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Thread: Thinking of building a Tolman Skiff

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    Default Thinking of building a Tolman Skiff

    Has anyone on here built a Tolman Skiff? I am new to boat building and was wondering how complex this design was to build. Is it something a relatively inexperierienced boat builder can tackle? I am working on a much smaller boat now but am looking for the next project already.

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    Member Cliffhanger's Avatar
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    Default Some links for ya...

    At one point a year ago I thought I was going to build a Tolman and did some research, but ended up having an aluminum boat built instead. However, here's a couple of websites to look over...

    Tolman users website

    Anchorage kit supplier


    The kits gets you a hull only. The cabin design and pieces you do yourself.

    Paul H on this list will probably reply. He's built a Jumbo and is very knowledgeable.

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    www.fishyfish.com they have a wonderfull forum there for all of us tolmanites, sign up for the forum and there is a wealth of knowledge there i also think there are a few guys on this forum too

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    Member AK Ray's Avatar
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    The hardest part of building a glass over wood boat is becoming comfortable with the fiberglassing. Once you know how to spread epoxy and understand your pot life, it is pretty easy as long as you have the space to build.

    Renn's book is pretty good. I also like Sam Devlin's book on stitch and glue boat building.

    I have built one Devlin boat for duck hunting as well as three other messing around small boats based on different concepts or plans.

    One day I will have the time and funds to build a Tolman, but it will have to be in the summer since my one car garge is way too small.

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    Neal at Lasertech in Anchorage makes the kits and has built a beautiful Tolman himself. Probably be a good one to talk with.

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    Default Thanks for the links

    There are some beautiful boats on that site. Are the kits hull only? I didn't see anything on the cabin.

  7. #7

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    I've done some thinking about building a boat as well, but you are way ahead of me if you've started a small one.

    If you haven't already, look over bateau.com, they have a wide variety of boat designs there. I can see some advantages to going with their designs: a very active builder's forums with good information, diverse design types, and although I have no way of comparing first hand a lot of people say their building method is easier than the Tolman.

    That having been said, Alaska probably has more local support for Tolmans.

    Might be worth a few minutes of time, anyway.

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    I built a tolman widebody, and ended up stretching it to 22 1/2' and adding a full pilothouse. In hindsite a 24' jumbo would have been a better hull for my use, but I didn't have the room to build one.



    It is the only boat I've built, and I doubt you'll find an easier to build boat. I also think for the money you can't find a better hull designed for Alaskan waters. I have done woodwork and fiberglass work, so I was familiar with the type of work I'd be doing. All you need is enough space, time and $. While the pilothouse boats are great and I can't imagine opting for an open skiff over the pilothouse, it adds considerable time to build and expense. Figure at least 1000 hours, there are just alot more parts to cut, and you'll be designing alot of them. Then add time to fair, sand, fair, sand, prime, sand and paint.

    Neal's kits are great (I started my boat before they were available) he uses top notch materials, and the savings in time over cutting your own wood, savings in epoxy from tighter joint fit and eliminating any worries about properly cutting the wood make the kits well worth it.

    As far as I know Neal doesn't offer cabin kits for two reasons. One is he doesn't have control over how you build the boat, so coming up with a kit that'll fit what people build from the hull kits just isn't practical. The second point is everybody seems to have a different idea of what the perfect cabin will be, so hard to guess what people want, and not economical to make custom cabins on a one off nature.

    There are quite a few folks in state that have build tolmans, and as already linked, the fishyfish forum is the best resource for getting all your questions answered.

    PS, One thing that sets Tolman skiffs apart from other boat plans out there, is Renn built over 100 of them commercially, and put his experience of building these boats into his design book. So it's not just a book of how to build a tolman, it includes his techniques which were honed by building the hulls commercially. When you try and outthink Renn and come up with a better way to do something, you just come up with a way that takes alot more time, almost everybuilder has done that and later realized why Renn did things the way he did.

    Most other plans at most have the designer building a prototype, some don't even do that, and hence their design is far from perfected to be easily and efficiently built. I had very little scrap wood left at the completion of my build, testament to a design that eficiently uses sheet wood and the scraps. Also Tolman skiffs have logged some very impressive trips around the state, something I don't think any other home built design can claim.

