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Wardroom Bookcase Restoration 2012


This note is a description of the project to restore the aft bookcase in the wardroom of USS Pampanito. It is also thank you note to the individuals and corporations that made it possible.

Sometime during the 1960s when Pampanito was working as a reserve trainer, the aft bookcase was cut apart to fit a large TV used for training videos. When Pampanito became a museum in 1981 a crude patch was added to fill the hole between the wardroom and the locker in the stateroom behind it. Sometime during the museum period, three cabinet doors very similar to the doors on the forward bookcase were found on another ship and recovered for our use.

We do not have any photos from Pampanito's wardroom from WW II. However we found a drawing from WW II and photos from other Portsmouth Naval Shipyard built museum submarines. These photos with our existing un-molested forward wardroom bookcase provided the information we needed to start. However, it was not until 2011 that our crew was introduced to Earl Powell and he volunteered to restore the bookcase.


Building the bookcase from scratch using the same methods and materials (16 gauge galvanized steel) would be difficult enough, but in this restoration we had to preserve as much of the original historic fabric as possible. So Mr. Powell not only had to match the irregular sized space where the cabinet fits, but also the irregular pieces of the original damaged cabinet and the doors.

These bookcases are unique in that they are staked together with pins instead of welded. This was done so they can be dissembled before battery replacement, removed, then quickly reinstalled after battery replacement. This was one of many details that had to be documented and replicated.

The doors also presented challenges because they each have small differences in dimensions. All three doors had previously had locks of a different style than those used on Pampanito's cabinets. There were no locks in the doors when we found them. We made an extensive search and could not find a combination key and hand latch that worked the same as the ones used on Pampanito. We had some standard size locks donated and then realized that they would require significant changes to the doors to fit the locks. Eventually we were fortunate to have custom built latches donated, and then we created custom adapter plates to fit them without modifying the doors. A final touch where brass replica handles on the latches.

While installing the restored bookshelf unit we learned that we needed to put shims around the door (wooden tongue depressors) to preserve the shape of the cabinet while bolting in. This will be helpful someday when the bookshelf comes out again to repair the bulkhead behind it.

We also took inspiration from the bookshelf work to repair the fluorescent lighting fixtures (replaced the damaged 15 year old 120 VDC ballasts.) We also replaced the broken cover plate, thread adapter and reflector of the lighting fixture forward and outboard.


We need to replicate the missing shelves. Of course will also keep looking for the original style of locks.


We appreciate the advice, help, and donations from individuals and companies that made this project possible:


Earl Powell, Project Leader, Tin Knocker
Max Eisner
Ralph Waller
Rich Pekelney
Volunteers and Staff of USS Pampanito,
The "dream consultants" and class instructors of TechShop,


Earl Powel
Kenstan Lock Company,
Dean Lewis Associates,
Sequoia Brass and Copper,
Rich Pekelney
Vectric Ltd.,


photo before removal
Before restoration, the remains of the bookshelf and the replacement shelves.

Earl Powell
Earl Powell measures up the existing bookshelf.

Line drawing with few details
WW II drawing from microfilm.

Photo from another sub.
Photo from USS Lionfish WW II submarine museum.

The pieces in our shop.
The removed pieces of the original bookshelf in our shop.

Computer rendering.
Computer model of replacement parts.

Drawing of replacement part
Drawing with bending allowances from CAD.

Layout, scratching the shear (cut) and break (bend) lines.

flat sheet metal ready for bending
Sheet metal lofted, sheared and ready for breaking.

Photo of stake
Stake used to hold the pieces together.

Photo of stake
Stake holding the pieces together.

Installed, waiting for handles on the latches, paint, and shelves.

Installed, waiting for paint touch-up, and shelves.


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