Switch Panel Project

Sooner or later, most boat owners will find the need to add switches to their boat. Several projects I have undertaken on my boat required DC switches to turn various functions on and off. For wiring, space, and "housekeeping" purposes, it made sense to put all of those switches in one central area.

I have developed a technique that I call "Industrial Art", which combines the functionality of an item, with some degree of artistic flavor. I accomplish this by the use of Corian, combined with stainless or chrome hardware. This results in a project that is both durable, functional, and at the same time, almost a piece of art. I exclusively use Nocturne Corian, which is a solid jet-black Corian. After polishing, the Corian almost takes on the apperance of Onyx.

For the switch panel, I need 10 switches, along with a circuit breaker for each switch. One switch needs to be a locking switch - one that will not change position by accident.

Conceptual idea of the switch panel.

Corian machines quite well with woodworking tools (carbide preferred). There is a slight learning curve, as the Corian does exihibit a brittle property. The Corian is best polished by the use of Micro Mesh sanding pads, up to 12,000 Grit. These are available from woodworking retailers, such as WoodCraft.

DuPont has recognized the artistic applications of Corian, and you can purchase small quantities for woodworking and other art projects at:

Art Specialties (1-800-724-4008)   

You just won't be able to buy it wide enough to install a kitchen countertop, as you can only buy the material up to 15" wide here.

Another possible source is your local kitchen shop. You may be able to buy a sink cutout from them. Of course, eBay always has odd quantities and colors available.

For a professional result, I silkscreened the lettering on the Corian. I used a product called PhotoEZ Silk Screen, available from www.cbridge.com. The only difficulty here is finding a paint or ink that adheres to Corian well. The PhotoEZ product is a photo-sensitive emulsion on a silkscreen film. All you have to do is to create the lettering, graphics, or other design on your PC, print it out on a printer, then using a contact-sheet method, expose the PhotoEZ material in direct sunlight for a few minutes. Developing the silkscreen is done by soaking in water for a few minutes. This takes some practice, but soon, you will end up with a silkscreen template as shown here.



After trying several different types of paints and different viscosities, I obtained the best results with Liquitex Acrylic artist paints; squeegied through the silkscreen. Permanance of the paint can be improved by baking the Corian in an oven for about 15 minutes at 200 Deg F. Be careful here as you can melt or deform the Corian in the oven.

For a more detailed look at the PhotoEZ process, refer to my article on silkscreening on your boat, found here: Silkscreening your Boat

After the Corian panel is completed, all that is required is assembling the switches, circuit breakers, and any other components you need.

You may notice that I had to counterbore the backside of the Corian for the switches as the 1/2" thick Corian was a bit thick to mount the switches.

The final assembled switch panel looks pretty nice I think. I used Keystone Inc. rack handles from Mouser Electronics to provide some protection from hitting the switches, as well as marring the lettering. The lettering is pretty well stuck to the Corian, but it is not quite as tough as I would want. More experimentation is probably needed in finding the best paint or ink.

All of the electrical parts were purchased from Mouser as their pricing is a fraction of the typical marine store.

The upper-left switch, labelled "Stereo Memory" is a special locking switch. To move the switch position, you must lift up on the handle. This prevents the switch from accidently being flipped. It is also available from Mouser Electronics.


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