"Custom" 'toon with 10' Maxxons.

Well, I've been off the site for a few weeks and joined only about 2 months ago while searching for info on fishing pontoons. I thought I'd post what my process has been and the info I've gleaned over the last few months as maybe someone else could benefit from all my exasperation.
That's right. This process has been extremely exasperating, but fun too with help from this very knowledgeable site. Thanks to everyone who has answered my questions. Please forgive the length of this post but I think anyone who is or wants to build one of these boats will find something useful in here. I hope so.

Last summer I floated the upper Salmon here in Idaho on 8' fishing pontoons with a couple friends. Great fishing, a great day, lots of fun. However, this spring when I decided I wanted my own 'toon I soon realized that something out of the store wouldn't work for me. I wanted a strong frame, the ability to stand and fly-fish, the ability to anchor, room to load gear for a multi-day trip, a dry box, and a place for my German Shorthaired Pointer to ride. I wanted to be able to pick the boat up by myself, carry it down to the Boise river here in town and do a float only or fish/float trip for few hours with my dog. I want to do a "cast and blast" trip for chukar and smallmouth on the Owyhee River this fall. I'm retired and on a serious budget and I knew I could only have one boat. I just wanted it to be able to convert for multiple uses. So this was my process...

I bought 10' Maxxon 'toons. They will be fine for now but I also thought I might want to go to the 11' SOTAR Coho tubes down the road. They look nice. I felt that getting the right frame was the most important issue. So I knew I wanted the longest practical frame for the Maxxons. Mine ended up being 54" X 66". I liked the Catchercraft and Skookum frames but to get one of their frames with the upgrades I needed was just too costly for me. So my plan became to do a modified version of their frames. I debated steel (EMT or galv. fence rail) vs. aluminum. In calculating out the weight for about 60' of tube, the steel frame (1.315) came out to about 80 lbs and the aluminum about 45 lbs. So I decided to go with 6061/6063 1" aluminum pipe. I went a size larger than the above mentioned frames because I definitely wanted to do whitewater up to Class 3, 3+. (I've done a lot of rafting and hardshell kayaking).

I figured the best thing I could do would be to spend about $50 and build and PVC mock-up of what I thought I wanted. That has been the best decision I made. It allowed me to mount it on the tubes, adjust everything for size and consider the size and configuration of what I call the 3 "bays"...forward, seat and cargo. I originally thought I'd have a local frame maker here in town do the job for me but after I decided I wanted the aluminum TIG welded, I found I had to look elsewhere since all they did was MIG. Well, the most exasperating part has been trying to find a fabricator who can bend 1" 6063 pipe in a 4" radius. It can be done but seems to require a mandrel bender. There's one shop in the Boise area with a CNC mandrel bender and I've been 8 weeks trying to get the owner to spend an hour with me making ten 90 deg bends. I will have the pipe bent, then I'll do all the cutting and jigging up and have a final shop do the notching and TIG welding. So...as I wait to get my bends done, I've been doing a few other things...

You see, I've found that what I'm trying to build is not a "toy boat" (8'-9') and not a "real" boat for those in the rafting world. NRS frames are too big for my small tubes. "Real" rafting oars are too big, too heavy and too expensive. "Real" anchor systems are almost all overkill. So, I won't bore you with all the frustration and research that went into trying to figure out everything OTHER than the frame but I'll just tell you what I got. I went with 7.5 ft Mini-mag oars, mini cobra oarlocks, oarsleeves and oar rights which should be here any day from NRS. They are great to work with as most people know but the oars have been back ordered for weeks. For the anchor system I managed to prevail upon the goodness of Jennifer at Skookum boats in Redmond, OR. and she sent me 4 "pulley-mount brackets" at $13/ea. They are the coolest thing. For pulleys I found two "Camp" brand gear hauling pulleys on the REI website. The ones I bought are red and they are perfect. They have brass bushings and fit up to 1/2" line. $14/ea. The anchor will hang off the rear of the frame on a pretty strong pulley ("block" for us sailors) that was $6 at Lowe's. I orginally thought I would build an anchor "platform" that stuck out about 8" off the back of the frame so that the anchor wouldn't swing into the rear floor but when I made my 2nd PVC mock-up I realized I could angle my vertical rear tube supports forward and crate a space for the anchor to swing.

