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Old 21-01-2008, 14:24   #1
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Material for a control panel

I'm arranging a new control panel in an out-of-the-way area of my cat, and I'm trying to find an appropriate material. It should be thin so that the switches and guages can fit, and stiff so that it can hold the weight. Size is approximately 30 cm by 40 cm, to hold a bunch of voltmeters, amp meters, toggle switches and a little fuse panel. I looked at nice exotic wood panelling, but it's all too thick for the guages and switches to stick through. These guages and other electrical gear appear to be set up for steel panelling, which I can't get and dont really want.

Right now, I'm leaning towards buying a sheet of that material that is usually glued to countertop, and placing one thin sheet of fibreglass to the back. I can reinforce it with 1 cm x 1 cm hardwood on all 4 sides, and screw it in place on two of those. Any better ideas?
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Old 21-01-2008, 14:27   #2
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Will Starboard work? I used Plexiglass for my inverter controls. Formica, stainless steel?
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Old 21-01-2008, 15:09   #3
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I used some textured black plastic for our instrument panel - found it at a local plastics distributor. It's about 1/16" thick.... I used 1/4" plywood and glued the plastic on it. Really slick - you can't see any fasteners and no glare.

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Old 21-01-2008, 15:11   #4
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panels

Like the previous Plexiglass/lexen etc sprayed the underside with black if you want.

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Old 21-01-2008, 15:29   #5
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I like the layer approach. Something like an ABS sheet material that is better with UV over something more structural but not wood. Matching them so they bond together will be important. Not everything glues to everything. Formica plastic does not weather very well outside but the idea of a plastic is good. Adjust the thickness for mounting gages and add structural frame and cross members with additional layers. At 34 by 40 it will have some flex to it so you may need mounts in addition to just the out side of the frame. That would allow it to be thinner yet remain solid.

Given it's going to be in weather and not inside. You might add a stainless piano hinge across the bottom so it can flip down for servicing too. Having all those wires on a loose panel is just begging for a problem the first time you have to reopen the hatch to access behind.
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Old 21-01-2008, 15:54   #6
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Go and see your local engraver, they use a material called Traffolyte. It is a multi layer formica product with different outer and inner colours, available in 1.6 or 3 mm gloss or satin. When engraved it shows the contrasting colour. I made hundreds of panels for boats in a prior life. If you don't mind the bucks for them to do it they can cut the holes and engrave the text, looks very professional when installed.

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Old 21-01-2008, 15:56   #7
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aren't your gauges held in with u shaped brakets on the back? if so shorten the legs to fit the thickness of your faceplate etc. then you can get a rigid backing for them!
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Old 21-01-2008, 21:45   #8
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Do you want any labeling?? I would approach an engraver and ask what they use for laser engraving. The material is similar to formica with the black surface, but the laser etches right through the black and leaves you with the white lettering. A few years back, a similar material was used and the lettering was cut by a high speed burr. The material they use today with laser is a little different and the lettering looks smarter.
In fact, I wouldn't mind betting you can do a drawing of the panel with the bezel sizes of the gauges and the laser woudl most likely cut and etch all at the same time.
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Old 21-01-2008, 22:32   #9
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I refitted our galley a couple of years ago and after quite a bit of research used sheets of the stuff they sell here for fire surrounds. It's like formica, about 4 mm thich and fire and scratch resistant. It works well with a fine downcut saw and comes in all sorts of colours. Might be worth some thought.
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Old 22-01-2008, 00:26   #10
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Ply is available in a range of thicknesses, and a laminate can be applied to the face of the appropriate piece.

Should a timber veneer be required, contact your local cabinetmaking supplier who should be able to help.

I used a range of 3mm, 12mm & 18mm ply faced with either Rockmaple or Jarrah veneer. I have an advantage - I own a cabinetmaking/joinery business.

Good luck and fair winds

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Old 22-01-2008, 05:22   #11
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All Good Ideas...

...and I'll investigate some of them. keep in mind that many switches and other electrical gear have collars and screws, and even the clearances of the toggles so that they can fit through a thin steel panel or enclosure. Thin wooden veneers and plywood do not work for them. Still, some of those ideas may be better than mine.
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