This is the new table I built for my boat. My boat did not come with a cabin table which made eating below a bit of an adventure. Some food was balanced a bit on the steps of the ladder, some on the top of the cooler and yet more sort of scattered around wherever there was an open space. All in all a bit of an awkward solution.
I thought of many ways to do the table, some were long down the center of the cabin, others had legs that would be in the way or would have been easy to tip over. My 23rd redesign was a two foot square table the hooked on the middle step of the companion way ladder and was held up with an angle brace to the step below it.
I bought a 24 inch square piece of 0.5 inch thick Polypropylene Sheet from Online Metals along with some pieces of aluminum. The 0.5 inch thickness was chosen because it would not require extra reinforcements to stay flat and it would hold 1/4-20 threaded fasteners. I chose the Polypropylene Sheet because it would not require extra finishing that would have been required with wood. Also if the table gets banged around a bit of soap and maybe fine sandpaper and the ding is fixed, no chipped varnish to repair.
I did a mockup of the table top and the support leg. Yes that is a level being used on the boat. I wanted the table level forward to aft to prevent things from rolling off. I also made a cardboard pattern of the tabletop to check the fit with the ladder and to see how the table would be to work around.
Note the angle aluminum on the right side of the picture. The angle hooks under the step to help lock the table in place. The angle aluminum by the cutout corners lock the table in place to the step so even if the table is bumped it will not come loose from the ladder. The angle aluminum hook requires a bit of extra clearance to hook over the step to let the other angle aluminum pieces slide forward and drop down on the step. I made a cardboard cross section of the hook and locking pieces to make sure the dimensions were correct. The inside corners were cut with a hole saw. The wood piece is just to hold up the angle brace for the picture. The brace folds flat against the bottom of the table top.
View from the underside showing the table support with the table on the top step of the ladder. I moved the table up to the top step to take the picture, normally the table is mounted to the middle step.
The finished table.
Cutting: Polypropylene is sort of gummy and melts at a low temperature. Use a coarse saw blade and slow speed if you are using a powered saw like a jig saw.
Edge Finishing: I used a 1/4 inch radius router bit with a ball bearing guide, that gave a diameter that matched the thickness of the Polypropylene sheet. Both the top and bottom of the table top was rounded with the bit to give a diameter that matched the thickness of the table top. This was for safety and easy of handling, I did not want a sharp edge. After routing the edges were blended with sandpaper. Polypropylene is easy to work and sand, blending the cuts was easy with a bit of sandpaper on a block of wood or a rubber pad.
Top Finishing: Polypropylene sheet comes with a shiny slick surface (see the view of the bottom side for unfinished sheet) I took a random orbital sander and buffed the top surface with wither 80 or 120 grit (sorry I can’t remember which grit and have misplaced the test sample) this gave a nice matt finish and the top is not as slick as from the factory. The net result is a soft white finish.
Fasteners: I used 1/4-20 oval head Stainless screws to fasten everything together. The screws were blind tapped into the table. I did not want the screws to be seen from the top of the table and not having the fasteners on the top side makes cleaning the table top easier with no place for junk to be caught. Extra care is required because the plastic is soft and the thread can be stripped out either when tapping the threads or assembling the table parts.
Miscellaneous: The plastic is heavier than wood and the table would not float if dropped overboard. The table is a single piece so it is a bit awkward to handle at times. A bit of sanding was all it took to finish the surface of the table, no varnish or epoxy. Someday if I get real ambitious I might make a new table top out of fiberglass with a balsa or other lighter core.
Since the table is not intended to be used underway there are no fiddles on it.
How does the crew like the table? Great!! Much easier to have a meal down below after sailing. Another crew member that had seen the pictures thought the pictures did not do the table justice.
Thanks for your interest in and support of boating safety.