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Old 15-12-2014, 12:48   #1
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Instrument Pane - Time to ask the experts

Alright, so I'm pricing out some replacement Volvo Penta instrument panels and had a near heart attack at the price of $1400 each ..

Sooo.. I'm exploring options. The gauges are no problem as there are some loads of aftermarket gauges for a fraction of the price. Its the actual panel material itself. My original plan was black King Starboard, but I've been doing some rethinking.

I have some very nice Aluminum on hand. I'm thinking about painting it black and using it instead (it would be free). Can anyone think of an issue with using painted Aluminum sheet for this purpose. They will eventually be mounted in the cockpit and screwed to fiberglass. All the gauges have plastic bodies, so no galvanic corrosion between them. Comments?
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Old 15-12-2014, 12:52   #2
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Re: Instrument Pane - Time to ask the experts

Gauges may be plastic but what about trim rings, screws, etc. I would bet the screws would be SS. Plus what will you use to attach the panel to the glass?

Use SS but put a nylon washer between that and the Al.
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Old 15-12-2014, 12:58   #3
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Re: Instrument Pane - Time to ask the experts

I dont see any problem but another option would be black lexan which you could buy pre or post fabrication for the cheap.

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Old 15-12-2014, 13:23   #4
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Re: Instrument Pane - Time to ask the experts

Lexan or Acrylic are both options and very cheap for me as I own a laser cutter.... but I'm not a fan of either in high UV applications. Lexan is especially poor where its exposed to constant UV. Acrylic becomes brittle within a couple of years. That is why I dismissed them as an option..

I guess I could paint the Lexan with Krylon Fusion but I don't know how that would hold up.
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Old 15-12-2014, 13:43   #5
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Re: Instrument Pane - Time to ask the experts

You certainly raise a valid point about Lexan's deterioration. I have a folder for templates so I can easily bang out a replacement when needed.

With not much more work you could lay up 1/4"-1/2" glass with laminating resin (or visit a local boat yard and a scrap of hull. Easy to cut with any blade, fill, fair and paint (even with krylon) and would last forever...

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Old 15-12-2014, 16:05   #6
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Re: Instrument Pane - Time to ask the experts

Every aluminum sheet panel, painted or not, that I have seen in the elements looks very bad after a few years. If you could powder-coat it, it would be better.

Either buying a piece of fiberglass sheet and painting it, or making one yourself with black gelcoat would be my preference. Cheap and easy and stays looking the same forever.

Most gauges don't have screws - they fit either by a plastic ring that screws tight to the back (tachs), or by a press fit screw bar that doesn't penetrate the panel (oil, temp, etc). So you don't have to worry about that with aluminum.

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Old 15-12-2014, 16:14   #7
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Re: Instrument Pane - Time to ask the experts

Aluminium and sea water is never a great combination for something you want too look good. Painted aluminium tends to corrode once you have just one scratch or nick.

There are plenty of prepreg composite panels available that make a good option for flat panels if you like the look of the weave. If not they're easy to paint. Carbon fibre looks good and is low glare.

Stainless or brass might look good too. You can polish, buff matt or use a rotary disc to add the overlapping circles if you're looking for a particular effect.

Timber is also an option. Varnished to suit.

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Old 15-12-2014, 16:46   #8
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Re: Instrument Pane - Time to ask the experts

Hhhhmm you learn something every day...

I was only worried about galvanic corrosion between the panel and the gauges. I never thought longevity or cosmetics would be an issue. We use painted aluminium every day in some pretty hard areas (oil rigs). 10 years later and it looks as good as when it was installed. Of course, we don't have any seawater up here. We also use some pretty high quality epoxy based paint.

Personally I hate powder coat as it doesn't last for crap up here. Powdery residue within the first year, then large chips come off shortly after. It doesn't matter how meticulous I was in the prep.

I still haven't dismissed the aluminum idea, but you have given me something to think about.

Another option would be painted (want it black) FR4 material. Pretty sure it would last forever and is light.
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Old 15-12-2014, 16:55   #9
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Re: Instrument Pane - Time to ask the experts

HDPE High Density Polyethylene Sheet - Cut to Size or Full Sheet

We call it puck board in Canada. It's what the "boards" are covered with in hockey rinks.
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Old 15-12-2014, 16:56   #10
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Re: Instrument Pane - Time to ask the experts

Myself I've had good luck with Alclad aluminum, Alclad is 20% of the thickness is a layer of pure aluminum over the alloy.
Anodizing has worked well too, look at all the fishing boats who's T tops are anodized aluminum, usually clear anodized, but you can have several different colors
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Old 15-12-2014, 18:21   #11
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Re: Instrument Pane - Time to ask the experts

Quote:
Originally Posted by deblen View Post
HDPE High Density Polyethylene Sheet - Cut to Size or Full Sheet

We call it puck board in Canada. It's what the "boards" are covered with in hockey rinks.
I actually called Johnson Industrial Plastics and we talked about puck board. They were very clear that its not UV stabilized and they had no idea what it would do in the tropics when exposed to high amounts of sun. They don't use it on outdoor rinks around here.

Anyone have any experience with using it outdoors?

Anodizing.... Damn why didn't I think about that.. I have done that in my shop before.. Off to do some reading...
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Old 15-12-2014, 18:31   #12
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Re: Instrument Pane - Time to ask the experts

Buy a sheet of carbon fibre - not outrageous price now


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Old 15-12-2014, 19:10   #13
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Re: Instrument Pane - Time to ask the experts

I would (and will, as I, too, have Volvo panels with temp and oil pressure alarms but no gauges) use G10 superdense fiberglass sheet material. I have used this for a radar mount plate that is still in excellent condition. I spray-painted the radar plate gloss white to match the mount.

Defender and Jamestown Distributors both sell Current Corp G10 in various thicknesses. What you don't use for the panel will make excellent backing plates when you need them.
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Old 15-12-2014, 19:29   #14
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Re: Instrument Pane - Time to ask the experts

Make your own, with everything you want on it. Simple.
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Old 15-12-2014, 19:35   #15
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Re: Instrument Pane - Time to ask the experts

Here are the assembly pics:
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