DIY stitch and glue Drift Boat Building -- Online Drift Boat Plans

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sandy's Treatise

Treatise on Driftboat Building for an Angler The following started off as an email conversation between Roger Fletcher and me. Roger suggested turning it into a web page. That seemed like a good idea. So here it is. I started off building framed boats in 1979. My first boat was built from plans I bought from an ad in the back of Field and Stream, from a guy in Fernwood Washington. My buddy's all called that boat Sandy's Lead Sled. It was so flat bottomed you couldn't keep the transom out of the water, so it was impossible to slow down. The next few boats I built were inspired by Keith Steele's great boats. The handling and performance of my boats got better over time, but I was dissappointed when I saw what happened to fir plywood that had paint or varnish on it. I read something about Instant Boats by Dynamite Payson and a light went on. "I can build driftboats that way" I said to myself. I made a boat with temporary and removable ribs. I duct taped small pieces of visqueen to the temporary rib-chine corners, so they wouldn't stick to the glue. And I eliminated the inside chine strip. Then I turned the boat over (still with no bottom on it). I straighted up the form (sides attached to temporary ribs) and layed the square bottom panel over top, traced out the sides and then cut it out, and then attached it. I used bailing wire and epoxy putty to stitch the sides to the bottom panel. I removed the bailing wire with a soldering iron (to heat the wire, so it pulled from the glue). Then I removed the temporary ribs and fiberglassed the inside. I added gunwales and seats and voila: I had a lighter boat. There were no ribs. It was 'encased' or 'encapsulated' in fiberglass, so the fir plywood didn't split and crack. The fiberglass was a thin, transparent layer so it still looked like a wooden boat. The term stitch-and-glue wasn't happening then, so I called them 'ribless boats.' This technique can be applied to any framed dory. You can start with plans for a framed dory and apply those techniques instead. Take your pick. It's a construction technique decision. There is no framed boat that cannot be built as stitch and glue. The layout and sizing dimensions for the permanent ribs of a framed boat simply become temporary formers on a stitch and glue setup. In 1986 I was feeling frustrated by the sizing constraints of 4x8 plywood. I read about balsa core sandwich layups for racing sailboats. Balsa could be pieced together to form any size panel. So I made a balsa-core boat (the Honky Dory) that had a 56" bottom. Balsa turned out to be a good-news bad-news idea. Balsa core does build a very light weight boat, but you do have to fix fiberglass cuts almost right away, because balsa core does soak up water and fiberglass does get nicked. So balsa core turned out to be less than perfect, but wide bottomed boats turned out to be a revelation. Wide bottomed boats float in shallower water and they are a lot more stable. Then it dawned on me that 48" plywood wasn't a design constraint after all. If you can scarf plywood to make it longer you can scarf it to make it wider. Epoxy is handy, but the old resorcinol glues they used in the 1950s can be used for scarfing too. People just weren't doing it. 16 and 17 foot boats still had 48" bottoms. I was the first one I know of--in 1986--to build a 15' boat with an extra-wide bottom. Now others are starting to build that way too. Narrow Tails The early Oregon boats where all designed for passengers up front, with no one behind the rower. The boats in Roger Fletcher's wonderful book all reflect that. Not only are there no seats in back, those boats are all a bit narrower in the tail too. They didn't need to be wide in the tail because they weren't meant to carry much weight back there. But starting in the early 1980s fly fishing became popular, and you do have to put a guy behind the rower if you want two fly fishermen to cast at the same time. The early Oregon boats just don't work well that way. If you put a passenger in the back of a Keith Steele boat you turn a highly-tuned hotrod into a half-sunken water melon. Boats like that drop down at the transom and rear up in front like a pregnant whale. If you want to fish a rear passenger you have to make structural changes. The MRB Beavertail is dead symmetrical on the bottom: the rear end is as wide as the front. That way you can place a fisherman behind the rower and the boat still trims well. Thousands of Northwest coast driftboats have been built that do not trim well at all with that rear-positioned fisherman. And yet that is how a growing number of drifters do now use their boats. In other words, if you want to make a fly fishing boat, forget about 98% of all driftboat hull designs. You have to make a hull that has a symmetrical bottom, where the upstream end of the boat has enough buoyancy to support the rear-positioned fisherman. Or--like the Honky Dory--you can to make a more traditionally-shaped hull with adjustable seating and an extra-short front deck, so you can move all three passengers further forward. The honky dory works both ways. You can put two passengers steelhead-style on the front seat (with no one behind the rower) or you can put a rear-positioned fisherman in the boat. It still works because the payload is all shifted further forward.

