replacing a Dash board exposed to weather

Discussion in 'Materials' started by cabinetman, Apr 26, 2007.

  1. cabinetman
    Joined: Apr 2007
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    Location: Connecticut

    cabinetman New Member

    Hi all.

    You've got a great forum here with lots of great info.

    I'm a cabinetmaker here in Connecticut and have been asked by a friend to reproduce three dashboards for his 28' crusier. These dashboards are exposed to the elements. Currently, they are made from a plastic material with a totally faded "fake" wood imprint. He'd very much like wood. He pointed to my Walnut Jaguar dash as an example.

    Now, I'm very familiar with all lumbers, expansion/contraction, finish materials, etc, but would very much like to ask for your opinion as to what you would use. These dashs can only be about 3/16"-1/4" thick. I can use a marine veneer in any species he would like but then I'm unsure about what to use as a to-the-weather finish. Varnishes are out. Oils might work but not very well. Here in a nutshell are my questions:

    1) What material would you use to make these dash boards from? I can mill anything but would figure a ply would make the most sense for strength.

    2) What finish would you apply? I totally understand the problem with UV bleaching and the failure of just about all clearcoats. I don't know if applying fiberglass would work any better, however. I'd like your professional opinions.

    Any other suggestions would be very much appreciated. These dashboards aren't that large but there are three; an oblong main dash about 26" long x
    10" high, and two smaller ones.

    Thanks, in advance, for any suggestions you might be able to offer. I'm not a boater but my brother is and we enjoy his 38' crusier during the warmer months in Long Island Sound.

    Rome
     
  2. charmc
    Joined: Jan 2007
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    Location: FL, USA

    charmc Senior Member

    StarBoard is a polymer material that can be used to replace wood or plywood. The manufacturer claims it is UV and waterproof, will not warp or delaminate, and can be cut, shaped, and fastened like plywood. It comes in colors and does not, to my knowledge, require paint or coatings. A marina service manager I knew a few years ago recommended it, said he used it for repairs to a number of boats and felt it was an improvement over plywood. particularly good when water resistance was an issue.

    http://www.kingstarboard.com/products/StarBoard.aspx
     
  3. Tim B
    Joined: Jan 2003
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    Location: Southern England

    Tim B Senior Member

    Plywood is not too bad, but you'll have to pick your grain. Perhaps plywood with a hard-wood veneer laminated on it. I think a hardwood on it's own would be liable to splitting if it's less than about .5" thick.

    Yacht Varnish is not actually such a bad solution. It will need work every so often, but I'm afraid any finish will. Alternatively, you might consider a UV-stabilised epoxy resin, or if you don't mind a matt finish, Cellulose model aircraft dope.

    Tim B.
     
  4. cabinetman
    Joined: Apr 2007
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    Location: Connecticut

    cabinetman New Member

    Thanks for your input. With what information you've provided, I was lead to some other ideas to search for and have come to some conclusions.

    I'm going to use exotic ply for the substrate. The owner will select that. We'll have a C&C machine shop cut the holes for instruments using the old panels as templates. After that, the goal will be to seal it well enough to protect it from both UV and moisture. In that light, I've uncovered a process that is guaranteed for 5 years. You can read about it here:

    http://www.fiveyearclear.com/Clearspe.htm

    This is definately not a "handyman" product and is very expensive. It can be sold in quantities determined by the square foot. The mininum amount is 25 square feet and that will cost about $150 just for the finish materials. It includes both the special epoxy base material as well as the 5 year polyurethane material. That will seal in the ply panels well enough to be constantly exposed to weather and sun without damage.

    Thanks, again, for allowing me to visit here. I'm a big fan of dedicated forums and this one has been no exception. If I pursue this project, I'll be sure to report back and include some photos for your future reference.

    Rome
     
  5. alan white
    Joined: Mar 2007
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    Location: maine

    alan white Senior Member

    I'd use varnish. Either way, I'd make an acrylic canvas stretch cover for the ninety-nine percent of the time the boat isn't in use, completely negating any need for maintenence with either treatment, and consequently making the more expensive process redundant.
    ...If I were as concerned about protection vs maintenence at a reasonable cost as your friend appears to be.
    Rocket science notwithstanding, I would also make all the cutouts in the woodshop in a couple of hours or less.
    Sounds low tech, I know, and I recognize you mentioned varnish was out.
    This, then, is just another way to do the same job in case anyone might suppose that spar varnish wasn't a viable alternative, while respecting your preconditions for advice.

