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Thread: Tolman Skiffs

  1. #1
    Member ksbha4's Avatar
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    Default Tolman Skiffs

    I have been tossing around the idea of building a tolman skiff. They seem to be reasonably priced, although I'm not sure what the total cost would end up being. My woodworking skills are very basic. All things considered, I would like to try and build one of the widebody or a jumbo models, something with a cabin. How difficult are these projects? Can these boats be built with basic wood skills or should I re-think it? What are your opinions?
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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Check out this site for all things Tolman: http://www.fishyfish.com/index.html
    Get a copy of Renn's book, and go for it.
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  3. #3

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    You've probably seen the kits that are available, but it doesn't hurt to throw it out there anyways: http://www.skiffkits.com/

  4. #4
    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    I built a widebody, but went with a piolothouse. In hindsight a Jumbo would have been a better boat for my use.



    I started building 7 years ago, and finished 4 years ago. It was more off than on building, and mostly just in the winter. If you have a heated workspace that allows 3-4' space all around the boat, and a laydown assy area, you can build much faster. A heated workspace is essential, and not just for the time you'll be working, for the days it takes the epoxy to fully cure.

    As to cost, materials have really jumped since I built, as well as shipping costs. If you're going to build say a 24' jumbo with a full pilothouse and 140 horse, trailer, basic electronics, etc, I think $30-35k is a realistic budget. I didn't keep real close tabs on my costs, but think it came in around $25k, but I saved ~$1500 with a used trailer, ~$2000 on a one year old engine and a couple bucks here and there. A jumbo needs more wood, more glass and more epoxy than a widebody, at one point I figured about $1500 more than my widebody. Some folks are good at scoring deals off of e-bay, craigslist et al, but no gurantee you'll be able to score the perfect sized trailer, fuel tank etc.

    The woodworking skills are minimal, it's really your skills with fiberglass and body work, i.e. fairing and painting, as well as plumging and electrical. Renns book is excellent, but the one thing he skips over is spending some time to make sure items are true before gluing. I have a few areas where items are a bit off of perpindicular etc. Doesn't affect the performance, but it would have been nice to have gotten those areas nice and true.

    Don't go with cheap plywood, use quality BS1088 marine plywood. Yeah it's expensive, but it requires less epoxy than fir, and much less sanding and filling when fairing. You can upgrade many things on the boat, but whatever plywood, epoxy and glass you use, you're stuck with (pun not intended )
    Those that are successful in Alaska are those who are flexible, and allow the reality of life in Alaska to shape their dreams, vs. trying to force their dreams on the reality of Alaska.

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    Member ksbha4's Avatar
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    I just got done looking though all your pics on fishyfish, I didn't know that was you! Great job. It looks like a real rewarding project. So am I understanding that you did all the woodwork from scratch and not one of Renns kits? Unfortuantely, the costs you suggested are still going to be a bit much for my income levels for right now. I might have to downgrade to the open skiff!
    Ask not what your government can do for you. Ask how your government can go away and get out of your life

  6. #6
    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    Renn has never made kits, Neal of Skiffkits in Anchorage makes the kits. Neal was working on his prototype when I started my boat, so the kit wasn't an option.

    I think my numbers are pretty realistic, sometimes folks get carried away when stating how affordable the boats are. They are when compared to $60-70k for a new fiberglass or aluminum boat of the same size, but they aren't pennies on the dollar, not to mention the boats with cuddy cabins and pilot houses require alot of labor, I'd say upwards of triple the labor of a basic open skiff.

    Start perusing craislist and want adds for used motors and trailers. If you come across a good deal on those items, then perhaps you can work your way into a full pilothouse boat, which IMHO greatly extends your boating season.

    Some people have built or boat open skiffs and added cabins later, but that's alot of extra labor and painting, so think long and hard about what the end result you are after before committing.
    Those that are successful in Alaska are those who are flexible, and allow the reality of life in Alaska to shape their dreams, vs. trying to force their dreams on the reality of Alaska.

    If you have a tenuous grasp of reality, Alaska is not for you.

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