I struggled with what to do for oar stands. I wanted them adjustable but actually liked the look of the welded-on pyramid type stands. My aluminum is 1.312 OD and the NRS stands are designed for 1.66 O.D. tubing like NRS sells. I decided I could make the NRS cast aluminum stands work by "sleeving" 1 1/4" alum pipe over my 1" pipe. I knew that my frame would need a splice somewhere on the outer tube so I decided to make the splice under where the oar stands will mount. So that splice will have a 3/4" inside sleeve welded in for strength as well as a 1 1/4" outside sleeve, 12" long that is welded on. The 12" length will give me plenty of adjustment range. The NRS stands have holes for 5/8" oarlocks and the mini-cobras for my smaller oars are 1/2". I called NRS and Cascade Outfitters and neither of them had the nylon or delrin bushing to reduce the hole to a 1/2" size. I found them at Idaho River Sports who operate out of the Aire factory which is right down the street from me. $1.50/ea. They are threaded on the end and don't fill the entire length of the oar-stand so if anyone knows where to get a longer bushing, I'd appreciate knowing. I initially bought the 6" NRS stands but they were too short and I swapped them for the 8" stands this AM. They should work fine.

My seat will be mounted on a Cambridge "seat bridge" which Cy at Cambridge has graciously agreed to make for me in a special size. The bridge will be 3" high as I will have the small NRS plastic dry box sitting under the seat. I really wanted a dry box for overnight trips but I'm not that partial to the aluminum. These NRS boxes are really sweet but WAY overpriced. Mine was $125 and I think about $89 would be more appropriate.

And finally, I needed something for my dog to ride on. Webbing is $.59/ft at the local Army/Navy and I thought I needed just under 100 yds. I found a place back east called Rochford Supply in Minnesota. They sell webbing by the 100 yd roll and I got a roll of 1 1/2" black for $17 plus shipping. I knew I didn't always want the "dog seat" on the boat so I made a frame out of the same 6061, 1" pipe and 4 Speed-Rail corners that is the exact size of the rear cargo bay on the frame. I will strap it on when I want to take her along. For overnight with the dog, my gear will go in dry bags under the "dog trampoline" and also sharing the top with her.

So to finish...I ended up making the PVC mock-up twice since I'm bored waiting for the tube bending guy to be available. (I could have used Speed-Rail fittings in lieu of bending tubing but I didn't want the weight or cost of all the Speed-Rails). The second time I made it with all SCH 40 PVC glued together. (had to order special 4-way PVC T's) I made the area strong under the seat thinking "Gee, maybe this would be OK for flat water". I can hear all you readers groaning...Well, two days ago I strapped it on my tubes and I'm shocked at how strong it is. When I decided to make this second mock-up I became most intrigued by just wanting to find out where it would break. I'm not sure. It's certainly not a "real boat" but I will take it out on flat water when my seat bridge arrives.

So that has been my process. I'm not sure if it will meet all my needs but I think I have most of the options covered. Photos in the next post...
Thanks. Will do. It feels like the never-ending project but I think it will be worth it. Besides, nothing much better than "messing about with boats".
Nice set up,and beautiful dog as well. I'm building a 1 1/4" 4 bay set up myself, and just received my fittings from Star today. When I'm all done I'll also take pics and share.

Some Ideas for your bends would be to see if Dave at Madcatr could bend em' for ya. If not a custom exhaust, or custom shop that builds auto roll cages will have a proper mandrel bender. I understand people are busy, but 8 weeks of the Hawaiian run around is bullshit.


Active Member
Good job, looks nice.

