screws. Once I was satisfied I installed them with thickened epoxy and used the screws to hold them in place. The next day, I removed the screws and prepared the interior of the box for primer. After a lot of thought and consideration, and some good advice from someone I trust, I decided I would paint the box with the left over Interlux Perfection, a two part LPU paint, from my ill fated attempt to roll and tip the topsides of the Far Reach. That meant I needed to use the two part Interlux Epoxy Prime Kote primer. I taped off the dividers (I plan to leave them unpainted), mixed the primer and left it to "induce" for the required 20 minutes. Then, I rolled and tipped it using foam rollers and a china bristle brush. The primer seemed thick . . . too thick. After I finished the painting I went back and read the directions very carefully. I was supposed to thin it 20-25 percent! What a dolt. After all the painting I have done how I forgot to add the thinner I do not know. Anyway, lucky for me, the next day there seemed to be no ill effect. I sanded with 220 grit, vacuumed and performed a wipe down with Interlux 2333N. Next, I rolled on the "Perfection." The coverage was ok. I went back to work on other projects. The next day, I sanded with 220 and 320 grit and rolled on another coat of Perfection. This time there was very good coverage. Painting is not my strong area but it was good enough for the interior of the icebox. I removed the tape.
Next, I needed to address the icebox lid which I previously cut and covered with epoxy and cloth. The issue was how to frame the opening. I decided to build a frame that would be epoxied to the inside of the lid. This required the use of Iroko and some 3/4" wide dado cuts about 5/16" deep to match the thickness of the 1/4" ply with the multiple layer of fiberglass and epoxy cloth. I spent the better part of a day milling the Iroko and then cutting the dados and bevels and test fitting all the parts. Since the plug/lid will be slightly beveled I needed to decide how much bevel to incorporate in the framing of the lid. Fifteen degrees looked about right so I also cut bevels into the plug side of the Iroko frame. What you don't see in the photos is that there will need to be a raised (about three inches) upper fame that attaches to the top of the frame installed in the icebox top into which fits the three inch thick plug/lid. This has turned out to be a fairly complex project as there are a lot of angles and parts that have to fit together just right. As always, it is important to know what the final product will look like so all the steps can be thought out in advance. There is no specific plan I am following for this project, per se. I am incorporating some of the ideas in "The Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew" as well as some pictures I would like the final product look like. On top of all this is the reality of space and design limitations of the Far Reach. There a lots of compromises and each step often has second and third order effects that need to be considered. It's important to create as many "known-knows" as possible.
Anyway, I epoxied the lid fame in place with numerous clamps and set it aside to cure.
After the epoxy cured for the framing on the icebox lid I removed the clamps and test fit the lid on the box in the boat. It looked pretty good. The side panels of the icebox have the smallest amount of bowing, in the middle of the top edge, towards the center of the box and I want it flush with the foam panels. So, I braced the side panels and with scrap wood and laid the top in position. Next, I applied a some "spot" fillets in the box to the inside corners of the lid to "tack weld" it into position and left it overnight. I moved on to other projects while the epoxy cured.
The next day, I gently pulled the box from its position between the foam panels. It was tight, which is good. I carefully moved it into the shop and added fillets all the way around the inside. I could not do that when it was in the boat as the braces, holding the sides flush to the foam panels, prevented me from having full access to the inside corners. But, with the braces removed I had good access to the inside and I added thick fillets all the way around on the inside. On the outside, I filled any gaps with thickened epoxy and left the epoxy to cure overnight. The following day, I routered the top outside edge with a 1/4" round-over bit to make a gentle radius for the fiberglass to tape to bend over. Then, I taped the outside top edge, all the way around with 10oz tape and epoxy. I used four inch tape and the front and back and two inch on the sides. I did this so there would be a even edge all the way around the opening for the cleats, which will support the approximately 3" tall framed opening. I left the box overnight to cure. The next day, I scrubbed off the amine blush (I used 105 resin with 205 fast hardener for the tape on the lid), knocked the roughness down with some 150 grit paper, and reinstalled the icebox in the boat. I looks very good. Today, I picked up some "plantation" teak to frame the larger hatch opening. I have never used plantation (AKA fast growth teak) but its about 1/3 the cost of Burmese Teak. I understand it is not as strong or rot resistant as Burmese Teak--the growth rings are twice as wide as regular teak. But, this project will not expose the wood to the elements and I was just curious about how it works and glues up. You might say I am gathering some personal data on it.
