Friday, July 11, 2014

Winch Bases on the Cheap

Throughout the entire restoration project, I've had ideas of how I wanted to tackle various projects so I could file them away in my head to flesh out while I'm unable to be actually working on the boat.  However, the winch bases were one of those things that I pretty much ignored because there was always something more important to take care of at the time. Eventually, as they kept coming up in my brain's 'to-do' list I decided that instead of wasting precious time and money building them from wood, I would throw money at the situation and buy them.

Spartan Marine in Maine makes some really pretty ones that I liked a lot and fit my particular winch. So, for the past year I have been reassuring myself to not worry about the winch bases, I just have to pick up the phone and order them and they will be at my door in two days, ready to bolt on.  Well a few weeks back when it was time to actually pick up the phone and order them, I balked.  I do like those stands, they are really nice looking and frankly would save me a good amount of time, but at ~$250 each, the Minister of Finance living somewhere in my addled brain woke up and started yelling to me: "STOP THE BLEEDING".
The Minister was right.  Even though I don't have a lot of time, I have more time than money.  I'll sleep when the boat goes in the water.  So with the Minister's decision final I started picking through my dwindling inventory of Sapele to find something I could use.   My original plan was to stack and epoxy 2 or 3 2" blocks up and shape them to something that the winch would be happy on.  Unfortunately, I didn't have enough 2" thick stock left, but did have a bunch of 2" Honduras Mahogany that I could use but I was worried the difference in color between the Mahogany and Sapele would make the block really stand out. Also, I never really cared for the look of varnished end grain Mahogany, it just gets too dark (almost black) and never really gets shiny with varnish.

I finally decided that I would use the Mahogany as the base material, but face it with 1/2" Sapele that I could plane down.  This way I would have that nice Sapele ribbon grain showing and not much end grain.  I began by cutting the Mahogany into "house" shaped blocks and stacked them with an Aerosil and epoxy mixture to give me the desired height.

Once that cured up, I cut and planed the Sapele face pieces and cut those to the same height as the epoxied up blocks.  I cleaned up the squeeze out from the first layup and then it was just a matter of epoxying the Sapele blocks around the front side of each block.  The only tricky side was the angled side because it was difficult to clamp at that angle.  Overall all the layups took 4 days, but the time spent on each one was only a few minutes (mix epoxy and Aerosil, spread it, place face blocks, and clamp)

With everything glued up, it was time to shape it down.  Using my trusty Shinto rasp (best thing ever: see here), I shaped each block down to a pleasing (to me) shape.  Not quite circular but not angular either. Next, I brought them over to the boat and fitted them to the coamings.  The angle between the coamings and the deck is not 90 degrees, it's more like 95, so I had to rasp down the back of each block so they would fit nicely along the coaming.  They will be bolted through the deck with the six winch bolts and then screwed to the coaming and bedded with SikaFlex 291 (mahogany color).

Now that the blocks where shaped and fitted to the coamings it was time to drill for the winches.  I positioned the winches on each block and marked the center of each of the six bolt holes and drilled them out using a 5/16" bit.  I test mounted the winches to make sure I had drilled all the bolts straight and then after pulling them off, I sanded everything down and got the first coat of varnish on.  I may drill the deck holes today but I need to get a longer bit first and I won't do a final mounting until I get 5 or six coats of varnish on them though.

Overall I'm pretty happy with the way they came out and the Minister of Finance is ecstatic!  Maybe I can now convince him that I really need a 10" bulkhead mounted chartplotter.


  1. Nice and nicely done. Did you consider using a half inch or three quarter inch round over on the top edge?

    1. You know, I never thought of that... I wish I had, I think that would have looked better, but now that I have 5 coats of varnish on, I'm a bit reluctant to take it all down again.