Sunday, January 12, 2014

Wheel house sheathed

The wheel house walls, like all the walls on board, are sheathed in 1/2" cherry veneer plywood.  I'm a little amazed that between the wheel house walls, the dry exhaust stack, and the stairs for accessing the lower level, I' burned up nine sheets of plywood.  Those nine sheets represent sheets of cherry, and don't take in to count the two sheets of AC plywood I used that are hidden under the wheel house cabinets. I have some decent off fall left from cutting that will go in to filling in some less conspicuous areas, so not much plywood waste will go to the boat yard's wood fired boiler.

Sheathing is pretty straight forward, but it does take some time due to the complex shape. When I say complex shape, I'm using the plumb and square shape of a house as a reference. My wheel house has the walls,  by design,  a few degrees out of plumb, and a three inch camber over the 11' length of the wheel house. So every sheet has to be scribed, back cut, hand planed, and jacked around until it fits.

The out of plumb wall thing looks good when you step back on the decks and look at wheel house, but it has given me a fit regarding the wheel house door. The boat yard has the boat blocked up a bit out of level looking at her from port to starboard, and with the wheel house door on the port side, the out of plumb wall is about double the design. The problem with this is that I built the door frame square on it's depth and water collects on the bottom of the frame and can't drain out. To remedy this problem, I used my die grinder with a rotary burr, and cut a little channel to run the water out. The channel works good, and once she's launched and sitting level, this will no longer be an issue.

The windows are 2" thick, and the walls are 5" thick. Because of this, I had to create an extension jamb between the plywood and the window frame. Being most familiar with a certain style of trimming  out a window, I created a window stool before installing the extension jambs. The window stool extends past the plywood by 3/4", and will receive a 1/2" bonnet under  the stool to trim out the underside of the stool. The window casings will be 1/2" thick and will cover the extension jamb/plywood joint while finishing the trim detail. All the reveals on the windows are a 1/4". I left the jambs off of the window clamp ring by 1/4", the stool will be proud of the bonnet and casings by 1/4", and the casing edge will be 1/4" off the edge of the jamb. The window stool edge was rounded over using a 3/8 round over bit in the router, and all the other edges will be eased by hand sanding. I used screws to hold down the stools, and all the other parts, jambs, casings, and bonnets are fastened by the nail gun using galvanized finish nails.

Looking at the front of the wheel house, I used some to the reverse rake to create a 7" wide x 10" tall chase directly under the wheel house windows. The wheel house windows lean out at 7 degrees, but the wall under the widows is plumb as she will sit on her water line.  This part of the wheel house wall, the aft salon wall, and the water tight bulkhead on station # 9 are the only plumb walls on board. I created this chase so I could fit hose for a window defroster system and also to house windshield wiper motors. The window stool under the two fixed center windows is removable, while the two stools under the port and starboard operational windows are installed for good.  The basic layout of the front wall will be a navigation desk @ 30" above the floor to the port side of the wheel, and a 36" tall top will start from the desk and wrap around the starboard side of the wheel house all the way over to the stairway. The desk and the console top will both project 24" off of the wall. The 36" tall console/cabinet gives me a huge area for all kinds of stuff.

With the walls now finished, the finished width of the opening getting up to the wheel house is 26 1/2". This is an important dimension as I have to be able to get the 24" wide clothes washing/dryer machines in to this area. This leaves the stairwell going down below with a finish width of 25". The down bound companion way is a fuzz  narrow, but is OK comfortable for my 6', 200 lb frame.

Trimming out the stairwell took up the most time, and I'm happy with how it worked out. I used 1" thick stock with 1/2" dado's cut in to it to cover the edges of the plywood.  When it's all said and done, the console top will die into the angled companion way top, and a cabinet will be fitted above that as to not interfere or requiring notching the trim of the small window in that corner.

Once the jambs were installed, I was able to fit the last piece of ceiling on both the port and starboard side.

The windows are completely trimmed on the wheel house front, but I still have to case the side windows and the door. The door needs to have some insulating paint on the jambs to create a thermal break as to not allow sweating thus dampening the fiberglass insulation I'm going to jamb in that opening prior to casing it. The casings are going to be 1/2'' plywood that I'll glue veneer to the edge. I don't want to create a fancy casing profile using solid stock, so the flat ply casings will work great for me.

I think I'm going to stay in the wheel house and get started on the navigation desk and console framing. The console is large enough for me to crawl in to so a removable panel will have to be created.  Ease of access to the console is paramount as darn near everything of electrical importance home runs to this area.

Because there's no finish on any of the newly installed wood, some of the detail is hard to see. One of the things I like most about working with wood is the instant transformation one sees as soon as finish is applied. Really, I just like seeing any transformation that has me moving closer to launch.



  1. Hi Conall.
    Great progress...
    I hear you on the fit-up of the plywood sheets. On our boat we used a lot of tongue and groove panelling, so I traded scribing big sheets of ply for cutting and fitting endless pieces of t&g. Where we have had to fit up complicated plywood panels to very odd shaped spaces, I found that (in the long run) making detailed cardboard templates saved me a lot of hassle.

    Looking forward to seeing what you do with the helm.


  2. Wow, nice progress! I think spray foam is the only way to go inside a metal boat....but it sure looks better when you put the finished plywood over top.

  3. Thanks Peter and Norm,

    I'm totally happy with how the spray foam is preforming Norm... very easy to keep temperature.

    I'm kind of itching to figure out the helm situation Peter. I'm debating of having the helm board level, or leaning it it a bit to make the gauge's more parallel to my eye. If so, how much lean, and how large an area? Right now, I'm thinking of having the area just in front of the wheel, under t he window, leaning. The area under the other fixed window is where the counter top that wraps around to the stair well will start??? We'll see soon.


    1. Conall,

      Having spent a lot of time in a lot of different wheelhouses when I was running boats full time, I would highly recommend building up some kind of angled panels to mount your gauges and displays in, as opposed to mounting them on a flat or slightly angled console top. Not only are they easier to read accurately, they also stay cleaner and aren't subject to as much UV damage. Also, even the newer LCD panel type displays seem to wash out at extreme angles of view. I'm also a big fan of overhead mounting (slightly above your forward line of sight) for radars and other large display units- easy to read at a glance, but not a distraction when you want to pay attention to whats going on in the real world outside in front of you. When we did the helm for our boat, we made some cardboard mock-ups of everything and left them up for a week or so to make sure the layout felt right and didn't introduce any weird reflections or block any important sight lines.