The icebox build continues. I milled about four board feet of the plantation teak for the first part of the external frame assembly. The plantation teak is more "mottled" than Burmese (AKA old growth teak) teak. The teak aroma is present though not as strong. The wood has the same oily feel as Burmese teak. The plantation teak appears to be as dense as the Burmese teak but the growth rings are much wider spaced. Of course, the plantation teak cost 1/3 as much at the Burmese teak and it is sustainable.
I built the cleats that support the frame with 15 degree bevels on the inner face. I routered the edges for a clean look then immediately regretted it--it would have been easier to get a void free fit with the blue board had I left sharp corners. After test fitting, I used West System G Flex epoxy as the adhesive since it is supposed to work well for teak. I sanded around the opening and the underside of the teak with 40 grit and vacuumed up the dust. Then, I wiped everything down multiple times with isopropyl alcohol vice acetone since that is the West Systems protocol for G Flex and teak. I added a small amount of colloidal silica for a little thickening and wet both sides out. I clamped the assembly and cleaned up the squeeze out. I spent some time putzing around the shop while keeping an eye on the cleats to ensure they did not move out of position. Satisfied they were secure I let them cure over night.
The next day, I cut 15 degree bevels on both edges of the four planks I planned to use for the vertical faces of the opening. I took some measurements and used a bevel gauge to draw layout lines on the planks. Then, it was a matter of carefully cutting just shy of the lines, making a series of kerfs, and then trimming with a chisel. I am getter better at this kind of joinery but it does not come naturally to me and I have to be very careful and think each step through. I don't have the skill, or the patience, to make really tight cuts yet but, like I said, I am slowly improving. I fit the side pieces first and temporarily screwed them into the cleats I installed last night. I bought a "Country Gentleman" saw from Lee Valley Tools a while back and it has been a big help. It's small, cuts a fine line, and is easy to control. It looks expensive but it cost less than $25.00 (it can be seen in one of the pictures below). Next, I cut the longer side pieces. There are lots of angles to contend with but back cutting then ends of the longer pieces helped create a tight fit.
Next, I completed installing the cleats on the bulkheads that will support the outer hinged ash lid and the inner plywood top that will have a cut out to accommodate the removable plug. I had previously installed the mahogany cleats for the ash top but they needed wood plugs to cover the screw holes so I did that. I used some scrap white oak for the second set of cleats to support the plywood top.
With the cleats installed, I then reinstalled the icebox to check the fit. I spent some time thinking about how the top of the teak frame will interface with the plywood top. It was late in the day and it seemed like a good place to stop.
1 Nov 12
After I removed the icebox from the boat I took the hatch frame apart. Then, I reinstalled it adding a small amount of Life Caulk polysulfied--in teak color--to ensure no air could move between the various parts of the frame and allow heat to gain access to the icebox. Next, I had to mill some more plantation teak to finish up the hatch opening frame. The teak I had was 8" wide but my jointer is only 6" wide. I did not want to stop work to haul the planks to the Camp Lejeune Base Wood Hobby Shop. So, I decided to make a sled that would allow me to use my 13" wide thickness planer as a big jointer. I took a previous planed plank I had in the shop. I hot glued some small cleats to the plank at the front and back of the teak that I laid on top of the sled so the teak would not slip of the sled when I ran it through the planer. I used small shims to wedge the teak so it could not wobble side to side and ran the whole thing through the planer several times till I had one flat side. Then, I removed the teak plank from the sled and flipped the teak over and ran it though the planer with the now flat side down and planed the other side. It worked great. After a few passes I ended up with a 40" long plank about 1 1/4" thick and 8 inches wide. From the plank, I ripped what I need to finish off the hatch frame. I ran these pieces over the dado blade to create a 1/2" for the plywood top to rest on and to also make the plywood fit flush to the top teak frame. This step would also hide the plywood endgrain around the teak lid opening. Of course, I was feeling pretty smug since the whole project was just coming together really well until I test fit these last pieces . . . they were to thin by a half inch! What a dolt! While working out the final scheme I had two options. Some how, in my head, I got the two options all mixed up and screwed it up! Hahahaha. It had been a long day so it seemed like a good time to stop for the night and to reattack in the morning.
