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Project Log:  Thursday, February 6, 2014

The boat's original sidelights were mounted on teak running boards atop the pilothouse.  These were in poor condition when I removed them, but I kept them in storage since I liked the basic concept and wanted to re-create the boards.  As part of my continuing effort to complete and make weathertight all required items on the boat's exterior, as well as a somehow appealing--on this day--means of getting back into things after a couple weeks without any progress, I decided to build new running boards. 

There was a mirror-image board for the port side, but for the purposes of layout I used only the starboard one, which I'd brought down from storage some time earlier for the purpose.


The original running boards were built from slim teak that had once been fitted together with small nails, half-lap joints, and a metal L-bracket (whether the bracket was original or a later means of strengthening I did not know).  I did not plan to emulate this construction, though I'd duplicate the overall proportions and shape of the finished product. 

However, I did intend to use new versions of the same navigation lamps, in this case the Aquasignal series 40, a large, venerable, heavy-duty (at least by comparison to most chintzy lights on the market) lamp that looked appropriate to the task.  The originals probably still worked, but were weathered and worn and ready for renewal. 

I looked into supplying new LED navigation lamps of similar appearance, which was my initial plan, but decided their much-higher price was not warranted in this case, since nav lights are not particularly power-hungry to begin with, and on this boat, with an ample battery bank planned and the likelihood that the engine would be running given that she is, after all, a motorsailer, I couldn't see any benefit to using the LED fixtures, not for twice the already substantial price of the series 40 incandescent lamps.  I ordered the new fixtures, but continued construction using the old one as a guide.

To begin, I prepared several oversized pieces of mahogany stock from which to fashion the new running boards.  I selected Honduras mahogany because I had a supply on hand, didn't have any teak, and varnished mahogany would hold up well and complement the varnished teak on board.  As with the originals, I planned to paint the inside faces of the boards with green and red paint; the remaining surfaces would be varnished. 

I used thicker stock than original because I thought the heavier appearance would be apt.  And anyway, I hate thickness planing and avoid it at all costs; my poor overworked planer is long overdue for replacement, but since I seldom use it it simply gets continually pushed further into the basement of non-necessity.


I planned a minor change in the overall height dimension of the running boards to more closely match the height of the light fixture itself; I'd run the light's wires directly through the base and make the connections beneath, keeping the excess wire out of sight.  The original setup allowed a little more room beneath the lamp, but I liked my plan better.  So I used the original fixture--after double-checking online to ensure that the dimensions of the new Series 40 were the same--to determine the final dimensions of the rough blanks I'd cut.

The original running boards featured curved corners, which I would copy on the new.  The radius of the existing curve happened to match exactly a roll of tape that I had on hand, so I used that to strike the arcs on the new boards after I dimensioned them to their final sizes.



I arranged the three pieces in such a way as to minimize exposed end grain once assembled, but otherwise elected against fancy joints, shiplaps, or other such things, choosing instead to rely on modern adhesives and fasteners to secure the running boards together.  To that end, while all edges were still square, I clamped them together and predrilled screw holes where needed, dry-assembling both sides (port and starboard) before continuing.  This also ensured that I built mirror-image boards for each side and didn't blindly build two identical assemblies.

Note:  I know I used the green light (and installed backwards) in the port running board in these photos--it's just what I had on hand for demonstration purposes.


Afterwards, I removed the screws and cut the curves on the three sides as needed.  Then, after cleaning the mating surfaces, I epoxied and screwed the two assemblies together, leaving smooth and visible--but small--fillets on the inside corners to add strength and to avoid corners where water might collect; the insides of the running boards would be painted.  I bunged the fastener holes.



I deliberately left all edge milling and sanding till later; while certain aspects of this might have been easier to do before assembly, it would have also been far too easy to run a curved edge detail on some edge that didn't want it, ruining the piece.  Also, I was unsure exactly how I'd treat all edges and was mulling over some ideas, so on balance leaving this work till later made sense to me.

To mount the running boards level on the angled roof of the pilothouse, the original running boards featured wedges beneath the platform, which kept the platform level and still allowed drainage beneath.  This worked for me, other than the ugly outward angle of the short side of the wedge, so I copied the angle of the original wedge (it turned out to be 10°) and, leaving the short edge 90° to the platform base, fabricated four new ones to fit the new running boards.  I glued the wedges to the underside of the platforms, tacking them with stainless brads while the epoxy cured.  I left small fillets at the edges of the wedges. 




Total Time Today:  4 hours

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