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New Engine Panel Fabrication Part I

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The boat came to me with a series of switches and buttons installed in holes in the cockpit wall leaving them exposed to water. The original engine panel had been removed and replaced with a sheet of stainless steel with a speaker in the middle of it which leaked water into the boat and looked like a 7th grade shop project. Why the original arrangement wasn’t satisfactory to a PO remains a mystery, but it was good enough for me, so I had to return things to the way they were.

After much searching on line I found an enclosure on the Moyer Marine website that would fit the opening and claimed to be “Constructed of sturdy ABS plastic…” What arrived seemed more suited for a takeout dinner, so I reinforced the back of the panel with fiberglass, installed the gauges and switches and wired it all up. Upon installation, the flange cracked in several places. This I could almost live with, but in order to reach the controls one had to swing the panel door up. This proved highly inconvenient, and the plastic-hinged door was simply glued onto the enclosure. I was certain it would fail shortly after launch. Unacceptable. A new one would have to be built.
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Flimsy Panel (and ash from summer wildfires)

I spent hours researching fiberglass molds. There are almost as many opinions about fiberglass part making as there are about how to wire a battery switch. The most effective method seemed to be to vacuum bag the assembly, but I did not want to spend money on equipment I would use once. So eventually I decided to make a male mold and cast the fiberglass over the top of it. I also decided that I would use epoxy instead of polyester to avoid stinking the house up and because I had it on hand. This precluded the use of gelcoat, so I figured I would paint the part after curing.

The mold was made in four parts: A backing board, a bunch of small plywood pieces glued together in the reverse shape of the recessed area, a thin piece of backer board to make a recess for a cover, and then a ring of wood that would be clamped over the wet fiberglass to create a flat surface on the back of the flange. Thinking in reverse exercised parts of my brain not used since taking the SAT test.

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Mold Components

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Mold mocked up.
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Updated 05-26-2018 at 08:14 AM by bigd14

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