Bi-Fold Aft Door

ceb_aeronauticaldoor1A few months ago, I saw Guy & Bobbie Bugbee’s Aero-Nautical (32-073) in Gig Harbor, WA. I immediately noticed the beautiful “full door” leading from the cockpit to the saloon (see photo). Guy is a first-class cabinet maker in addition to flying planes for a living.

I thought I’d like to do the same (not the flying part), but build a full width door to replace the two half-doors on our 1991 tug. Those of you who have 1999.5 or newer tugs don’t need to read any further as you already have aluminum full doors.

ceb_foldedopen2In contemplating this project, I thought, why not use the existing doors to make a full door? I thought about joining the two doors together to make a solid door, then thought: why not hinge the two and make a bi-fold door. After much thought and proto-typing, I came up with a plan.

I removed both doors from the tug, taking them home to my workshop. After removing all of the hardware, I ran the starboard door through my joiner, to remove about an eighth of an inch from the edge of the door to allow for the additional piano hinge width between the doors. I filled all holes with teak plugs. To fill the door latch hole, I made a ceb_fullyclosed3large plug using a hole saw, without the center drill bit. Be sure to clamp the material tightly to the drill press table and drill slowly through the 1″+ teak material.

I laminated a piece of 1″ teak to the top of the starboard half of the door for the new “dead bolt” (see photo). No more padlock and hasp to lock the door. Without the hasp and padlock, a potential burglar doesn’t know if someone is aboard or not.

When measuring for the door latch/handle, be sure to measure several times to make sure you have the exact ceb_fullyopened4measurement. You have only one chance to drill the hole correctly, unless you want to fill/plug it and drill again. The offset on the port door backing strip is narrower than the backing strip on the starboard side door frame.

Each door was originally hung with two hinges. I used the two starboard door hinges on the port door, so there are now a total of four hinges supporting the door’s weight. The bronze piano hinge between the two doors is 48″ long and fastened with 22 Roberts (square drive) bronze screws each side.

ceb_halfopened5As you can see from the photos, I chose not to strip the doors and bleach the unfaded teak to match the faded teak. I thought about using my router to make some fancy “inserts,” but felt it was more trouble than it was worth.

The door can be opened full width or folded back on itself with the outer half positioned between the cockpit locker and the port side of the door frame. It also allows more room when boarding from the starboard side—one doesn’t have to deal with the half-door being in the way any more.

Charlie & Sharon Billings
Nobska – NT 32-057