Aluminum Hard top

Discussion in 'Modifications/Customizations' started by hillsideshortleg, Jan 10, 2018.

  1. hillsideshortleg

    hillsideshortleg Member

    175
    Feb 5, 2012
    Lake Pend Orielle, Idaho
    89 Sea Ray 280 Sundancer
    2 350's Mercruiser drives
    I am wondering why I wouldn't want to fabricate my own Aluminum hard top on my boat. I would like to attach it to my arch as well as two points in front near the windshield. Then in the back attach the aluminum to the back side of the arch and 2 point near the back of the boat. I would consult with the upholstery shop for mounting zippers for the isinglass windows
    Please let me know if I am stepping into a pile by doing this.
    Thanks
    Rick
    We specialize in fabricating one of a kind driveway gates. But not boat tops!!
     
  2. northern

    northern Well-Known Member

    Jan 17, 2007
    West coast Vancouver to Alaska
    380 Aft Cabin 1989 GPS and Charts by Nobeltec
    Twin 454 strait shaft
    I saw one once on a larger boat (46 feet). The frame was tube and the skin was sheet aluminum. It was well done, followed the lines in the boat and painted to match the boat. On a small boat it might look big and out of place. A 1/8" plywood mock up might give you an idea how it would look.
     
  3. hillsideshortleg

    hillsideshortleg Member

    175
    Feb 5, 2012
    Lake Pend Orielle, Idaho
    89 Sea Ray 280 Sundancer
    2 350's Mercruiser drives
    [​IMG]
    As it is now above below is what I am thinking.
    [​IMG]
     
  4. NorCal Boater

    NorCal Boater Well-Known Member SILVER Sponsor

    Jan 24, 2008
    Covington, LA
    Cobalt CM23
    GM SB 383" Stroker" Alpha Gen I
    Why?....
     
  5. hillsideshortleg

    hillsideshortleg Member

    175
    Feb 5, 2012
    Lake Pend Orielle, Idaho
    89 Sea Ray 280 Sundancer
    2 350's Mercruiser drives
    Well that got me to thinking!! both my wife and I like looks of the hard tops, don't like the maintenance of the canvas, Cooler in the summer?, More water proof, We boat in cold weather early spring and late fall into the low 30s high 20s at night mostly and would to have a better insulated top. We would like to think it's an improvement to the boat. Am I fooling myself?
     
  6. dcpringle

    dcpringle Member

    442
    Dec 13, 2012
    CT River
    2000 Sea Ray 480DB "Diamond Girl"
    Cat 3196 660HP
    We love our hardtop on our boat. One of the wants when we were upgrading was the hardtop for the same reason you listed above. We now have heat and ac there too. Good luck with your decision.
     
  7. Lazy Daze

    Lazy Daze Well-Known Member TECHNICAL Contributor

    Apr 21, 2009
    PA
    Various
    Various
    I think it's great idea to experiment with different ways of doing things. Since you can make the aluminum stiffer than canvas (obviously), I wonder if you could eliminate the aft-most support pole (for the aft bimini). You might be able to run one pole right back down to the arch - possibly part way up the arch, even. The main reason you currently have two poles is (1) so the bimini can fold and (2) so the bimini stays in place and isn't "pulled" towards the arch. A hardtop is not affected by either of those options.

    A couple "negative" thoughts going through my head...

    -- It's going to be loud when it rains.
    -- On a cool night, with the all the canvas in place, there could be a lot of condensation collecting on the underside of the top?
    -- If it's just a flat sheet of tin, it could dent easily. Bends/ridges in the sheet would help... although since it sounds like you deal with this stuff, you likely know that better than me.
    -- To do what I mentioned above, would the attachment point at the arch need to be more secure than it is now?

    Can you glue on a vinyl layer on the underside?
     
  8. Quint4

    Quint4 Well-Known Member TECHNICAL Contributor SILVER Sponsor

    Oct 6, 2006
    S.W. Ohio
    330 Sport Bridge
    5.7 MPI 350 Merc Bluewaters
    If you are a skilled fabricator with an eye for design, it could be great.

    If you are neither, it could be a total trainwreck.

    Interesting....keep us posted.
     
  9. hillsideshortleg

    hillsideshortleg Member

    175
    Feb 5, 2012
    Lake Pend Orielle, Idaho
    89 Sea Ray 280 Sundancer
    2 350's Mercruiser drives
    We would eliminate some of the frame work inside that supports the bimini. In the past we leave the canvas on and never take it down. I think one of the reasons I don't like boating during the day is I don't like baking up front while cruising. I may be overboard but I was thinking of a 1/4" aluminum so I could make sure and sand out any brake lines created during the curving process. I also think we will want some sort of thin 1" insulating material with a finished upholstery on the underside. It would wouldn't be just a formed sheet of aluminum it have to appear to be a part of the boat from the factory or I wouldn't move forward with it. Attaching the zipper hardware to the aluminum is a question mark for me right now aside from wondering if I am a kook for wanting to do this. We cant afford our dream boat, A 400ec so I put my effort into this boat. It may sound goofy but it's my wife and I's only escape from work and it has been a life changing experience getting into boating.
     
  10. Woody

    Woody Well-Known Member PLATINUM Sponsor

    Nov 20, 2007
    N. Wisconsin/Lk Superior
    2005 420DA
    Cummins 6CTA8.3
    One CSR long time member has a custom hardtop. I think on a late 90's 330DA. He might have some tips but I can't remember who it is.

