Lazarette Modifications, Part 9: Door Panel Construction and Installation

The door panel, ready for installation
The lazarette on Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25, was at last ready for painting, but before layng a brush in that space, I thought it would be good to complete the construction of the door panel for the cut-out that I had made underneath the companionway at the beginning of this lengthy project.

I described my approach to making this cut-out in Part 2 of this article on the modifications I made to the lazarette, but it might be helpful for us to take a look at some of these pictures again.
The original access to the lazarette was far too small, even with the mahogany door removed.

I decided to mount the mahogany door in a plywood panel - one that I could remove when necessary for accessing the lazarette.

Assured that this panel approach to things would work, I used a jigsaw to cut out the fiberglass around the original access hole.
This made the lazarette much more accessible.
For a considerable amount of time I paid no more attention to the plywood panel that I had constructed for the original mahogany door. I was too busy working in the lazarette itself to worry about such seemingly unimportant matters. When the time came, however, for me to start pre-painting the lazarette components, specifically the shelves that I would install within the lazarette, I pulled out that neglected plywood panel and painted it at the same time that I painted the other components.
For this painting, I used Pitthane, a product by Pittsburgh Paints.
I've described Pitthane many times elsewhere, so I won't bother you with any details here.
After the first coat of this two-part polyurethane had dried, I lightly sanded the panel with 320 grit paper.
This removed imperfections, and it provided some tooth for the next coat.

After the second coat, the panel was looking pretty good.
It was not, however, looking as good as it should have after two coats, so I decided to hit it again when I was painting some other nearby pieces.
The third coat was a charm.
Now it was time for me to address an annoying little imperfection in the cutout of the lazarette. One of the previous owners had installed a DC electrical panel beside the original cutout. When I enlarged the cutout, I was unable to rid this space of the awkward cutout for the old DC electrical panel. Half of that little cutout remained. I wanted to be able to seal this space from the galley and main salon space, and if I had any hope of sealing it properly, I needed to correct this problem.
I began by finding a scrap piece of 1/2 exterior grade plywood. This was the same type of plywood that I had used for the shelves in the lazarette.
From this seemingly worthless scrap piece, I extracted the small pieces I needed for this job.
This strange, key-shaped piece I would screw to the bulkhead inside the lazarette.

This key-shaped piece would be a backer board of sorts for the other piece, or I should say pieces that I would install on the galley side of the bulkhead. The small hole at the top had been used by a previous owner for a bilge pump switch.
Before glassing these pieces of wood into place, I needed to check the fit of the plywood panel.
I also needed to make sure that the cabinet assembly (for the space under the stove) would not hinder my installation and removal of the plywood panel. Therefore, I temporarily reinstalled the cabinet assembly.
Fortunately, everything fit together quite nicely.
One other thing that I needed to do before installing the small plywood patches was to figure out where I needed to install the weld studs for the plywood panel.
Some people call these fasteners weld studs. McMaster-Carr, where I ordered these, calls them "perforated base studs." This distributor, out of Atlanta, Georgia, sells these in 316 grade stainless steel. That's what I ordered and used.
After measuring carefully, I marked the panel with a center hole punch.
I would install four total weld studs, two on each side.
I planned to use wing nuts on the studs. That way I could remove the panel easily without having to pull out any tools.
This was the way the first weld stud looked after I had dry-fit it into place. Later, as we shall see below, I would epoxy these studs into place. I needed to use weld studs here, because it would have been difficult for me to use normal, hex-head bolts in this space. These would have required me to have a wrench on the hex-head to prevent the hex-head from slipping. To access the hex-head, I would have had to have opened the small mahogany door and felt around for the hex-head without being able to see it.
After I had gotten all the weld studs dry-fitted into place, and after I had temporarily installed the panel, I began to play around with various pieces of scrap mahogany, thinking that it would look good to give this panel some sort of trimwork.
I knew I wanted to install mahogany trim underneath the two stainless steel cleats that would serve as handles for installing and removing the panel. In the picture below, you'll notice one of these cleats and pieces of trim. The trim around the perimeter of the panel was simply there for experimental purposes.
I didn't like the appearance of the perimeter trim in the picture above. Therefore, I experimented with something else. I thought that maybe one solid piece of trim might look good. When I laid this solid piece down, however, and stepped back and looked at it, I decided that it didn't.
Finally, I decided that it might look good just to keep it simple. One trim piece on each side would frame the panel and would emphasize the vertical lines of the cleats and of the mahogany door.
Having reached this decision, I moved forward with the installation of the mahogany. First, I drilled pilot holes for the mounting of the mahogany door to the panel.
Then I got to work on the trim.
On the door and on the mahogany trim pieces I used oval head wood screws. I made sure to use screws that were just the right length, so that I did not end up with a bunch of pointed screw tips projecting through the back of the panel.
The pointed screw tips would have wreaked havoc on the upholstery in the main salon, which is where I would probably be setting the panel whenever I removed it from the cutout in the lazarette. The screw tips also would have not been kind to the plastic trash bags that I planned to store in the lazarette while under way.
To make the hardware on the mahogany trim pieces complement the original hardware on the mahogany door, I used stainless steel finish washers. Later, I would also stain and varnish the trim pieces to make their color complement the original.
In the picture below, notice that the mahogany trim pieces are not square, relative to the cabinets on either side of the galley. I checked these cabinets with a plumb bob before this point and had discovered that they both were trapezoidal in shape, with their front sides canting inward toward the hull. I decided it would be better to keep the trim pieces on the panel plumb, rather than trying to make them correspond to the angle of the cabinets.
You might also have noticed that the white paint on the panel is whiter than the off-white hue of the fiberglass that is original to the boat. Back when I bought my first can of Pitthane, I considered trying to match it to the white on this boat, but based on previous failed attempts to find perfect matches for white on other projects, I decided simply to order regular white Pitthane and live with whatever inconsistency might occur. I would use this Pitthane white for other things on the interior of the boat, for example the counter extensions, so by the time it was all over there was a nice balance of the new white and the old.
One final thing that I tested before removing the dry-fitted panel was the swing of the doors. Both doors, as you see, were able to swing unimpeded.
Now it was time to get back to that key-shaped patch.
After some additional thought on the matter, I decided that it would be better to make this patch smaller in size. You'll see why as we move along.
Before I could install these patches, I needed to epoxy-coat the wood, especially the end grain.
Back in the boat, I began to focus on the permanent installation of the weld studs.
The first issue I faced was the gap between the wood and the fiberglass of the bulkhead on the lower port side. This was preventing the stud from projecting as far as it needed to project into the galley space.

