In the current case, the initial project was not a big one. Our compass binnacle is a beautiful brass construction. But over time, exposed to the sea air, it takes on, well, a "patina".
The binnacle is not difficult to remove. The upper domed section is a slip-on. With it removed, the compass can be removed by extracting two screws and disconnecting the wires to the nite light. The four bolts holding the lower cylindrical section are then accessible.
Now, the project-within-the-project reveals itself. The small wood shelf that surrounds the steering pedestal has never been refinished since its original installation, many, many years ago. I didn't do it because I couldn't see how to work around the throttle/gearshift levers. But with the binnacle removed, it was not much of a step to disconnect the cables and remove the section of the pedestal containing the levers:
I will take this to the shop to strip off the failed Cetol and run a router around the edges to smooth them (the original edge finish used a very small round-over bit and left sharp edges... and good self-leveling varnish hates sharp edges - it pulls away from them). I'll reinstall after 6 coats or so of varnish.
In the mean time, a trip to the shop and an hour spent on the buffing wheel, and Project I is complete: