Cruising World - - Hands-on Sailor - BY ROGER HUGHES

he orig­i­nal saloon ta­ble on my Down East 45

TUn­happy with the ta­ble in your saloon? Build a new one with th­ese sim­ple steps.


schooner was a sin­gle heavy sheet of 3⁄4-inch-thick lam­i­nated ply­wood, 27 inches wide by 57 inches long. It was sup­ported on two sub­stan­tial alu­minum pedestals lock­ing into large, round col­lars screwed to the floor and ta­ble.

There were two an­noy­ing prob­lems with this struc­ture: It was per­ma­nently mounted on the port side of the saloon, so peo­ple sit­ting on the star­board set­tee couldn’t reach the ta­ble. It was also dif­fi­cult to squeeze in and out of one end be­cause the chart ta­ble bulk­head was in the way. It was a very large but also im­prac­ti­cal ta­ble, so I de­cided to build my­self a more ver­sa­tile one that could seat more than just three peo­ple.

My new de­sign would have a nar­row, fixed cen­ter sec­tion, with hinged leaves on ei­ther side that swing up to reach ei­ther or both of the set­tees. This is hardly a unique con­cept, so why didn’t the orig­i­nal builders do it this way?

To make it the right height for the set­tees, the ta­ble needed to be 27 inches high, but this meant the new leaves could not be more than 27 inches or they would catch on the floor when they were down. With both leaves open, this left a 13-inch space in the mid­dle, which de­ter­mined the width of the fixed sec­tion. The ta­ble would be 43 inches long to al­low ac­cess on all sides.


I started with a 4-by-8-foot sheet of oak ply­wood from Lowe’s. The folks at the store cut this large, heavy sheet to my three panel sizes on their cir­cu­lar saw, which saved me a

lot of time and en­abled me to fit the pieces into my ve­hi­cle.

I wanted rounded cor­ners on all the pieces, so I traced around a tin lid to give me a ra­dius, then cut the cor­ners with a fine scrolling blade fit­ted in my jig­saw.

I de­cided to lam­i­nate the table­tops with a high­pres­sure melamine lam­i­nate, sim­i­lar to Formica, be­cause it is both hard and scratchre­sis­tant. I found ex­actly what I was look­ing for on the Wil­sonart web­site. It is a re­al­is­tic-look­ing teak-grained lam­i­nate called Nepal Teak in a high-gloss fin­ish that looks just like real var­nished teak. I spe­cial-or­dered a 4-by-8-foot sheet from Lowe’s. It is 3⁄64 inch thick, and I cut it to the ap­prox­i­mate size of each ta­ble sec­tion us­ing metal cut­ting shears, leav­ing about a 1⁄2-inch over­hang on all sides. Then I glued them on the ply­wood us­ing, Weld­wood’s orig­i­nal con­tact ce­ment, which is more liq­uid than the gel va­ri­ety. I spread it on the ply­wood and lam­i­nate sur­faces with a 6-inch roller, then waited for the glue to be­come tacky. When join­ing large sur­faces of lam­i­nate with con­tact ce­ment, you have to get it right on the first try be­cause the ce­ment bonds on con­tact and there is no wig­gle room. I placed the lam­i­nate on my work­bench with the glue side up, then laid two thin wooden bat­tens on each end. I put the ply­wood on top, glue side down. The wood strips kept the two pieces apart while I po­si­tioned the ply­wood ac­cu­rately above the lam­i­nate. It was then a sim­ple mat­ter to slide the bat­tens out and press the ply­wood to the lam­i­nate. I then placed the board on some pa­per on the house floor and walked all over it in my deck shoes. This ap­plied much more than the 75 pounds of pres­sure called for in the glu­ing in­struc­tions and firmly pressed the pieces to­gether.

Af­ter leav­ing the three boards overnight for the glue to har­den, I care­fully trimmed the lam­i­nate flush with the edges of the boards, us­ing a router with a ver­ti­cal cut­ting bit and roller-bear­ing guide. This pro­duced a sharp, straight edge to which I in­tended to fit teak trim all the way around.


I had some 1⁄2-inch-thick teak slats left over from a for­ward­cabin re­build that were just right to make the straight-edge trim for the pan­els. Of course, this was much too thick to bend around the cor­ners, so I used my jig­saw to cut rounded trim from bits of solid teak I had saved from pre­vi­ous projects. All the trim had to be drilled and coun­ter­bored, then screwed and glued to the edges of the three boards. Then all the holes — 75 to­tal — had to be plugged and sanded.

I de­cided to make fixed fid­dles on the cen­ter sec­tion be­cause the things that in­vari­ably get placed there are li­able to slide off when the boat rocks — even in a ma­rina. I cut strips to length and beveled and rounded the tops, then shaped both ends in a grace­ful swan’s-neck curve to join the cor­ner trim. I left the cor­ners open to en­able the ta­ble to be wiped, and to add a bit of dec­o­ra­tive ac­cent.

An un­usual stum­bling block I didn’t an­tic­i­pate was keep­ing track of all the pieces of trim that had been shaped

to match the in­di­vid­ual edges and cor­ners. I made 12 cor­ner pieces, four edg­ing strips for fid­dles and eight other edg­ing trims. All were slightly dif­fer­ent, be­cause this ta­ble was noth­ing if not “hand­crafted.”

