Here’s how to flush mount marine electronics with the new panel mounted on the outside of the console or dashboard.
Flush mounting electronics not only looks good, it increase the value of your boat, and keeps everything on the same plane for easy viewing and switch handling.
You’ll Need Five Things
- Build a panel or use an existing panel
- Fit the built panel to the opening it will cover
- Properly arrange and layout each piece of gear
- Mark the panel and make the cutouts for each piece
- Install the electronics and the panel
Any do-it-yourselfer can accomplish a professional looking job with a few simple tools and the proper techniques.
Since each installation is unique, some minor adjustment to the following methods and examples may be necessary for your particular setup.
All marine electronics, whether flush mount or bail mounted, will require power hook ups and connections to things like an antenna or transducer.
Our goal here is to give you the knowledge and ideas needed to do a flush mount installation of any type of electronics or electrical gear. We’ll use instructions and examples.
Make The Panel
If you’re mounting in an existing panel skip to Arrange the Electronics. Several panel materials will do the job, fiberglass, Plexiglas (acrylic plastic), Starboard (polyethylene plastic), or even wood.
We’ve used Starboard in three-quarter inch thickness on previous installs. This material is readily available in several colors and is very easy to cut, shape and drill. Next, the panel needs to be cut to the proper size to fit the opening.
Fit The Panel
To flush mount marine electronics in an outside the console panel like the one in the photo you should size the panel an inch or two larger than the opening it will cover to allow for attaching screws.
Once the panel is sized to the opening rounding over the outside edge with a router adds a nice touch. Mounting screw holes should be drilled and countersunk now. Then test fit and mount the panel to make sure all is correct. If all looks good remove the panel.
Arrange the Electronics
Before you make any cuts in the panel for individual pieces of electronics, build a template out of cardboard. Simply cut a piece of cardboard the same size as each piece of equipment you plan to mount, not the size of the cutout needed but the full size of the face of each piece of gear. Then lay them out on the panel to make sure everything fits.
To flush mount marine electronics right, make sure you check behind each piece or gear you layout to assure adequate clearance for the unit, the wiring and access. Separate each piece by enough distance so that you can keep at least one full inch of panel material remaining between cutouts.
A few things to keep in mind, not all of the panel are will be usable for mounting electronics. Some will be needed for mounting the panel, so remember to do your layout in the usable area.
Some electronics may require a flush mounting kit supplied by the manufacturer, if thats the case have it in hand before you do your layout as it may change the amount of panel space that item will need.
Mark the Panel and Make the Cuts
With the layout complete, it is time to make the individual cutouts. An old carpenters adage certainly applies here, measure twice and cut once. Start by measuring the piece of electronics to be mounted, this time measure for the actual cutout needed by each piece of gear.
Most items will need a rectangular-shaped four-sided cutout with some radius on the corners. Use a drill that approximates the corner radius, drill the holes as marked, then use a jigsaw to connect the dots.
Continue with this procedure until each piece fits nicely into its respective cutout. If any of your electronics are round it is best to use a matching hole saw to make the cutout. If you are doing your installation on an existing panel all the same techniques will work just fine, just be aware that drilling and cutting fiberglass or fiberglass over wood will be a little more difficult.
Finally, Install the Electronics
With the panel and cutouts completed its time to flush mount marine electronics. The Northstar displays had provisions for flush mounting in the case back so they were secured with the provided studs and bolts.
To flush mount marine electronics without these provisions but normally mounted with a bracket, the VHF radio for example, we used the bracket holes to secure the unit. With the VHF radio slid into its cutout in the panel the threaded mounting bracket holes were almost two inches away from the panel. I made a 1 by 4-inch strip of 3/16 inch thick plastic for each side.
A 1/2-inch long slot at the approximate distance of the threaded holes was added. Then I inserted a bolt through the slot and threaded it into the VHF case. Hold the radio tight in the panel and the plastic strip tight against the panel back, then tighten the bolt to lock the radio in place. After doing this on each side and tightening both bolts to hold each strip securely the radio is locked in place.
Since your panel has already been test fitted into the boat, final installation should be easy. I was able to install all electronics in the panel then mount to the console.