The next morning, I ripped some more stock from the plank I had planed the day before and dadoed it again. This time I got it right. I assembled the last parts and then I took the icebox back to the boat to check the fit. Excellent. Next, I used doorskin strips and a hot glue gun to make a template for the plywood top that would fit around the hatch opening. I used the template to trace the pattern on to some BS 1088 Okume 1/2" plywood. I used a block plane, cabinet makers rasp, and a bull nose plane to finalize the fit. Satisfied with the top, I took it back to the shop and applied two coats of epoxy on the underside. I don't know if epoxy is necessary . . . I'll varnish the top. But, everything I have read says I could get some condensation on the inside of the outer box. I hope not, but just in case I have applied epoxy to all the inside facing surfaces of the outer box as described in The Self Sufficient Sailor.
Next, I took the plywood that I have been saving for the inboard vertical face of the outer box and trimmed it to fit between the two bulkheads that comprise the fore and aft sides of the outer box. Then, I spent about 90 minutes attaching the V groove mahogany staving I previously cut and set aside for this project to the plywood. I used the last of my System Three T-88 Epoxy till I ran out. I then switched to West Systems G Flex Epoxy to finish up. I used my screw clamps to attach the staving to the ply (which I have used on all the staving I have installed). I have found that if I epoxy the staving to only one side of the ply and it is not clamped in place, or clamped flat with strong back it will bow the plywood towards the staving as the epoxy shrinks down as it cures. Usually, I attach the staving to the play all ready clamped or screwed in place in the boat where it is well supported. But since I attached this staving in the shop, I clamped it up with several strong backs so it will cure flat.
Tomorrow, I will probably varnish the plywood top for the icebox, install the wood plugs in the staving, and varnish the staving. The icebox will not be complete till I have made the teak plug for the opening and then installed the hinged 7/8" ash counter top over the whole thing.
The next day, I unclamped the panel. It was nice and flat. I removed the screw clamps and took the panel into the boat shed and prepared the tools to router the edges flat to the plywood. I used a flush cut router bit with a guide bearing. By letting the staving run a little wild all the way around the plywood when I epoxied it on it was a simple matter to router the staving with a flush to the plywood edge. Next I test fit the panel and then screwed to the vertical cleats I installed early on in the project. Next, I counter sunk all the holes from the screw clamps, installed wood plugs, and later cut them flush to the mahogany.
The next step was to apply two coats of epoxy to the back side of the icebox vertical inboard panel. After it cured I washed off the amine blush and sanded it with some 320 grit to make it smooth. The next step was to install the insulation on the front and the top. It was tedious work. I made templates with doorskin and a hot glue gun for a tight fit. I staggered all the joints to reduce the chance for air leaks. All the panels fit very tight and I only added a little bit of caulk here and there . . . basically it did not need any. I applied a layer of aluminum foil to each layer of blueboard, shiny side out. This time I did not use contact cement. Instead, I just laid the foil on the panel and trimmed it very carefully. There is 3 1/2" of foam on the font (as there is on the sides) and 2 3/4" foam on top. I screwed the vertical panel in place, but I just set the top on as I will varnish it then drill for the bronze oval head screws. Once I have three coats of varnish on the top, I will apply some brown colored Life Caulk around the edges. I am very glad to have this behind me.
While working on the sitz tub drain system I applied three coats of varnish to the icebox staving as well as to the staving on the panels in the head. This is the only time I have used foam brushes for applying varnish to staving. They are OK. Not having to rinse the brushes is nice. I have had no runs, sags, or holidays either. But, I can tell the varnish is going on thinner. I have had some difficulty in the past applying varnish to big open spaces on verticle plywood (cabin sides) but never to the staving as it is very forgiving. So, I will use the badger hair brushes for the four and fifth coats of varnish to the rest of the boat. It's too much varnishing not to be able to get it on thick enough (providing it's not too think) for each coat.
