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Date: 2 October 2015. Backing Plates.


Aboard boats often we utilize backing plates. They are used to reinforce or strengthen an attachment point. I've got lots of them on Seaweed. Larger yachts do too. Of late they have been an essential part of the galley changes I'm making. Today I'll show you my newest money-saving backing plate solution.

If the only tool you have is a hammer, soon every problem begins to resemble a nail. It's the same way with hinges for me. I find them useful for attaching items in lieu of braces, brackets, and shelf supports. With a backing plate, hinges are almost perfect.

First, know that I have a propensity to use hinges. I have bunches.

In the galley I've been making changes. The latest is described in the Securing a Refrigerator (fans too) article. Atop my new refrigerator/freezer, I wanted a shelf.

Hinged (see above) at the aft bulkhead, I can raise the shelf when necessary. With the shelf out of the way, I should be able to remove the refrigerator with relative ease. I'll simply move the microwave, then lift the shelf.

That is important. Behind the refrigerator I have a pair of fans. One blows on the compressor and the other sucks air from the cabinet. Having access to replace the fans is going to be important down the waterway.

I *thru-bolted the hinge, with a pair of backing plates. One is on the inside. The other is on the outside of that bulkhead.

*Thru-bolted is a fancy way of saying the fastener (bolt) goes from the inside, through to the opposite side of whatever you're attaching to. In this case, I'm going from the inside of my galley cabin through the aft bulkhead and will attach the nuts on the opposite side of that wall. On boats, walls are called bulkheads.

I've used FENDER WASHERS AND NUTS to secure the backing plate
to the aft bulkhead.



Screws, Nuts and Bolts, plus Fender Washers

Screws have a pointy end that holds tight when inserted in wood.

I keep a variety of screws in a little kit that is easily accessible.

Nuts and Bolts: Sometimes bolts are called machine screws. They are the ones with the flat end. A nut holds it fast when it's thru-bolted through something. To thru-bolt means to have the bolt penetrate fully to the opposite side of whatever you're holding together. A nut then keeps the bolt from pulling out.


Fender Washers are very large (usually at least four times the size of the nut) flat disks that help *spread the load. For this project my fender washers are the size of a quarter.

Standard washers are just slightly larger than the nut.


*Spread the Load means that a larger surface is involved. As an example, you can with relative ease pull a sewing pin through a piece of fabric. If that pin has a larger end (such as a pretty bead) it will be much more difficult to tug through.

It's a similar principle for Fender Washers. They spread the load (enlarge the contact point) so that pulling through should not ever happen. That's the theory anyway...

The backing plate also helps spread the load. That's why backing plates are used so often in boats. Anything mission critical will have a backing plate. All your cleats do, your windlass, the swim deck attachment points, handrails, etc.

But back to my galley... The ideal solution would have been to use StarBoard as a backing plate. It's the correct color (white) and thus would match the exterior of Seaweed. Really, it's wonderful stuff. Recently I used some StarBoard (pronounced Star Board) scraps in another project described in the
StarBoard Stops piece.

But this is now, and alas, I didn't have enough for the needs at hand.

Aboard Seaweed, saving money is a necessity. Because I didn't need the strength nor quality offered by StarBoard, I could come up with another solution. I knew that using wood outside in the cockpit would be my last choice. Essentially, I wanted a StarBoard knock-off at a bargain price.

That's when it dawned on me that cutting boards are a similar material. They are made from a plastic that won't easily break. I decided to buy and use a 1/4" thick cutting board as the backing plates required for the galley shelf project. The one I bought from Walmart was $12 and measured 15" x 20".

Three strips were cut, each 17" long. That's the length of the stainless hinge.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about that.

Addendum: Todd in the Comment section below rightly pointed out something that I was not clear about in this article. Specifically, in no way, shape, nor form would StarBoard or even worse, a cutting board be suitable as a backing plate for a cleat, windlass or other high-stress item on a boat.

For those, 1/4" stainless would be a good place to start. That's what I have for my windlass, samson post, etc.

And thanks Todd, for catching that.

Have you ever used unusual items as backing plates in a pinch?
What did you use and is it still serving the purpose?

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