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Project Log:  Thursday, January 5, 2012

I started my day's work with the simple chore of installing the two remote coolant tanks on their respective brackets.  I promise that port and starboard had nothing to do with my color choices, but that's how it happened to turn out, with the engine's tank--which I painted red to match the engine--on the port side and the heating system's tank--which I painted green because I had the color on hand--on the starboard.


My original 30° angled electronics box looked nice, but it seemed clear that the low angle didn't work in this instance; the displays would end up harder to see and use, even though I liked the low profile the box allowed.  Before rejecting it completely, however, I went ahead and cut out the various openings for the electronics, partly because I thought I might reuse the panel template and partly to give me a better visual idea of how the displays would look.


Using the existing mockup as a guide, I played around with the display angle, propping the mockup first to 45°. This was better, but I thought I could (and should) go steeper still.


I propped the display up to a 60° angle, which looked to me to be about the right angle for best functionality of the electronics.  It was, after all, function first in this situation, though I didn't plan to abandon aesthetic concerns in the process--but not at the expense of pure function.


Deciding to proceed with a 60° mockup, I started from scratch and built an entirely new one.  I didn't reuse the original front panel since on the new version, I increased the width of the panel by one inch at the bottom, thinking initially that the additional space and height would be useful.

I made an error in the layout and construction of this version of the mockup; the angles of the side pieces were all wrong, and although I continued half-heartedly through to completion to test the concept, I knew that this version wasn't right, and I abandoned it.

Building off the basic idea, I built an entirely new version, reusing only the front panel.  To minimize forward-facing visual impact while still providing me with the depth of box and clearance required for the electronics themselves, I extended a 3" wide top section at 90° off the front panel, then dropped plumb to the base from there.  This was what I'd been going for in the first version just above, but I'd somehow gotten the angles wrong.

Up in the boat, the new version fit well in the space.  Though at first glance it seemed tall, I soon became used to it, and from a practical standpoint it did not impede the view forward at all.



Feeling that the overall height and angle was workable, I installed the actual electronics in the box.  Immediately, I noticed a problem:  the three gauges were too high in relation to the large display.  This error went back to the first mockup I'd built yesterday, when I switched the gauges' orientation from vertical to horizontal all in a row.  To mount two of the gauges vertically above one another, the top one had had to be at the height shown below; I'd not thought to check this alignment with the large display when I changed my thinking.

I didn't see a reason to rebuild the template to reflect this change, but I did go ahead and make some marks right on the face of it to suggest the changes when the time came to build the real deal.  I also noted that the additional inch I'd added to the bottom of the panel was not only unnecessary, but undesirable, so I made a note to cut the height down.

Despite the flaws in the mockup (that's why I took the time to build the mockups, after all), I thought I was pleased with the overall arrangement and positioning, all subject to minor manipulations later.


The layout of this version of the box left space ahead of the box on the dash, between it and the windshield.  This seemed a bit awkward and wasteful, but I didn't know yet how to best deal with it (if at all).  One more thing to add to my never-ending mental list of things to think about.


A year ago, when I was involved in the new tankage project, I'd specified and installed fuel level senders in the three fuel tanks, thinking that at least a rough idea of the fuel level would be handy, though the odd shape of the tanks would likely eliminate true accuracy; but to know to switch tanks at least when the gauge read 1/4 full or something would be helpful. At best, such gauges are not known for accuracy anyway.

At the time, I didn't purchase the gauges, as I saw no need to spend the money then, though I'd selected the gauges I planned to use.  Thinking now was a good time to buy the gauges as I proceeded with my panel layout, earlier in the week I'd attempted to order the gauges--only to find that they'd been discontinued. 

To avoid a similar problem again, I found other gauges that were appropriate and ordered them right away.  With these new gauges on hand--three fuel and a silly little clock to keep the layout symmetrical--I drilled 2-1/16" holes in the gauge panel and slipped the gauges in temporarily.

I'd hoped to exactly match the gauges in the adjacent engine panel, but ultimately decided against it when I discovered that the VDO Ocean Line gauges to match the tachometer were priced far too high for the value I placed in the fuel gauges (a convenience only), and the Murray gauges featured in the rest of the panel were proving too inconvenient to track down, again balanced against my need and reliance upon these fuel gauges.  So I purchased a less expensive and easily obtainable version, also from VDO.

Looking at the installed gauges, it occurred to me that they might be better centered vertically in relation to the gauge panel, though I'd also penciled in a 12-volt outlet just beneath the existing gauge positions.  Decisions, decisions.


Total Time Today:  4.5 hours

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