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Thread: building your own raft frame

  1. #1

    Default building your own raft frame

    I was curious to hear everyone's experience who have built their own rowing frame for a raft. Was it worth the effort over purchasing a pre-built frame from a raft company? Or in hind sight, would you go a different route?

    I have a 14' Sotar self bailer that needs a frame. I'm looking for a simple set-up that I can disassemble for fly-in trips and that has one or two passenger seat attachments for the front bar. I've rowed rafts sitting in a seat and sitting on a cooler / dry box. I much prefer a seat as I slid side to side too much on the cooler. So, a seat bracket for the rower as well. The majority of the time would just be myself and my wife, and I wanted to go fairly light in overall weight for fly-ins. So I was just thinking of two side rails, two cross bars, and possibly a foot bar to start out. I realize I can add and remove components as needed to customize for certain uses, passengers, etc.

    My thought was to stop by AK Raft and Kayak, describe what I'm looking for in options, and see what they have on hand or could build for me. However, if your experience has been one of substantial cost savings by buying the aluminum pipe and Lo Pro style fittings and assembling yourself, I'd like to hear your thoughts.

    I was told to consider starting out simple in frame design to get a better feel for what I want, then modify or add on from there which sounds reasonable to me. Any other considerations I should have? At this point I wasn't thinking I'd go with a bay on the frame to suspend a dry box / cooler. Most of my stuff tends to go into dry bags and smaller action packers.

    Thanks for your input,

    Jeff

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    hey jeff,
    i think the best bang for your buck might be to buy a simple nrs frame and add from there if desired ,they are a little heavier than a welded frame though. messing with frames is fun if you have the tools and a constructive mind.

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    Member scott_rn's Avatar
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    Check out 6th ave too. their connections are different, probably not as strong. Alaska raft connection has some ideas too.

    Keep in mind the foot bar counts as a cross brace and they're easier to climb over.

  4. #4

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    No need for a drop foot-bar on a SOTAR SB with the 7" floor and 20" tubes, just extra parts and weight as well as cost. Have built hundreds of frames for this size SOTAR raft.
    Goo
    sotaralaska@yahoo.com

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    Hey Goeaux Happy New Year I hope and trust it will be a great season and you and your family are well.

    Now to the point. When Geaux says he has built hundreds more than likley pushing closer to a thousand.

    AR&K carries a Simple Frame called a TM Galv. Metal bent with one / two bays cooler frame simple, not so heavy and compact.

    You you look at Jim Kings frame he has spent several years modifying his frame knuckles which IMO are Hollaender Fittings but he has again modified. I do believe they are larger than the standard NRS Lo Pro and if your looking around check with Jim as well.

    If you are looking at 6th Ave they have standard Hollaender fittings on their frames and they can be purchased through just about anyone who sells Pipe / Commercial Electrical supplies. http://www.hollaender.com

    IMO they and Lo Pro's have + - however I prefer the Lo Pro from NRS. That is not to say it is what you should use just what I like to build the frames I use with.

    Your frame choice if you choose to build with Lo Pro's could be a simple as a back bar with a seat and a foot bar with two side rails. Pipe in Anch is about .50 cents per foot cheaper schedule 40 Anodized is the only pipe you should use if purchasing. With two sets of oar stands, seat, oar locks 4 Lo Pro's maybe a foot bar you will not have to sell your body parts to be in a frame at a reasonable price.
    The positive part of the frame is you would be able to expand by increasing your side rails and adding bays as needed to meet your needs. Again this is what I like to do and there are many other options.

    Best of luck in your choice.

    BMR

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    I like the way Blue Moose thinks. ---- I've bought, built and modified several frames (multiple times), no where near as many as Goeaux or BlueMoose though. Personally, I don't think I'd ever buy another frame. They're not hard to build yourself, and you can build it to fit your boat the way you want. Adding a few extra pieces makes it easy to modify it to fit the occasion as well. I swap to short side rails with only two cross braces for whitewater trips and longer rails with more cross pieces to drop in coolers as needed. Same with the rower's seat. Sometimes I need to use the space better so I sit on a cooler/box. Easy to do if you are designing your own. I'm not at all sure I've really saved money, probably, but not sure. I didn't do it to save money.

