DIY raft frame, on the super cheap…

urbanhillbilly

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I’m planning a build for my raft, nothing super fancy, just something to add some oar locks/clips and possibly seats.

I’d like to source the materials from whatever hardware store has the cheapest options, but also have it look decent… Can’t have my hillbilly roots come through too much!

Saw some builds on the interwebs using galvanized steel, but would like to keep aluminum as an option if I can find it at a decent price. Remember, cheap is king right now lol!

I have a raft I acquired for free (the cheapest!) that is good quality, but not the best. I have to inflate it to get the dimensions, so that info is not available just yet.

I’ve done some reading online with some good ideas, but I’d like to know what people have done or would do different.
 

dahlenburg

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I built a frame for my zodiac style boat a few years ago and while I also tried to do on a budget I wanted it to last so I went with aluminum. You can buy aluminum in 20' lengths from alaska steel but I have no idea what it would cost these days. I also used speed rail fitting that can be bought from alaska steel or graingers. These were much cheaper than the NRS fittings and seemed to be a bit more versatile as well. If using the speed rail I would recommend drilling through them and bolting together so it does not come apart on you. If you are wanting to add a seat and need something bent Alaska Raft and Kayak are great to work with.

I also looked into using chain link fence post from lowes or home depot that are galvanized but planned to be mostly in the salt so decided against that. The fence posts may work if you are using mostly in rivers and don't expect it to last forever. If you have access to a small 110V welder then the options for configuration are pretty much limitless.
 

urbanhillbilly

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I built a frame for my zodiac style boat a few years ago and while I also tried to do on a budget I wanted it to last so I went with aluminum. You can buy aluminum in 20' lengths from alaska steel but I have no idea what it would cost these days. I also used speed rail fitting that can be bought from alaska steel or graingers. These were much cheaper than the NRS fittings and seemed to be a bit more versatile as well. If using the speed rail I would recommend drilling through them and bolting together so it does not come apart on you. If you are wanting to add a seat and need something bent Alaska Raft and Kayak are great to work with.

I also looked into using chain link fence post from lowes or home depot that are galvanized but planned to be mostly in the salt so decided against that. The fence posts may work if you are using mostly in rivers and don't expect it to last forever. If you have access to a small 110V welder then the options for configuration are pretty much limitless.

Good to know about the aluminum source, I was wondering where to look. Are those speed rail fittings aluminum as well?

I have no intentions of doing salt and realistically this raft will only be used maybe 2x a year, maybe…

I would like to use aluminum, but it all comes down to cost. I have access to a welder, but would like to keep as much of it bolt connect as I can for storage. More than likely my seat will be the cooler to start out with.

What size of aluminum pipe did you go with?
 

dahlenburg

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I believe I used 1.25" but it has been a couple of years so I don't remember. The speed rails are aluminum as well. I will see if I can find a couple of pictures while I was building it.
 

dahlenburg

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Couple pictures of the work in progress.
50578802c51cac18d1c0b130893f6215.jpg
9feedd5789f5da9a71fb013beaa4f108.jpg
f2e8c2910caf76df7274ea136de76b6a.jpg


Sent from my SM-G970U1 using Tapatalk
 

Larry Bartlett

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Aluminum is super expensive this year so cheap is relative.

The cheapest frame I ever made was out of 1" electrical conduit sides with 1 1/8" top rail (fence steel) for horizontal cross bars. These two sizes slide together perfectly. You'd need to bend conduit and weld galvanized metal which is caustic but doable.

Here's a side by side comparison of my Oar Saddles next to the conduit and rail breakdown model. I sprayed the frame with Rino liner 15 years ago and it's still 100%.
 

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ppine

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For years people made raft frames out of lumber bolted together. A 2x6 is easy to walk on. It is easy to sit on or bolt seats to it. Plenty strong. Anyone can make a wood frame. You can make lumber from spruce trees with a chainsaw mill.

You can weld steel tubing together. It takes a little finesse to cut the ends for a butt joint.

Fencing material is another choice. Buying used frame is the last option.
 

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