Homemade Wooden Raft Frame - Mountain Buzz

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Old 07-06-2007   #1
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 146
Homemade Wooden Raft Frame

I've seen a bunch around and was thinking about making a wooden raft frame. Any thoughts on this? Is it worth it, I don't really want to drop 800 bucks on a nice aluminum frame. What kind wood to use? Plans? etc...

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Old 07-06-2007   #2
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Denver, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 75
IMO it's the way to go. Way cheaper and has multiple added benefits. I was able to incorporate a hinged plywood bonnet on the bow that acts as a front deck for lounging, kayak storage, and sleeping at night. The bonnet is secured via straps to the D-Rings and the space underneath is used for easy access i.e. cool boxes and beer supply.

The running boards along the side tubes are made from 2x10. They act as a perfect step to get on and off the boat. I added SkidTec (basically fancy sand) to the varnish for both the side rails and bonnet to add extra traction when wet. I have slipped off many metal raft frames. I have not yet slipped off the wood one.

For $150 I built a custom frame that suits my needs better than any $700 metal frame could. Plus if ever broke during a trip I don't have to worrying about sharp edges digging holes in my raft. I simply carve down the sharp edges and strap it back together.
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Old 07-06-2007   #3
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 146
Thanks for the feedback repa

Sounds like the way to go. What type of wood did you use. I assume a hardwood would be best so it doesn't soak up a ton of water and warp. Do you mind posting some pictures of your frame?

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Old 07-06-2007   #4
Join Date: Feb 2004
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Will definitely be cheaper than an aluminum frame, although still not that cheap when it is all said and done. Figure on: $30 lumber, $50 for the oarstands, $25 for oarlocks, $10 for hardware, and $10 for finish. As far as plans, just use 2x10 lumber for the sides and the seat cross piece and 2x4 lumber for the cooler bay cross pieces. You can either make two cross bars spaced appropriately for your cooler, or use just one 2x10 that your cooler will hang from underneath (not as useful in my opinion).

Spend some time and get your lengths and cross bar spacing where you want it. I would blow up your boat and spend some time sitting there thinking about it, with a beer in hand. As far as bolting it all together, use carriage bolts with counterbored holes for the nuts and washers on the other side. Buy your oarstands and lay it all out before you cut the lumber so that it will all go together as planned. Bolt her together and then use some sort of waterproof finish. I have used MinWax Spar Urethane with good results. They also make a more durable, harder finish but it is considerably more slippery when wet.

All in all, If you take some time and measure twice (or three or four times) and cut once, you will have a nice frame when you are done. PM me and I can email you some pics of my frame with some detail shots of various parts. Good luck, but you won't need too much. Pretty easy project if you are reasonably handy.
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Old 07-06-2007   #5
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Denver, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 75
I Used basic construction pine boards (2x10) straight and free of big knots. Varnish,varnish, varnish at least three coats and then after a few hard years of service sand and re-varnish. I also mounted two 2inch EMT pipes as cross pieces where I strap my cooler and dry box.

Hardwoods are way heavier and more $ than pine and don't add any benefit.

Not a great photo of the frame but notice the front bonnet.

PM me your phone number and I'll chat w/ you about the actual construction if you want.
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Old 07-06-2007   #6
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 146
Thanks guys and gals. If anyone else has picture they can post of their pimped out (or plain) raft frame I would love to see them

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Old 07-06-2007   #7
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 2,085
Try running a search on this. There have been a number of extremely informative threads on this and similar topics in the past.

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Old 07-06-2007   #8
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Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 1,165
Wood works fine, but for about the same cost you can buy aluminum pipes and fittings and have a much lighter frame that packs down well.

Here are prices for 1.5 inch IPS fittings:

You can also get them cheaper on eBay:
eBay Store - EZsMART: Fittings 1-1 2: CROSS 1-1 2 Speed Hand Rail Stage Handrail Fittings

Fencing stores carry 1.5" IPS tube, 1.9 OD, it should cost about $4/foot. You can build a frame for about $200. Another option is raftframe.com. They have a basic 3 bay frame (bean counter model) listed for $240 including oar towers.
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Old 07-07-2007   #9
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SE, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 1,099
More Games with Frames

There's a thread I started 05/21/07 on homebuilt frames: search the Buzz for 'Games with Frames' and you'll find it. Several posts with photos and lists of materials. I like mahogany for strength and lightness, over pine. Here's one pic of a top-rail tube frame with wood cross members:

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Old 07-08-2007   #10
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Whitewater Boater, Boating Whitewater
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 162
Wood is Good.

I wouldn't worry about softwoods vs. hardwoods soaking up more water. It takes a long time for any wood (unless rotten) to soak up water. Wood reacts to humidity as a function of time and %RH and it still takes a long time. It would take months to dry a fresh cut 2x10 (air dry) and it will takes months of 100% RH for it to soak back up only some of that water. This becomes even less of an issue once properly finished. BTW the absorption (and drying) is on the order of 100x (or more) greater on the end grain than the length of the boards,...so extra coats on the end grain. I second the notion of clear wood (minimal or no knots) being much stronger (a 2"x2" pc of clear soft pine can takes over 2000# of force to break it at a span of only 30", that means 2 of them could hold up your car, with knots you could break it over your knee). I would also stay away from Doug Fir. Failure tends to be harsh and sharp.

Some not so humble opinions of a Wood Scientist...
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