Navy Display Board

I have a few bits’n’pieces from when I was in the RNZN that I have always intended to put on display somehow, and some other items of mine from that era of my life that I hadn’t considered to be (but have since dawned on me that they would be good for such a display).

From the last Wood Show, I was given the piece of Huon Pine that I was using to demonstrate surface planing on the Torque Workcentre.  It is around 1500 long, and about 60mm thick.  Natural edges, and one face of a reasonable standard, but the other full of faults so a large amount of the board would have to be wasted to get it clean, or choose a project that only revealed the front face.

It occurred to me that it would make a good display board, especially if I cut it in half, and glued the two halves together to produce a squarer display.

Step one was to crosscut the slab.  So it was straight onto the Torque Workcentre, as the slab is too heavy to crosscut by bringing it to the tool, so the tool had to come to the slab.  A SCMS could have done the job, but as I only have a GMC, and it is stored in the other shed (not good enough to have room made for it in the main shed), it was a lot easier to use the TWC setup.  The TWC also has a significant crosscut capability (currently 600mm on one arm, 900 on the other.  I normally have up to 1300mm, but the 1300mm arm is still AWOL 😉 )

Stock Preparation

My next problem was the natural edge on both sides of the slab.  This meant I couldn’t simply run it through the tablesaw, because the irregular edge would not follow the fence, and cause all sorts of grief. Instead, I went with a sled – a piece of MDF with a straight edge that can run against the fence, and the slab secured to the MDF.  I didn’t want to cause any damage to the slab, so used small pieces of MDF screwed down to secure the slab.

I ran it through the tablesaw, using the Flai Ultimate blade, as I knew I would be able to go straight to glueup off this blade.  I ran the second piece through as well, flipped upside down just in case the blade wasn’t perfectly vertical.  This way it wouldn’t matter if there was a slight bevel angle on the blade, the two pieces would still be complementary, and result in a smooth glue face that married up perfectly.


There was absolutely no question about what to use to clamp this job up.  What I still regard as the best panel clamps in the world (without exaggeration) – the Frontline Panel Clamps (article and video).  So that was left to dry overnight, and in the meantime I started to gather the display items.

Gathering the Collectables

Have found a couple more pieces since this photo, and had a (small) brainwave.  What I have here are the crests of the three sea-going ships I served on (HMNZ Ships SOUTHLAND, WAIKATO and TE KAHA) (I also have a crest for one of my brief shore postings (shore establishments are also regarded as ships in the navy), but not for the other, and neither are grey warships).

I have a few brass labels from HMNZS WAIKATO – I was the very last officer onboard (Officer-of-the-Day) when the ship became decommissioned. It was then prepped, and sent to the bottom to become a dive site.  Typically the boiler and engine rooms are blanked off from divers as being way too dangerous to enter, so what I have from the boiler room would have been sent off to scrap metal otherwise.  I spent a lot of time as an engineer in the boiler room – many, many watches, where the temperature was typically around 100F, humidity 100% (with all the steam!), and noise around 120dB.  I knew every pipe and valve (one of the first jobs you get down there, is to trace every pipe and draw a schematic diagram of each and every steam circuit, and be able to recreate the main ones from memory, and get to know every single valve, and its location off by heart. In the boiler room alone, this was over 100 different valves).

There is a new brass label from TE KAHA (a spare one made for a valve in the Gas Turbine room), a gauge from WAIKATO, and one of my cap badges (the saltiest one).

As much as the Navy are seen in perfect whites when on parade, there are two items that shout your real experience – your cap badge, and you rank slides (the ones on the shoulder)  The more tarnished (from sea salt, etc) they are, the ‘saltier’ you are.

Since the photo, I have also found some of my shoulder boards and epaulettes (boards are solid, for summer shirts primarily, and epaulettes are cloth, so can be worn on shirts under other items (jumpers, overcoats etc), another brass label, and my navy torch and a wheel spanner.  More on those when I take a photo, but they are two indispensable tools when on engineering watch in a steam-powered ship (such as SOUTHLAND and WAIKATO – both Leander class frigates).

When I mount the final product, I also have the shell cartridge from the 4.5″ gun of WAIKATO, and the 5″ gun of TE KAHA to display on either side.

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