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Old 02-05-2011   #11
Lakewood, Colorado
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 82
You may need to add extra support under your decks as one side of each will not be supported. Sit on a 4' long piece of 3/4" plywood and it will most likely flex. You want something you can jump up on to scout rapids and grab swimmers from. If you add additional crossbars to support the decks, you can also then put drop bags underneath the decks for storage, and you will have a pipe in front of you to brace against instead of a sheet of plywood. I know this is adding even more expense as aluminum is not cheap, but could save you alot of greif.
A work around to the extra cross bars might be screwing some 2x4 across the unsupported edge of the decks.
Good luck!

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Old 02-05-2011   #12
Canon City, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 426
I know of quite a few companies that run day frames consisting of 4 2x6 boards bolted into a square. That's like, $20 worth of wood and bolts. My frame is 2 2x8 mahogany planks connected by 4 unistrut cross-bars. I wouldn't trade my wood planks for ankle-breaker aluminium for any amount of money, and I don't think wood is ghetto for frames at all. I spent around $200 including all oar towers, thole-pins, and hardware, and probably $120 of that was the expensive wood. I've even been surprised at the longevity of the pieces of 3/8 plywood that comprise decking on 2 auxiliary frames I run.

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Old 02-06-2011   #13
Boise, Idaho
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 427
Keep em comin' everyone! Climb-your post has inspired the cheap bastard in me (and dormant woodworker) to resurface. I had been pretty narrow minded and had for some reason ruled out actual wood planks. I looked at unistrut fittings and am unsure about how they work. I would love to see some of your homemade frames if you have pictures. Thanks woodboat for your insight as well. This frame will be for my 9' boat. I already have an 88 inch frame on my gear hauler, and am trying to see how cheap a frame I can build for my mini raft. Thanks everyone for your ideas so far and also to those who have not posted yet but wish to.
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Old 02-06-2011   #14
Boise, Idaho
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 427
Climbdenali - If you have seen my first post you probably saw my original plan regarding frame rails and two plywood planks crossing the width of the boat while anchoring the plywood to the frame rails. Do you think the plywood would be strong enough to span the tubes?
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Old 02-06-2011   #15
Idaho Falls, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1979
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 2
You can use steel chain link posts for your cross bars with Hollaender 'T' fittings for pretty cheap. The size is 1 1/4" pipe, and is compatible with the NRS frame parts. Here’s a link that shows how to do it:

You can get the Hollaender fittings (5E-7) from for $8.89 each. They had free shipping when I last ordered, but it looks like free shipping is not available now.

Jim Lee
Idaho Falls, Idaho
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Old 02-06-2011   #16
frisco, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 64
You don't even need a seat. I have strapped my paco pad to the frame and I also used my partially deflated thwart. The thwart was nice. I did this not because I'm cheap or can't afford a seat, but because I am forgetfull. Your wallet should be so full of extra cash from all these great ideas that you could just sit on it.
full yellow life jacket
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Old 02-06-2011   #17
Boise, Idaho
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 427
Indeed! I am even thinking of making oar towers and possibly using some Clavey parts. I love the NRS lo-pros due to their inability to be pulled apart and their propensity to not rotate. However, 20 bucks for one and nearly 70 for a cross bar is brutal on that padded wallet. I know a lot of people use speed rail fittings, but I have been weary of their durability, mainly because I have never used one or even seen one up close. Can anyone attest to their longevity and/or structural integrity? Does one little set screw really have enough authority to hold tight?

You all have been very helpful and I am finding the feedback very useful...thanks!
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Old 02-06-2011   #18
FatmanZ's Avatar
NOCO, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 582
Another option to consider: Keep your eyes open for used steel tube frame on the cheap. You or a friend or a shop can cut it down to fit your raft. I picked up a used steel tube frame for $100 and it included the high back seat. I had a friend with tools cut it down and then weld it back upto fit my 10' NRS raft. I could have made it a breakdown but figured it was small enough that I made it one piece (solid). The pic in the link below is of the frame without the plywood bench - it was zip tied on and was claimed by the river when the raft was flipped in Velvet Falls, MFS during a medium-high run. The frame isn't much heavier than what an aluminum one would be and it's bomber tough. A little touch up paint each year keeps the rust away.

Mountain Buzz - FatmanZ's Album: Mini-NRS Raft - Picture
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Old 02-06-2011   #19
Idaho Falls, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1979
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 2
I use wooden plugs inside the steel tubing to back up the set screws on the speed rail fittings. It makes a pretty secure connection. You could always drill them and use bail pins for more security.

Jim Lee
Idaho Falls, Idaho
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Old 02-06-2011   #20
Boise, Idaho
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 427
Nice! I was hoping someone would say I could drill the fittings. I would love to use breakdown pins as well. This being the case i think I'm gonna get some galvanized fence pipe and some fittings from frontierplay as I think they're the cheapest I've seen and drill away. Still need a drill press though...Craigslist/Harbor Freight here I come!

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