Galley, Sink Cabinet, Part 2: Construction of Cleats, Panels, and Main Shelf

The aft panel, dry-fitted into place
Having cut the new access hole for the sink cabinet, it was now time for me to construct not only the panels that would enclose the forward and aft ends of the hole, but also the cleats that would support the main shelf. Without these components, this hole would remain simply that - a hole. The panels would protect the space from unwanted and potentially hazardous dust. The large panel would provide an anchor point for one of the cleats, and the large shelf would provide the foundation for the partitions that would later house the plates, bowls, and cups in this space. Constructing and epoxy-coating these panels, these cleats, and this main shelf was time consuming. As with so many other projects on a boat, it was necessary to deal with curves and with angles that were not square. These oddities more than anything else created the delays. How I approached these issues is the subject of this second of twelve postings on the modifications I made to the galley sink cabinet on Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.
Let's begin with the aft panel. This panel was necessary for two reasons. First, without it, there would have been no way to anchor the aft cleat for the main shelf. Take a look at the picture below. Do you see that large, golden-brown chunk of material inside of that cabinet space? That's the insulating foam that surrounds the ice box. That foam is partially covered with fiberglass mat. I suppose that the Ericson yard applied some mat in this area to protect the delicate foam. I emphasize here that this foam was only partially covered with mat. The areas not covered had been brushed with resin, apparently in an effort to seal the foam. I could have applied several layers of cloth to this entire space in order to build up enough material into which I could anchor a cleat, but I didn't really want to go this route. This leads to my second point. I thought it was necessary to seal off this entire ice-box area with plywood due to the potentially hazardous nature of the insulating foam itself. Whenever I touched the back side of the icebox or the underside with my hand, fine particles of dust and foam would float free. I did not like the idea of any of this stuff floating around in a cabinet full of plates, bowls, and cups.
Having decided that this aft panel was necessary, I first fashioned a cardboard mock-up, and then I cut the real thing out of B-C exterior grade plywood, 1/2 inch in thickness. I considered using 3/8 inch plywood, but since this piece would serve essentially as an additional bulkhead, I thought it smart to use 1/2 inch. I'll tell you right now that this aft panel was the most difficult of all the components to fashion. It required many trips in and out of the boat, just to create the cardboard mock-up. Each time, I would need to cut a little more here, a little more there. Even after I had created the plywood panel, I still needed to make lots of little cuts to get it just right. Each one of these cuts required another trip up and down the ladder to the cut table outside of the boat.
Another problem associated with this panel concerned the curvature of the hull. This made it difficult to dry-fit the panel. Dry-fitting was necessary not only for cutting the panel itself to just the right size, but also for figuring out the dimensions of the other components, for example, the main shelf. The curvature of the hull made the panel want to slip out of place and slide downward. This made it tough to use both of my hands to measure and dry-fit other components.
Below we see two of those components - the large shelf and a plywood mock-up of the small shelf.
Here we see the large shelf wedged into place. It is putting pressure on the aft panel and is thus holding it secure. Yes, I had made a cardboard mock-up before I made the real shelf. Was the mock-up square? No. Was the plywood? Of course not. Did this require lots of trips up and down that damn ladder on the side of the boat? Sure did. Was it good for me? I suppose. Did I still hate it? Yes.
At this point in the project I was working under the assumption that the small shelf near the hull would be a good place for storing olive oil and other such containers. Later, after I had constructed the large mahogany spice racks (see my article on this subject), I decided that the olive oil should go in one of these racks and that this small shelf should be used for the storage of plastic food containers - you know, the kind used for storing left overs in the refrigerator or cooler. There was no other place to store these types of containers on this boat, so this would have to be their home.
As I said above, this small shelf was, at this stage, simply a mock-up. I could have no firm idea of the best location for the real one until these other components were installed and the partitions that would house the plates, bowls, and cups were installed.
Here's a view of the space as seen through the old door. This gives you a good idea of just how deep and inaccessible this space was without the new door.
In this image you can see, for the first time, the forward panel (pictured here on the left). This panel was necessary for two reasons. First, I needed it as an anchor to support the cleat for the small shelf. Secondly, I needed it to block dust and other foreign matter that might otherwise drift into this space from the area behind the settee.
Here's a shot of the space beneath the main shelf. I also would later modify this area for storage purposes. The cardboard is there as a wedge of sorts to keep the aft panel in place during the dry-fit.
One thing that I had to take into account during the project was the new through-hull and hardware that I would be installing in this space. I could not move forward with this project until I had installed the new backing plate, flange, and through-hull in this area. For more on this see my multi-part article, "Through Hull Replacement."
Now that I had constructed and dry-fitted the major components, it was time to sand and epoxy-coat them. Below is the aft panel. Those straight edges might look square, but they are not. Not a one of those angles is a right angle.
I used wood-filler to patch a few divots in the wood. Ideally, I would have used an epoxy-based fairing compound, but I didn't have the extra time that this would have required. This water-based wood-filler dries quickly. I've laid epoxy over it many times in the past and I've never had any problems with it.
Below we see the forward cleat for the main shelf.
Earlier, I had used the table saw to cut a large rabbet along its length. This rabbet was necessary on account of a small ridge or lip inside of the cabinet.
One other thing that I needed to do before moving on to the epoxy-coating process was to put the router on the exterior panel.
The round-over bit gave the edges of the panel the same finishing touches that the edges of the original mahogany panels possessed.
For the epoxy-coating, I pulled out my bottles of RAKA. I have long used the 127 Low Viscosity Resin and the 350 Non-Blush Hardener with good results. I prefer spending the extra twelve dollars for the non-blush version of the hardener. To me it's worth it not having to wash off the amine blush from the surface of the work piece every time I return to it.
First coat. That plywood soaked it up like a sponge.
Several hours later . . . second coat. Much better.
Next day, flip side, first coat.
Several hours later . . . second coat.
Two days later . . . I sanded the piece to achieve a smooth, consistent, and gloss-free surface.
I followed the same steps on the same days with the other pieces. It would be easy for me simply to show the end product. I'm including all the pictures here, because I want to remind myself (and anyone else who might read this), just how much labor was involved. During the lengthy refitting of this boat, I would often feel as if I had done little toward achieving my goal of getting the boat back into the water. Whenever I felt this way, I would use these pictures (and the many others that I took) as a way of convincing myself that I had indeed come a long way from where I started.

