Wooden drift boat preference, framed or stitch and glue

Discussion in 'Watercraft' started by Angler 77, Oct 17, 2009.

  1. So a little background, I'm a recent Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding graduate and plan on eventually building drift boats. Luckily I've landed a job building new boats (sail and row) here in Port Townsend, so I will be honing the skills learned over the past year. But what I really want to do, once I can set it up is build for clients that commission thru me.

    So my question is. For those of you out there who might actually buy a wood drift boat, would you be most interested in a traditionally framed boat or a more contemporary style stitch and glue? No question the traditionally framed boats look super sweet and I think could actually be a pretty straight forward build. For me the floorboards and frames make them a little less fisher-friendly, so many nooks and crannys for dirt and grime, flies to get lost, fly line to get hung up on. The stitch and glue boats should be pretty bomb proof pretty easy to build and more fisher-friendly. But they don't have the look of the framed boats that I like so much.

    If you had a few :) extra bucks lying around which type of wooden drift boat would you buy and why?

    Thanks in advance:thumb:
  2. My best wishes on a successful beginning to a rewarding career. As an amateur builder, I envy your courage.

    IMHO, the future of wood in boatbuilding is in considering its physical properties as one would any other material used as filler in composite construction. It is precisely those physical properties that make a wood boat like no other, a practical and useful thing of beauty that is in fact a joy forever.

    So, that being said, you've already been to the websites I'm sure, accessed quite easily through montana river boats website. Montana boatbuilders and others make spectacularly wonderful driftboats and other craft, devlin down in Oly again makes fine wood boats. These composites have all the advantages of wood, and all the advantages of the polymers. Low maintenance, low weight, beauty and tactile satisfaction. Clorox bottles and recycled beer cans are efficient, but just can't compete in my mind.

    There will always be a market for traditional boats, just as there are markets today for old cars and horse-drawn vehicles. The main market and the future is in that composite construction, which in and of itself in my opinion out performs the other materials, and retains that sense one gets in a wood boat.

    As an owner of a drifter whose hull is frozen snot, I can tell you...I will be constructing a composite boat.

  3. If someone wants a wooden boat, they are going to want a traditional looking boat. If they wanted practical, they would choose fiberglass or aluminum.
  4. See Angler, what you're up against? The popular wisdom that wood is the wrong material for boats, and fg and aluminum are "practical". It's not an informed opinion, but it is widely held and thus makes the market.
  5. If you are doing this on commission basis and trying to get started building wood boats, why not be equally prepared to build them both ways? If I were a customer I'd be looking for the best craftsman first and then once I found the right person I'd also be willing to listen to the pros and cons of each method and material. Traditional would be right for some people, modern would be right for others. But if you impress people with your skills and knowledge you would get the work either way.

    But to answer your question, traditonal construction coupled with the modern epoxies and caulking materials was where I ended up. However, I was not looking for cheap or bullet-proof and I got exactly what I wanted even though most people thought I was nuts.

    Best of luck with your pursuits - Look forward to seeing a few pics.
  6. My opinion comes from building a wooden boat. Also, wood boats have to be maintained a lot more than others due to the rot problem. So yes, in that aspect, fiberglass and aluminum can take a lot more abuse and neglect than wood. So they are more practical.

    But wooden boats are beautiful, and people fly fish for a lot more reasons than practicality. There is a lot of searching for those elusive qualities of beauty, peace, closeness with nature, nostalgia, and other intangible dreams. A wooden boat builder should be an enabler of those dreams.

    Websites of driftboat makers who sell plans are for those who want to access that dream themselves for less money. Do not target that crowd as your market. Target the people who have the money to buy the whole dream from you.
  7. iagree I would only add that stitch and glue mostly benefits the boat builder and not the buyer. I would not oversell it.


