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Project Log:  Saturday, October 27, 2012

With a new supply of solid cherry stock on hand, I continued work on some of the areas still requiring trim inside, starting with the companionway.  The edges of the opening from the pilothouse to the main cabin were still raw plywood end grain, so to cover these areas I milled a U-channel trim that could wrap around the sides and cover the area neatly. 

At the top ends, the trim overlapped the companionway surround trim that I'd installed earlier, finishing off that aft edge.


The removable hatch leading from the main cabin to the engine room also required trim at its edges.  For this area, I chose to more or less continue the upper trim's appearance for a relatively seamless look, so from the same raw trim pieces I prepared short sections that I could attach to the removable panel, taping them temporarily in place to check the fit and alignment.

I made some reference marks for later use in realigning the trim for gluing, but before I removed the panel and its trim I used a scrap of wood trimmed to 5/16" in thickness, which simulated the final cabin sole, to mark the lower edge of the panel so that later, the panel wouldn't be trapped behind the sole; the sole would extend beneath.

With the panel and its trim down on the bench, I glued the edge trim on, one side at a time.  There wasn't a lot of overlap in some areas, while in others there was more, since the opening in the original bulkhead was not plumb.  I'd long ago decided to live with the anti-plumb arrangement of the companionway rather than take steps to "fix" it.  Too much effort for not enough (or no) gain.


Meanwhile, I glued the upper sections of trim in place, holding it with tape and a brace at the top edge as needed.  I'd varnish these in place since then I could also complete the varnish on the companionway surround.

The next project was related:  build a companionway ladder.  Over the months and years I'd been clambering in and out of the main cabin without a ladder, its eventual form had morphed from nothingness into something more generally clear, if not precise, some time ago.   I wanted the ladder to be simple, effective, and as unobtrusive as possible.  The whole design of the companionway was less than ideal from the getgo, so this would never be a grand staircase.  The very shape of the opening in the dash above, while far larger and more comfortable than it had been originally, was essentially limiting to the ingress and egress, so ultimately the ladder just needed to get us up and down without fuss, if not with the ease of a comfortable household stair.

My plan was to build a traditional ladder with solid sides supporting the treads as necessary.  Once complete, I'd secure the ladder directly to the face of the removable panel, so that removing the panel would also remove the ladder.  I needed the ladder to be narrow enough to still provide the hope of access to a storage locker in the lower part of the galley, but wide enough to be usable and comfortable.

The distance between pilothouse and main cabins soles was just over 28", so divided evenly, this required about a 9" step spacing, with two steps required on the ladder itself (the pilothouse sole was the third step).  Allowing for the sides of the ladder to extend beyond the top step for appearance and footing security, I cut two pieces of 8" wide cherry stock--the widest I had--to 22" in length.  Then, after marking the step interval, I milled 3/4" wide dados in the sides to accept the two steps.  I ended up changing the position slightly from my original layout, which I'd discovered had failed to account for the thickness of the stair treads, so the layout marks were still visible after milling the grooves.


The lower step would be full-width, or just over 8"; the upper step necessarily needed to be somewhat narrower, both for utility and appearance, so I began with a 6" wide tread.  With this measurement, I cut an angle on the forward edge of the sides, running from the lower step up to the top, to match the position of the upper step, then temporarily clamped the pieces together to make a semi-workable ladder that I could test out.

With the ladder in place, I determined that the top step was too wide--it limited the exposure of the step beneath, making descending the ladder awkward.  While I wanted both steps to be as wide as possible, I thought it would be better to reduce the width of the top step by one or two inches to allow a more natural motion in descending like a stair, without necessarily needing to turn around and descend backwards, like a ladder.


Back at the bench, I drew angled lines to suggest the width of either a 4" or 5" top tread; eventually the 5" tread won out as a reasonable compromise between the comfort of the top step, the exposure of the lower step, and the overall appearance of the ladder itself.  I made the new cut and trimmed the top  tread accordingly.  I allowed both treads to extend slightly beyond the side frames for added width and better appearance.

Next, I rounded the edges of the various pieces as required, and cut a nice curve in the top corner of the side pieces where they returned to the vertical aft side, and sanded all the wood smooth to prepare for assembly and, ultimately, final finish.


Finally, I secured the ladder together with glue and clamped it securely. I debated using screws to also secure the treads, but the thickness of the wood outside of the grooves was such that I'd not be able to bury and bung the screws, meaning they'd have to be exposed, so for now I held off.


Total Time Today:  5.25 hours

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