First coat, back side of the exterior panel.
Second coat, back side, exterior panel.
Sanding the front side of the exterior panel, two days after I had applied two coats of epoxy. I've said it before, but I'm going to say it again . . . sanding cured epoxy is like sanding concrete. Even though I was using 50 grit paper on this random orbital sander, I made little headway.
It took a lot of time to get the surface of the panel to look like this.
Wood filler on the main shelf.
Two coats of epoxy on the top side.
Next day . . . flipped it over.
Two coats of epoxy on the bottom side.
The well sanded surface. Note that by this point I had pulled out the quarter-sheet sander. This was more effective than the random orbital sander.
The cleats with two coats of epoxy on one side. I should mention the two different types of wood that I used. The cleat on the right is clear-and-better southern yellow pine. I purchased this at Southern Lumber, the same yard here in Charleston, South Carolina where I often purchased mahogany for the refitting of this boat. This grade of southern yellow pine is dense and resin-filled. It is often used for trim on the interior of houses in this part of the country. This, in fact, was why I had purchased this material in the first place. In other words, this was a left-over piece of material from a home-improvement project. The cleat on the left is obviously much different. This is more than likely loblolly pine - the type of pine that is often sold as "southern yellow pine" at big box stores like Lowes and Home Depot. Typically, it is white in color because it's mostly pulpwood from young, fast-growing trees. This is fine for many purposes, but obviously not for finish work. Ideally, I would have used southern yellow pine for this piece too, because it is more sturdy and rot-resistant, but I did not have a piece of this thickness. I could have used Douglas fir, but it is not readily available in this part of the United States. My thinking was that this piece would be well above the bilge and that with a full coating of epoxy and a full coating of the two-part paint that I would later apply, this type of pine would work just fine here.
Next day . . . two coats of epoxy on the flip side.
The forward panel with two coats of epoxy.
The forward panel, fully sanded.
This ends this posting on how I constructed and epoxy-coated the cleats, panels, and the main shelf for the modified sink cabinet in Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25. In the next part of this twelve-part article I will go on a digression of sorts to describe how I constructed a new mahogany door in a style similar to that of the original mahogany doors on this boat.

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