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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I'm looking for advice on how to begin a redesign of the cabin of our 28 ft sailboat.

One of the top priority projects on the to-do list is refit the head, and get it all legal. Currently there is no holding tank, and the only option is direct discharge overboard. We placard it as inoperative, but hey, emergencies happen sometimes.

Meanwhile, we aren't really happy with the whole layout of the saloon, galley, and head, so rather than redoing just the head only to have to redo it again when and if the cabin is redesigned, I'm considering diving in and redoing the whole thing at once.

The problem is I have have absolutely no experience with cabinet work on a boat. I have some basic skills with cabinetry, carpentry, and furniture making, but have never worked with teak. Also, it seems everything about ships carpentry is so different. The vocabulary, the materials, the conventions and techniques, etc are all very different than what I'm used to.

My main question is, where do I even begin? How can I estimate the time, effort and cost? Where can I find a good reference for carpentry methods and best practices?
 

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I would start with a drawing of your boat from the top down.. so you can see the space you have to deal with. Then I would look at the interior of boats you like... and see how you can work those ideas into your drawing

Once you have a drawing you like.. and the cabin in your boat stripped.. mock it all up in temporary wood and cardboard. Once you can see it in the flesh, it should all fall together
 

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I aproach teak asI do decent mahogany. Didja ever hafta scribe a cabinet to a nasty, plaster wall?? Magnify by 10X and yer there! ;) Ya (almost) can't do plumb and level; so ya gotta do square.. I'd establish a line right down the center of the space, then nX/Y axis offa tthat...Mark I eyeball after that.
Keep yer weight low and roundallathe corners. Oh!.and makesure the sole-to-seating height hits architechtural standards.nuthin' worse than feet not on the deck when seated! Other than that...have at it:D
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I would start with a drawing of your boat from the top down.. so you can see the space you have to deal with. Then I would look at the interior of boats you like... and see how you can work those ideas into your drawing

Once you have a drawing you like.. and the cabin in your boat stripped.. mock it all up in temporary wood and cardboard. Once you can see it in the flesh, it should all fall together
Nice, hadn't considered modeling it. That could be quite useful. Might go with a CAD tool, though, as I'm probably better at pushing pixels than making cardboard models. More accurate too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I aproach teak asI do decent mahogany. Didja ever hafta scribe a cabinet to a nasty, plaster wall?? Magnify by 10X and yer there! ;) Ya (almost) can't do plumb and level; so ya gotta do square.. I'd establish a line right down the center of the space, then nX/Y axis offa tthat...Mark I eyeball after that.
Keep yer weight low and roundallathe corners. Oh!.and makesure the sole-to-seating height hits architechtural standards.nuthin' worse than feet not on the deck when seated! Other than that...have at it:D
Good tip on the center line. I wonder if there is a reference for nautical architectural standards...
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
How about a picture of what you are currently working with..?
Well, this post isn't really meant to be about a specific design, but more about how one should go about educating oneself on how to do these things.

That being said, I did manage to find a couple of interior shots. Not the best, but gives some idea.

The first is the port side galley sink and a bit of the seat/quarter-berth as well as a bit of the head.



This one shows some of the starboard side galley stove, seat/quarter-berth, and what passes for a main saloon table.



The two sides are virtually symmetrical, with a narrow bench/berth on either side, leaving a fairly wide walkway down the middle. One of the main problems is that there's no place to sit and have a meal. But more importantly, the head is not enclosed, and it is crammed into a very small space.

The cabin layout for our boat shown on sailboatdata.com is very different. The head and saloon table/seating occupy the full port side half, while the galley, quarter-berth and hanging locker are arranged on the starboard side taking only half the space that the port side does. If I could mimic this layout, and install a couple of interior doors as well, I'd be very happy with it.

 

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First thing to do is to get up to Brooklyn and get a book or two on joinery and boat interiors at the Woodenboat store. If you have a chance, get down to Tennant's Harbor & check out the boat they've mocked up at the boatyard. (about a 60' one, IIRC) With only 28', you don't have too much to work with, so making it all count is key. The guys at Billings will probably have some ideas too. Think it all out before you remove too much. Putting stuff back in takes a LOT longer than ripping it out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks Paul. Since I'm wintering out here in the mountains of Utah, I won't be able to dash right over to Wooden Boat. Luckily they've got a nice online shop though, so my new joinery books should be arriving later this week. :)

Billings does have some talented people, but I find that they are pretty economical with their time and words, even when you're a paying customer.
 

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Nice, hadn't considered modeling it. That could be quite useful. Might go with a CAD tool, though, as I'm probably better at pushing pixels than making cardboard models. More accurate too.
I did a redesign of my last boat a 28'er that included converting a settee into a small dinette. A friend asked for some help to do a similar project to his narrow 30'er.

You mentioned CAD which reminded me, I did an article for GOB on designing my friends dinette. I know you're not asking for a dinette, but the first step in any re-design, is to define the existing space. I'm a design builder(homes) and needed to get a cross section of the area my friend planned his settee.

This is how we did it using CAD;

First, I temporarily fixed in a center post. It gave me a perfect center line to take measurements from with various framing/building squares.



Then as you know, with CAD, it's easy to drag these measurements out, draw fair hull and cabin lines, and get an accurate cross section.



And that's what Jack needed to set his dinette at the proper seat/sole height, get the clearance for headroom etc. His boats beam is only 8' so it was a game of inches. CAD is the tool for stuff like this. Our daughters wore the cushions off Jacks dinette in the last decade.

 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Tom, that's great, thanks for posting. I think that's exactly what I need to do. And with a beam of 8' 4", yeah, it's going to be a game of inches.