    I've used NRS LowPro fittings, but only because that's what I started with. I like the ones the Jim King sells though. They're definitely stronger looking than Hollaender fittings, and plenty of people have used those for years without much issue. In some ways the LowPro's are easier to work with (you don't have to slide them off the end of the rails), but in other ways they are more difficult. Not sure there's an advantage either way. The LowPro's use 1.25" schedule 40 (about 1 5/8" OD), where Jim King's fittings use 1.5" schedule 40. I think 6th Ave use the same. I'm not sure the larger pipe is better for most uses, but I have bent a few of the 1.25" pipes when wrapping boats around rocks and bridges. The local Anchorage pipe supplier had some Hollaender fittings in stock last time I was there.

    I have also built wooden frames from dimensional lumber and have added wood parts to aluminum frames as well. Wood is easier on the knees when climbing in an out. It's also cheaper. Otherwise, I think aluminum is better.

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    Member Gerberman's Avatar
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    I have build my own aluminum frame, but I have a full fabrication shop, it takes a lot of equipment to bend, and weld the aluminum. The good part is you can change it at any time if you see a need for something else, I made a dry box with 2" closed cell foam on top, cut additional 2" foam and glued it to the top of the cover, it makes a comfortable place to sit and keeps me from sliding to the side. I made the drybox out of HDPE, I also weld plastic, again, got to have the right equipment. My frame is for a 16 foot Marivia, Williawa II, I agree with the rest, Go to a pro, tell them what you want, Get R Done. Have fun.

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    Row-Frames are not rocket science for certain. However... to achieve a high-quality, straight, reliable, tight-tolerance, and clean-looking frame can be moderately challenging. The other aspect of frame builds you'll face into is to what industry standards and what components plus pipe are you able to mix and match. Can always talk the pluses an minuses of comparable/compatible systems, so-so to high-quality components or pipe, and so on. There is junk that looks kinda good, to great stuff that invariably may indeed cost more, to foreign made or Made in USA.

    Building and accessorizing a well-made home-made Row-Frame can be a great and successful undertaking. Like a good chef - Sure I could give you all the proper ingredients and give you the coolest recipes... problems tho' could be that your first crack at the cake ends up not so great, kinda expensive for the trials/errors, made a mess, needs modifications adding time/expense, etc. What you really need is someone to show you some of the tricks of the trade. This will help you build that first frame and pave the ways to constructing all the nice add-ons down the road. Looking to save money? Well - you will, given the right path.

  9. #9

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    Thanks guys, exactly the type of info I was looking for!

    Jeff

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Strutz View Post
    The local Anchorage pipe supplier had some Hollaender fittings in stock last time I was there.

    .
    Which Anchorage pipe supplier did you see the Hollaender fittings and 1.5 schedule 40 pipe? I'm looking to make some mods in the Anchorage area.

    Thanks!

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    Member scott_rn's Avatar
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    Alaska steel has speed rail fittings. The schedule 40 pipe I bought from them wasn't anodized - that was a big mistake.
    My only gear sponsor is the salvation army - Dick Griffith

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    Yeah, it was AK Steel that had the fittings. I bought anodized pipe from them. I agree with Scott, non-anodized aluminum pipe is a bad idea on a raft. everything gets smeared with the black oxidation. It isn't worth the cost savings.

  13. #13

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    FYI. I talked to AK Steel in Anchorage today. They quoted me $83.03 for a 20' stick of 1.25" schedule 40 anodized aluminum. First cut is free, $10 for each additional cut.

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    Quote Originally Posted by shearej View Post
    FYI. I talked to AK Steel in Anchorage today. They quoted me $83.03 for a 20' stick of 1.25" schedule 40 anodized aluminum. First cut is free, $10 for each additional cut.
    Just a heads up... You have to be a bit more careful here. Must ask for the suitable T-rating on pipe. Mistake or choose the wrong rating, unfotunately your pipe will permanently take on the contours of inflation then the flexing and bending from even a single trip usage.

    $10/additional cut is a bit steep (won't yet be a finished pipe-end) and so is the price/foot (is what it is tho')

    I'll have to relate that for a 14' SOTAR SP, ST, SL or older SS.... considering the do-it yourselfer plan thus far (based on your quoted info given) all pipe, cuts, components, hardware, oar towers and oar locks maybe a seat (plus if needing 3 oars all dialed in w/ everything)... maybe start to think about going a used frame set-up in good shape or brand new (both of which carry same given lifetime guaranty on all components anyway).

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    Quote Originally Posted by scott_rn View Post
    Alaska steel has speed rail fittings. The schedule 40 pipe I bought from them wasn't anodized - that was a big mistake.
    Hello Scott,

    Here's a good solution on a Self-Bailer frame:
    - Etch or take a super fine grit to pipe parts that lay on your boat fabric
    -- Finish-work prep can be done with ScotchBright or Steel Wool.
    --- Clean up pipe surfaces with 90% or better Alcohol or and industrial solvent like MEK or Tolulene.
    ---- Go ahead and use a rattle can of matching grey or silver (more grey tho') paint that is of industrial standards like aircraft touch-up.