First Dayak

first oneman boat

This was my first stab at a one man boat. I basically scaled down a Buffalo Boat so it was made with one sheet of plywood for the side panels. It was only abou 36" inches wide on the bottom. It rowed surprisingly well once you got into it. Bui after falling on my wet butt a few dozen times trying to get into it and out of it I took my Sawzall to it.

"The next one will be wider, lower and decked," I said to myself. And then the Dayak happened.

dayak


The Future of Drift Boats

Fwiw my current direction is plywood still skinned in glass, but where (almost) nothing is glued. All parts screw together over either a gasket or a thick bead of roofer's caulk--so any and every part can be replaced. In the old days skid shoes were popular on the bottom. The idea was to replace the skid shoe periodically in order to protect the bottom panel, because that was glued to the ribs and nearly impossible to replace. That's the idea. Screw all parts together with Torx screws and (marine grade) caulk. Now you don't need a skid shoe. Just replace the bottom every ten years. Glass makes side panels so much stronger I'll glass them up. But they will NOT be glued at the seams. Everything will go together with screws and caulk. Has that boat been made? I'm working on it. In traditional framed boats, if a side panel gets hopelessly fractured it's hard to remove if it's been glued to the ribs. If everything goes together with Torx screws everything can come apart. In a jiffy. After 30 years of fiberglass work I'm heading back to all wood. Or close to it anyway. I might use a little glass here and there. Change is good. Change is more interesting. I'm interested in decked all-wood boats, with only a few (removable) interior bulkhead partitions. And no ribs'a no kind. The only good ribs are the barbequed kind. Think about it. Even if you build a low-sided square ended skiff, if it's decked you can still run Yankee Jim Canyon or Whitehorse rapids. It's low so the wind won't torture you on the Deschutes. A decked low-sided skiff could run the Grand Canyon. Tom Martin does it all the time with his little GEM. Plenty of storage below the deck. Comfortable seats and optional standing/casting braces on top. Open boats don't make sense to me anymore. The original McKenzie boats had high sides so an OPEN boat could run big water. But then they're wind sails. Then they're hard to get into and out of. It just doesn't make sense. Decked is where it's at. The Dayak convinced me of that.

The Future of Drift Boats

Fwiw my current direction is plywood still skinned in glass, but where (almost) nothing is glued. All parts screw together over either a gasket or a thick bead of roofer's caulk--so any and every part can be replaced. In the old days skid shoes were popular on the bottom. The idea was to replace the skid shoe periodically in order to protect the bottom panel, because that was glued to the ribs and nearly impossible to replace. That's the idea. Screw all parts together with Torx screws and (marine grade) caulk. Now you don't need a skid shoe. Just replace the bottom every ten years. Glass makes side panels so much stronger I'll glass them up. But they will NOT be glued at the seams. Everything will go together with screws and caulk. Has that boat been made? I'm working on it. In traditional framed boats, if a side panel gets hopelessly fractured it's hard to remove if it's been glued to the ribs. If everything goes together with Torx screws everything can come apart. In a jiffy. After 30 years of fiberglass work I'm heading back to all wood. Or close to it anyway. I might use a little glass here and there. Change is good. Change is more interesting. I'm interested in decked all-wood boats, with only a few (removable) interior bulkhead partitions. And no ribs'a no kind. The only good ribs are the barbequed kind. Think about it. Even if you build a low-sided square ended skiff, if it's decked you can still run Yankee Jim Canyon or Whitehorse rapids. It's low so the wind won't torture you on the Deschutes. A decked low-sided skiff could run the Grand Canyon. Tom Martin does it all the time with his little GEM. Plenty of storage below the deck. Comfortable seats and optional standing/casting braces on top. Open boats don't make sense to me anymore. The original McKenzie boats had high sides so an OPEN boat could run big water. But then they're wind sails. Then they're hard to get into and out of. It just doesn't make sense. Decked is where it's at. The Dayak convinced me of that.