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    That is one beautiful boat you have built-looks professional from the pictures. thanks for posting

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    Default Tolman

    I built a Tolman Jumbo from a Skiffkits kit. The pre-cut kit consists of the plywood parts needed for the basic hull. Plywood was handpicked and very nice. Nothing but good things to say. The only knowledge I had of boat building was what I read in Renn's book. I had never touched epoxy or glass before. My only experience was home remodeling for myself that included some drywall work. The drywall work ported over to epoxy and glass work, namely the smoother you get it while wet the less sanding you do when it is dry.

    After I completed the hull I got some templates from Skiffkits for the cabin. This included the sides and rear bulkhead. I was able to use the templates with little adjustments needed as I used the kit for the hull and everything came out pretty close. Neal was also a wealth of knowledge.

    I would do it again. I haven't found a boat designed so an average Joe with no experience can build it and feel safe in AK waters. I am sure they exist but I didn't come across one. I spent about a year researching before starting. I looked at every boat plan site i could find.

    I have run my boat out near Montague in PWS, I go to Coleman Cove in Aialik Bay whenever possible, and run out of Homer 20 - 30 miles without real concern, watching weather of course in all cases.

    For less than $20K I have what I consider an sea worthy boat that can take 8 adults out for a day of sightseeing. I took the visiting relatives (8 large adults) out of Resurrection Bay twice over a weekend. We stayed in the marina at night, girls in the hotel, guys sleeping in the boat. We went to Mary's Bay on Rugged Island, around Cape Resurrection a bit and then across to Pony Cove. We were siteseeing and ran in and out of the coves along the way. We came back into Seward in the late afternoon in the typical slop. We all stayed warm, dry and relatively comfortable. My relatives were duly impressed by all we saw. We even chased up some chickens to take back.

    As mentioned there is a pretty large number of people from Alaska that have built, are building, or planning to build a Tolman. The Fishyfish site mentioned has a pretty large base of actual builders with a lot of information.

    I would say if I can build one anyone can. I hope this helps, feel free to contact me if you have questions.


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    Member AKDoug's Avatar
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    I've been looking to build one also, but my shop just keeps getting filled up with other projects. Time for a new shop first, with a boat building project planned into it's design

    I also own a set of plans from http://www.glacierboats.com/ because I am really considering a 28' boat right off the bat. They come from a member here named tananaBrian (Brian Dixon). The plans are pretty complete and he uses many of the same techniques as Tolman. However, I don't believe anyone has one of these hulls built yet.

    This winter my kids and I are all building little 7' row boats with stitch and glue techniques. http://koti.kapsi.fi/hvartial/dinghy1/simboii.htm One for me, and one for each kid. I figure it's a good way to learn the techniques better and start off slow.
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    I believe Dave Nolan in NJ started on one of Brian's Glacierboat designs, but I haven't heard how he has progressed on the project. Dave built a Tolman widebody, and has racked up alot of miles well offshore in the Atlantic.

    From what I've seen, the glacier boat is a big jump in cost and building difficulty due the additional weight of the thicker ply. It would be a difficult boat for one person to build. On my widebody I did 95+% of the work myself, and the only thing I needed help with was flipping the hull, and my wife and I managed that task. It's certainly needed in the longer boat, but is something to consider. I can understand the desire for a 28' boat, as that is what I'd like to get for my next boat. If I were to build one, I'd strongly consider going aluminum, as I just detest the sanding, fairing, sanding, fairing, priming, sanding and painting process. That's tempered with me just not having that much free time and wanting to bang out a boat to use vs. spending years building.

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    Member AKDoug's Avatar
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    Yep, Paul, I've definately considered these things. I have lots of friends and lots of beer I own a lumber yard and a tool rental business. Moving heavy things is no issue for me I just can't bring myself to get a loan to pay for a toy like a boat. With a build project I can just pay as I go. It's going to be 10 years before I have time to use the dang thing anyway.
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    Paul and T24, what beautifull boats.....!
    You guys did a great job and it gets me excited, I have the shop and the tools and the woodworking experience, I dont have any experience w/ fiberglass, but am sure I can learn that part.
    I just dont know where to come up with the time? The one thing we all run out of.
    I would like a 28 foot aluminum also, but I dont see that in the near future.