It was time to fasten the outer plywood top to the icebox. I previously applied four coats of Epifanes high gloss varnish. Most of the top will never be seen as it will be covered with an ash top hinged in the middle to allow access to the plug that will sit in the beveled opening in the top of the box. I used a little brown Boat Life Caulk and was careful to tape the edges and mark where other fasteners were located so I did not drill into them. I predrilled the holes and installed 1" #8 bronze oval head screws to hold the top down.
I planed the majority of the ash for the top to 3/4" thick. I cut the planks a little long for the nav station/ice box top and for the galley. But, my focus for the next few days will be on the nav station/icebox.
I wanted an invisible joint. I don't care how true my table saw or jointer is I have never been able to get an absolutely tight fitting joint, unless the joint is short. I only know one way to make an invisible joint and it's not difficult.. Done correctly the joints are perfect . . . I mean perfect. I learned the technique five years ago when I was building sapele table tops for our home from a Wooden Boat magazine article written by Ruth Ann Hill and John Brooks (Feb 2007, Number 194, pg 32-27). If you want to make perfect joints it is worth the $7-$8 to buy the back issue. But, here is the short version.
I cut the planks to width on my table saw. Next, I laid out two saw horses and placed "sacrificial" cleats along the top of each saw horse (not across them). I laid the first plank across the saw horses on top of the cleats. Next, I placed a plywood guide bar on top of the plank and set it back 2 1/2" from the edge of the plank to be jointed. The 2 1/2" represents 1/16" less than the width of the outside edge of the router base to the closest approach of the edge of the router cutting bit (straight fluke by the way) on my router. I clamped the guide bar in place. The guide bar can be anything reasonably straight. I use a piece of 3/4" thick plywood. I set the router bit depth about 1/16" deeper than the thickness of the plank, thus the purpose of the sacrificial cleats. I ran the router down the edge.
Guide bar clamped in place 1/16" less than width of router base edge to edge of bit.
Now, for the magic part. I left the first plank and guide bar all clamped in place. I set the next plank across the saw horses and left a gap between the two planks 1/16" less wide than the thickness of the router bit. The easiest way to get the space just right is to measure the thickness of the bit and cut two spacer blocks 1/16" less than that thickness. I set the spacers between the planks, clamped the second plank in place, and then removed the spacers. Then, I ran the router back along the same guide bar but from the opposite direction because now the cut is on the opposite plank and you always want the router to cut against the direction you are moving the router (you don't want the spinning blade to "pull" the router along). Because I already routed the first plank and left the guide bar in the same place the bit is just spinning along the face of the first plank while the cutting is being done on the second plank.
After routing first edge use precut spacer blocks to set the second board in place. Clamp and then remove spacer blocks.
So, what is the big deal about this technique you say? Well, whatever imperfections are cut into the first plank by the less than perfect guide bar, the same imperfections are cut into the second plank and so when you push the planks together they fit seamlessly.
My router base is square on one side which makes it a little simpler than if the base is round. If your router base is round then you need to mark on the base and keep that mark running on the edge of fence to keep everything aligned. You also have to keep the sawdust from getting trapped against the fence and throwing off the cut. My wife holds the vacuum nozzle right next to the fence to prevent wayward debris from interfering with the path of the router. The article has some more specifics about how to approach and execute this technique so again I recommend buying the back issue, plus there is also an interesting article about beveling and chamfering tools in it too.
I staggered the joint for the photo so you can see where the joint is. It is invisible.
After making the joints I needed to glue them together. I wanted to spline joint the planks. I set up my slot cutter and made some test runs. But I did not like the way it was working. I intended to use some scrap 1/4" thick marine ply for the splines but it is just a hair under 1/4" and was not a tight fit. The smallest my dado set for the table saw is also 1/4" so I had no way to dial it down a little more. I could have cut some splines but to be honest it was more work than I wanted to deal with. For this application--alignment more than strength--I felt a tight fit was essential. Everything I have read says that a spline joint is stronger than a biscuit joint. But, there was no way to get around it unless I wanted to make a bunch of splines. I have made hundreds of biscuit joints. I spent the time a while back to tune the Dewalt and I can made an accurate cut. So, I dragged the Dewalt biscuit jointer out and made the cuts. I carefully cleaned out the slots and test fit everything together. Then, I glued it up with Tightbond III and clamped it in place. Afterwards, I noticed I had not alternated the direction of the grain between the two planks--what a dolt. I am usually very careful about this extra step but somehow I got the boards out of order early on when I numbered them. It's just a reminder that you have to always double and triple check what you are doing. We will see how it works out in the long run. If there is some trouble with warping there are solutions to address it. I'll deal with it then.
