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Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)

Posted by Peter 
Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 25, 2020 08:37PM
Hello folks!

New to this forum. Excellent content!!! Lots of very knowledgeable, helpful people!
By way of introduction, I have had on my bucket list for years a wooden boat restoration. That dream is coming true, due to a recent gift (from my wife and a couple of really good friends) of a drift boat. Combines my love of fly fishing with the above dream. I grew up on wooden power boats. My grandfather had 3 over the course of my life. It was his passion. A master mechanic and carpenter he passed that passion on to me of all things wood.

This new boat I want to restore as a tribute to him. In advance, any advice/counsel will be much appreciated. Thank you!!

This is the first of, I'm sure, many questions.

Having done hatches, toe rails, etc. on a couple of sailboats, my previous method was to strip to bare wood, then do a gradual build of varnish/thinner mix. I believe I started with a 20% varnish/80% thinner mix building gradually inverting the ratio and finishing with 2 coats of 100% varnish. 8 maybe 9 coats. That said, it was a while back, after doing some research there seems to be a number of new products and a variety of opinions.
Would love t have some advice: quick dry? Total Coat? Selkins? Epifanes? Others?

Stripping the entire boat down to raw wood. Will keep the dark green paint on the exterior hull. Other than that will be completely stripped, repaired and revarnished. Not sure what kind it is. The only thing I know at this time is that it was built by a cabinet maker in the 80s.

Already making some good progress! Other than being on the river with a rod in my hand, having more fun than a man should.

Dedicated to taking my time and doing it right! Again thanks in advance for all and any advice!
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 26, 2020 12:59PM
Welcome to you. Cool stuff.

After stripping down to bare wood you should at least consider oil instead of varnish.

Oil is so easy to apply you can do it twice every year. Varnish cracks and that lets in moisture that gets trapped. It often darkens along the fracture lines.
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 26, 2020 06:31PM
Hey Sandy! Thanks for that thought. I hadn't yet considered that.

I've used oils on furniture I've done in the past. A number of coats until I got the right color then finished with a hand wax. Would the process be the same for a boat? Any recommendations on brands/type of oils.

Again, thanks for your response!! Just trying to get it right the first time.
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 26, 2020 06:46PM
I've used linseed oil and paint thinner. Others claim Tung Oil and Japan Drier is more better.

It's so fast to do. Roll it on. Mop it off. Wait a few hours and then go fishing.

For removing old paint you can modify a cheap Harbor Frieght pull-trigger air nozzle with a file (so the barrel is nothched) and then duct-tape on an inverted plastic bottle so it gravity feeds Walnut shell chips. Sort of like an easy going sand blast rig. They have diy vids on youtube
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 26, 2020 07:16PM
I've used the tung oil mix in the past.

I've pulled and rebuilt a few pieces off the boat already, so I have some scrap that in can run a test on. Certainly worth a shot!

On another note, the bottom should be interesting. Currently has plastic sheathing screwed on. Plastic is cracked, and the chines are pulling away. However, when a wooden boat comes with a hand bilge pump, you know you have some issues. Going to pull the plastic in the next few weeks to see what I'm up against. Hopefully more of a repair than replace, but one thing at a time...

Will try to upload some pictures of the boat soon.

Thanks again! I know I'll have more questions!
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 27, 2020 01:30AM
Re> plastic skid shoes

Plastic ecpands and contracts at vastly different rates and amounts than wood.

That wiggles the screws and the psltic often cups outwsrd between attachment points. Gravel gets scooped in and then locks between plastic and bottom.

Far better to use more plywood rather than plaksick for any skid shoe. RrplZce it when it's dinged.

I'm phone poking so sspelling suffers
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 27, 2020 02:39AM
Thanks Sandy! No worries! I just really appreciate your assistance!

Not a fan of the plastic shoe for all those reasons. Thinking of going epoxy bottom on the redo. Based on my location probably not going to see a lot of white water, but need to protect from gavel bars and skinny water. But needs to be done right, otherwise you've got a really pretty piece of yard art... :-)

As I said, gonna probably pull the plastic and chines in the next few weeks to see what I'm up against.

