V-Berth, Clothing Storage Shelf, Part 4: Cleats, Construction and Installation

The cleats, installed along the lower edges of the alcove box trim
Having constructed the fiddled shelf for the storage of clothing in the V-berth of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25, it was now time to construct and install the cleats that would support this shelf.
If you've read my earlier article, "V-Berth Alcove Box Trim," then you'll know that I installed this mahogany trim not only for aesthetic purposes, but also for a practical one. From the very start, it had been my plan to construct a clothing storage shelf - one that would employ the alcove box trim to support it. In the picture below, you see that I have dry-fit the shelf in an effort to determine the size and placement for the cleats that I needed to install.
One thing that I immediately noticed was that the fiddles on the shelf prevented me from fitting the shelf firmly into place. The problem was that the ends of the fiddles were at a 90 degree angle and the alcove boxes were not. They, instead, canted inward. This meant that I needed to cut the ends of the fiddles to the appropriate angle. Before going any further, I'd like to point out the grain in the fiddle that is visible in this picture. Note that it has a gentle arch in it. I intentionally ripped this piece of mahogany and oriented it in this fashion to emphasize the curvature of the overhead of this space. For more on the curvature of the overhead and the curvature of this space, see my earlier article on the V-berth trim.
To help me determine the angle at which the alcove boxes canted inward, I cut a small piece of pine to small degrees at a time. Eventually, I discovered that the boxes cant inward at a 10 degree angle.
I also determined that the V-berth itself, in other words the port and starboard sides, are at a 20 degree angle. Earlier, when cutting the fiddles to fit the angle of the shelf, I had thought that they were at a 15 degree angle.
Therefore, the first thing I did was to alter the side angle of the forward fiddle from 15 degrees to 20 degrees (I did not alter the aft fiddle at this time, for reasons that will become clear as we move along). In the picture below I have already made the 20 degree cut. Note the pencil mark on the mahogany. At this point, I was preparing to make the 10 degree inward cut to account for the cant of the alcove box. I made this cut by keeping the 20 degree angle of the miter saw table just as you see it, while canting the saw blade itself inward by 10 degrees.
The table at 20 degrees.
The blade at 10 degrees.
In the picture below, we see that the fiddle now matches the shelf perfectly at 20 degrees. The 10 degree cant inward is not obvious due to the angle of this photograph.
Having cut the forward fiddle to its proper angles, my task now was to construct the cleats that would support the shelf. For these cleats, I selected several 3/4 inch thick scrap pieces of mahogany and cut them to 8 inches long by 3/4 inches wide. My plan was to have three cleats on each side. Notice that four of the cleats are much lighter in color. Normally, I would reject these flawed pieces, since they lack the reddish-brown color typical of mahogany, but I decided to make the most of them by incorporating their color into the overall design, as we shall see as we go along.
In the picture above and below, we see the router with the small, 1/4 inch roundover bit installed. I used this bit to soften the two outer edges of the cleats. This made them less imposing and more nautical in appearance.
I had to clamp each of the six cleats four times each - twice for each of the two outer sides. The reason? I could only rout half of each side at a time due to the smallness of the piece and the size of the router.
While I had each of the pieces clamped, I also hit them with the quarter-sheet sander. As always, I used 40 grit paper. This is the only grit that allows you to make any headway on this dense wood.
Below, we see all six cleats after they were routed and fully sanded. To me, they looked almost like loaves of bread.
Next, I drilled pilot holes for the stainless steel screws that would join these cleats to the mahogany trim on the alcove boxes. I didn't bother to countersink these holes, since I would be using finish washers for the screws. You can see one of the finish washers at the bottom of the picture below.
Next, I took the shelf out to the boat, so that I could get a good idea where I needed to install the cleats. The cleats could not be too high. Otherwise, they would cause the port and starboard sides of the shelf to encroach upon the cutouts for the alcove boxes. Note that, in the picture below, I have not yet cut the long fiddle on the aft end of the shelf to accommodate the 10 degree cant of the alcove boxes. I had postponed the cutting of this angle, because I wasn't yet sure if a 10 degree cant would look good on this fiddle. The cant was necessary on the forward fiddle. It wasn't necessary on the aft one, because slight variations in the cant of the alcove boxes allowed this end of the shelf to fit without the 10 degree cant.
Having determined the appropriate areas for the cleats, I got to work installing them.
In the picture below, we see all six cleats installed. If you look closely, you'll see that on each side I have installed the light colored cleats forward and aft. Between them are the single reddish-brown cleats. I thought this scheme looked attractive.
With the cleats having been installed, it was now just a matter of sliding the shelf into place. I could tell right away that the 90 degree angle on the aft fiddle did not look good. I would definitely need to alter this by 10 degrees.
Although it might not look like it in the picture below, the shelf was perfectly level, and I should note that the boat itself was perfectly level on the trailer.
Seen from the perspective of the hanging locker and the head, the shelf looked appropriate to the space in which it was situated, and it complemented the mahogany trim that I had earlier installed on the cabin trunk of the V-berth.
The shelf was level, port to starboard, but it was not level fore to aft, nor could it be; the alcove boxes had an upward sweep, which corresponded to the upward sweep of the deck as it approached the bow. This upward sweep made the aft fiddle on the shelf all the more important.
The shelf, when viewed from below, revealed the appropriately spaced cleats.
My final step for this stage of the project was to remove the aft fiddle from the shelf and cut it to its appropriate angles. I began with the 20 degree angle, which corresponded to the 20 degree angle of the port and starboard sides of the V-berth.
Then I canted the saw blade to 10 degrees to make the cut that would correspond to the 10 degree cant of the alcove boxes. In the picture below, you can see the canted blade (with its plastic protective cover).
After reinstalling the fiddle, I dry-fitted the shelf one more time. I thought the 10 degree cant on each side of the aft fiddle made the fiddle look much better than it had beforehand.
One more view from below.
This ends this posting on how I constructed and installed the cleats that would support the clothing shelf in the V-berth of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25. In the next posting I describe how I glued the cleats to the shelf with epoxy.


  1. The arched grain choice is great. Nice work. What will prevent the shelf from sliding aft, dropping off the cleats and onto your knees while sleeping? :) Maybe another block on each side, so the shelf needs to be lifted first? Dale

    1. Good point Dale. I plan to install small stainless brackets (disguised by the fiddles) to prevent the shelf from sliding aft.