Building a Wooden Sliding
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Sliding Hatch has become ubiquitous as the main-hatch cover on many
popularity is due to its practicality, ease of use and the
efficient use of space which, is particularly welcome on small boats.
If you are planning to build your own there are a
number of criteria
hatch should attempt to address.
your preparations for the sea are poor; the sea worms its way
in and finds the problems."
- It wants to be leak proof as possible.
Lockable, to keep out the thieves.
Good to look at so as not to spoil the overall look of
It should be strong enough to be walked on.
It should slide open easily without jamming.
As maintenance free as possible.
And relatively easy to build
Below aresome ideas for building your own sliding hatch.
Sliding Hatch Size.
If you are replacing an old sliding hatch
then the size may
very well be preordained.
However, if you are building
from scratch then you are
free to design your hatch to suit your requirements.
The larger the opening the
easier it will be to enter and
exit and the more easy it will be to stow bulky gear below.
But the larger the span the
stronger the hatch is going
to have to be, especially if it is likely to be walked on.
And the larger the hatch the
heavier it is going to
The minimum size to allow for
normal ease of access needs
to be 24inch/ 610mm square but preferably with at least one of the
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imposable to make any sliding hatch completely waterproof, especially
there is driving rain, spray and even green water washing over the
However, you can go a long way
towards eliminating drips
by judicious use of rubber drip seal.
A double cross beam at the
forward end of the rail
framework will trap much of any water blowing from ahead and a couple
scuppers will allow it to drain away.
The hatch should be built from
a stable hardwood which
won’t swell and contract too much when whetted and dried in the
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numerous ways in which your hatch can be made to slide.
While wood sliding against
wood will work reasonably
well, as long as the running surfaces are well waxed or greased, this
arrangement will tend to stick when wet.
easily and consistently if at least one of the running faces is
Brass is the preferred metal
for slide runners, stainless
steel could be used but brass looks better on a wooden boat, bronze
even better but is more expensive.
On Mignonne I was able to use
some old sail track for the
runners, this had the added benefit of being pre-drilled for the fixing
The runners should be about
twice the length of the hatch
The rails must
be parallel and
perfectly straight along their entire length.
When making the rails they
must be chamfered to fit the
cabin top so that they are not distorted when they are fastened
The hatch in the drawing has a
brass strip running in a
wooden groove, however the hatch will slide more easily if you design
metal running on metal.
On the other hand you don’t
want it running too
freely or it will be sliding backwards and forwards every time the boat
and bobs in the water.
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sliding hatch, during its lifetime is going to have to put up with a
amount of abuse, from being slammed backwards and forwards and from
Corners could be rebated but
should be reinforced with a
dowel, they will be stronger if made with finger joints or
The hatch covering will not
only look better if curved
but will be more able to withstand being walked on.
The top can be laminated from
layers of ply or if you
prefer tongue and groove, just make sure the timber is not prone to too
expansion and contraction when wetted.
The side runners, frames and
rails must be made parallel
and not allowed to bend when fastened down.
You also need to consider how
the hatch is to be locked,
both from the inside and outside.
A simple sliding bolt will
suffice to hold it closed from
The form of locking you use on
the outside is a matter of
personal choice, my own preference if for something which will deter
opportunist thief but which will allow the determined burglar to get in
causing too much damage.
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For most wooden
boat owners there is nothing to compare with receiving complements on
appearance of their boat, much better than complements about their
Much of the appearance of your
boat will depend on the
Details such as the style and
shape of the hatches and
those little finishing
A curved top will always look
better than a flat
And a sliding hatch which is
higher towards the aft end
looks more rakish and somehow more proper than one which slides
Idlers walking along the
dockside who look down on your
deck will be impressed if your hatch has a smart hardwood trim and the
are finished off with a birds-beak.