    As an example of what I meant in my last post, look at Milt's avatar. Spend the time to get great shots of your boats in beautiful settings. Hire a photographer to do this unless you know a lot about light and composition. Great shots establish a mood and a presence in the mind of the buyer. They will do more to sell your work than anything else. Go back and study the websites that influenced you to go down this path. Notice how the photos draw you in and lift you up. Try to do that. So many good ideas are ruined by people who want to save money by taking pictures themselves.
  8. I don't own a drift boat. I would like to. I've been in fiberglass and aluminum boats but never in a wooden boat. I'm a Cubs fan, I'm a glutton for punishment, I'm drawn to wooden boats. I just think that there is so much more to them astetically than fiberglass or aluminum. I'm horribly uninformed, but still drawn to the beauty of a fine wooden boat. The craftmanship put into wooden crafts of all types that I've seen is just amazing. Not knocking the very functional and well designed aluminum or fiberglass boats, just saying that when I get my first driftboat I hope I'll still be drawn to one made by hand out of wood.
  9. I built my Rays River Dory 17' Guide Model from a kit in 1996. It has seen a LOT of water since then, almost any river in WA ID and MT you could think of. It is as sound and beautiful as the day I finished it. I do store it in my pole building and travel with a cover over it, but it has not taken that much care and when I do any refinishing, it is in the winter when it is a great diversion from cabin fever. I also have some beautiful Lindy Feather wooden oars made from Sitka Spruce. A week ago I was floating with a guide buddy on the Missouri. He was having back spasms so I rowed part of the way (Hyde fiberglass with composite oars) and I was amazed at how much more work it was to row that set up than my own boat and oars. Whenever I have occasion to row another drift boat (I've rowed Hydes, Clacks and RO boats) I am very thankful that I have such an easy rowing responsive boat-kind of like comparing a Porche to a Chev. Before I got my boat, I was with John Hazel-at the time guiding for Kaufmanns on the Deschutes-and in the yard were about 12 drift boats of all kinds. I asked him about the Ray's 16' and he said, no question, that boat was the Ferrari of the group and his boat of choice for rowing difficult sections of the Deschutes. Rick
  10. Strongly disagree....Stitch and Glue has many well proven benefits for the end user. Strength, much lower long term maintenance, and in the case of a drift boat substantially more design flexibility for the interior of the boat. As well, with the bottom of the boat serving as the floor you have no small space for small things to hide in as with traditional floor boards.

    In terms of a professional boat builder both methods have their advantages but for the long term benefit of the owner, a S&G boat is probably the better option if he wants to fish and not maintain his boat.

    Now as for a Sailboat... well that's a whole different story. :)
  11. Thanks for all the great input gents. I used to hold many of the same notions about wood and it's suitability for drift boat construction. Is it really strong enough? Will I spend more time maintaining it than using it? Will it rot in no time? And so on and so on...

    In my opinion modern marine grade plywood, a good epoxy system, a bit of fiberglass, tough as nails paints and well chosen live woods in the hands of a skilled craftsman can be turned into not only the most beautiful craft on the river, but also the most enjoyable to row and fish out of for many years to come. Wood boats ride high, are quiet, repairable, are warmer on a cold day than aluminum and fiberglass, are amazingly durable, row like a dream and look amazing. I understand the draw of the mass produced, in fact I used to own an aluminum boat and really liked it, but it had no soul. It was a hunk of metal that served a purpose...

    Milt I don't know if you remember or not, but I contacted you a while back because I loved the look of your boat. I lived in Olympia then, moved to Port Townsend to go to school. We never quite got together so I didn't get a look at your boat. Anyway I'm making it happen building boats.

    As for the comment about traditional materials and techniques being best for a sailboat I tend to agree; however, contemporary smaller craft like daysailers can be pretty sweet too.

    Thanks again for the good discussion,

  12. You make very good points; I stand corrected.

    Scott: take a look at Mark's website link. A different vision than a wooden boat builder, but he exemplifies what I was referring to earlier.
  13. Frank,

    Just noticed your location, My Mom lives in Keego Harbor...GO TIGERS. arghhhh.
  14. I haven't seen that many framed driftboats but of the ones I have they are heavier than composite "wood" boats. That's going to matter when the river runs low although I suspect a heavier boat might be more stable in rougher water. Since they seem to be about the same weight as commercially built fiberglass boats my guess is the weight isn't worth it. Overall I would expect composite to be more sought out. They also will have slightly more interior room for the same sized hull.

    None of the composite boats I've built have anything close to rot. Sealing them with epoxy and keeping up the varnish does the trick. Truth be told I haven't even kept up the varnish as I should and they still look great.

    The idea that wooden boats take constant maintenance does not accurately represent many (if not most) wooden boats being produced today.

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