I am a complete newbie to wood boats but have done some research. Just purchased an 1985 16' Don Hill Project Boat with trailer for $800. Thought I could get it fishing for another $500 until today when I got done stripping everything down. I have a friend that built a Tatman back in the 80's and he has had some input on the repairs. The way he built his boat has influenced how I think a boat should be built, but there is more than one way to skin a cat so I am open to suggestion. In General the wood is in good shape. My plan was to fiberglass the bottom and add some graphite powder to finish. Epoxy paint the boat inside and out, but varnish some of the trim pieces, etc.

Got the boat home yesterday and started working on it. I just finished disassembling the interior (seats, floors, etc.) and have scraped the boat inside and out(removed extremely peeled varnish, there was no epoxy).

Here is a list of questions/problems with some of my ideas on each subject. At this point I may have to start selling stuff to finish the boat. Feel free to comment on any or all of the questions. A rough cost estimate for any new ideas would be helpful.

1. This boat was never epoxied. All the original owner ever did was keep it varnished and used what appears to be silicone caulk at every wood joint. in general the wood is in good shape. Should I be concerned? What will need to happen taking into account the above plans for finishing the boat.

2. Discovered that one of the inside chines is broken behind a rib. There is a little dry rot at the break and at a couple intermittent spots a foot or two on each side of the break. Also, A couple of the bottom ribs were cracked starting at the drain holes and extending toward the center about 6" and 18". The poor excuse for a fiberglass bottom covering about 80% of the bottom was coming off so I just pulled it off (he did a poor job and applied it over the varnish, don't know if that is why it didn't stick). Found that he used regular screws instead of brass or stainless. As expected, there is substantial corrosion on the screw, but they seem to be holding tight. Here is the question. Do I pull off the bottom, replace both chines, replace cracked ribs, replace the floor board (original wood is good), and use stainless screws? Or, do I chip out the sections of rotted chine and patch with epoxy and fiberglass if needed, epoxy the cracks in the two bottom ribs, and leave the screws as they are? Should I replace the chine and just put the original bottom back on? I am not too concerned with minor blemishes from a repair because it is getting painted anyway. Side question: If I have to replace the bottom do I have to use marine playwood or could I just use some exterior rated playwood?

3. Considering that when I am finished stripping the boat that I will be down to bare wood, What is the general process for fiberglassing the bottom of the boat? My plan was to remove the outside chine. Make sure everything is sanded, smooth, and clean. Lay out 18 or 20 oz. tri-axial cloth. Wet out. Add 2 coats or more of epoxy with graphite powder until the bottom is smooth. Trim glass about 1/2" up from bottom so that the screw from the outer chine will not penetrate the glass. Epoxy paint the side of the boat to overlap the 1/2" of glass. Re-install chine. I would like to do all the epoxy in one shot so that everything is chemically bonded and I don't have to sand clean and worry about blushing. Do I need to add some other coats of plain epoxy in the process somewhere? Remember, Entire boat will be bare wood. I Only planned to epoxy paint the interior and exterior. There is no other epoxy on any of the boat except what I use for the bottom.

4. Is there a better or cheaper bottom for the boat? What is it? How much? where can I get it...? Heard of a product called liquid graphite that was supposedly applied like a paint and was pretty inexpensive, but couldn't find any information on it. Sounds too good to be true, probably is.

Any help you may have will be greatly appreciated. Remember, I am already way over budget. I''ll be passing around the collection plate later...Thanks!!!

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Glad to have you here. There are undoubtedly guys that have restored boats worse off than this on here and I'm not one of 'em but I'll get the party started . . .

From your comment that you are going to have to start selling stuff to complete the project--stay cool and don't do that. I dont think you need to. The boat was $800 so it isn't going to be perfect no matter what. With a bit of work she'll be doing her job well. My general rule is if it isn't messing with the functionality, and not leading to rot don't fix it. Don't make extra work for yourself. I wouldn't remove the bottom. From the sound of what you paid, you wanted a budget fish catching machine and you can still have that.

