Nov. 2007 Settee/Table Conversion Article

One Little Thing Leads to Another (or A True Tale of Unintended Consequences)
by Bill Hudson, text and carpentry
Marty Hudson, agreement to buy boat and fund projects
Keith Johnson, photography

This is a photographic supplement to the article printed in Good Old Boat magazine, November 2007. The text reproduced below is an overview only and intended to serve as an accompaniment to the full article.


My wife, Marty, and I enjoyed sailing Take Five, our new 1982 Allmand 31. However, something was not quite right. The settees were uncomfortable and the varnished table simply did not work. It was a drop-leaf design with a center box and lid. However, when the port side leaf was raised, it extended far enough to push into our middles. The starboard side leaf, on the other hand, left about a 10-inch reach for anyone seated on that side. Something had to be done.

Why was our couch at home so inviting? I tried to measure the angle of the seatback-to-bottom cushion with a plastic semicircular protractor. It wasn't easy to obtain an accurate measurement with such a small device. I created a reasonable imitation of a couch-sized two-armed protractor from a cardboard box. Now I could use the plastic protractor, together with the cardboard pieces, to measure accurately.

Bill engaged in data collection with the cardboard protractor

Starboard settee with cardboard protractor, facing forward

Starboard standoff and sleeping extension without cushion

Starboard settee with cardboard protractor, facing aft

Our couch's seat-to-back cushion angle was 115 degrees. The Allmand's settee seatback angle was only 10 degrees past vertical at 100 degrees. On the boat, we had been sitting nearly bolt upright.

Port settee showing standoff and fixed bottom extension

Starboard extension

All I had to do was increase the seatback angle a few degrees to match the couch's angle. One way to achieve the desired rake of the back cushion would be by moving its bottom toward the center by placing a length of wood, such as a 2 x 4 board, on the bottom cushion to achieve the intended seatback angle.

Then came the unintended consequences of a theoretically simple design modification. To feel just right, the base of the back cushion needed to be 6 inches away from its original position. The bottom cushion would have to be repositioned 6 inches farther toward the center. This meant making a long settee extension so the bottom cushion could provide the necessary support.

While the drop-leaf table barely worked before the cushion modification, now it was useless. First, I would have to work on the starboard settee. Until it was finished, I would not know the critical dimensions for the replacement table. A slide-out extension for the starboard settee would be a welcome addition to our accommodation plan. This would allow a wide sleeping space in the main cabin on humid nights.

Finished table ready to serve four

Bill and Marty's friend, Keith, opening the table

Table end shot showing box frame, pedestal, and arm extended

Table for two, showing open table support arm, facing forward

The great table design elimination process began. Our choices narrowed to a bulkhead-mounted table or a pedestal-base table. Intense discussions followed relating to how the table should open: hinge down and pull up or fold over. Our decision was influenced by the fact that the prior table had a robust aluminum pedestal and there were bolt holes in the bulkhead and screw holes in the sole. The final concept utilized a foldover system on a permanent pedestal.

While the table and leaf nest evenly, they are not identical. The leaf was designed to be 7 inches away from the bulkhead to allow clearance for the mast compression post. We use this space between the mast support and the bulkhead for a 2-gallon container of spring water.

Another issue was the leaf support. I chose a single arm for this.

Table support arm open, showing end piece

Oil lamp and water container next to mast compression post

Finally, it was time to sit back and put that refreshing drink on a coaster. We now have a comfortable cabin where my wife and I can linger over a cup of coffee, plan a voyage, or seat four adults for dinner. We can sit back and relax with our weekend reading or even discuss a possible project discovered in magazines catering to boats of a certain age. All in all, not a bad outcome for a good old boat.

Bill at the finished table, relaxing while hard at work