    Now I remember, it was CSR member 'dpmulvey'
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2018
  11. Lazy Daze

    Lazy Daze Well-Known Member TECHNICAL Contributor

    Apr 21, 2009
    PA
    Various
    Various
    I think you definitely have some work ahead of you, but I'm curious to see how it goes.

    Attaching isinglass to hardtop... I'd probably forget about zippers and use the "slide-in" style. It's essentially the same idea of how your valance (the thin piece between your arch and the canvas) attaches to the arch. You can get those pieces in aluminum - it's very commonly used with "fishing boats" and their hardtops. Or, if you like zippers all the way around, you can just use more valance pieces around the perimeter.

    Have you thought about some type of roll/brush-on sound-deadening material for the underside of the arch? And then some foam/vinyl to finish it off.

    If you use the same "valance" method to attach the Al pieces to the top, I wonder if that joint will end up being slightly loose since you're not "snugging" the top down the same way you would if it was canvas? Thru-bolts to attach it?

    Just throwing out some random thoughts!
     
  12. JVM225

    JVM225 Well-Known Member

    Apr 8, 2008
    Farmingdale, NY
    2002 410 Sundancer, Monaco Edition.
    3126 Cats.
    I’m not a big fan of canvas either. The green flys around here love to congregate on the underside of it when running, the seagulls love to crap on it at the dock, and it gets hot as hell under it. My next boat has to have a hardtop.
    I’m thinking the noise, condensation, and risk of dings on aluminum may make it a tough choice.
    Since you specialize in fabricating custom gates I’m wondering if it might be easier for you to fabricate some supports for a fiberglass hard top out of tubing, put them in place on the boat, make templates out of cardboard or styrofoam and then just have the fiberglass panels made and bolt them in place yourself.
    It might be a bit more expensive to have two fiberglass panels made but if you looked at newer boats with hard tops and took some design cues from them it would probably look and work out a lot better.
     
  13. hillsideshortleg

    hillsideshortleg Member

    175
    Feb 5, 2012
    Lake Pend Orielle, Idaho
    89 Sea Ray 280 Sundancer
    2 350's Mercruiser drives
    Progress on the top. I am committed now.!!! Got the aluminum tops bent up and the arch mounting bars. After we get the angle right for the mounting bar we will tack it together. We will cut the amount of wrap around we want to see which will match the canvas. [​IMG]
    Two 10' long sheets that will make the front and back[​IMG]
    Bars which will mount to the front and back of the arch. Below is the back parts cut off the 10' sheet clamped together to get an idea of weather or not I just stepped in a big pile of Sh#$. I am starting to feel like we can do this. I am into it about 1 thousand so far not including labor. If anyone had any tips on things I might be doing wrong I would love to hear about it before I make the mistake. That is besides telling me not to do it. LOL
    [​IMG]
     
  14. tdschafer

    tdschafer Well-Known Member SILVER Sponsor

    Aug 24, 2009
    Long island , NY
    1997 330 sundancer
    twin 454's, Carb, V-Drives
    Looks pretty cool so far!! I am interested to follow this project to completion thru your posts. Then maybe I'll ask you to fabricate one for me! LOL

    BTW: My arch is actually made of aluminum!
     
  15. hillsideshortleg

    hillsideshortleg Member

    175
    Feb 5, 2012
    Lake Pend Orielle, Idaho
    89 Sea Ray 280 Sundancer
    2 350's Mercruiser drives
    We cut the back cover and shaped it. Had a fair share pf problems getting it fit in place. This will make the front one easier as we are on a high learning curve. Next we will detail out the underside so it will have a nice finished look for inside as well. [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    Captain Rod, Jetgod and tdschafer like this.
  16. tdschafer

    tdschafer Well-Known Member SILVER Sponsor

    Aug 24, 2009
    Long island , NY
    1997 330 sundancer
    twin 454's, Carb, V-Drives
    Looking good!
     
  17. Quint4

    Quint4 Well-Known Member TECHNICAL Contributor SILVER Sponsor

    Oct 6, 2006
    S.W. Ohio
    330 Sport Bridge
    5.7 MPI 350 Merc Bluewaters

    Attached Files:

  18. hillsideshortleg

    hillsideshortleg Member

    175
    Feb 5, 2012
    Lake Pend Orielle, Idaho
    89 Sea Ray 280 Sundancer
    2 350's Mercruiser drives
    A couple of the guys at our shop were talking about color matching a Duraline or Rhinoliner on our tops. Does anyone have any experience with this type of finish on boats. Am beginning to worry about the color match of the gel coat. OR any other ideas?
     
  19. joeyleggz

    joeyleggz Member

    330
    Jan 15, 2013
    long island
    current boat: 1997 sea ray 330 express cruiser
    twin 454's efi
    looks awesome great diy!!!
     
  20. tdschafer

    tdschafer Well-Known Member SILVER Sponsor

    Aug 24, 2009
    Long island , NY
    1997 330 sundancer
    twin 454's, Carb, V-Drives
    My arch is aluminum & I had it repainted a couple years ago. I recall it was a Chrysler color that was color matched to the gelcoat by the shop but ended up a little "whiter" than my gelcoat. Same as the original arch color!
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2018

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