    Boat-wise:
    A good fabric clean-up of all oxide additionally 303 UV protection at the beginning of the season as well as at end (keeping up with anything throughout the season when practical) will see restoration, less future marring, and good looking maintainability of your boat's fabric.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Richardson View Post
    Just a heads up... You have to be a bit more careful here. Must ask for the suitable T-rating on pipe. Mistake or choose the wrong rating, unfotunately your pipe will permanently take on the contours of inflation then the flexing and bending from even a single trip usage.

    $10/additional cut is a bit steep (won't yet be a finished pipe-end) and so is the price/foot (is what it is tho')

    I'll have to relate that for a 14' SOTAR SP, ST, SL or older SS.... considering the do-it yourselfer plan thus far (based on your quoted info given) all pipe, cuts, components, hardware, oar towers and oar locks maybe a seat (plus if needing 3 oars all dialed in w/ everything)... maybe start to think about going a used frame set-up in good shape or brand new (both of which carry same given lifetime guaranty on all components anyway).
    Good point, I meant to ask about the T-rating of the pipe they had on hand but did not. It seems from other browsing, 6061 T6 aluminum has been used. Any idea if that is a suitable rating for a raft frame? I believe it was Michael who pointed out in a previous thread that holes through softer aluminum may take on an oblong shape over time and result in some unwanted clicking during rowing, thus a recommendation to go with a harder aluminum.

    Yes, $10 / additional cut was a little out there I thought. I have my own means of properly cutting the pipe and deburring the edges. The price / foot, well that's just the going rate I guess. I may look around Anchorage a bit but likely won't bother too much, can't imagine I'll save if having to pay S&H.

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    Quote Originally Posted by shearej View Post
    Good point, I meant to ask about the T-rating of the pipe they had on hand but did not. It seems from other browsing, 6061 T6 aluminum has been used. Any idea if that is a suitable rating for a raft frame? I believe it was Michael who pointed out in a previous thread that holes through softer aluminum may take on an oblong shape over time and result in some unwanted clicking during rowing, thus a recommendation to go with a harder aluminum.

    Yes, $10 / additional cut was a little out there I thought. I have my own means of properly cutting the pipe and deburring the edges. The price / foot, well that's just the going rate I guess. I may look around Anchorage a bit but likely won't bother too much, can't imagine I'll save if having to pay S&H.
    The pipe you'll commonly see indicated (read as really used for construction) are 6061 T6 and 6063 T6.

    As many on here know, I help a bunch of do-it-yourselfers out for success plus craft a bunch of Row-Frames and other accessory stuff for rafts, cat-a-rafts, canoes, custom work etc. every season... therefore I 100 percent can tell you that what anodized pipe has been available for quite some time now distributed to raft shops or home builders is actually 6063 T6 here in Alaska. The 6063 T6 is a more bendable pipe than 6061 T6, yet it really fits a very near twin application in terms of strengths vs. weaknesses on raft frames. Essentially little to no difference for Self-Bailer raft frame designs and smaller accessory work.

    The 6063 T6 actually makes nicer foot-bar designs, anchor systems, motor mounts, etc. Where it is not as good are longer/larger frames like 18' Cats side-rails, seating for the heavy-set, crimps form more visibly down on u-bolt fittings and so on. Ocean applications like seating bar spreads with up and down repetitive bouncing will also not be as good as with 6061 T6.

    With regards to drilling holes or problems down the road factors more on the type fittings you go with, how tuned you are into the plane of pipe to fittings, measure on all cuts, and final assembly. For example... My holes are through pipe only because my CNC machined fittings are pre-jetted and CNC jigged. This system is so precise that even if I constructed a row frame hanging out of a hot air balloon results are always the same. More spot on correct than you could ever accomplish using NRS or Hollaender fittings, the nicest drill presses, levels, vices and all --- that in comparative terms are for the most part just eyeballed.

    If/when I use 'cruder' cast NRS fittings; I still get great results... just have to work in those eyeballed parameters. Same goes for Hollaender on the outer diameter.

    Your Holes will not grow bigger unless you use the wrong drill bit and/or lack good project stability, leveling and vices. The way holes do erode (wallow out) is by not 'torquing' all hardware properly, not securing frame as good as can be with cam-straps, and poor frame to raft or raft to frame fit/designs (sometimes no choice on this last thing).

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