I hinged the ta­ble’s leaves us­ing six stain­less-steel slid­ing pull-apart hinges — three on each leaf. Th­ese al­low the leaves to be eas­ily de­tached from the cen­ter sec­tion when nec­es­sary, such as to ac­cess the floor­boards.


The main­mast com­pres­sion post on my schooner is a 4-inch square post pass­ing through the saloon to the keel­son, and it of­fered a per­fect sup­port for one end of the ta­ble’s cen­ter sec­tion. I used a 4-inch brass-plated butt hinge to sup­port that end of the ta­ble, screw­ing one half of the hinge to the com­pres­sion post with a teak block spacer and the other to the un­der­side of the ta­ble. The spacer is im­por­tant be­cause it en­ables the cen­ter sec­tion of the ta­ble to hinge up and hang with a strop to a deck beam when I need ac­cess to the floor­boards. This at­tach­ment method also al­lows me to re­move the ta­ble com­pletely by sim­ply knock­ing the hinge pin out, sep­a­rat­ing the two halves of the hinge.

To sup­port the other end of the ta­ble, I shaped a leg out of ply­wood. I at­tached it at the top with a short pi­ano hinge that al­lows the leg to fold flat to the un­der­side of the cen­ter sec­tion of the ta­ble when­ever it’s lifted to get to the floor­boards. I se­cured the bot­tom of the leg with two pins that drop into flanged bush­ings I set in the floor. I made the pins by screw­ing 1⁄4-inch-di­am­e­ter stain­less wood screws into the bot­tom of the sup­port, then hack-saw­ing the heads off and round­ing them with a file.

To sup­port the ta­ble’s leaves, I bought two at­trac­tive turned­wood ta­ble legs, grandly termed “early Amer­i­can ta­ble legs,” from Lowe’s. I fas­tened the top of each leg to the cen­ter of the leaf edge’s un­der­side, us­ing a small brass hinge, so when not in use, each leg folds to the in­side of the leaf, where it is held by a plas­tic C-clip. I screwed 1⁄4-inch-di­am­e­ter pins in the bot­tom of each leg, which drop into bronze flange bush­ings I sunk into the floor. This sim­ple yet se­cure sup­port for the ta­ble leaves is much stronger than cen­ter­sec­tion sup­ports like those I have had on other boats, which nearly al­ways al­low the leaves to sag. I also bought two brass bar­rel-bolt latches, which I screwed to each leaf. The bolts drop into flanged bush­ings set in the floor and stop the leaves from swing­ing about in the folded-down po­si­tion when the boat heels.

I stained the ply­wood on the un­der­side of the pan­els and the ta­ble legs with teak stain, which, when rubbed with a rag, made the wood look amaz­ingly like the shade of real teak. I bought a quart of the stain, called 120 Teak Nat­u­ral and made by Zar, from a lo­cal hard­ware store. When all the wood­work was com­plete, I var­nished it with two coats of Epi­fanes high-gloss wood var­nish. The re­sult is that it’s dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish be­tween the real teak trim and the lam­i­nate.

When both leaves are ex­tended, the new ta­ble is more than twice the size of the old one and looks pos­i­tively ba­ro­nial. More im­por­tant, it is much more func­tional be­cause it eas­ily seats six and al­lows ac­cess all around, yet when the leaves are down it is smaller than the orig­i­nal.

Roger Hughes is near­ing the com­ple­tion of a six-year project restor­ing his Down East 45, Bri­tan­nia. For more on the restora­tion, visit his web­site (schooner-bri­tan­nia.com).

The new ta­ble is twice the size of the orig­i­nal and can be used from both port and star­board set­tees (left). With both leaves down, there is much more room in the saloon, with ac­cess on both sides. The orig­i­nal was per­ma­nently mounted and could only be reached from the port set­tee (above).

I used a jig­saw to make edge and cor­ner trims from spare pieces of teak from other projects. I had to la­bel care­fully to make sure each piece fit to­gether smoothly.

The best way to spread con­tact ce­ment over large ar­eas is with a roller. I waited a few min­utes for the ce­ment to get tacky, then had one chance to cor­rectly po­si­tion the lay­ers.

This is the ply­wood cen­ter sec­tion and im­i­ta­tion-teak melamine lam­i­nate, ready for glu­ing to­gether. I trimmed the lam­i­nate with a router af­ter at­tach­ing the lay­ers.

I cut a cen­ter sec­tion and two leaves out of a sheet of ply­wood, which, when opened, en­abled both sides of the saloon to use the new ta­ble.

This end sup­port hinges up­ward and latches to the ta­ble’s un­der­side when the ta­ble is lifted, giv­ing un­in­ter­rupted ac­cess to the floor­boards.

Pins in the bot­toms of the ta­ble sup­port and leaf legs (above left) drop into metal bush­ings set in the floor (above right), keep­ing each piece se­curely in place. I ta­pered the bush­ings with a large-di­am­e­ter drill to guide the pin into the hole.

Fid­dles on the ta­ble cen­ter sec­tion were shaped to mate with cor­ner trims (above left). De­mount­able cabi­net hinges were ideal to at­tach the ta­ble leaves and al­low them to be eas­ily re­moved for ac­cess to the floor­boards (above right).

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