The Future of Drift Boats

Fwiw my current direction is plywood still skinned in glass, but where (almost) nothing is glued. All parts screw together over either a gasket or a thick bead of roofer's caulk--so any and every part can be replaced. In the old days skid shoes were popular on the bottom. The idea was to replace the skid shoe periodically in order to protect the bottom panel, because that was glued to the ribs and nearly impossible to replace. That's the idea. Screw all parts together with Torx screws and (marine grade) caulk. Now you don't need a skid shoe. Just replace the bottom every ten years. Glass makes side panels so much stronger I'll glass them up. But they will NOT be glued at the seams. Everything will go together with screws and caulk. Has that boat been made? I'm working on it. In traditional framed boats, if a side panel gets hopelessly fractured it's hard to remove if it's been glued to the ribs. If everything goes together with Torx screws everything can come apart. In a jiffy. After 30 years of fiberglass work I'm heading back to all wood. Or close to it anyway. I might use a little glass here and there. Change is good. Change is more interesting. I'm interested in decked all-wood boats, with only a few (removable) interior bulkhead partitions. And no ribs'a no kind. The only good ribs are the barbequed kind. Think about it. Even if you build a low-sided square ended skiff, if it's decked you can still run Yankee Jim Canyon or Whitehorse rapids. It's low so the wind won't torture you on the Deschutes. A decked low-sided skiff could run the Grand Canyon. Tom Martin does it all the time with his little GEM. Plenty of storage below the deck. Comfortable seats and optional standing/casting braces on top. Open boats don't make sense to me anymore. The original McKenzie boats had high sides so an OPEN boat could run big water. But then they're wind sails. Then they're hard to get into and out of. It just doesn't make sense. Decked is where it's at. The Dayak convinced me of that.

The Future of Drift Boats

Fwiw my current direction is plywood still skinned in glass, but where (almost) nothing is glued. All parts screw together over either a gasket or a thick bead of roofer's caulk--so any and every part can be replaced. In the old days skid shoes were popular on the bottom. The idea was to replace the skid shoe periodically in order to protect the bottom panel, because that was glued to the ribs and nearly impossible to replace. That's the idea. Screw all parts together with Torx screws and (marine grade) caulk. Now you don't need a skid shoe. Just replace the bottom every ten years. Glass makes side panels so much stronger I'll glass them up. But they will NOT be glued at the seams. Everything will go together with screws and caulk. Has that boat been made? I'm working on it. In traditional framed boats, if a side panel gets hopelessly fractured it's hard to remove if it's been glued to the ribs. If everything goes together with Torx screws everything can come apart. In a jiffy. After 30 years of fiberglass work I'm heading back to all wood. Or close to it anyway. I might use a little glass here and there. Change is good. Change is more interesting. I'm interested in decked all-wood boats, with only a few (removable) interior bulkhead partitions. And no ribs'a no kind. The only good ribs are the barbequed kind. Think about it. Even if you build a low-sided square ended skiff, if it's decked you can still run Yankee Jim Canyon or Whitehorse rapids. It's low so the wind won't torture you on the Deschutes. A decked low-sided skiff could run the Grand Canyon. Tom Martin does it all the time with his little GEM. Plenty of storage below the deck. Comfortable seats and optional standing/casting braces on top. Open boats don't make sense to me anymore. The original McKenzie boats had high sides so an OPEN boat could run big water. But then they're wind sails. Then they're hard to get into and out of. It just doesn't make sense. Decked is where it's at. The Dayak convinced me of that.