Gonna run a test on the tung oil mix next week.

Thanks! I'll keep updating,
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 27, 2020 05:10PM
My restoration project. Boat pics...

Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 27, 2020 08:15PM

I'm old to rivers and boats and new to building them, but I second in concept what Sandy said about oil vs. varnish. I sorted through it all in my head and you'll find a thread with some great insights from Sandy in the last month or so about the topic - in concept at least oiling is easier to do and keeps me spending more time fishing than refinishing a boat....with full disclosure I'm building a fishing boat and nothing fancy.

Where are you located? I'm the same, no white water but lots of skinny stuff, some shallow and exposed bedrock, and gravel bars as well. I'm planning on a "Wetlander" finish for the bottom. Lots of folks use it on duck boats near me and encouraged me to try it, seems like it could be helpful in the waters I fish and will add another layer (maybe some toughness) between boat and rock. You can check it out online. Truck bed liner is also popular, as is plain epoxy (which Sandy would tell you repairs come far easier with plain epoxy). I'm more likely to have gouges scrapes than massive strikes.....but only time will tell how it holds up!
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 27, 2020 10:14PM
Hey Ozark!

Thanks for the input! Every piece of info I can get from the folks that have done it before is a huge help to me! Again, thanks!

Looking seriously into the oil vs varnish. Seems to be a lot out there, lots of personal preferences. But maintenance is definitely some thing I really need to consider. I'm right now leaning a little toward laying down an oil based stain to get the color I want and then coming back with the tung oil/Japan drier. Gonna run some tests to see. But all good info from Sandy and now you!

I haven't pulled the plastic off the bottom yet. With the cracks in it my concern is water got under it and didn't dry properly, causing deterioration in the wood. As I said I know it's currently leaking so somethings going on. Not a ton, but enough. Want see what I'm up against, but definitely not doing the plastic thing.

I'm in Nashville, TN. So my current floats will be on the Caney Fork, Clinch and South Holsten. Hoping to take it over to the White in Arkansas this summer. Always wanted to fish that.

I really appreciate your help! One other question would either you or Sandy have any idea of the style/plans this guy built it from? Based on taking the pieces apart and looking at his craftsmanship, he did a heck of a good job! Just excited to be bringing her back!
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 27, 2020 11:21PM
Sandy would know far more than I, I'm a first time builder. But by what I can see, appears to be a more traditionally styled McKenzie river boat. Might check out Roger Fletcher's book Drift Boats and River Dories for some specs and history. Great book, and it's on Amazon too. Even if it's not that...a great book to have. Taking some measurements at the oar locks, bottom width, beam, length, fore/aft rocker height, etc would probably help define it as well.

I'm in Arkansas, so the White, Norfork, and Little Red River are my home waters. Should definitely come over for a float some time! I've got those three, plus some more rivers around Asheville, NC as a potential road trip some day in my boat. The White fishes well year round, but really shines as an "event" fishery, which typically revolves around the flow. Right now it's fishing great in really high water with big streamers (think 8"). The summer can be great when the flow kicks on for hopper fishing the banks as well.

So I'm not 100% yet, but there's a product that was on the market, off, then back on called Deks Olje by Owatrol. No that's not a typo. It's a two part product, and I planned to use the D1 (first non-varnished part) alone as my "oil" for the exposed wood. It's pricey, so might go with a home brewed boat sauce if you're doing a massive amount of surface area. If not, from what I read it gets the job done fairly well. I think it's basically what you've done before, with Tung oil and drier and some other stuff.

Keep us posted on the restoration!

Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 28, 2020 01:01AM
Hey Brad!

Thanks for the reference to the book! Being a history buff (and boat guy) sounds like it's right down my alley.

Great info on the White! Been meaning to get over there. Gonna make that happen this summer! If you get over to this neck of the woods, highly recommend making a stop in the Smokies. Some really incredible dry fly fishing. Native Brookies that fight like a shark on light tackle. Usually fish those waters with a 3 or 4 weight.

I've read recently about the Deks Olje. Need to do more look see on that. Thanks!!!