I clamped the top up using a strong back to make sure it would remain square. I used Tightbond III glue.
With the ash top glued up it was time to trim it to fit the top of the icebox, install the hinges, and prepare it for varnish (photo gallery below). But first, I decided it was time for another tool. I have wanted a lightweight laminate trimmer for a while but have put it off as unnecessary. With the need to install the butt hinges and my low level of skill with using a chisel to cut a straight line it seemed like a good time to pick one up. After using it yesterday and today I am already sold. It is super convenient and very accurate.
I started off by trimming the most inboard ash plank and positioned it first--this became the base line for the other two panels. With the first panel in position, I made a template for the second panel (two ash planks glued together about 14 1/2" wide) that would serve as the hinged lifting panel over the top of the icebox opening. With that panel in position I made a template for the most outboard panel (three ash planks glued together). This panel had to fit between two bulkheads and the aft bulkhead has a significant curve in it. I needed to scribe the edge of the panel to fit the curve but I couldn't get it into position to scribe directly on it. So, I made another template and hot glued a wide 1/4" piece of plywood to the outer edge of the template. I then scribed onto the plywood. I removed the template and trimmed the plywood it to the scribed line with block plane. I test fit it to make sure it was accurate. Then, I laid the template on the ash panel and traced the template on the panel. I used a jigsaw to make the cuts but stayed wide of the line. Next, I clamped the template back down on the ash panel and then used a pattern cutting router bit (the guide bearing is on the top (closest to the router), vice the end of the bit, and trimmed the edge smooth. I test fit all three panels. They fit nicely.
It was time to install the hinges which are extruded solid brass with brass pins . . . so they should be very durable in a marine environment. I clamped the two panels together making sure they were perfectly aligned. I used a small square to lay out the lines and then marked the edges with a razor knife. It is critical to get them absolutely square. When I was satisfied, I clamped another piece of wood to the edge of the panels to give me a wider platform to better support the base of the laminate trimmer making it easier to keep steady. I set the depth on the laminate trimmer, with a small 1/4" straight fluted bit inserted, and free hand cut with the router removing the wood between the layout lines. I cut just shy of the lines. Next, I used chisels and a light mallet to remove the tiny remaining wood and smoothed everything out with my cabinetmakers rasp. I test fit the hinges and going back and fourth a few time till I was satisfied with the fit.
For butt hinges you can align the center of the pin right on the edge between the panels. The barrel does not have to stick up very high above the surface of the top. Being careful to keep the hinge properly positioned I marked a center hole for the first screw. I drilled the hole and then dipped the 3/4" #8 brass wood screw in some wax to reduce friction when it is being driven into the wood. I use wax from a wax toilet gasket ring. It's cheap and it works great. I scooped a little into an empty spice jar years ago and have been using it ever since. I hand screwed in the fasteners so as not to strip them. Once they were installed, I took the top to the boat and checked the fit, which was very good. I took the top back to the shop and removed the hinges. I sanded the panels with 150 grit on a finish sander and then made a small jig to cut out the finger hole necessary to be able to lift the top up. I could have used a brass ring which is what most folks do. The problem with a brass ring on a hinged top is it is hard to get your finger out of the hole when the lid is moving away from you as it swings up. This kind of slot allow you to stick your finger under the edge and as the lid comes up you rotate your wrist over and now you have your fingers on the top edge. It's easy to do and you can do it with one hand while you are holding on to steady yourself at the same time. I made the initial cuts with a small saw. I removed the kerfs with a chisel and mallet. Then I used the jig I previously made and the pattern cutting router bit to get a smooth even cut. Next, I spent about 45 minuets undercutting the finger holes with the cabinetmakers rasp so there is a deep bevel under the upper edge. I finished it off with sand paper wrapped around a dowel rod. Once I was satisfied with the finish I reassembled the hinges and took the whole thing back to the boat. It fit very nicely. It was a good days work.