The Future of Drift Boats

Fwiw my current direction is plywood still skinned in glass, but where (almost) nothing is glued. All parts screw together over either a gasket or a thick bead of roofer's caulk--so any and every part can be replaced. In the old days skid shoes were popular on the bottom. The idea was to replace the skid shoe periodically in order to protect the bottom panel, because that was glued to the ribs and nearly impossible to replace. That's the idea. Screw all parts together with Torx screws and (marine grade) caulk. Now you don't need a skid shoe. Just replace the bottom every ten years. Glass makes side panels so much stronger I'll glass them up. But they will NOT be glued at the seams. Everything will go together with screws and caulk. Has that boat been made? I'm working on it. In traditional framed boats, if a side panel gets hopelessly fractured it's hard to remove if it's been glued to the ribs. If everything goes together with Torx screws everything can come apart. In a jiffy. After 30 years of fiberglass work I'm heading back to all wood. Or close to it anyway. I might use a little glass here and there. Change is good. Change is more interesting. I'm interested in decked all-wood boats, with only a few (removable) interior bulkhead partitions. And no ribs'a no kind. The only good ribs are the barbequed kind. Think about it. Even if you build a low-sided square ended skiff, if it's decked you can still run Yankee Jim Canyon or Whitehorse rapids. It's low so the wind won't torture you on the Deschutes. A decked low-sided skiff could run the Grand Canyon. Tom Martin does it all the time with his little GEM. Plenty of storage below the deck. Comfortable seats and optional standing/casting braces on top. Open boats don't make sense to me anymore. The original McKenzie boats had high sides so an OPEN boat could run big water. But then they're wind sails. Then they're hard to get into and out of. It just doesn't make sense. Decked is where it's at. The Dayak convinced me of that.

The Future of Drift Boats

Fwiw my current direction is plywood still skinned in glass, but where (almost) nothing is glued. All parts screw together over either a gasket or a thick bead of roofer's caulk--so any and every part can be replaced. In the old days skid shoes were popular on the bottom. The idea was to replace the skid shoe periodically in order to protect the bottom panel, because that was glued to the ribs and nearly impossible to replace. That's the idea. Screw all parts together with Torx screws and (marine grade) caulk. Now you don't need a skid shoe. Just replace the bottom every ten years. Glass makes side panels so much stronger I'll glass them up. But they will NOT be glued at the seams. Everything will go together with screws and caulk. Has that boat been made? I'm working on it. In traditional framed boats, if a side panel gets hopelessly fractured it's hard to remove if it's been glued to the ribs. If everything goes together with Torx screws everything can come apart. In a jiffy. After 30 years of fiberglass work I'm heading back to all wood. Or close to it anyway. I might use a little glass here and there. Change is good. Change is more interesting. I'm interested in decked all-wood boats, with only a few (removable) interior bulkhead partitions. And no ribs'a no kind. The only good ribs are the barbequed kind. Think about it. Even if you build a low-sided square ended skiff, if it's decked you can still run Yankee Jim Canyon or Whitehorse rapids. It's low so the wind won't torture you on the Deschutes. A decked low-sided skiff could run the Grand Canyon. Tom Martin does it all the time with his little GEM. Plenty of storage below the deck. Comfortable seats and optional standing/casting braces on top. Open boats don't make sense to me anymore. The original McKenzie boats had high sides so an OPEN boat could run big water. But then they're wind sails. Then they're hard to get into and out of. It just doesn't make sense. Decked is where it's at. The Dayak convinced me of that.