    T-24, was wondering what you have powered your 24 with?
    Is it economical?
    How many hours do you figure using the kit?
    John
    “Nothing worth doing is easy”
    TR

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    Paul H, Tolman24, and others...you guys have really accomplished something. So many of us would love a boat like that, and to go out and build one that nice is really something else.

    I can't even imagine doing it, although I'd really like to.

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    Default Resale

    Just wondering what the resale on one of these is. I know you would never get your time out of it, but what are they actually worth when completed? If your putting 20-25k into them could you sell it for that? I haven't seen any for sale so I'm just wondering, Paul and Tolman those are nice looking boats.

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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    Resale seems to be about what folks have into them in materials, but it depends on the level of finish. Tolman skiffs have a small but dedicated following in the state, and since Renn doesn't build them commercially, folks don't seem to have much problem selling them.

    Neal, the owner of skiffkits sold his Jumbo for $40k, though he is a professional woodworker and I doubt what he got out of the boat in addition to materials was anywhere near the labor he put into it. The quality of his boat was on par if not better than a commercial fiberglass boat, so what his boat sold for was fairly reasonable.

    The savings isn't in what you'll get out of resale, rather what you'd save over a new boat of the same size. Also the advantage of building the boat is you get a boat setup exactly the way you want it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Akgramps View Post
    Paul and T24, what beautifull boats.....!

    T-24, was wondering what you have powered your 24 with?
    Is it economical?
    How many hours do you figure using the kit?
    John
    I powered mine with a Suzi 115 and a standard (not Hi Thrust) Suzi 9.9 tiller kicker.

    It is very economical to me. Many are powering with the Suzi 140 with good results. I am going off of memory but I believe my top speed with 3 people and fishing gear was 33 mph, coming through the narrows near Hive Isl in Resurrection Bay. My avg cruising speed is 22 - 26 mph. My best trip fuel burn with 2 people sightseeing was 5.1 mpg over 100 miles smooth conditions. My avg fuel burn is about 4.5 mpg. With 8 adults in the boat site seeing mileage was 4 mpg, avg cruise 23 mph. When my son is driving avg fuel consumption is 3.8 mpg, pretty much running WOT. Whether that is economical is a personal decision. I felt that was pretty good for a 24' boat.

    As far as time, that is a good question. It took me 2 winters and I took the summer off to play. I had the basic hull finished the first winter. If I had to hazard a guess I would say 900 - 1000 hours. I had a very small work space so I didn't get to make efficient use of my time. I tried to get at least 8 hours in over a weekend and a couple of hours after work each night. I had some time where I didn't touch it for a month or so, waiting for bank account or motivation to replenish. It became very enjoyable to work on it and see progress. Since it was in my garage the UPS and Fed Ex drivers were always asking about progress as they delivered the next part I needed. I figure the kit saved me at least 30% on the hull build. It took the guess work out.

    The skills needed to complete one are rudimentary and should be attainable by all. The skills to efficiently build one without wasting time and effort are only attained through practice. I think the second one would take 20% less time. The trick for me was not look at the whole project as it seemed daunting. I would pick a small goal and work to it, then pick a new one. Small steps.

    I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions.

  19. #19
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    Default Resale

    Quote Originally Posted by Muskie View Post
    Just wondering what the resale on one of these is. I know you would never get your time out of it, but what are they actually worth when completed? If your putting 20-25k into them could you sell it for that? I haven't seen any for sale so I'm just wondering, Paul and Tolman those are nice looking boats.
    I agree with Paul. If I got materials and what I paid for the motor out I would feel good. The issue is I am not a professional builder. There are visual defects with my paint or finish. They don't effect the performance or use but they are not factory. A prospective buyer would want to discount for these issues. Kind of like when you are selling a house, the warts are more noticeable to someone that hasn't lived with them.

    To the right buyer any of these would be a steal if they didn't have time to do it themselves. I have mine setup exactly like I want it so it is perfect for me, may not be that way for you. The one really nice thing about these is if I decide that I want a different cabin configuration and want to change it from a fishing boat to a cabin cruiser I can do that. One winter with a sawzall and some plywood and epoxy I can have a completely new cabin layout.

    I plan for mine to cause a family rift when I go as it will be the one thing that I have that the kids will want. Maybe I will ask to go out like a Viking.

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    Can anyone share how comfortable it would be building a 21 in a 24X30 garage and has anyone got pictures of theirs built with a long cabin?

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