Galley, Sink Cabinet, Part 6: Installation of the Small Shelf and the Sealing of Joints

The small shelf after its installation
Having constructed and epoxy-coated the small cleats and the small shelf that they would hold, it was now time for me to install these components. Given that gaps remained in the joints of the panels that I had previously installed, it was also time for me to seal these joints with cloth and thickened epoxy, so that this space, for the storage of plates, bowls, and glasses, would be protected from the odors and gasses that might emanate from the lazarette and bilge. How I approached these tasks is the subject of this sixth part of my twelve-part article on the modifications I made to the galley sink cabinet of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.
My first task was to glue the small cleats to the panels with epoxy. I had earlier drilled holes in the cleats and dry-fitted them with stainless steel screws.
I had also earlier checked to ensure that the shelf would be level.
I did this epoxy-work at night; thus the shop light was necessary.
After I wet-out the cleats and the panels with neat epoxy, I thickened the epoxy with colloidal silica. This I spread on the cleats.
Then it was simply a matter of screwing the cleats into place.
A few days later, I came back and dry-fitted the shelf. Into each side of the shelf I drilled one hole with my Milwaukee Tools right angle attachment.
I've talked about the virtues of this little tool before, but I'll talk about it again: this is one of the most useful tools I've every owned, especially for boat work, where tight spaces hinder access. This cost me about $50 online. Expensive, but worth it.
At the same time, I purchased the set of StubbyBits you see below. This was also a smart purchase. Do  you see the 3/32 bit? I used that one a lot for the various small screws that I used on various projects. At some point, I broke this small, fragile bit. Not wanting to order a completely new set of bits, I continued to use the broken bit . . . with success.
One of the drawbacks of using the broken bit was that it could only penetrate a little over 1/2 inch of material. This meant that it would just barely make it through a 1/2 inch piece of plywood. This shelf was, of course, made from a 1/2 inch piece of plywood. Therefore, to complete the drilling of these screw holes, I had to remove the plywood shelf and drill the cleats themselves.
I wanted the heads of the flathead stainless steel screws to sit beneath the surface of the shelf. Therefore, I used a countersink bit to widen and bevel the holes.
Having completed the drilling of the holes, it was time for me to do the epoxy-work. This work, of course, would require colloidal silica. The first container of colloidal silica that I purchased for this lengthy refitting was manufactured by MAS Epoxy. It was a quart-sized container. You see it to the far right. Not long after I had purchased that container, a buddy of mine, who also happens to own a boatyard, gave me a large bag of Aerosil that was left-over from some project. Aerosil is simply a brand-name for colloidal silica. Sometimes it's manufactured under the brand name Cabosil. At any rate, this large bag was about the size of a large bag of dog food. The bag had a tear in it. I decided it would be good to get rid of the bag by pouring its contents into large, five-gallon buckets. These would be good, air-tight storage containers. So this buddy of mind gave this stuff to me back at the beginning of the refitting process, and he told me that I would need a lot of it. He was right. From start to finish I ended up using about one-and-half five gallon buckets of this stuff. Below you see me breaking into the second of the two five-gallon buckets. The stuff in the MAS Epoxy bucket had been used long ago. I simply used the MAS bucket as a small-scale storage container for stuff I would dip out of the five-gallon bucket. The moral of this story is this. If you're planning on a major refitting of your boat, don't waste your money buying small containers of colloidal silica, especially from expensive sources like West System. You can buy a lot of colloidal silica for a lot less money from places like RAKA.
Now back to the subject of this posting - the installation of the small shelf and the sealing of the joints.
With everything ready to go, I wiped down the shelf and the shelf area with acetone. It was at this moment, however, that I paused and began to think about how much easier it would be for me to seal the joints first, and then install the shelf afterwards. The shelf would hinder me in my installation of the cloth and epoxy in the joints at the top of the cabinet.
Below we see a picture of two of the joints prior to my sealing of them. One of the joints is between the top of the wooden panel. The other is between the hull and the top of the cabinet. Through these joints air could pass from the area behind the icebox (which itself was open to the lazarette and the bilge.
The corner of the cabinet (at the top left) in the picture below was still open to the area behind the settee. Yes, the panel had blocked most of this, but there was still a gap up in this corner.
These joints (and other joint discussed below) I wiped down repeatedly with xylene. This solvent, like toluene, is a roughneck cousin of acetone. Xylene is even better at removing waxy residue than toluene. There were parts of this cabinet that were still waxy from the day in 1975 when this part of the boat was formed in the wax-coated mold in the Ericson yard in Southern California. My job now was to remove this wax so the epoxy would fully bond to the fiberglass.
The first joint that I sealed was the one between the aft panel and the sink. There was a gap approximately a 1/2 inch wide. I did not want chopped strands of fiberglass from the side of the sink falling down into the plates, bowls, and glasses.
To seal the joint I wet down the panel and the underside of the sink. Then I applied 6 ounce cloth. Afterwards, I thickened the epoxy and applied a fillet to the joint. Normally, you apply the fillet first, and then the cloth. The gap was too large. Therefore, I did the steps in reverse. This worked well.
A view from the side.
Next, I sealed the joint on the outboard side of the sink. It's the one you see to the right in the picture below. Shortly afterwards, I sealed the joint at the top of the plywood panel. The hole you see was cut by one of the two previous owners for routing the VHF coaxial cable. Bad location. This I would cover with the mahogany spice rack. For more one this, see my article on this subject.
My next move was to seal the joint between the hull and the top of the cabinet. I followed this by sealing the joint at the top of the forward panel (top left in this picture).
With the joints above and near the shelf having been sealed, I could, at last, install the small shelf. I began by wetting the cleats, panel, and hull. Then, I thickened the epoxy and screwed the shelf into place. With the thickened epoxy that was left over, I laid down fillets on the forward and aft ends of the shelf. Then, I laid down the 6 ounce cloth. To saturate this cloth, I mixed up another small pot of epoxy and spread it over the cloth with a brush.
A view from the original cabinet door hole. I know, I know, the shelf does not look level, but it really is. It's got nothing to do with the camera angle. It's an illusion due to the curvature of the hull. Believe me, I checked it for level more than once, not believing what I was seeing.
The cabinet, prior to its thorough sanding.
I hated every minute of it, but I had to do it. Without sanding that epoxy, the paint would surely not adhere as well as it should.
What tools did I use? The old familiars. The quarter-sheet sander with 40 grit paper . . .
. . . the Rockwell Sonicrafter oscillating tool with the sanding head and 50 grit paper attached . . .
. . . and the Dremel, with the 50 grit sanding drum. I had to remove the right-angle attachment that I often used for other jobs. It was the only way I could access these corners.

This ends this posting on how I installed the small shelf and how I sealed the joints during the modifications I made to the galley sink cabinet on Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

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