The Future of Drift Boats

Fwiw my current direction is plywood still skinned in glass, but where (almost) nothing is glued. All parts screw together over either a gasket or a thick bead of roofer's caulk--so any and every part can be replaced. In the old days skid shoes were popular on the bottom. The idea was to replace the skid shoe periodically in order to protect the bottom panel, because that was glued to the ribs and nearly impossible to replace. That's the idea. Screw all parts together with Torx screws and (marine grade) caulk. Now you don't need a skid shoe. Just replace the bottom every ten years. Glass makes side panels so much stronger I'll glass them up. But they will NOT be glued at the seams. Everything will go together with screws and caulk. Has that boat been made? I'm working on it. In traditional framed boats, if a side panel gets hopelessly fractured it's hard to remove if it's been glued to the ribs. If everything goes together with Torx screws everything can come apart. In a jiffy. After 30 years of fiberglass work I'm heading back to all wood. Or close to it anyway. I might use a little glass here and there. Change is good. Change is more interesting. I'm interested in decked all-wood boats, with only a few (removable) interior bulkhead partitions. And no ribs'a no kind. The only good ribs are the barbequed kind. Think about it. Even if you build a low-sided square ended skiff, if it's decked you can still run Yankee Jim Canyon or Whitehorse rapids. It's low so the wind won't torture you on the Deschutes. A decked low-sided skiff could run the Grand Canyon. Tom Martin does it all the time with his little GEM. Plenty of storage below the deck. Comfortable seats and optional standing/casting braces on top. Open boats don't make sense to me anymore. The original McKenzie boats had high sides so an OPEN boat could run big water. But then they're wind sails. Then they're hard to get into and out of. It just doesn't make sense. Decked is where it's at. The Dayak convinced me of that.

The Future of Drift Boats

Fwiw my current direction is plywood still skinned in glass, but where (almost) nothing is glued. All parts screw together over either a gasket or a thick bead of roofer's caulk--so any and every part can be replaced. In the old days skid shoes were popular on the bottom. The idea was to replace the skid shoe periodically in order to protect the bottom panel, because that was glued to the ribs and nearly impossible to replace. That's the idea. Screw all parts together with Torx screws and (marine grade) caulk. Now you don't need a skid shoe. Just replace the bottom every ten years. Glass makes side panels so much stronger I'll glass them up. But they will NOT be glued at the seams. Everything will go together with screws and caulk. Has that boat been made? I'm working on it. In traditional framed boats, if a side panel gets hopelessly fractured it's hard to remove if it's been glued to the ribs. If everything goes together with Torx screws everything can come apart. In a jiffy. After 30 years of fiberglass work I'm heading back to all wood. Or close to it anyway. I might use a little glass here and there. Change is good. Change is more interesting. I'm interested in decked all-wood boats, with only a few (removable) interior bulkhead partitions. And no ribs'a no kind. The only good ribs are the barbequed kind. Think about it. Even if you build a low-sided square ended skiff, if it's decked you can still run Yankee Jim Canyon or Whitehorse rapids. It's low so the wind won't torture you on the Deschutes. A decked low-sided skiff could run the Grand Canyon. Tom Martin does it all the time with his little GEM. Plenty of storage below the deck. Comfortable seats and optional standing/casting braces on top. Open boats don't make sense to me anymore. The original McKenzie boats had high sides so an OPEN boat could run big water. But then they're wind sails. Then they're hard to get into and out of. It just doesn't make sense. Decked is where it's at. The Dayak convinced me of that.

The Future of Drift Boats

Fwiw my current direction is plywood still skinned in glass, but where (almost) nothing is glued. All parts screw together over either a gasket or a thick bead of roofer's caulk--so any and every part can be replaced. In the old days skid shoes were popular on the bottom. The idea was to replace the skid shoe periodically in order to protect the bottom panel, because that was glued to the ribs and nearly impossible to replace. That's the idea. Screw all parts together with Torx screws and (marine grade) caulk. Now you don't need a skid shoe. Just replace the bottom every ten years. Glass makes side panels so much stronger I'll glass them up. But they will NOT be glued at the seams. Everything will go together with screws and caulk. Has that boat been made? I'm working on it. In traditional framed boats, if a side panel gets hopelessly fractured it's hard to remove if it's been glued to the ribs. If everything goes together with Torx screws everything can come apart. In a jiffy. After 30 years of fiberglass work I'm heading back to all wood. Or close to it anyway. I might use a little glass here and there. Change is good. Change is more interesting. I'm interested in decked all-wood boats, with only a few (removable) interior bulkhead partitions. And no ribs'a no kind. The only good ribs are the barbequed kind. Think about it. Even if you build a low-sided square ended skiff, if it's decked you can still run Yankee Jim Canyon or Whitehorse rapids. It's low so the wind won't torture you on the Deschutes. A decked low-sided skiff could run the Grand Canyon. Tom Martin does it all the time with his little GEM. Plenty of storage below the deck. Comfortable seats and optional standing/casting braces on top. Open boats don't make sense to me anymore. The original McKenzie boats had high sides so an OPEN boat could run big water. But then they're wind sails. Then they're hard to get into and out of. It just doesn't make sense. Decked is where it's at. The Dayak convinced me of that. Blog Start

