Top-Shelf Templates

Of course, not everyone gets into a spot where they’ve got to create a super-accurate template, but the task is certainly not beyond the pale for even your average refit/rehab artist, whether professional or amateur. And don’t get us wrong here—we’re not talking templates for non-slip surfaces topside, the kind you make from clear plastic and use in conjunction with SeaDek or similar EVA products. Nope, we’re talking templates for accurately replacing or rehabilitating worn out bulkheads, side panels, and furniture-related components inside your boat.

But what’s the best way to create such a thing?

Well, if you check out the Web, you’ll find all kinds of methods that are touted as the best and the brightest, using everything from cardboard (not stout enough to guarantee precision) to MDF or Medium Density Fiberboard (too darn heavy and tough to cut) to slats or battens of pine or spruce screwed or nailed together (way too complex and unwieldly). But here’s an approach we think is way better.

It features a material that’s cheap, lightweight, almost plywood-stiff, and comparatively simple to use. Ordinarily sold as “Twinwall Plastic” or “Corrugated Plastic,” the stuff can be found at almost any Home Depot or Lowe’s store and will probably cost about $14 per single, 4’ x 8’ sheet. Moreover, tubes of special, Twinwall-specific, fast-curing silicone will likely be found on sale nearby for a few bucks (to glue your template together as you build it) along with some equally inexpensive, knife-like tools that’ll help you produce stacks of narrow, 8-foot-long, die-straight plastic Twinwall strips or slats that constitute the building blocks of our nifty method.

A quick DIY example? Let’s say you want to add a layer of nice mahogany or teak veneer to a beaten-up old fascia board that supports a settee in your boat’s saloon. Obviously, you need a template in order to accurately cut and shape the veneer.

Begin by using small wood screws to precisely but temporarily secure 3-inch-wide slats of Twinwall horizontally along the top and bottom edges of the fascia board, from one end to the other. Next (and again, being very precise about it), add two, much shorter slats of Twinwall vertically at the opposite ends of the fascia board, overlapping the horizontal slats in part, top and bottom, and securing these laps with screws and a thin layer of silicone. Then, add a few more vertical slats with screws and silicone (at 2-foot-intervals, say, or thereabouts) to brace the template and make sure it maintains its exact shape while you work with it.

The final step? After allowing the silicone to cure overnight (while the template remains pinned with the screws to the fascia board), remove the screws and lift your grid-like Twinwall construct free. The accuracy of the resultant shape, and the stiffness of the Twinwall itself, should just about guarantee a piece of veneer that fits like a glove.