Engine Instrument Panel
This page was last updated on 17 January 2004.

During the initial restoration project, I decided to locate my engine instrument panel at the aft end of the cockpit, in the opening that had once been the access hatch to the lazarette.  All was well and good until I repowered the boat during the first season of use.  When I tried to remove the old instrument panel, I damaged the mahogany surround I had built, both by cracking the flange around the edge (when I tried prying the whole surround out), and with some minor plywood chipping in the center portion (when I cut out the opening to accommodate the new Yanmar's panel).  Neither flaw was significant, and I lived with the surround for two additional seasons.  During this time, I continually "meant to" replace the surround, but never got around to it.

instpanelremoved.jpg (23116 bytes)During the fall of 2003, however, the boat was inside my new boat shop, and I decided the time had come to remove the old surround and build a new one.  An additional factor in my decision to finally replace the panel was that I wanted to recess the inner portion more deeply, so that I could install a Plexiglass cover over the instrument panel to protect it from spray and water.

I began by removing the old surround.  First, I unscrewed the instrument panel and eased it through the hole, leaving it attached to the wiring harness and engine stop cable.  Then, with a slim putty knife, I slit the silicone (what was I thinking) seal beneath the surround flange and pried the unit free.

The new surround was to be a near copy of the original, but with important changes.  First, the inner portion needed to be more deeply recessed than before, so that the engine stop cable and key switch could be completely enclosed inside.  I determined that the panel needed to be recessed 2" in order to clear these items.  Second, I wanted the flange around the edge to be a bit thicker and beefier (depthwise), as the old flange had been barely 1/4" proud of the surface.  I thought that something a bit thicker would be more attractive.  I also wanted to build a simple protective panel on the back side of the panel, which would shield the wiring from the contents of the lazarette.  Finally, my plan was to install a Plexiglass cover over the instrument panel, to protect it from rain and nuisance spray, as well as to prevent lines from fouling the stop switch and ignition key, which had sometimes occurred in the past.

newsurround1.jpg (32458 bytes)I planed some rough mahogany down to 1" in thickness, and milled the material needed for the surround.  I glued up the frame with resorcinol glue, and once the main frame was complete, I rabbetted the edges with a dado cutter in my table saw to allow the surround to recess slightly into the opening in the boat.  Then, I glued on four additional pieces of 1" stock around the inside of the center hole, which had the effect of creating the 2" deep recess that I needed in order to protect the instrument panel.  Gluing on these four pieces required a seemingly ridiculous number of clamps!

instpanelglueup.jpg (48644 bytes)For the flat panel, I cut a piece of 3/8" mahogany plywood to size, and then cut out an opening in the center to allow the instrument panel to slide through and be secured.  When the glue cured on the main assembly, I sanded the whole thing to remove excess glue and saw marks, and then glued the plywood onto the back of the assembly with more resorcinol, taking care that the cut opening remained in the center.  I left the assembly to cure until the glue dried.

instpanel111303.jpg (55427 bytes)When the glue had set overnight, I removed the clamps and performed one last milling operation.  Because I wanted to have the ability to install a Plexiglass cover over the panel, I routed a shallow 1/8" deep rabbet along the inner edge of the face frame, so that a thin panel would be able to rest roughly flush.  With that done, I sanded the whole thing again and applied the first of many coats of varnish required.


Over the days and weeks that followed, I applied 7 or 8 coats of varnish to the instrument surround, sanding between coats.  When at last I felt there was enough varnish buildup, and a fine looking last coat, I moved on to complete and install the surround.

hingescrews.jpg (27749 bytes)I picked up a small sheet of 1/8" clear Plexiglass for the door/cover to the surround.  With my table saw, I cut it to fit inside the rabbetted opening that I had built into the wooden surround; it fit nicely flush.  I ordered a slim brass piano hinge from a cabinet supplier, and when it arrived installed it with some tiny brass screws through the Plexiglass and into the wooden surround.   Because the screws penetrated through the thin Plexiglass, I used a grinding wheel to cut away most of the excess.  No, the hinge isn't the strongest thing going, but I think it will work just fine for the limited usage it will receive..  I had considered using epoxy to secure the hinge to the Plexiglass, but figured it wouldn't adhere well.  

surrounddoor-o.jpg (52864 bytes)

surroundtaped-o.jpg (25907 bytes)Once the door was hinged, I installed it in the opening at the aft end of the cockpit with six screws and set in a bed of 3M 101 (polysulfide).  To make cleanup easier, I masked off the surround and the opening first, to catch the sealant squeezeout.  

When the surround was securely fastened in place, I eased the Yanmar instrument panel back through the middle opening and attached it with six stainless steel screws.  The Plexiglass cover worked perfectly, covering the engine stop switch and key switch with no interference from either.  While the instrument panel is still not completely protected from the elements, the new, deeper surround and the spray cover should go a long way to protecting the panel, as well as avoiding the irritation of having lines and shins get tangled in the stop and key switches.

engineinstlatch.jpg (35611 bytes)A few weeks later, I installed a turn latch on the front side of the panel, which holds the Plexiglass in place.  Dumbly, I installed it upside down at first, which of course didn't work at all; I had thought that I would install it so the protruding turn latch part was on top, which would allow it to double as a handle.  Well, of course this was wrong, since the turn latch side needed to be on the bottom so that it would hold the cover in...duh.  No real harm was done, though, so I simply turned it around and reinstalled it.   But I still need to install a small knob to make opening the Plexi panel more convenient. 

engineinstback.jpg (36727 bytes)I also built a simple plywood cover for the back side of the panel.  Previously, the back side of the instruments and wiring had been open to the lazarette, and were subject to damage therein.  It hadn't been a problem, but I wanted to avoid the possibility of the problem becoming a reality, so I made a cover out of scrap 3/8" plywood, which I secured to the back of the panel with some simple mahogany legs that held it out far enough behind the instrument backs.  The basic cover should be more than sufficient to prevent damage by some piece of gear in the locker contacting the instrument panel directly.

Project complete...except for a knob, which is insignificant.

Glissando, Pearson  Triton #381

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