The quickest cure for this problem as I saw it was to remove a portion of the plywood bulkhead. I used a hole saw for this.
This gave me the space I needed.
Next I used my Rockwell Sonicrafter oscillating tool with the sanding head attachment to rough up the areas where I would soon apply epoxy. Note that I had earlier installed weld studs on the lazarette size of the bulkhead. These were for the backplane for the main DC circuit. For more on this, see my article in the electrical section of the Index on the homepage.
On the starboard I made sure to protect the area under the galley sink from the dust that would be generated from this sanding. I stuffed a white sheet into this space, and it did its job well.
On the top of the starboard side I used my Dremel with a 50 grit sanding drum attached. The oscillating tool would not fit in this space.
The Dremel also proved useful for cleaning up the hole that I had cut with the hole saw.
When everything was ready to go, I wiped down the sanded surfaces with acetone to remove dust and residue.

I also wiped down the joint between the overhead of the lazarette and the small part of the bulkhead at the top of the cutout. This joint was not sealed with fiberglass tape back in 1975 at the time of manufacture. To seal this joint I planned to lay down a fillet of thickened epoxy from the leftover epoxy that I would use in this project.
The weather on this particular day in Charleston, South Carolina was unusually cold. It was the winter, and occasionally during this season the temperature will stay below the 50 degree Fahrenheit mark during the daylight hours. This type of weather is not good for epoxy work with RAKA 127 resin and 350 special hardener. It is, however, okay for Devcon 5 minute epoxy gel, or at least that's what the manufacturer says.
I had used this stuff a week or so earlier with other weld studs in the lazarette and in the head, with mixed results. It did not bond as tenaciously as my RAKA epoxy. Knowing this, I planned to use the Devon gel simply as a means of holding the weld studs in place until the weather warmed back up in the coming days.

When the weather got a little warmer, I would come back and lay epoxy and cloth over the backs of these weld studs to make sure that they were forever bound exactly where I wanted them. You can see in the picture below why it was unnecessary for me to use the large key-shaped plywood patch that I had originally planned to use. The cloth that I would apply to the back of the weld stud would cover this small rectangular hole in the bulkhead.
With the temperature high enough for epoxy work, I cut the cloth and got everything ready to go.

Just before I was about to lay down the cloth and apply the plywood patches, I decided that it would probably be good to get rid of that gap on the lower port side between the plywood bulkhead and the fiberglass. Therefore, I postponed my other work, so that I could glue these two pieces together.
The main reason why I needed to close this gap was because the small plywood patches would not fit properly in this space. The plywood was 1/2 inch thick, and the two bulkheads together were 1/2 inch. The gap was causing this space to be about 3/4 inches thick. To make a long story short, this was one of those annoying little things that gobbled up time and blocked my progress on this project. I could tell many other similar stories from the refitting of this boat.
After the epoxy had cured, I could at last install the plywood patches with screws and thickened epoxy.
At the same time, I applied epoxy and cloth to the backs of the weld studs, and, as I indicated earlier, I laid down a fillet along that joint over the top of the lazarette cutout.
A couple of days later, after the epoxy had cured, it was time for some more nasty work with the sander. I cant' tell you how happy I was when I at last reached the end of my epoxy sanding on this boat. It wasn't on this project, but that day eventually arrived.
The patch worked well, and it ended up being almost perfectly flush with the fiberglass.
As far as the small hole at the top was concerned, I filled it with the small chunk that had originally existed in this space. I had, quite by chance, found this small chunk in the bilge somewhere in the middle of this project. The previous owner had apparently lost track of the chunk or simply ignored it when he cut it out of the bulkhead long ago.
Not surprisingly, during the glue-up of the weld studs there had been a little movement, and the studs ended up being oriented slightly differently than they were when I had drilled the holes in the panel. Therefore, I had to enlarge the holes with a paddle bit.
The regular flat washers didn't conceal the new, larger holes.
Therefore, I had to use fender washers to conceal the holes.
At this point I could now call this project done, and I could finally focus on the painting of the lazarette.
This ends this posting on how I constructed and installed the door panel for the lazarette of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

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