Sunday, July 26, 2009

Project: Folding Companionway Closure

Project from 2002

Because of the design of Eolian's companionway, there was no way for the factory to put a door there - just the sliding overhead hatch and the weather boards. This is a problem. Putting in and taking out the weather boards as a regular means of entry and egress in the winter when the companionway needs to stay closed for heat retention is very impractical. The previous owner addressed the problem by making a panel which filled the companionway opening and which was hinged to the underside of the sliding hatch. After long study and lots of beer, I concluded that indeed this is the best solution to the problem. Unfortunately, the execution by the previous owner left very much to be desired. Although he used teak plywood, it was apparently cut with dull sabre saw, and was never finished in any way. Then, the hardware was all plain steel stuff, which rusted badly (pix 1). Finally, when the small vent he installed in the middle of the swing panel proved to let in too much cold air in the winter, he simply glued a scrap of Plexiglas over the louvers with silicone.

So - with the approach settled, the initial steps in building a new swinging door were removal and refurbishment: The old steel hardware was removed and the resulting holes dutched in with small pieces of teak. The companionway opening was stripped, sanded and refinished. The hinged panel was removed from the sliding hatch, and the hatch was rebuilt and refinished. As a part of this, custom plastic slides were cut (from Jane's cutting board - she got a new one out of the deal) and partially inlet into the wood sliding surface of the hatch. This was a necessary first step, since it was my intention to significantly tighten up the tolerances used in the previous design. And the plastic will outwear the wood by orders of magnitude (thus keeping the hatch at a constant height above the deck), as well as making it much easier to slide.

We bought a 9' teak 1x4 ($55 - this stuff is not cheap), and cut from it the 4 pieces to form the frame for the new swinging panel. These pieces were carefully custom-shaped to make the proper angles at the corners (all 4 are different) and to fit the opening with a total design clearance of 1/8" (that is, 1/16" on each side). Tenons were fashioned on the ends of the top and bottom pieces - next mortises were made in the side pieces to accept these tenons. A 3/8" rabbit was cut into the inside edge to accommodate glazing (which will be trapped with a small finish molding). This was all done with table saw and router.

The mortises were cut (by hand, with a 1/4" chisel, to a depth of 1.5 ") in the stiles of the new companionway door, and the door was then glued up with epoxy. Then two small glides/slides were made to stabilize the door in the center of the companionway opening (from Jane's cutting board again). And a shim to mate the stainless piano hinge to the crowned underside of the sliding hatch.

Finally, the door got multiple coats of varnish, and was glazed with a piece of 3/16" Plexiglas, bedded in polysulphide. And the 1/4" quarter round that I made from the teak scraps was used to finish the inside. Finally, a brass handle was mortised into the top edge on the inside to provide a way to pull the door open from the inside.

This was a very difficult project from a design standpoint. At seemingly each step of the way, there were at least 4 ways to build a door that would not work, carefully hiding the one way to make one that would. I feel very lucky to have negotiated this minefield successfully.
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2 comments:

Scott Carle said...

how has your door worked out so far?

With it opening inward do you have issues with rain driving up against it and getting into the boat?

Also if by some chance you got a wave into the cockpit that hit it how strong would it be resisting that?

My wifes father has a downeast38 that we might be getting from him next year and I am looking at what I can do to it to get more light into the boat their as well as make the drop boards go away or be easier to use.

scott at scottcarle dot com

bob said...

Hi Scott -

We are still very pleased with the door!
But to answer your questions:

Eolian is a center cockpit boat with a full full canvas enclosure. We keep the enclosure in place when it is raining, mostly, but the design of the door and the stops (which didn't show very well in the pictures) stops "normal" rain from entering anyway.

As to surviving a wave boarding from the stern, well when we find ourselves in those kind of conditions, we put in the weather boards.

bob

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