V-Berth, Alcove Box, Trim, Part 2: Mock-Ups and Initial Cuts

The alcove box trim with its initial cuts
Having split a single piece of mahogany into two separate pieces, it was now time for me to cut these separate pieces to the proper size. This task of shaping these pieces was somewhat time-consuming, insofar as I lacked a model or pattern by which I could create the finished pieces, and because the material with which I was working was not especially forgiving. In this posting, the second part of a three-part article on the construction of trim pieces for the alcove boxes of the V-berth in Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25, I describe the pattern that I created for myself, and I describe the initial cuts that I made in the mahogany - the cuts that would eventually lead to the finished pieces for this space.
The first step involved the creation of a cardboard mock-up. Although the single picture below might make it appear as if this mock-up was an easy thing to create, it, in fact, was not. It involved multiple trips in and out of the boat, which involved multiple trips up and down the companionway ladder, and multiple trips up and down the ladder on the side of the boat. There was no space within the boat where I could lay out the mock-up and make the many small cuts that I needed to make. The ends of the mock-up, as I discovered, could not be square, because the ends of the alcove boxes themselves were not square. The shape of these alcove boxes could best be described as a parallelogram. Other areas that created some trouble for me were the cut-outs in the center of the mock-up. These could not be too big. Otherwise, the fiberglass of the alcove box would be exposed. Nor could they be too small. Otherwise, the storage area within the alcove box would be rendered useless. All of this cutting and re-cutting of the mock-up was made more complicated by the fact that each time I returned to the V-berth with the newly-cut mock-up, I had to reinstall the cardboard on the face of the alcove box with duct tape. Due to the nature of the material with which I was working, I never could seem to get the mock-up in exactly the same place each time.
Finally satisfied, as much as I could be satisfied, with the flimsy and seemingly inaccurate mock-up, I took this pattern to the two pieces of mahogany that I had previously split. Fortunately, I did not need to create two different mock-ups, because one alcove box was the mirror image of the other.
I began by tracing the edges of the mock-up on the board - the board that you see below on the right. After I had fully traced the pattern, I removed the mock-up and placed it casually on the board to the left. Then, I grabbed a canister of grits from the Admiral's pantry and used the shape of the canister to scribe the ends of the traced cut-outs. Of course, I had scribed these curved ends of the cut-outs when I had traced the pattern, but I wanted these curved ends to be as perfect looking as possible. The canister of grits helped. For those who reside outside the South, i.e., the southeastern part of the United States, I should say that grits are a cornmeal-based breakfast food.

After I had finished scribing all of the curved ends of the cut-outs, I picked up my Makita jig saw and got to work. Cutting mahogany with this jig saw, as I had already learned from other projects on this boat, always requires a good blade. If I remember correctly, I used at least one or two on this relatively brief alcove-box project alone.

 Finished with the first piece of trim, I moved on to the second.
When I traced the pattern onto this second board, I made sure that the oval-shaped cut-out would correspond to the crack that existed in the board. If you've read the first part of this three-part article, then you'll remember that my buddy cracked one part of the board when splitting it with his froe, i.e., his wedge-shaped tool designed for the splitting of boards. In the foreground of the picture below you can see the crack, strategically located within the pencil-marked oval.
How do you like my Adirondack-chair sawhorse? I thought it worked pretty well, given that every other sawhorse I owned was being used for other Oystercatcher boat projects at this time. Do you think the Admiral was pleased with my innovative use of her porch furniture? Not really, but by this point she had resigned herself to the fact that this complete refitting of Oystercatcher would entail some sacrifices on everyone's part.
Having completed the first cut-out, it was time to focus on that cut-out that would do away with that crack forever.
One last look at that thoroughly annoying crack.
Presto. It was gone, like it never even happened.
After I had finished this cut, I thought it would be instructive to turn over the trim pieces and take a picture of the back sides.
The detailed shot below gives you an idea of just how bad that crack had been. Fortunately, due to the toughness of this wood, the crack never spread to other areas.
My next task was to sand the face of each trim piece. There were numerous marks on the surface of the wood. These marks were caused by the knives within the planer.
As I have said in many other articles, sanding mahogany is not much different from sanding epoxy. Both materials are rock hard and take a toll, not only on the sandpaper, but also the person doing the sanding, even when he is using electric tools. Below you see that I have resorted to using a belt sander to get some of the planer tracks out of the mahogany.
A close-up of the tracks left by the planer's knives in the mahogany. It would have helped to have had a new cutter-head-knife-assembly in the planer, but I couldn't be picky. I was borrowing this tool from a friend, and I was grateful that he was allowing me to use it. This was before I purchased the Steel City brand 13 inch planer that you might have noticed in the many other articles I've written on this website.
After exerting a lot of energy, I finally started to make some headway on this sanding of the trim pieces. Notice in the picture below that the partially-sanded area in the foreground is much different from the rest of the piece.
I took the picture below to remind myself that I used 40 grit paper on this project. I can't tell you how much 40 grit paper I've used in the refitting of this boat. It's absolutely essential for all epoxy-work and all work with mahogany. Use 60 grit, and you'll waste a lot of time, energy, and money.
When I had at last completed all of the sanding, I took the picture that you see below of what I thought was the finished product. Distracted by many other projects on the boat, I put these trim pieces aside for quite a long time. As we shall see in the third and final posting of this article, when I at last pulled them out and started to install them in the V-berth, I discovered that they were not exactly the right size. So what did this mean? It meant I had to so some more cutting and some more sanding before I could call this project Done.
This ends this posting on how I created the mock-ups and how I made the initial cuts in the mahogany trim pieces for the V-berth alcove boxes in Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

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