For example, I split a rib side member where the carriage bolt goes through when I was building my boat. The split probably extends down from the handrail a couple inches but it is way worse up top. I poured epoxy in. That was five years ago and it hasn't gotten any worse . . . if you get my drift. I would not pull the bottom off if the wood is in good shape. BTW, my boat still gets compliments every time out so this philosophy hasn't made her a dog by any stretch.

As for the chine, I don't know what to do--it depends on how bad it is. If it is horrific maybe a dutchman? From the description it doesn't actually sound that bad. "Some dry rot at the break." I'm guessing that means it doesn't go all the way through. I'd get the bad wood out and assess the situation. If the rot is confined near the surface I'd just go the route you suggested. As for the rib splits, I wish I had a picture. You could inject epoxy into the splits--that's where I'd start and clamp it in using vice grips and some scraps of uhmw if you got them. Or just do the clamping and uhmw/epoxy thing. Heck, if you are really nice, I could spot you a couple scraps of uhmw. Worst case, you could epoxy one side of a length of fir and sister the bottom cross member of the rib with that length of fir. That'd work, if you wanted to go that route. I have the Don Hill plans and could tell you the bottom bevel. Would she be the prettiest girl at the dance? Nope. But she'll be the one you catch fish from and take you home--and it would not break the bank.

On to the bottom. Sounds like you have the glassing procedure about down but I've never done it. My bottom is coat-it with a uhmw shoe. I don't know what glass and resin costs. You could skip the glass if you wanted to and simply bed the batten with 3m 5200 available at Jerry's and any good home improvement store for about 10 bucks a tube (which you should apply liberally under the batten when you reattach it do whether you glass or not) reattach it, use exterior type concrete epoxy which is cheap (on a buget ) and then use Coat- it on the bottom which is about $50.00 a gallon and is epoxy premixed with graphite. Sounds like the liquid graphite you are talking about. It is good and it isn't to good to be true--it is real. It's what I did when I built my boat as a poor student using beer cans collected from parties and it worked well.

Then you'd be fishing. You can always glass it later or not if you are happy with the coat-it. For a few years I had nothing but coat-it over that gray exterior epoxy on my bottom and it was fine.

I think the procedure with glassing though is to use epoxy resin and wet it out, let it cure and in your finish epoxy coat add the graphite powder.

I knew Don pretty well--and have a Don Hill boat. 16 foot standard. I love it-handles like a dream. He wasn't real big on coating everthing in epoxy. He was (when I knew him) really into filling with epoxy when things went wrong. He probably told whoever built your boat that they didn't need epoxy--and they didn't, if they kept the finish up well. He told me that and he has been right though I'd probably do it on my next boat to prevent some of the minor checking issues I have. All this to say I love your polyurethane paint plan. Sounds solid--I'd go one part paint. The two part is highly toxic and you need a forced air respirator, a filter cartrdige is not adequate. If you don't use it (the forced air respirator) you have a ridiculously high chance (5 to twenty percent) of permanent asthma. Not cool. As for leaving some of the wood bright, you could go with varnish which I think is too expensive, doesn't provide UV protection and a supreme pain in the rear to apply or in keeping with the Don Hill spirit you could use Helmsman Marine Spar Urethane. It is widely available, is easy to apply bubble free with a china hair brush, is affordable at 30 bucks or so a can, has improved UV protection and it works. Some of the guys here may roast me for saying it but I think you pay extra to have the word "marine" printed on the can. Peace of mind for the rich guys but unnecessary as my boat proves. The Helmsman works great--check my boats pictures in my profile that's all she has ever had, many years, no rot, she looks good but is no showboat--she fishes alot. I was just admiring her tonight.