Keep me posted on your build as well!! Love to see pics as you progress. Nothing like combining our love of fly fishing with a boat build/restoration.

Thanks man! Tight lines!
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 28, 2020 06:07PM
About to dismantle the last of the "removables", the 2 rope seats. I thought this was a curious solution to the rope attachment. Not a fan from an esthetic point of view and and considering going one of the more classic routes, but then I'm reminded, " if it ain't broke don't fix it". Still pondering but what do you folks think?

Thought was interesting that it has 2 sliding slotted pieces under the ropes for seat adjustment... You can see it in pic 1.

I think I will add turnbuckles under the seat for tensioning.

Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 28, 2020 06:12PM
Let's try those images again... ;-)

Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 29, 2020 06:47PM
I love Tung oil. But I've never tried it on an out of doors project. I do know that true Tung lasts much longer than Linseed and soybean oils. Furthermore, imho, it seems or be capable of a higher build.
Wipe or brush it on and in 20 minutes wipe it of. Let is dry for 24 hours with moving air ( in other words not in a damp, stagnant basement). If you want colors similar to what I see in the photos then don't add colored or tinted stains as it'll get to that on its own soon enough. Build as many coats as you want. 3-12 is normal and well worthwhile. There are self healing properties that go along with the thicker builds. small shallow scratches can be buffed and rubbed out to some degree without adding more finish.

I've been told that the Minwax Product which Home Depot sells is really boiled soybean oil. I don't know if this is true but I can say that the brand sold by Woodcraft costs three times as much and is not surrounded by any noted suspicion. Most other brands fall in between price wise. Once the grain is filled a little oil goes a long way. In your case you'll find that you'll never actually get all the penetrated varnish out of the wood so you might consider the grain to be filled.

Five years, three coats, no subsequent re-coats, no direct sunlight:

Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 29, 2020 11:23PM
Hey Don!

This is all great info! Much appreciated!!! Also a fan of Tung oil, the good stuff... Was pondering doing the varnish on it because that's just what I'd done in the past, but then Sandy recommended using the oil and the more I thought about it the more it just made sense on a number of levels. As you have, I've used it on indoor pieces, but hadn't considered it for the drift boat. Have decided to go that route!

Beautiful door by the way! Really nice!!!

Thanks again for the input!!! Really appreciate it! You have any other thoughts please pass them on. Gonna keep posting pics as it progresses.
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 29, 2020 11:30PM
Have decided to scrap the existing seats. Not really a fan of the esthetics and realized today taking them apart that they literally weigh almost 14 lbs each. (Granted they double as hatch covers) That's a lot of weight. Not knocking the original builder, he did a heck of a job, but I can probably cut that weight by at least third if not more by a new build.

So, gonna rebuild and probably go with half-back rope seats. Just makes more sense to me at least.
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 30, 2020 04:52PM
I'm new to the idea of oiling outdoor stuff. I'd check out to see what others recommend and then create an experiment or two with the old scrap pieces that you pull off as well as any new stuff u might use.

Those rope seats look like they're for lightweights that aren't very discriminating. I'm a Lard-ass and those ropes would hook my wallet, hook my iPhone and engulf grandchildren. I guess the Idea is that they weren't supposed to retain water in a splashy environment. they are cool but I'll have to pass. I'd love to hear that I am wrong and why that is.
Currently I'm using a 2x12 laid across and love it. I'll eventually fashion something like sandy used on so many boats with little latches and pockets for gear.

Take your time and make us more and more jealous.
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 30, 2020 07:11PM
Before I go any further, just want to say how much I appreciate you, Sandy and Brad being so generous with your knowledge and expertise!! Again much appreciated!! Thank you. Don't feel so much like I'm walking in the dark with no flashlight! ;-)

I have a couple of pieces I pulled from the original and had to replace. Gonna test several options for finishing on those. Boat seems to be made of mostly oak, teak and ash, other than the hull. Each will react a little different to whatever treatment I use. So will test on all.

You make some good points on the rope seating. Still leaning that way, but going to play around with a few designs/options before I commit. Will definitely rebuild the hatch covers to begin with. Geez they're heavy...