Next, I made the fiddle for the top of the icebox/chart table. It's 3/4" ash 1 1/2" high and about 27" long. I drew the design I wanted on the ends on a piece of scrap 1/4" ply. I cut the shape with a jig saw and smoothed it out with a file then sanded it smooth. I used the template to trace the pattern on the fiddle with a pencil then cut out the shape with a jigsaw. I sanded it smooth and routed it with a 1/4" round over bit. I sanded some more and generally fussed with it way to much. Finally, I installed it from underneath with three 1 1/2" long #10 FH SS screws. The ash really holds a screw tight. I test fit the whole thing then performed some final sanding and a wipe down. Last, I laid on the initial coat of Epifanes gloss varnish cut 50 percent with mineral spirits.
The fiddle is 1 1/2" high.
The top is hinged to swing up to gain access to the plug for the icebox. I'll build the plug later.
Part of the reason I initially did not glue the fiddle on was I had "Tightbond III" on the brain. I was concerned I would have difficulty getting the squeeze-out cleaned up completely and it would show through the varnish. Then, like a bell going off in my head, I remembered the Gflex and T88 epoxy. Either of those very similar epoxies is a perfect solution. Neither requires adding thickeners nor are they visible under varnish. So, this morning, I removed the fiddle from the inboard panel (I had only applied one coat of varnish and that was to the under side). I taped off around the panel and then mixed up some Gflex. I spread it on, tightened the screws, wiped up the squeeze-out, and carefully cleaned up any excess with an acetone dampened paper towel. I set it aside to cure.
After six coats of varnish on chart table top I reattached the hinges putting the lifting lid back in place. I am please with how the ice box has turned out. It was lot of work but I think well worth it. It should be many times more effective than the original icebox that was poorly insulated and positioned between the inboard engine and the stove/oven. I would like for the top to be wider but that is all the room I had. It's about 28" wide and 42" deep. With the toe kick I incorporated it should be very comfortable to stand at read charts and plot positions. I still need to build the "plug" that fits in the opening but I will do that when I start milling the walnut for the cabin sole and trim.
I'll build a book shelf at the far end of the chart table top.
The lid is held in place by the simple gravity latch which you can see holding the top left corner of the lid. I make the plug later.
I also, made and installed a gravity latch for the lid that I made from some teak scrap. It is a clever design I picked up from the Pardeys. The latch pivots on a center mounted screw but has a second screw in front of the center mounted screw that sits in an elongated hole. The elongated hole allows the latch to pivot up when the top edge of the lid makes contact with it. As the lid continues back the latch has a notch cut in it that captures the lid as it drops into place. When you are ready to close the lid, lift the latch up and the lid swings down. The latch returns to the proper position determined by the second screw. The nice thing about this latch is you can open the lid with one hand freeing the other to steady yourself while sailing--"One hand for yourself and one hand for the ship."
Next, I installed the vertical face for the book shelf, which is about 5" tall. I made the book shelf wide enough to hold a typical three ring binder and I also made sure it was wide enough from my navigation publications. The remaining part of the chart table is about 29" x 29"--wide enough for a folded chart in either direction. There are cleats behind the vertical face secured with oval head screws so I can remove it as well. However, before I installed it I drill out four of the six wood screws that secured the outboard portion of the chart table. I did that because, as I have learned more about wood movement throughout this project, I became concerned that the large ash panel top might split if it couldn't move with changing humidity. So, I drilled out the plugs, removed the screws, and installed new plugs. The two fasteners nearest the hinges remained in place. This allows the top to expand and contract from the inboard edge. The vertical face of the book shelf will hold the middle portion down and the yet-to-be-installed trim along the outboard vertical edge of the bulkhead will hold down the outer part of the chart table. The only screws that remain are the ones nearest the hinges, and of course the fasteners that hold down the smaller section on the inboard side of the hinged lid.