So, those are my two cents and then some.
Oh, did you ask about floorboars? Refinish them maybe . . . if you really want. Talk about a part of the boat that gets beat to hell fast. Not worth it in my book. I refinish my boat now once a year and never do the floorboards. They are just going to look bad after a few trips anyway. I would replace the fasteners with stainless though and consider running grip tape the length of them.

I would remove those whatchamacallits that keep your oars locked in place (I hate those things) and just go with oar stops. Good luck, tight lines.

I think Karl's reply is right on the mark. Any close up pics of the trouble spots?
Unfotunately, the Mrs is out of town until Tuesday and she has the camera. I think that with everything adding up I may go ahead and replace the chine and the ribs and just re-use the bottom plywood. The rot at the break is virtually all the way through and about 2" long. Also, the combination of all the damage is tweaking the back half of the boat up on one side a little. Probably not enough to make a difference, but I need to replace all the screws with stainless so I might as well fix it up and re-seal the bottom.
I did the tatman style bottom and it worked out great. I had some questions and posted to this site. Got some great help...check out the thread here.


First off glad you have found the site, there are a lot of wonderful people willing to help. Here' my two bits as someone who just finished restoring a 25+ year old Tatman. First off Karl's comments about "if it isn't messing with the functionality then don't mess with it", are spot on. There will be plenty of things that "pop up" unexpectedly, don't over burden yourself. I will defer to others on this site with more knowledge about replacing bottoms than I have had as I did not replace mine. However, I would like to offer a few ideas for the finish from my experience.

I decided to use Pettit's EasyPoxy Topside Paint on the exterior of my boat. Its a one part epoxy paint and was supper easy to apply and not real expense. Plus it went a long way. The paint is a great idea because of how it holds up over time and how you can add coats as necessary to restore a "new" look.

Now for the interior finish. You may have started to figure this out, however, if you haven't, getting that varnish / epoxy / glass / whatever off, and out of the very tinny angles between the ribs and hull is an absolute pain in the ass. Don't create a future pain the ass by re-applying anything that may need to be re-sanded, re-scraped or re-buffed. Go out on a limb and through some oil on the interior. It has a wonderful warm feel, protects great and most importantly in my book is supper easy to re-apply. If you want a nice shiny finish look into Deks Olje. The guys at Tatman are selling this stuff again and it finishes up like a varnish but is actually and oil. I used it on my boat and love it.

I know that finishing the boat is the icing on the cake so to speak and as such seem to be a pretty personal decision so don't take my comments for anything more than what they are (mostly hot air from a guy you don't even know). But do yourself favor and make the future maintenance of the boat something easy so you can spend more time out on the water.

Good luck,

Yea, I am glad I found it too. You guys are great!!! Karl has been a huge help in pointing me in the right direction. Just found some bad news today. Finally got the boat flipped over and found out I HAVE to replace the bottom. I thought the dry rot was only on the chine. Turns out that the bottom under that chine had rotted out as well as some of the side. I will be able to repair the side with a little glass. Couldn't see it top side, but once I flipped it over and took off the old fiberglass...the boat just gave me the finger! Got about 20% of the screws out of the bottom. There were in really bad shape and I am just now getting to the worst of them. Most of them I have had to use the little extractor tool for my drill. It will take me at least 4 hours to get the bottom off. I know what your saying about sanding all the little corners. I sanded a little to see how the varnish would come off. Whats just as bad, the previous owner also though it was a good idea to put silicone caulk on all the joints and half of the screw heads. That is why I am painting the inside. :-) I like the idea of the oil and if the battens were in a little better shape I probably would do that. But as it stands I think that I will use the paint. It will fill all the little checking and should smooth out nice with two or three coats. Nice thing is, It shouldn't peel away and if it does, it will be an easy fix. Believe me, I would love to leave the whole boat clear. Thanks for the input. If she was in a little better shape I'd go for it.
Wil, where are you located? I have a boat bottom that came of a similar project that you could have for free! I'm in the Spokane area. The finish has been stripped from the bottom side. I also have some ribs and extra parts that I will not be using that might be useful in your restoration. If there is anyone else out there that could use these items I make the same offer. Better that someone use these for a restoration than being burnt up to make smoke and heat.

