Wood for center console....what type?
I am about to build my first center console for an 18' bay boat. I plan on using marine grade plywood for most of the build. This will be glassed over and gelcoated.
However, I am unsure of what wood species to use for corner supports, bracing, etc. Suggestions would be appreciated.
You can go a couple of ways with it, one is lighter weight, the other is heavier, but wouldn't require reinforcing posts in the corners.
You could use 1" x 2" Douglas fir framing with 1/4" ply as it's covering, though I would use at least 1/2" ply, StarBoard or 3/4" solid lumber for the instrument panel. The instrument panel has to hold the switches, gauges, and helm unit, which will require some heft to keep from flexing, as you use it for a hand hold in some situations. The other option is to build the whole thing from thicker plywood and skip the reinforcing corner posts all together. This type of console would be a tape and seam job and the filleted corner joints would bear the loads quite well.
Skinning it with some 'glass is a good idea if you expect it to see rough service, as it will provide abrasion resistance. If the plywood chosen is also Douglas fur, it will need to be 'glassed to keep surface checking down.
Skip the gel coat, just fill and paint.
If it was my console, I'd make it from 1/2" ply with a 3/4" instrument panel. I'd fillet and tape all seams. Design it to have some true function, like a seat on the forward side that has a built in cooler under the insulated lid, glove box, map holder, beer holder (mandatory equipment), extra 12 VDC outlets, maybe a little wind screen (tinted plexi), grab rail(s) and anything else you may find handy. It's you console, you're designing it, why not make it nice. Again if it was my console, I'd have a nicely varnished instrument panel piece, white gauges with red back lighting, but that's me. Round over all the exterior corners and edges with a pretty large radius (trust me)
I'd also use epoxy rather then polyester, it sticks to wood much better and isn't as affected by moisture like polyester is.
Make up some cardboard dummies of your console and try them out. It's a lot cheaper to make mistakes hacking up an old refrigerator box, figuring things out then to butcher wood while working out the bugs in the design. The pieces (if cut accurately enough) can be used as cutting templates when you're ready to pass ply through the table saw.
Don't need wood.....
Excellent advice from PAR.
I would go a little lighter with 3/8" ply, provided you have a shelf or two for the beer etc, it will be strong enough...but a bit lighter.
No framing is needed, fillet the inside corners and all joints with epoxy & micoballoons and tape/glass with epoxy.
Router off all the external corners with a 3/4" radius cutter and tape/glass the ouside as well.
I don't think you can do better than Teak for a feature top.
Though I did make an inset instrument panel once with a layer of carbon fibre cloth backed up to about 1/8" thick of CSM. If you lay it up on a piece of scrap glass (the window type) the finish will be good and the black carbon cloth looks very "high tech"
Also at 1/8" thick it is easier to fit switches etc.
Coat the whole thing with epoxy and paint it.
Well...that's what I'd do...
I do this quite often.
I've got a piece of steel sheet 4' long about 2' wide with a large radius bend down the 4' length. Bend is close to 4" radius.
When I want to make a corner with that bend:
1. cut my ply pieces 4" short at the corner I'm making...
2. bevel/splay the inside edge with the hand e-planer...similar to a splice in ply..
3. my sheet metal "mould" has some screw holes to temp hold the ply with the ply splaying on the inside.
4. Glass with epoxy...build up tp the ply thickness in 1/8" layers and remove the metal. Too much resin at once and it may "over bend".
5. Move on to the next bend....unless you have a couple of "moulds".
It is not the quickest method but cost is low, finish is excellent, when all fabricated it is very strong.
Ply must be screwed hard to the mould...no gaps for resin to run under.
Sheet metal must have mould release.
you can add a triangular corner block to add material to the corners. Cheaper than epoxy. This will allow a larger outside radius for the corner.
Or you can double each corner on the outsides of the pannel with a 10 cm strip of plywood. Then radius this on the corner and add a small fillet on the other side so the glass will lay down.
Large radius corners look nice and offer a softer edge to land against when you've had plenty of beer. I mentioned the radius so the 'glass will lay down without puckers or if just painted so the paint will lay down (varnish is the same as paint) No edge should be crisp, all should have some easing to permit the coating (epoxy, paint, 'glass, etc.) to stay stuck. They will not if the corners are crisp.
I don't think a radius larger then 3/4" will offer much less comfort then say a 2" one, but if it's the style you're after, then just glue in a corner block (post in this case) and radius that. You could get fancy with rabbited posts to receive the plywood, but why, when wood butchers friend (epoxy and filler) can save the day and lots of effort. Use some thickened epoxy to glue up the posts and machine a radius in them after it cures. Finish as you please.
If I wanted real big radius corners, I'd set up a jig for the corners, maybe using a cut up section of PVC pipe for the radius mold and cast a corner from thickened epoxy or a laminate of 'glass. I'd trim these up and glue them to the plywood after they set up. Fair flush and call it done.
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