Welcome to my blog about Live Magic, a Vivacity 20 yacht based on the south coast of England. Here I will update on trips, maintenance and any projects being undertaken.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Hatch Sliders

When I bought Live Magic (Vic back then!) she had some plastic to allow the hatch to slide open and closed. I think this was at some stage the plastic rubbing strip found on some dinghies but had long since suffered at the hands of the elements. This plastic was wavy for want of a better word, and the hatch would jump up and down as it was opened and closed with the most awful screeching noises. Fast forward a few years while I ignored the situation and I plonked a dinghy on the coachroof following a trip to the pub. The plastic snapped. Bugger. So, on to the fix or so you'd imagine. Not quite. Plastic comes in various shapes, sizes and types. I looked high and low for something appropriate to no avail. My dad then surprised me by coming up with some UPVC window strip which was a perfect fit (mine being 40mm x 5mm thanks to various wear and tear). This was THE answer clearly. It was the right size, the right shape, and £3 a strip. Dad only had just over a metre though, so off we went to B&Q who had 45mmx5mm or 40mm x 7mm both of which would require filing a larger hole on the hatch, and I hate removing bits of the boat permanently. So, long story short I cut the bit my dad had in half and suffered with half sliders for a while. A long while. Nearly a year. This was fine, except that every time I opened the hatch it would scrape on the roof, and every time I closed it, I'd have to line up with the shorter sliders to lock it. This was tiresome, but my laziness knew no bounds. Someone else mentioned stainless sliders on a forum or Facebook a while back so while bored I googled stainless bar on a whim and it was cheap. Really cheap, why had I held out for plastic?!

So I bought some. The sliders needed to be 1120mm length and the flat bar in 40mm x 5mm was available in 250mm increments so I bought two 1250mm lengths plus a 250mm length for testing. This is important in all your boating DIY endeavours, ALWAYS buy an extra bit for testing!
So, upon arrival, I measured a second time on the boat and marked up length and width with a sharpie (permanent marker). Width of the runner was obviously 40mm but width of what I would screw into wasn't, and on the Vivacity goes from about an inch to about 2/3 inch over the length in question so the holes would need to line up. As you'll see later the holes had to be pre-drilled (another vote for plastic!!). I then cut them to length with a hacksaw. This took AGES. 316 Stainless bar hates tools and saps energy. Maybe I'm just weak but I like to think I can cut a bit of metal without trouble!

So next step was some holes. How far apart? Well here I happened to have some (wrong sized) UPVC strip to hand due to an earlier error. Realistically, for about £3 it was worth it just for this testing. As you can see in the pic I tried a hole pattern to see how it looked. I tried two in fact, and the closer spacing won, with 6 holes in total. Some quick match led to spacing evenly with a nice gap at the end, all spacing done for aesthetics really since this bar is going nowhere with 5, 6 or 7 screws.

So...drilling...did I mention that 316 stainless hates tools? I Googled and found I needed HSS drill bits. A friend later told me cobalt works better, and he knows what he's doing. He also said go slow and use a cutting compound which seems like sage advice. I used the other advice plastered all over the Internet. This advice goes thusly...stainless will work harden when you do anything so be sure to make a cut first time and keep going. This advice works but anyone with empathy for their tools will weep. The first hole was smoking, literally. Hot as hell but made it through with a reasonably neat hole. I'm pretty sure this is not the optimum method but I managed 12 good holes. The HSS countersink seemed particularly pissed off with me, and performed exactly the manoeuvre the Internet foretold with a very bumpy ride. Anyway, it all worked and the therapy has allowed me to forget what I did to the bits and the drill.

Speaking of drill, you will literally kill yourself with a hand held drill, so I once again brought out the pillar drill (you may remember the pillar drill from my teak project with plugs). This is important. Use a guide, you'll see my homemade guide in the pics which is a bit of wood bolted tight to allow me to slide the bar along and keep holes in the same place. This means I could position accurately without effort and also that I could revisit every hold accurately with the countersink since they were all the same distance from the side of the bar.
Safety safety safety with this stuff. Wear gloves for the heat, I touched the drill bit at one point to see if it was hot. It was. Wear goggles for the flying shrapnel since they cost £2 and your eyes are priceless. Wear a dust mast because the stuff in stainless is evil and will destroy your lungs. Maybe not drilling but sanding without doubt.

This pic shows the drilled and countersunk holes. Notice how dull the bar is, this needed fixing. I went and bought a bench grinder and metal polishing kit online to shine it up a bit. Sadly I underestimated the metal again and the surface pitting from manufacture was quite deep and could not be polished. When I finally (after many hours of using wet and dry paper) realised that metal is just REALLY hard shiny wood, I tried some 120 grit paper and started to make progress. Painful progress but progress nonetheless. I bought a belt sander to speed things up, since this is basically a linisher without the fancy stand, safety, built for purpose type features. This was amazingly better. Belt sanders will destroy anything in a hurry and so obviously I had to be careful. I used the 80 grit to start and get the pits out. Clamp your bar down to allow you to forget about projectile weapons and work on sanding. I moved up from 80 grit to 100 then back to manual sanding with 240, 400 then 600. This was all 2 days into the project so frankly I'd lost interest in a mirror shine by now and spent too little time finishing off. As luck would have it, I actually realised the folly of mirrored surfaces on the coachroof in summer. Not ideal to suddenly see the full fury of the Sun while tacking!

So what you see is a compromise between laziness, effort, results, and being able to see on a sunny day. It's quite shiny but not completely reflective. The steel fits well, and will likely never break. It is, however, really REALLY hard to work with. It's also cold and uncomfortable to lean on compared to plastic and adds weight to a boat which could probably do with dropping a few pounds. Overall I'm happy with the results, but this is one of the hardest projects I've done and I hope to not need stainless again for a while as it's harder than rocks!


  1. Excellent job.. I concur with the slow speed and plenty of cutting fluid. I managed to melt a HSS drill bit on SS once.:D

  2. Dave - just noticed, 11 months since a post - trust all is well on the "Live Magic"...