Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Building a Custom Fiberglass Propane Locker, Part 1

As we continue outfitting Phoenix, one of the many questions that we've been pondering is where we're going to put the propane tanks? In Bruce Bingham's original Andromeda design, there was plenty of space between the main cabin and the main mast to allow room for a deck box to store the propane. However, one of Phoenix's previous owners extended both the main and aft cabin tops, so there's no room for a deck box on the foredeck.

As a stop-gap solution, we've used 1 lb propane tanks and Bill attached a 20 lb tank to the stern rail with a L-bracket that he made. While effective in the short run, we wanted something that was more secure and would permanently house two 20 lb propane tanks, and that vents overboard off Phoenix's stern.

Our temporary propane tank holder -- a L bracket attached to the stern rail and holding the tank in place with stainless hose clamps

We began researching different above deck propane locker options, and weren't really happy with sizes we found commercially available. Trident makes a really nice propane locker, if you're willing to spend $1,000+ for a box. That seemed a bit crazy to us, especially since the dimensions of their propane locker are too large to fit under Phoenix's stern rail.

Nothing we found really fit our needs, so we started to design our own propane locker. We began by purchasing a 12-inch cement form from the local Home Depot. There was a surprising amount of size variability between the "12-inch" tubes at our Home Depot, so we had to sort through the stack in order to find one that was truly 12 inches in diameter.

Bill cut down the cement form to make two tubes of equal height and then used some spare cardboard to make a bottom and to fill in the gap between the two tubes. He used packing tape to hold everything together and then systematically covered the cardboard exterior with more packing tape. Viola, his  "Frankenform" was complete!

Making our propane locker form out of cement forms

Bottom view of the propane locker form

Top view of our propane locker form. Each 12" tube is large enough for a 20 lb propane tank

We painted PVA mold release on the form, and then applied one layer of 10 oz Hexel fiberglass cloth, 2 layers of chop mat and a final layer of 10 oz. fiberglass cloth to the form with fiberglass resin to get the desired thickness. Once the resin was fully cured, we removed the cardboard form from our fiberglass shell and checked for fit. We purposefully made the locker taller than we needed, and Bill used a hacksaw to cut the fiberglass base to the desired height and to get a clean edge.

Several layers of fiberglass and resin on the propane locker base

Cardboard form removed from our propane locker base

Cardboard form removed from our propane locker base

Perfect fit for two 20 lb propane tanks!
Cutting the propane locker base to size and making a clean edge
We followed a similar process for the locker's lid and made it slightly larger than the base. However, we incorporated some exterior grade plywood (5/32") to help add some weight and stiffness to the lid.

Fiberglass and resin on the propane locker lid before removing it from its form
Once the lid was done, it was time for dewaxing, fairing and preparing to paint the propane locker.

Propane locker base fair and ready for primer

Propane locker lid with primer

Propane locker base with primer

Nice high gloss with the finish paint
Our new custom fiberglass propane locker

With the propane locker painted it's time to move on to installing the propane system and making it ABYC compliant. As you can see from the diagram, there's more to having a safe propane system than building a fiberglass shell, so in part 2 we'll talk about the gaskets, securing the lid to the base, venting, and the rest of the propane system. Stay tuned...


  1. Looks sharp, even better than I thought it would when you described it to us earlier. Great job

  2. Looks awesome, nice job. Fire up the barbie!

    1. Thanks! Can't wait to fire up the grill and the stove/oven down below. Once we thaw out here we'll be back to work on the install!