    Alan
     
  6. cabinetman
    Joined: Apr 2007
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    Location: Connecticut

    cabinetman New Member

    I appreciate your input especially since you are a members here with, obviously, boating experience.

    As a cabinetmaker, I've seen first hand what happens to varnish coated surfaces when exposed to sun for even shot periods over a long period of time (a season on a varnished wood front door is all you have to witness). Even the "UV" protected varnishes fail. The wood moves too much under the finish, stretching the varnish and eventually cracking the film. That, in turn, allows for the moisture to get underneath and then one thing leads to another. The problem isn't that you can't fix it. The problem is that you have to totally remove the old finish to apply a new one......time and time again.

    That, in itself, wasn't even the real issue, however. The real issue is that the boatowner said it took him a good 2 hours to pull these dashes and remove the gauges. He did not want to have to repeat that task each and every year to attend to the finish. So, we were looking for something that did include some "rocket science" technology. It was a good excercise for me, especially, since it educated me about what's available on the market today.

    Thanks, again, for your suggestions. I spoke to the customer yesterday and am awaiting his decision.

    Rome
     
  7. alan white
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    alan white Senior Member

    Thanks, Rome. I'm aware a door could weather a bit in a year under varnish, and the tedious job of removing lots of guages and switches is time consuming, which is why I suggested a fitted cover.
    I would still use varnish myself on the same job for several reasons.
    One reason is that a fitted cover would limit exposure to sunlight dramatically, in the same way a boat cover would do so on an unused boat.
    Another is the cost of the high tech product and a general mistrust of a claim I can't verify with my own experience. For example, what I know of varnish has nothing to do with what the manufacturers have claimed on their labels or websites. Certainly, the warranty on the poly product would probably get your money back in the event of failure, but then there's the cost of replacing the piece it's applied to because it is easier to do so than to sand down to a thin veneer (I've tried that, and believe me, especially with all those holes, it will be tricky at best, and what's going to pull old finish out of the grain?).
    If I did do it as you are, I would probably stack a few dashboard pieces and machine them all together and use up all my poly/epoxy at once (just in case) except for one set I'd leave bare, and I assume this would add little time to the whole job.
    Lastly, having calculated the overall cost of improving one small facet of the boat as proportional to what else might better absorb my hard-earned money, I would ask, "What if I spent the same kind of money/effort on other tasks, such as titanium connecting rods in the engine, or a new stainless anchor to replace my galvanized one?"
    In the end, the answer will vary depending on who is asking and how they value any particular aesthetic over another, how much time and money they have, and whether they see the work as drudgery or an end in itself.
    I do know that my most uncomfortable moments with customers are when they (who know little if anything about what I do and what I use to do it with) insist on my going against my instincts and experience and practically demand I do things according to what they read on a website or heard from their friend Larry who knows someone who works for Lockheed or somesuch.
    Might makes right, and money is might. I'm sure you know what I mean.
    As always, these comments are for general consumption and I'll re-emphasize that I respect your precoditions for advice, while using the example to delve into the subject as if everyone else were doing the same job, and I welcome anyone else's take on the subject as well.

    Alan
     
  8. Tim B
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    Tim B Senior Member

    I have two hardwood varnished stiffeners in my boat, the smaller doesn't get much abuse, but the larger (30"x4"x.5") does get something of a hammering. Solid Mahogany with 6 coats (3 50% thinned, 3 full thickness) of International Yacht Varnish. after 5 years the surface is looking matt not gloss, but there is no concern for the integrity of the finish. It has been kept under cover.

    Tim B.
     
  9. alan white
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    Location: maine

    alan white Senior Member

    As one would expect. Out of the sun, I'd wager 10-12 coats would go quite a few years, maybe 8-10. Having pulled a lot of hardware off of varnished decks, I have often seen original color and some shine preserved. Maybe after twenty years or more.
    Shade it, and nip the problem in the bud!

    A.
     
  10. charmc
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    Location: FL, USA

    charmc Senior Member

    Rome,

    Good luck with the Five Year Clear. I would echo Alan's recommendation: whichever coating is used over wood, a fitted, breathable cover will help prolong its life significantly. Gauge faces will fade and clear plastic gauge lenses will cloud from UV exposure. A cover will help everything last longer.
     

  11. DecPlastics
    Joined: Mar 2014
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    Location: New Bern, NC

    DecPlastics New Member

    where to find material to replace a boat gauge panel

    You can buy the same material that boat manufactures use for new gauge panels.

    Woodgrain or Carbon Fiber finishes are some of the options for new gauge panels.

    here's the website link to purchase material to make new boat panels:
    www.decorativeplasticsheets.com
     
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