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Project Log:  Saturday, March 3, 2012

My first task was to unclamp and trim to size the panels I'd glued up yesterday; I'd let the black Kydex run a little long over the edges rather than try to glue and align pieces that were exact size.  The material had bonded well to the wood, so I harbored no further worries about that. 

I test-fit both panels in the console and made any fine adjustments necessary.  I'd left the lower instrument panel wider  than necessary so I could mark the bottom angle cut in situ for a more precise fit; this photo shows the panel before I'd made the final cut. 

Before making any layout or cuts on the panels, I covered the surfaces with masking tape, both to give me a surface to mark on, and also to provide some protection during cutting.  To begin, I prepared the mounting template for my navigation display, a Simrad NSE 8, and positioned the template on the panel where I wanted it, checking the dimensions several times and placing the panel in the boat to ensure the unit was positioned where I wanted.


Next, I made the cuts as required, and installed the panel in the boat.  I wanted to keep these instrument panels removable for access or eventual reconfiguration down the line; I wanted to use black screws to minimize their appearance, but didn't have the correct ones in stock, so I ordered what I needed and used some regular stainless screws that I had on hand for now.

Next, I laid out the lower instrument panel, using my original mockup as a basic guideline.  All the other installations here would register off the engine instrument panel, so I cut that opening first and temporarily installed the panel so I could ensure proper alignment of the other components.

I positioned the cutout template for the engine controls to starboard, but eked the template a little bit closer to the engine panel to increase throttle lever clearance inside the nav enclosure, maintaining 3/4" distance between the throttle housing base and the engine instrument panel.

My last mockup had placed the autopilot control head (Simrad AP24) to port of the engine panel, and I'd gone back and forth about what else, if anything, to install in the remaining space.  Here I had an 11th hour epiphany:  I thought the VHF radio would fit in this space as well.  My last plans had the VHF located in a small overhead console on the centerline, but that had raised some issues with the size and shape of that particular box, as well as conflicts with the overhead hatch/skylight and other complications, details of which I'd planned to deal with later, but I'd never loved how the mockup overhead box had turned out, though I'd not thought about it for several weeks.

Excited by the idea of installing the VHF in the lower panel, I decided to use my old mockup plywood panel to install the actual electronics (autopilot and VHF) to confirm that the idea would work in my actual installation.   It did, but because I'd kept the autopilot control head even with the top of the adjacent engine panel, the VHF was pushed down a bit closer to the bottom edge than I wanted.

To deal with this issue, I decided to center the two components in a vertical orientation, ignoring the alignment with the engine panel.  This gave me more space, raised the VHF to an adequate distance above the bottom edge of the panel, and increased the clearance between the two components.   This new layout also meant that I could build a much slimmer overhead electronics box to hold the two low-profile instrument heads required there (as well as possibly a small backup GPS).

Pleased with the layout, I made the required cuts and installed the panel.

Meanwhile, I laid out and made a few cuts for several installations in the vertical console face, including two controls for the heating system, three fuel gauges, and a bilge pump control.


For self-satisfaction, I installed all the actual components temporarily to see how it looked, omitting the electrical panels for now.


There were a number of details remaining, including additional panel coverings and trim, so to prepare for that work I removed all the electronics and stowed them away again. Next time, I'd work on some of the remaining details.

Total Time Today:  6.75 hours

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