Steering Wheel Cover

I love the look of the wooden steering wheel, but the center hole with accompanying bolt needed some attention.

Here’s what I came up with:

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1/4″ okoume plywood scrap. I traced Cygnus the Swan constellation onto the cap. 

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Three small stainless steel screws secured the cap to the wheel.

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Summary:

I have several more small things to touch-up to complete the build.  Then, Northern Cross will be off to the upholstery shop for travel cover, cushions, cabin top and bimini.

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Helm, Controller, Cables and Seats

After test mounting the helm, controller, cables and seats multiple times, today was the final show…and they all got mounted permanently.  What a great day!

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Here’re the pieces of the helm assembly.  

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The No Feedback Steering Mechanism mounted through the console.  You get to determine the positioning by rotating the mechanism to different hole patterns.  Through bolted to the console, it feels very secure.  

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And, here’s the helm.  Mounted in all its glory.  I plan to build a small cover cap to hide the center bolt.  With the helm mounted, I can install the steering cable. 

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The cover cap and mounting hardware look great.  

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Next up, the  controller.  It’s through bolted to the Shifter/Throttle Mount.  This creates a very solid feel to the controls.

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You can see the steering cable running up under the console and the other end of the steering cable with protective cap installed.  Also, note the bundle of plug ends coming out of the controller.  I’m not utilizing any of these, so I’ll tape them together and tuck neatly away.  

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Wanting to minimize the number of exposed visible cables, I ran the electrical cables under the seat.  

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Access hole for electrical cables.

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The electrical cables for both sides of the boat come together up into the motor well through a hole drilled near the top end.  The entire motor well will be covered by the motor cover.  Also, note the shifter, throttle and steering cables coming through the Starboard slosh well. 

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I held the captains seat off the gunwales a few inches to allow room for the cables.  This also increased seating comfort.

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I leaned the seats back 3/4″ by placing a shim under the front edge for increased comfort.

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I was worried about how the cables would look visually running aft.  I now think they look just fine.

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Parting shot.  

Summary:

Today seemed to pull together many loose ends.  It was a ton of fun seeing all these different components come together as planned.  I can now focus on the electrical cable that runs to the battery, designing the motor cover and building the boarding ladder.   I’m very glad I decided to build this boat.  

Cockpit Seating and Ergonomics

You can build a boat…but can you make it comfortable?  This is the question I was wrestling with as I attempted to layout the cockpit benches, the seats, the helm console and the throttle/shifter controller.  The sequencing started long before today, when I actually test mounted the seats.

Here’s a look at the steps I took:

  1. First, I held the front edge of the bench back 22″ from the bulkhead (this is 2″ more than called for in the plans).
  2. I then made the helm console as narrow as possible, while still being able to mount the steering mechanism.  I shaved off 7/8″ be snuggling the steering mechanism tightly against the bulkhead.
  3. I then mocked up the throttle/shifter mount.  The governing measurement with the throttle/shifter controller is to allow a gloved hand on the throttle to miss the steering knob when motoring at full throttle.  This scenario dictated how closely the controller could be mounted to the steering wheel.  I marked its proper location with a pencil.
  4. Once these two mechanical devises have been factored into the equation, you can position the seats and determine their placement for proper leg extension (making sure your shin doesn’t hit the steering knob with you leg extended, resting on the foot rest).

I originally planned to have the seats swivel, but reality got in the way.  In order to swivel the seats, it would required me to mount them too far inboard (it takes a lot of room to swivel a seat). This inboard location would prevent me from using the gunwale as an arm rest.  Plus, it was determined that there’s little merit in the having seats that swivel, so I bolted them down tight.

Here’re the photos:

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Jennifer sat on the seat while positioning her feet on the footrest and bunk top (the bunk top makes an excellent place to rest your inside foot).  This is where she wanted her seat.

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My positioning looks to be further forward, but it’s not.  The camera angle disguises it’s location.  It’s also back a couple of inches from the front edge of the bench.  I held my seat further off the gunwale to make room for the the cabling and throttle/shifter controller.  

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We noticed the seats needed to be tilted aft for better comfort, especially once we dawned the PFD’s.  So, I built a 3/4″ shim from white oak and placed it under the forward bolts.  This made the seats significantly more comfortable.  

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So, there you have it.  Both seats test mounted in their proper location.  

Summary:

I’ll now mount the throttle/shifter controller and then make sure all the cabling works.  I feel like I’m breathing a little more life into my boat every day.  

Throttle/Shifter Mount

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After mocking up the helm and seat for proper fit, I determined the height and fore/aft  location for the Throttle/Shifter Mount.  

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By screwing through the back side, I was able to secure the mount while the epoxy cures.

Summary:

Tomorrow, I’ll test mount the Throttle/Shifter controller by through bolting it to the mount.  I’ll then begin to test mount the seats and add the swivel base.  Tons of fun!!

Steering Wheel Progress

Here’s the steering wheel after sanding and applying 2 coats of epoxy.

P9200035.jpgI chose to epoxy the wheel prior to installing the handles for easier access to the wheel.  I’ll now glue in the handles, sand everything again and apply 2-3 coats of high gloss spar varnish.

 Slow and steady gets it done!

Wooden Steering Wheel

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With the hull paint complete, I took a few hours Saturday to work on my wheel.  I previously formed the wheel and had set it aside until now.  I used the drill press to drill into the 3 sides of the wheel.  

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After purchasing a 1″ oak dowel at Home Depot, I headed over to my dad’s.  He owns a wood lathe.  

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After getting my first lesson in wood turning, I cranked out the 3 wheel spokes.  This was actually really fun.  It made me want to add a wood lathe to my own wood shop.

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Now I’ll sand and finish the wheel, then I’ll epoxy the spokes into the wheel.

Summary:

The wheel is a lot of fun to build.  Don’t be afraid of the detail here, there are many ways you can build the spokes if you don’t have access to a wood lathe.  

Wheel Layout

With epoxy drying, I decided to layout the steering wheel.  Kilburn has designed a beautiful wooden wheel for the Skiff America.  I love the well balanced look and feel of this wheel.

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This took a few tries to get things right.  I made several mistakes, but with my 15 year old son looking over my shoulder, I received correction…which was awesome.  The only change we made was to hold the inner radius off the center steering hub a bit for a 1/4″reveal.  We also shortened the spoke to wheel radius…but I might change this back to Kilburn’s 1″ radius.  I’ve got to stare at it for a few days to decide.

Summary:

I’m now going to set the wheel aside and work on it when I hit another slow spot.