Do it your self wood fiberglass drift boat and white water dory plans

DIY Wood and Fiberglass Drift Boat Plans -- drift boat building -- online drift boat blueprints

The Honky Dory -- a wide white water dory

Now as a 15' foot or 17' foot boat The Honky Dory is more of a white water boat than the Beavertail. The Honky Dory is wide and stable in big water -- the 15' foot version (made from 16' foot side panels) is 56" inches wide under the oarlocks. Like most traditional Oregon-style boats the Honky Dory is wide up front too. Stitch and glue construction is assumed although all included plans can be adapted to traditional framed dory construction techinques. But unlike Oregonstyle boats the HD has a small front deck and movable/adjustable seats so the payload can be shifted forward enough to accommodate an additional fisherman behind the rower.

Beavertail: all around do anything boat well-suited to Fly Fishing, now as 15' or 17' feet

The Beavertail is an easy rowing day trip fly fishing guide boat. It turns well and holds well. Most important, the Beavertail trims properly with a husky passenger seated behind to rower.Not many boats--from any manufacturer or builder--can make that claim. All Boat Plans are offered online honly -- in other words what you get is a password to otherwise hidden portions of the website. As such there are no blueprints per se. Everything is offered online.

Buffalo Boat -- the smallest pickup truck boat that will hold three in the boat

Montana Riverboats Buffalo Boat

The buffalo is a standard 15' 48" wide driftboat chopped off at both ends. Unlike a Rapid Robert, which is pointed at one end, the Buffalo Boat is chopped off square at both ends. The idea was to build a short, lightweight pickup truck boat built from the fat business-only portions (the middle) of a standard boat. The Buffalo Boat is now going on 25 years old and still going strong. This one is sitting on a trailer, but the Buffalo Boat does fit nicely in the back of any standard size pickup. If you place it on top of a spare tire and drop the tailgate, it will even fit in the back of a small pickup.   The boat pictured here is a high-sided, fully-rockered Buffalo Boat. You can challenge surprisingly difficult water with this boat. Many users, however, do choose to reduce the rocker by up to 3", and to cut the height of the side panels down by as much as 4" or so, in order to make a less wind-resistent skiff, suitable for fly fishing in non-white-water conditions.

MRB Dayak -- as fun as white water gets

I love this little boat. Building plans and step-by-step instructions are not finished and perhaps never will be. The diagrams and dimensions are finished however. Experienced boat builders can plunge right in. Right now. Beginners should know there will be some problem-solving along the way. The important information is all there. But the step-by-step instructions are not. I'm 69 in 2017 and I've got other things to work on before I'm ...... So maybe it's best to think of this as a freeby add-on to the completed plan sets already available. This little boat sure is fun to row. I can do anything with it. Even head back upstream at times. You can hold it in fast water and turn on a dime. And it sure is stable, even in very big water. It's a great little white water boat, although I did flip in once, after dropping into an 8' foot hole sideways, like a fool, because I was trying to ferry away from a wave train and didn't see it coming.

DIY Stitch and Glue Drift Boat Building. Digital blueprints, online plans images diagrams and step by step instructions

One-off Wood/Fiberglass and All Fiberglass Construction

Purchase a $25 dollar plans access password

* Dimensions and instructions for four different boats
* How to copy another driftboat hull
* How to design and build your own hull from scratch
* How build a stitch and glue boat from someone else's framed-boat blueprints

How much does a home built boat cost?