How to Build Your Own Boat Windshield

by William Machin
Design and build a windshield to fit your boat.

Design and build a windshield to fit your boat.

Boat windshield designs vary from basic to complex. A basic design would be straight across the upper surface of the dashboard in front of the driver's station. A complex design may include wrap-around side panels for additional comfort in stiff breezes. No matter the design, recreation boat windshields are tilted back at the top to provide airflow over the driver's station. You can build your own basic boat windshield using aluminum angle and clear or tinted acrylic.

Frame

Measure the width of the windshield across the top of the dashboard in front of the driver's station and passenger seat. Determine the height you want the top of the windshield to extend above the dashboard. Most boat windshields are about 18 inches to 24 inches high.

Make the frame for the windshield using 1-inch by 1/4-inch aluminum angle and a miter saw with finish blade. Cut two pieces of aluminum angle to the width of the windshield. Cut two pieces to length as the height you want the windshield. Lay the pieces in a rectangular configuration on a worktable with the 1-inch sides of the aluminum facing up and the 1/4-inch edges below.

Position the sides of the frame between the top and bottom pieces and even at the ends. Measure across the rectangle, from corner to corner to square the frame. Adjust the frame until the cross-corner measurements are equal each way.

Cut four pieces of 1-inch wide by 1/8-inch thick aluminum strips 2 inches long as corner brackets. Position the brackets on the corners at the top and bottom pieces of the frame so they extend onto the sides of the frame. Align the brackets with the corners and edges of the frame.

Use 1/4-inch self-tapping screws and attach the corner brackets to the 1-inch wide faces of the frame with an electric drill and screw tip attachment. Each bracket should have two screws at each end to prevent the corners of the frame from shifting out of square. Check the frame for square as you go and adjust it if necessary.

Installation - Part One

Have an assistant hold the windshield in place across the top of the dashboard with the 1-inch wide edges of the frame facing the driver's station. The bottom edge of the frame should be 12 inches from the face of the dashboard. Tilt the windshield back at the top to the desired angle and measure the vertical distance from the top corners of the frame to the surface of the dashboard.

Cut two pieces of aluminum angle to this measurement as vertical support struts for the sides of the windshield. Position one of the struts vertical and against the end of the tilted windshield. Mark the angle where the strut meets the top of the windshield frame. Cut one end of each strut at this angle on the miter saw.

Cut 1-inch by 1/8-inch thick aluminum 2 inches long as brackets that attach where the top of the struts meet the sides of the windshield frame. Stand the vertical struts in place and use 1/4-inch self-tapping screws to attach the struts to the top corners of the frame. The windshield should stand in place at this point.

Cut four additional pieces of 1-inch by 1/8-inch aluminum four inches long as dashboard and vertical strut brackets. Use an adjustable square to determine the inside angle where the windshield meets the surface of the console. Secure two of the four inch pieces vertically in a bench vice. Use a smooth face hammer to configure the pieces to the inside angle by bending them at the middle.

Secure the remaining two pieces in the vice and bend them to 90-degrees at the middle to make corner brackets for the support struts.

Installation - Part Two

Position the angle brackets against the inside of the windshield frame at each where it meets the dashboard. Position the 90-degree brackets at the base of the side support struts.

Attach the upper section of the brackets to the inside of the windshield frame and at the lower end of the support struts with 1/4-inch self-tapping screws. Attach the base section of the brackets to the dashboard with 1-inch self-tapping screws.

Cut a piece of 1/4-inch thick clear or tinted acrylic to fit the frame inside the 1/4-inch edges. Use a circular saw with a finish blade to cut the acrylic. Apply a bead of clear silicone on the 1-inch wide edge of the frame and set the acrylic in place in the frame. Seal the outside edge of the frame where it meets the surface of the dashboard with clear silicone.

Items you will need

  • 1-inch by 1/4-inch aluminum angle
  • Miter saw with finish blade
  • 1-inch wide by 1/8-inch aluminum stock
  • Electric drill with screw tip
  • 1/4-inch self-tapping screws
  • Adjustable square
  • Bench vice
  • Smooth face hammer
  • 1/-inch self-tapping screws
  • 1/4-inch acrylic
  • Circular saw with finish blade
  • Clear silicone

Tips

  • Make a wrap-around by installing acrylic between the windshield and side support struts.
  • Stabilize the windshield for high-speeds with an additional vertical strut at the center of the frame.

About the Author

William Machin began work in construction at the age of 15, while still in high school. In 35 years, he's gained expertise in all phases of residential construction, retrofit and remodeling. His hobbies include horses, motorcycles, road racing and sport fishing. He studied architecture at Taft Junior College.

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