V-Berth, Clothing Storage Shelf, Part 3: Fiddles, Construction and Dry-Fit

The shelf, with the fiddles dry-fitted into place
Having constructed the clothing storage shelf for Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25, the time had come for me to do some finish work on it. This finish work entailed the creation of fiddles - small decorative rails that would serve a practical function, that of keeping the duffel bags, which would be stored on this shelf, from sliding to and fro. For the construction of these fiddles, I chose mahogany, the same type of wood that Ericson had used for finish work inside the boat, and the same type of wood that I myself had used for the additional finish work that I had installed.
I had constructed mahogany fiddles for other shelves on the boat (see the entry for "fiddles" in the Labels section of the homepage), so I already knew that I needed mahogany that had been planed to a thickness of 3/4 inch. I did not have any scrap pieces of 3/4 inch mahogany that were long enough for the longest of the three fiddles that I needed for this shelf. Therefore, I had to rip a piece of rough-sawn mahogany that was 5/4, i.e., 1-1/4 inch thick (for more on what I mean by mahogany, see the article "Companionway Hatch Construction," and see the entry for "sapele" and for "Southern Lumber" in the Labels section of the homepage).

Then I set up my Steel City brand planer and prepared to take this piece of rough-sawn material down to 3/4 inches.
After running the piece through the planer several times, I paused to take this picture. Beside the large piece I placed a fiddle that I had constructed for another shelf. This older fiddle served as a model for this newer one that I was constructing.
To avoid snipe, I passed the piece through the planer many times, taking off very small amounts of wood at a time. Eventually, I got the piece down to the appropriate thickness.
Whenever I construct a fiddle, I use a router to cut a rabbet into one part of it. When I pulled out my straight bit (pictured left), which I had used to cut rabbets into fiddles in the past, I discovered that it was shot. Many passes through earlier pieces of mahogany had spelled its doom. Therefore, I made a trip to the local hardware store and bought a new one (pictured right) - a nice, Freud brand bit.
The original bit, with nicks and burn marks.
The first time that I made fiddles, I constructed a jig, which would make the cutting of the rabbet even and consistent. In the picture below, you see that I have attached the jig to the base of the router. I took this picture after making the initial cuts.
Having cut as much as I could on one end of the fiddle, I moved the clamps to the other end and began to make the next set of cuts.
It takes multiple passes to cut away 1/2 of material, the amount needed for the 1/2 plywood on which the fiddle would be mounted. One pass won't do it, of course, since the straight bit is not 1/2 inch in diameter.
The finished rabbet.
Next, I grabbed a small scrap piece of mahogany that I planned to use for the small fiddle at the forward end of the shelf. The small piece, just like the large one, needed to be taken down to 3/4 inch thick.
This small piece, after being planed down to 3/4 inch, got the same treatment with the router.
With both the forward and aft fiddles having been planed down and rabbeted, my next step was to cut the ends of each fiddle to an angle of 15 degrees.

It was my assumption at this time that the shelf itself was at a 15 degree angle, but I would later realize that it was, in fact, at a 20 degree angle. In the picture below, you can see the slight disparity between the angle of the fiddle and the angle of the shelf.

Wanting to rid these fiddles of their unattractive square edges (as pictured above), I used a round-over bit on the router to created rounded edges on both sides.