Way to persevere on a project from start to finish. Good idea on using the PVC frame first. It is a lot less expensive tinkering with than the aluminum 6061.

Good floating to you. Are you going back to the Salmon with it?
Hey, thanks for the idea on the exhaust shop constructeur. I hadn't though of that. I'll check tomorrow. Yes,I will head to the Salmon again as well as the South Fork of the Boise, the Owyhee and the Payette. There are also a number of great lakes within 90 min that have some really nice trout populations. Yea. persevere is what I've done all right. I'm a little worn out. I'm ready to go fishing. :)
You don't need a mandrel bender, but you do need a good radial draw bender in order to maintain uniformity through the bend on 6063.

Your life could've been a lot easier, if you had just given me a PM...lol

A couple of questions:

1. Why pipe instead of tube? 1" tube is just fine if designed correctly...and lighter
2. Why the fuss over TIG...aside from aesthetics...it's over rated.
Hey thanks veilside! Well, I wanted the heavy wall thickness of the pipe (.133) especially in the seat area where there's a 30" span. It seemed like the way to go especially with the planned bends, loss of strength due to that, etc. I'm no engineer or "designer" and I usually go big so I never have to worry. I think the aesthetics is important to me. Silly as it may sound, I've had a lot of nice things in my life but almost nothing now. I wanted it to be the one thing I could recreate on and look at it with pride in the workmanship. I owned an aluminum drift boat back in the 90's and the beautiful "circles' of TIG weld just seem how aluminum is supposed to be. BTW, I used to live in Hillsboro in the early 80's...in Singing Woods off Minter Bridge Rd. Anyway, I built a metal airplane in the 80's and one of my friends was a welder who built all the motor mounts for the RV aircraft kits. I feel like it should measure up to they way I had seen welding done "right". I'll look for a "radial draw bender". :)
I use a Bailiegh RDB-125 (electric hydraulic) for my radial draw bender, but you should be able to find a race shop local to you that has a JD2 Model 2 or Model 4 I would imagine. (it's a manual bender, but it's what most race shops use for roll cages) That pipe is an odd size though, since roll cages are built with tube rather than pipe.

Singing Woods is less than a mile from me.=)
Would the woven material you made for the dog be strong enough for a floor? I am making an extension to my Scadden frames for a 3rd person and it looks like what I could use for a floor, like the white-water cats use. How did you secure the ends of the webbing?
I think the woven material "might" be fine for a floor...it depends on what you want to do with the floor. I wouldn't want to stand on it to fly-fish. I'm actually thinking of weaving it into the center section of my frame, under the seat for the dry box to sit on rather than welding a couple extra cross tubes in there. I'm not sure though that I want to put that kind of pressure on my frame. I was going to use "tubing"...same O.D. as my frame (1.315) but with .090 wall thickness for the "tramp" as I thought the SCH 40 pipe was overkill. I'm sure glad I couldn't find that. It would have been too light. (I was going off a sample piece from another shop). I ended up using the same Sch 40 aluminum pipe as the frame and on the long side of the tramp, the webbing pulled the tubing in about 1/4" at the center. It's easy to get it tight. Mine thumps like a drum. I'm not sure what will happen when I get it wet. My intention was just for my dog and/or maybe for tying gear down on. At the ends I folded over a 1/2" section and pop-riveted with two rivets through the webbing into the tubing. I ended it the same way. It was actually a fun project but it took some "cogitating on it" to get it right. I made a wooden spacer block to space each row out the correct width of the webbing. That way when you come back the other direction the new piece fits exactly between the first rows. There's a lot of pulling and grunting that goes on. The problem is you don't know how much you're actually going to need so you start out with it all attached to the roll which eventually becomes a tangled mess. I laced the short direction first and when I got to the long direction I sort of knew how much I needed and stripped it off the roll and cut it. But you end up threading and pulling a lot of webbing back through either way. Anyway, if you don't need to stand on it all the time, it would be fine.

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