Update: we have had a lot of rain the past two weeks. The temperatures have also been high so the humidity has been 85 to 90 percent every day. Needless to say, there has been wood movement in a few places. So far, the raised panel doors are in great shape since the panels float in slots. I can't say as much for the icebox/chart table top. However, I was glad I only used two screws, one on each end to secure the top panel in place. The wood expanded away from where it was secured and jammed the lid shut. There was at least 1/8" gap after I installed it during the winter. I will remove the two screws, fill the holes with plugs, and slide the top back about another 1/8". I can't imagine I'll have higher humidity than what we have had so far this summer. This is a non-issue but thought it would be of use for other to see how much wood can move across the grain. I expected some but not this much.
The Ice Box Plug. It was time to complete the icebox plug (see photo gallery below). The total plug thickness is 4" made of four layers glued together. The top is plantation teak which matches the rest of the icebox opening trim. The underside of the plug is ash--it's what I had on hand. All four layers required laminating wood together as I had no planks wide enough to meet the width requirement. Each layer is about 1" thick. First, I edge glued the planks together with epoxy. The next day I glued the three layers of ash together with Tightbond III and set them aside to cure, then went to work fitting the teak top. There is a 1/2" wide "lip" about 1 1/4" below the top edge of the ice box opening (the extra 1/4" allows for a gasket). The lip runs all the way around. The top teak layer rests on the lip. Below the lip, the opening slopes inward about 15 degrees on each of the four sides and down for three inches--the ash plug will fit down inside that opening. I checked the top opening dimensions ---16 3/4" X 12 1/2"-- and cut the teak to fit. Satisfied with the fit, I determined where the brass lifting handle needed to be positioned on the top so that the plug would be balanced when picked up by the handle. I bought the brass handle last year from White Chapel Hardware. Once determined, I traced the shape of the handle on the teak and then used my trim router with a small straight fluted bit to cut down into the teak top so that the handle could be recessed flush. I carefully refined the cutout with chisels. Satisfied with the tight flush fit of the handle I installed it with FH brass wood screws.
The teak and ash plug fits perfectly into the top of the icebox opening.
Then, I started work to shape the ash plug to fit the tapered opening. Next, I measured inside dimensions of the tapered opening which is exactly 1" narrower all the way around than the teak top. I checked the slope with a bevel gauge, marked the ash plug, dialed the 15 degrees in on my table saw, flipped the ash upside down, and cut the tapers. I used tape to make little "ears" so I could lower the ash plug into the opening to check for fit. It was spot on. I was delighted. With the ash plug sitting in place in the icebox opening, I set the teak plug on top of it and installed four 2 1/2" long #10 brass wood screws into holes I previously drilled in the teak top to attach the ash plug to the teak. I did not want to glue these two parts together in case they need to be trimmed a little later to accommodate any wood swelling. The depth of the opening, from the top to the lip is about 1 1/4". I had planed the teak top to about 1 1/8" thick which allowed 3/16" for a gasket. After looking at all kinds of gaskets, I settled on an EPDM gasket I found at ACE Hardware of all places. It was even brown colored. At 3/8" wide it was a perfect fit. I installed it and test fit the lid. I have to say I was very pleased with the fit. I checked the seal with a thin piece of paper and it is tight all the way around. Since there are no latches to clamp the plug to the icebox, the weight of the ash plug really helps seal the lid to the opening.
Making and Installing the Ice Box Divider
I decided to use 1/2" FDA approved UHMW for the icebox divider. I built the slots when I built the box so this was not a complicated project. I used my standard doorskin strips and hot glue to make the pattern. I traced the pattern out on the UHMW with a fine line sharpie. I used a combination of jig saw and table saw to make the cuts. I cleaned up the edges with the jointer and then used a round over bit on the router to radius the edges. I cut vent holes with a 7/8" diameter hole saw and rounded the edges with the router as well. I fastened a teak cleat to the top edge. I will fabricate SS sliding shelves/drawer to ride on the cleats. The sliding drawers will be about 4" deep so all kinds of things can fit in there and not have to sit on the ice. One drawer on each side of the divider. The drawer on the left will be about 12"x12" and the one on the right about 8"x12".
I fastened a teak cleat to the top divider. The SS drawer will slide on the cleat. There will be two drawers--one on each side.
The two part divider installed. The drawers will slide back out of sight to access the main compartment.