I'll keep you posted! Thanks again!
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 30, 2020 11:37PM
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 31, 2020 01:00PM
Okay you’re welcome but Sandy and others are the experts. I’m last years beginner.

To Whom Much is Given, Much Will Be Required.....(somewhere in Luke).
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 31, 2020 09:49PM
I don't like the expert term. I will run with......experienced.
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
January 31, 2020 10:29PM
Haha! I would agree with Sandy!

Question while I'm here. Is there a standard angle for a rope seat back? May try and use my bevel angle t determine it, but by no means scientific. Want to be able to get some leverage, but also be able to move should I need to. Not a exactly 21 anymore. Thought that extra leverage might help if needed. Looked through the forum but didn't see a consensus. I think I'm leaning towards a low back for the rowing seat. Thanks!
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
February 01, 2020 06:41PM
For passeger seats measure the angle off your favorite office chair.

For rowers seats I don't like to do it. In emergency situations (I've had more than one) I put my feet on the back of the seat in front, lean back almost level with the floor and row like my life depends on it. Which it does. At times.

If you have a rope-backed rower's seat you're fornicated.
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
February 01, 2020 09:06PM
Thank you Sandy! I really respect your opinion. You make an excellent point. You've convinced me.

No back it is!! Thanks again!
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
February 01, 2020 09:49PM
My current boat has a padded tractor seat with a padded back maybe 4" inches high. It's heavy but comfortable. And I can still lean way back, and row back upstream when I have to.

My Dayak has a fold down seat back but I did mount it so it leans way back.

On six day Green River trips I get worn out in a one man boat, with no one to share rowing with. And all the big white
water comes in the last few daze. Sometimess I lean back into that seat and groan, and wish I wasn't over 70. And then I'm glad I have it.

I did get into big Dayak trouble once. It's a long story but I did manage to row out. It made me think about a custom seat with a lower back. But didn't do it.
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
February 02, 2020 04:47PM
Thanks!! Great info!

Today's task is to clean the shop/garage out to move the boat in. Kinda become a storage spot for the rest of the family...today I reclaim my space. Haha!
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
February 04, 2020 04:46PM
In the Eugene, Oregon area where the McKenzie River style drift boats were developed the temperatures do not have large swings in temperature, being fairly moderate year-round. As these boats were moved to and built in other western areas the temperatures were not so moderate. Hence the once stable at moderate temperatures High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) experienced high rates of shrinkage and expansion. For example in Eastern Washing there I live the temperatures can range from minus 20 to 105 degrees. The resulting movement explains why the bottom of your boat has issues if it was someplace other than a moderate Coastal environment.

I have 18-ounce triaxial S-glass on both the inside and outside surfaces of the bottom of my boat. If you examined the bottom surface you would find a few scratches from sliding over rocks I have hit a few rocks directly with no observable damage. The replaceable chine caps are fairly beat-up because of hitting rocks directly. The great thing is they are easy to replace. In my many years of boating whether in rafts or drift boats it is difficult to avoid hitting rocks when traveling perpendicular to the river current or inattention to the river. In a raft, you can bounce off or slide over rocks often without harm.

Rick Newman
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
February 04, 2020 06:28PM
Hey Rick, did you carry that 18 ounce cloth over the chines or did you stop it at the chines and tape over chine with multiple layers with tape. On another forum we're discussing wether of not 18 ounce can bend over sharp edges successfully or if it is just begging for trouble. Trouble being defined as the glass popping up leaving bubbles and trouble being the resin bleeding out of it wherever it is vertical. How did you glass your edges?
Re: Wooden drift boat restoration (New member)
February 04, 2020 07:12PM
This is good info!!! The bottom of my boat will need to be redone. It came with plastic sheathing attached. I peeked under the sheathing this weekend, just to try and get an idea of what I may be up against. Doesn't look horrible, but will reserve judgement until I get a good sized piece off.

Frame to hold the boat is built. Gonna shoot for this weekend to move it inside. Unfortunately, the trailer's to big for the space. Thanks!!!
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