Sunday, November 29, 2009

Project: Rebuild the Hatches

This is a project from the spring of 2006

Eolian has two hatches, fore and aft. They were constructed by building a teak frame, covering it with a piece of 1/2" plexiglass, and then teak slats were applied to the plexiglass - for decoration and to protect it, I assume.

Well, they are shot. The plexiglass is crazed, the old Cetol finish is done, the interior, which was never finished, is solid mildew, and the fittings were corroded green.

So I disassembled them into their component pieces (2 sheets of Plexiglas, a pile of slats, and the 8 pieces of teak that made up the frames). I anticipated that it would be difficult to disassemble the frames, but all the joints were extremely loose - it appears that it was the Plexiglas screwed on top of the frames that was holding everything together. As it turns out, the frames were assembled by simply driving a screw down thru the half-lap corners. Poor technique. Really poor.

I stripped and sanded all the pieces, and then reassembled the frames, this time by drilling out a 1/4" hole at each corner and doweling them with epoxy and birch dowels. Much more solid!

We bought two fresh pieces of Plexiglas, and I ran a router around the edge. First with a flush-trim bit to make the Plexiglas fit the frames exactly, and then with a 1/2" round-over bit to make a finished edge. Then a trip across the buffing wheel made the routed edges transparent again. And drilling about a million holes in the Plexiglas for the attachment of the slats, the frames, and for the two pieces of hardware that get directly attached to the Plexiglas: A latch device, and a hold-open. The latch was bronze, and typically very corroded - it buffed out on the buffing wheel beautifully.

In the original hatches, the hardware was attached to the Plexiglas like this:
  • Drill holes in the Plexiglas. Make them too big for the screws.
  • To prevent leaks, smear the bottom of the hardware with silicone
  • Using wood screws that were too small to grip the edges of the holes, attach (??) the hardware
In fact, it was the silicone which mounted the hardware. The screws were completely useless. This time, after drilling 1/8" holes, I tapped them to 8-32 and used 8-32 machine screws to hold the hardware on. Oh yeah, and I used silicone too - the seal is necessary, and who knows - it worked as almost the only attachment for 27 years...

With 6 coats of varnish on everything and the slats on and mounted they look nothing like the old ones - they look great!

Since the hatches look so nice, Jane made some covers for them so that (hopefully) we won't have to varnish them every year. The covers have windows in them to let in the light, and the hatches can be opened without removing the covers. A very nice job, and a great addition!


Erick said...

I will definitely need to be doing this on Windsong, thanks for this write-up!

Doug said...

As always I love reading about your projects...

Robert Salnick said...


There always seem to be plenty of projects...

Robert Salnick said...

Here it is at the end of the 2012 sailing season, and I am happy to report that the varnish on the hatches is holding up perfectly - the covers are wonderful!


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