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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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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