I don't know, maybe a dinette like that would be a better choice. Those girls look pretty happy with it!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
colsen, I have been where you are: knew what I needed to do, didn't know how to do it. I started here:

I now have two copies. One i keep in my workshop and still reference regularly, and one i keep on the boat and regularly loan out.
Good to know, thanks! I ordered that very book last night, should be arriving on Wednesday. :)
 

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There are books on these things. I think Skene on yacht design also has the dimensions that work well for seat height and depth, and so on. That alone could be worth the price of the book.

Boat carpentry is "different" in that water and moisture are constant concerns, even in a "dry" boat. You may want to consider all bronze fasteners, not galvanized. Stainless is between the two and much more readily found. Also, you may want to make sure all surfaces on all wood are sealed, because moisture will get in through any unsealed "backsides". But again, that's all in the books on wooden boats and boat carpentry.
 

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A composing head will drastically simplify things.
A head with occupant facing fore and aft is easier to use when heeled , but unfortunately, that doesn't seem an option with the space you have
I've used galvanized nails on my interior, with no problems in nearly 30 years , but she is an exceptionally dry, well insulated steel boat.
 

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Colsen, here are a couple of things to consider.

Materials: Consider cherry over teak. Cherry is a beautiful, warm toned, strong, stable wood. It will darken slightly with age (though you can give it a "tan" to accelerate the process and ensure uniform color throughout the interior).

Cherry plywood is MUCH less than teak plywood and cherry veneer is readily available. Cherry itself is MUCH less than teak. Buying from a local wholesaler I pay around $3-$4 a board foot for cherry, $25 a board foot for teak isn't unusual.

Folks like Tartan and Sabre use cherry for their interiors now so you're in good company and you're reducing the cost of materials by 85% :D

An old trick for laying out curved surfaces. Rip some 3/16 luan plywood down into strips an inch or so wide, and rip some 3/4 pine into 3/4 square strips. Take it all down to the boat with a handsaw and a hot glue gun. Establish a straight line (like a cabinet edge) with the 3/4 pine. Hot glue a strip of luan from that straight edge back to the hull and cut off the excess. Do the same as your work along the length of the cabinet gluing on strips to follow the curve of the hull. Pretty soon you'll have the outline of your cabinet in 3D. Don't worry about measuring, use the strips to figure out what actually fits the space. If you don't like the results throw it out and start over.

When you have the outline you want take it back to your workshop and build the cabinet out of clear, knot free 3/4 pine. This will let you work out the joints and attachment points. If there are two ways to do it and you're not sure which is better build it both ways and take both to the boat. Test fit the pine piece. You'll need to fine tune it to fit. A block plane, rasp and scroll saw are good tools for fine tuning. Take your time and don't be afraid to redo your mock ups. You're not on the clock. Beer helps this process.

When you've worked out all the bugs take the completed mock up back to your shop and build the finished piece out of cherry, teak or whatever wood you decided to use for the interior. It's always better to make your mistakes (and you will make mistakes) in pine rather than an expensive finish wood.

Good luck, this can be a really fun project if you're not in a hurry.
 
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
A composing head will drastically simplify things.
A head with occupant facing fore and aft is easier to use when heeled , but unfortunately, that doesn't seem an option with the space you have
I've used galvanized nails on my interior, with no problems in nearly 30 years , but she is an exceptionally dry, well insulated steel boat.
Thanks Brent. It's a bit off topic, but now I'm reading up on composting heads.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Colsen, here are a couple of things to consider.

Materials: Consider cherry over teak. Cherry is a beautiful, warm toned, strong, stable wood. It will darken slightly with age (though you can give it a "tan" to accelerate the process and ensure uniform color throughout the interior).

Cherry plywood is MUCH less than teak plywood and cherry veneer is readily available. Cherry itself is MUCH less than teak. Buying from a local wholesaler I pay around $3-$4 a board foot for cherry, $25 a board foot for teak isn't unusual.

Folks like Tartan and Sabre use cherry for their interiors now so you're in good company and you're reducing the cost of materials by 85% :D

An old trick for laying out curved surfaces. Rip some 3/16 luan plywood down into strips an inch or so wide, and rip some 3/4 pine into 3/4 square strips. Take it all down to the boat with a handsaw and a hot glue gun. Establish a straight line (like a cabinet edge) with the 3/4 pine. Hot glue a strip of luan from that straight edge back to the hull and cut off the excess. Do the same as your work along the length of the cabinet gluing on strips to follow the curve of the hull. Pretty soon you'll have the outline of your cabinet in 3D. Don't worry about measuring, use the strips to figure out what actually fits the space. If you don't like the results throw it out and start over.

When you have the outline you want take it back to your workshop and build the cabinet out of clear, knot free 3/4 pine. This will let you work out the joints and attachment points. If there are two ways to do it and you're not sure which is better build it both ways and take both to the boat. Test fit the pine piece. You'll need to fine tune it to fit. A block plane, rasp and scroll saw are good tools for fine tuning. Take your time and don't be afraid to redo your mock ups. You're not on the clock. Beer helps this process.

When you've worked out all the bugs take the completed mock up back to your shop and build the finished piece out of cherry, teak or whatever wood you decided to use for the interior. It's always better to make your mistakes (and you will make mistakes) in pine rather than an expensive finish wood.

Good luck, this can be a really fun project if you're not in a hurry.
These are just the sort of tips I'm looking for. That all makes great sense to me. Good stuff, thanks for posting.

I've built a few pieces over the years with cherry, and love the way it looks. Probably a lot easier on the tools as well as the wallet. One issue would be marrying it with the existing woodwork, at least some of which is teak (I think). But there's a good chance I'd end up redoing the whole works anyway once I get started. How it usually goes...
 
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