More Head Work

You can see the trim for the sliding panels in this photo.

You can see the trim for the sliding panels in this photo.

Continuing the renovation of this Nor’Sea 27’s head installation, I started work on the head locker, which consists of a 25×19″ cupboard with sliding doors.  The prior owner had begun a modification to fit a 15-gallon polyethylene holding tank on in this locker, and he removed the doors and teak trim and cut a clearance hole in the side of the locker area.  I am not sure how the weight of that tank would have worked out, but my plan is to install a Sealand M11 Marine Head with Holding Tank, so I won’t need to take up the locker with a tank.  I may install a 6 gallon water heater in there later, but it won’t be anything that big and heavy.

When I cleaned out the boat I saved all the odds and ends, and luckily, I was able to locate the both trim pieces and sliding panel guides.  One of the was slightly damaged, but I put that piece facing the away. The panel doors, however, were long gone.  I did locate the missing piece of shower pan that had been cut out, and it had a reasonable fit except for the saw kerf.  I plan to epoxy that bit back in place and fill the gap in the future.

01 cane doorMy original idea was to use some teak doors with rattan insert that matched most of the rest of the boat.  I thought I could use that to create a nice sliding panel door, but I learned that the panel’s thickness was going to present some interesting challenges, because the two doors have to bypass each other, and the guide is only about an inch wide, so I abandoned that idea.  I do still like the way it looks.

I knew I definitely didn’t want some flat white sliding doors because I think that’s against the character of the boat, but I did want to get something going, so I thought I would do my best to make some serviceable doors with the intent that I could always replace the panels later if I think of a way to incorporate the rattan doors or something.

I bought some inexpensive paneling to make the doors – I spent just $7 buying some luan plywood 2×4′ piece at Home Depot, and I found some brass door inserts at OSH.

Next, I cut a test panel to make sure I would be able to get the door panels installed in the finished opening. It didn’t need to be full width just tall enough to fit and be sure it would slide freely.  The typical design for sliding bypass doors provides runners with a deeper guide on the top than the bottom guide so to be installed, the panel can be pushed up into the top slider with enough clearance to get past the bottom rails and seat into the lower channel. Then it drops down, leaving just enough height in the upper channel to retain the doors. I learned the ideal height was between 19-1/2 and 19-5/8″. The challenge was that my table saw has a 12″ width bed, so I made a remote fence using a stepstool to hold the fence in place.

04 flat install

I cut the two panels at 19-1/2 high and planned the width to have about 1″ overlap.  That made each panel 13-1/2″ wide.  I made sure to make my cuts to have the grain run vertically and use the best part of the wood.

I test fit the panels in place and it looks promising. We’re looking at what ultimately became the back of the panels.  More on that soon.

05 flat stainThe next step was to stain the panels.   A first I tried a dark stain, visible in the rear of the picture at left. It matched the teak but no one is going to be fooled into thinking that is teak.  I’m much happier with the Colonial Maple stain in the foreground than the dark teak color on the rear.I originally tested some dark stain but frankly it was not very convincing so I went with a much lighter color to capture more of a knotty maple or pecan appearance.

06 flat stainStained on right, unstained on left. Originally I was planning to use the boring, back side of the panel, but when the stain hit these knots, I had to go with the gorgeous figured side.




07 flat drillFinally I installed the door handles, which are closet-door style round brass inserts. It needed a 2-1/8″ hole so I made a trip to Harbor Freight, where I found a set for $10.  Not the bi-metal kind, but fine for wood.  I was careful to use a scrap of wood for a backer and cut halfway through the wood panel from each side.



09 flat finishHere’s how things look with the doors installed.  The next step will be to apply a few coats of polyurethane varnish to protect the doors against moisture. That’s the Sealand toilet in the foreground.


Teak floormat for the Head

The molded in shower pan on the right is flat but slightly beveled for drainage

Seen from above: The molded-in shower pan on the right is flat but slightly beveled for drainage

The Nor’sea 27 sailboat (most models) has a fiberglass liner in the head area that has a raised molded-in platform on its aft edge for the head installation, leaving a slightly depressed section on the right as a molded-in tray. Some owners have plumbed in a handheld shower and installed a drain in the tray, which tilts to the front left edge.  I haven’t gone that far, but I thought it would be great to have a teak floor to protect the gelcoat in this area, which is prone to water and wear.

For that reason, I’ve been carrying around the rough measurements in case I ran across something promising. Roll-up String MatAt the 2013 Strictly Sail exposition in Oakland, California, I bought a teak string floormat for about $40. When rolled out flat the mat measures about 19-3/4 inches on a side, and is made of plantation teak. They’re called “string mats” but in fact, the strings are stainless steel cable on the good ones. The interesting thing is that the flexibility of the construction will lets it conform somewhat to shower pan, which isn’t exactly flat, sloping slightly up at its edge.

I located the same mat later at Bed, Bath and Beyond

 for about $60, at retail. It’s made by WaterBrands.They also sell a rigid mat, but as it turns out, The rollup mat is the way to go. 02 test boardThe first step in any installation is to measure very carefully because, I’ve learned in the past, nothing on a boat is typically exactly what it seems. In this case the fiberglass shower pan is mostly square, but it tips up on the port side of the boat a little to meet the hull. The string mat has a advantage of being able to conform to that rise nicely.


I measured 18-3/4 inches width overall and found it was consistent across the pan, but I noted that there is a slight radius to the corner edge, just about a 16th inch on each side, so I narrowed it to about 18-5/8″ The first thing I did was cut a piece a pine of that size test it out. It fit well in the middle center and top with about a 16th inch gap on either end. That’s about what I wanted; I could fit in there more perfectly if I coved the inside edge of the corner, but I do want to get a little bit of circulation around each end to help prevent rot. 03 endcutUsing the wood I trimmed as a guide, I lined it up with a mat and found that I would need to trim 1″ but because of the location of the cables just a couple inches from each end I would need to cut both ends of the mat at 1/2″ to avoid leaving one of the stainless cables too close to the end. 18 5/8 inch length was just a touch wider than my tablesaw fence could accommodate with stability so I used an extra clamp to square things up. As I cut each piece of the mat tended to kick back some with some four so I was careful to position myself out of the line of fire. 04 cutoff

Next I flipped it over and cut the other side. I was able to cut fairly cleanly without much chip out.  There were some slightly rough edges to touch up with sandpaper, but I wanted to check the fit first.




05 inplaceI went ahead and test fit the mat in the bottom of the floor pan, and actually couldn’t have had a better fit. Moving the mat left or right causes it to ride up on the 16th inch radius so it’s really happy with that kind of spacing I provided.



07 bevelsandNext I had to finish the ends a little bit so I wrapped a piece of adhesive sanding disk around a triangular ruler and use that to smooth the corners between pairs of the boards. I also around the edges just slightly on top and bottom those 12 boards are so makes for a lot of edges and sides.


08 teak oilNext I used some teak oil and a rag to treat the newly cut surfaces. The end cuts of the boards really soak up the oil. I went ahead and gave the rest of the mat a light oiling.




10 test fit

The last photo shows the mat oiled and installed in the boat. It really makes a big difference in the appearance, and the teak boards will help protect the fiberglass gelcoat from scratches.