My next task was to drill the pilot holes for the mounting of the fiddles to the shelf with stainless steel screws. As you can see from the picture below, I used #6 flathead screws, 1 inch in length.
There was not a lot of room to work with, so I had to drill each hole as precisely as possible.
After I had finished drilling the pilot holes, I came along with a countersink bit and chamfered each hole. This, of course, would allow the flathead screw to sit flush with the surface of the shelf or even sit beneath the surface of the shelf.
I decided to chamfer the holes enough to where I could make the screws sit beneath the level of the shelf. This would allow me to fill the chamfered holes with epoxy, thereby disguising their presence.
After I had completed my work on the short fiddle, I focused on the long fiddle and followed all the same steps.
Below, we see the shelf with the forward and aft fiddles, i.e., the short and the long fiddles, dry-fitted.
Next, I turned my attention to the installation of a center fiddle - one that would define the port and starboard storage areas for the two duffel bags.
I decided to make this fiddle slightly shorter in height than the forward and aft fiddles. If I did not, then it would not join the forward and aft fiddles in an attractive manner, since tops of these fiddles were no longer square, but rounded.
I almost left the center fiddle with square edges on the top, simply because I thought it would make for a more attractive joint, joined as it would be to the flat sides of the forward and aft fiddles. In the end, though, I opted to round-over the top, simply because I thought that the sharp, square edges would not be kind on the hands when the Admiral or I reached our hands up into this space.
Since this center fiddle was quite small, and since I did not want to round-over the edges too much, I decided to use the smallest of my three roundover bits for this job - a 1/4 inch bit. I had used a 3/8 inch bit for the other fiddles.
I thought this made for a nice compromise. The center fiddle still joined the forward and aft fiddles well, and it was much smoother in feel and appearance than it had been when it was squared off.
Now it was time to drill the pilot holes for this center fiddle.
I started by drilling the holes for the two ends of the center fiddle. This allowed me to install screws on either end. This, in turn, allowed me to flip the shelf over and drill the remaining pilot holes.
In the picture below I indicate with Sharpie markers the screws that I installed on the ends of the center fiddle.
For the drilling and countersinking of the remaining holes, I placed a thin piece of plywood underneath the center fiddle on the other side of the shelf. You, of course, cannot see this thin piece of plywood in this picture. Why did I need to do this? Remember that the center fiddle was shorter in height than the forward and aft fiddles. Without the thin piece of plywood, the center fiddle did not match the height of the other two. In other words, there was a 1/4 inch gap between the center fiddle and the table top. I needed this thin piece of plywood to bridge the gap between the fiddle and the table top and thus make the center fiddle sit firmly against the shelf while I drilled the holes and installed the screws. To ensure that the center fiddle was as flush as possible, I pressed firmly on the shelf with the palm of my hand while doing this work.
This technique worked well, and when I turned the shelf over, I found there were no gaps to be seen between the center fiddle and the shelf.
This ends this posting on how I constructed and dry-fit the fiddles for the clothing storage shelf in the V-berth of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25. In my next posting I discuss the construction of the cleats that would hold this shelf in place within the V-berth.

V-Berth, Clothing Storage Shelf, Part 2: Construction

The shelf, after it had been cut, drilled, epoxy-coated, and sanded
Having constructed a satisfactory mock-up for the clothing storage shelf that I planned to add to the V-berth of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25, it was now time for me to transfer the pattern to a piece of plywood for the construction of the actual shelf. I opted for 1/2 inch, exterior grade plywood. This was the same size and grade of plywood that I had used for the other shelves I had constructed for the boat.
After I made the diagonal cuts on the port and starboard sides of the shelf, I smoothed out the irregularities of the cuts by sanding the edges with a long sanding block. I had originally constructed this sanding block to assist me in the fairing of a new centerboard that I had constructed for the boat. After I completed that project, I found myself using the sanding block for many other boat-related projects. The block is simply a scrap piece of a 2x4 with a piece of hardwood-floor sandpaper stapled onto it.
I cut the shelf a little longer than the mock-up, just in case I had made an error when cutting the mock-up. I then dry-fit the shelf to see if I needed that extra inch. As it turned out, I did, so I was glad that I had cut myself a little extra.
Next, I drew a grid on the shelf, using my drywall square (pictured left) to make all the lines straight.
Using the grid as a guide, I drilled 1/2 inch holes every 2 inches. I followed the same or similar procedure for the other shelves that I constructed for other areas of the boat. The holes would reduce the weight of the shelf, and they would help with ventilation.
Note that in the picture below I have drilled almost all of the holes only to the half-way point. The paddle-bit has a pointed tap. I drilled until the tap penetrated the other side of the board.
Then I flipped the board, inserted the pointed tap into the small holes, and drilled each one of them the rest of the way through the board. I've demonstrated this technique in other articles on this website. The benefit of this approach is that it reduces tear-out and thus usually results in nice, clean holes.

I probably spent two hours drilling all of these holes. Was it worth the time and effort? Is doing it the right way worth it? Yes.
When I was finished drilling the holes, I stepped back and took a look. The symmetrical layout of the holes was pleasing, just as the many symmetrical lines of the boat itself are pleasing.
Next, I sanded both sides of the shelf to remove the small splinters that were protruding here and there from the holes.
After wiping the board down with acetone, I applied two coats of neat epoxy (several hours apart) to the first side.
The next day, I did the flip side. In addition to the two coats of epoxy, I filled, with thickened epoxy, the areas on the plywood that had been damaged by steel straps, obviously during the shipping process. Evidently, this piece had been on the top or the bottom of the stack. So why did I select this piece and not another piece of plywood? Because, other than these problem areas, this sheet of plywood was straighter than all the others, and it had the fewest number of flaws.
About two days later, I returned to this project and sanded the epoxy down to an even consistency.
The flip side of the shelf, now that its flaws had been filled with thickened epoxy and now that it had been fully sanded, looked quite good.
This ends this posting on how I constructed the clothing storage shelf for the V-berth of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25. In my next posting, I describe how I constructed the fiddles for this shelf.