The boat is shown in some of the pictures from early in the year. It is a generic 16" x 48" built with douglas fir.
I don't know what to say...thanks! I think I'll have to take you up on that. I am from Boise, but my buddy sells insurance up there so maybe I'll head up and fish the clearwater while I am at it. My bottom is a strong 47" and the length is a strong 12' 10". If you think that it may work, let me know. It is worth taking the chance if it is close. I could always take some more measurements. pm me when you get a chance and we can work out the details.
Wil, I just spent fifteen minutes saying that it would be great for you to come and get the boat parts and I went to look up a link and lost it all. http://www.redshedflyshop.com/ Here's the link since I have it already copied. If you are a spey fly fisherman you probably already know about Poppy at the Red Shed. If not and are looking for some insights to the Clearwater he is a wonderful guy.

I will be leaving soon to assist an old friend in determining the condition of his 30' motor/sailer in Ketchikan, AK in hopefully the next five or six days. If the boat is actually seaworthy, it has been on the tarmac since 2006, we plan to do a circuit around the island that Ketchikan is located on while my buddy gets his sea legs and navigation skills back in preparation for a solo sail back to Washington State. While he is doing that I plan to conduct a thorough investigation into the availability, quantity and quality of as many types of salmon and shellfish as we can find in three or four days. However the boat and its' parts are available right now.

Do you have a concept of your travel plans yet? You can see pictures of the boat on my page. I will measure it tomorrow, however I know it is about 47+ inches wides at the widest point. I will measure the length of the bottom as it lays on the ground. I think that you will be fine however.

I welcome you to pickup the boat at your convenience, we can communicate via email our phone numbers and such and make more definite plans. I don't need to be here for you to show up, however it would be a pleasure to meet you. Sort of like giving away a kidney and wanting to meet the recipient!

I'm glad you posted, I didn't want the boat to go to waste. There are also some flor boards made of cedar already made and in good shape with a grey house or porch paint on them. I have an unassembled 16.5' Tatman kit that I will be working on when I get the garage remodel, yard sale and epoxy and varnish fundraiser completed. I am a collector of everything, however lately I have been changing my ways and reluctantly giving away, selling and rebuilding my previous aquisitions.

I'll send you information tomorrow on measurements. Have a good evening.

Rick Newman
I measured the boat and the bottom is the same side is 12' x 47" so it should be the same as yours. So let me know your details.

Rick Newman
I see a diamond in the rough. It looks pretty good.

Take everything out of the interior. Start scraping and get all that varnish off. Rejuvinate that wood with a few or (several) coats of oil. Oil it until it won't drink any more.

You do NOT need to coat everything in epoxy. Some of us have owned boats encapsulated in epoxy. guess what- water will find its way under that stuff and then you get dry rot. I don't own those boats anymore.

It looks great to me. Poke around those chines, identify the trouble spots and inject epoxy into it.

As for the bottom, that's a highly personal thing. But I can tell you I have had boats with wood bottoms, glass bottoms with graphite, (i really don't think the graphite does much for you than color it black by the way) and holes in the bottoms. haha. My personal preference as of late is the good old fashioned skid shoe. Screw an oiled 1/4" plywood sheet to the bottom and then fit your chine battens. oil the heck out of it. Store the boat dry and you wont have trouble. The reason for wood is that it dampens impacts, saves your interior floor, distributes a hits energy and its cheap. Also UMHW sheets will expand and contract at a different rate than wood so eventually the screws pull out of the bottom. when those screws get loose, they let water in. The wood skid shoe will not expand or contract at a different rate than your real bottom. its the same. It works for me and it worked on hundreds of boats since plywood boats were built.

But there is no wrong answer. Sorry to muddy the H2O.

Good old AA fir like that is hard to find anymore. show it off!

Oh AJ? where are you????


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