About a year ago I purchased a drift boat project.  I was told the boat is a "stitch and glue" style boat patterned after a "modified Freestone Classic pattern".  I have watched several drift boat building videos and read several blogs.  I feel I know less now than when I bought the project.  I am looking for a mentor that could help me figure out where I am at in the process and what I should do next.  I live in Lewiston Idaho and would like to find someone that is somewhat close to help me.  I am a novice at wood working but I am eager to learn. Thanks.  Randy

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Randy, I live in Spokane, not too far from you. While I have only built the more traditional styled framed boat I may be able to help you.

First of all, what are your questions and concerns? The boat looks from your initial photo to be at least partially built. As you are finding out there is lots of work in the finishing details.

If you can list your issues and include a picture or two showing the issues we will all have a better chance of helping you out. I am also good friends with Sandy Pittendrigh at http://montana-riverboats.com/ this link is correct but isn't "linked" to the website so you can't click on it and go there.

The boats on Sandy's site are stitch and glue like yours and there are many folks over there besides Sandy that can assist you. If you still can't figure it out perhaps we can figure out a way to help you.

Rick Newman

Thanks Rick

I posted some pictures on my profile.

My goal is to get this boat fishable by mid summer/fall.

My first issue is where is this boat in the building process and where do I start.  I do not have any written plans.

I am concerned about the stem and transom.  I cannot envision how these areas are completed.

I am concerned about the gapping gunnels.

I am concerned that the seat supports are screwed from inside out and the screw tips poke through the exterior sides.

Lets start with that.

I have questions about the final finish but we will leave those question for later. I'm not there yet.

Again thank you for the help.


I'm a stitch and glue builder.

From the posted pictures looks like you have a hull that can be finished into a fine boat.

The one question I have is whether the there is any twist in the hull.  Usually in plywood boat construction with a pointy stem, the plywood edges are beveled and meet equally in the stem, not one overlapping the other.  In your stem picture it looks like this may be the case.

Measure from the edges of the transom to the stem.  The distance should be the same.  If it is off by 0.25 inches or more there is likely twist in the hull.  Other commenters may have thoughts on how far off the measure can be.  In my boats I aim for under 1/16 inch.  If it is going to give you heart burn to finish a boat that won't have fair lines, better to know that now.

If it were me I would remove the gunnels and start that over.  The scarf on the "gap" gunnel should be 1:8, :10, or :12.  Then it wouldn't open up.  I build with Montana River Boat gunnels with the spacers, not glued to the hull.  They are strong.

The stem will need to be filled with epoxy fillet, or some other structural epoxy.  The front edge of the stem will need to be covered with a couple layers of glass/epoxy, faired, and then painted.  No need for the wood they put on.

All the exposed plywood edges need to be saturated with epoxy.  

Can't tell from the pictures whether the screws in the interior components are structural, or whether everything has been epoxied in place.  If epoxied try to remove the screws that are poking through the side panel.  That is an entry point for water.  Once removed just fill the hole with thickened epoxy.

If it were me, I would try and use the interior that is in place.  

You will need a permanent fly deck.  In a stitch and glue boat that is an important structural element.

I would recommend getting Roger Fletcher's book Drift Boats and River Dories.  Even though it focuses on framed construction, many of the finish details apply to stitch and glue boats.  Purchase the plans option at Montana River Boats, it will give you all you need to know to finish a stitch and glue dory.  Also, look at the many pictures in the home builders section to see options for finishing the interior and transom.  Sam Devlin has a book on stitch and glue boat building.  Redbarn Boats has youtube tutorials on most stitch and glue building steps.

If the hull is fair and you decide to finish, take your time.  That boat could last decades and it would be worth it to not be in a hurry.

I like that aluminum canoe wave sculpture in Lewiston.


I disassembled the stem, took some pictures and posted them in my photos.  The water damage does not look too bad to me.  The bow line looks straight.  Please advise on what you think I should do to to fix the stem.  I emailed Sandy and he is willing to help out also. Thanks again


The stem is actually fine. The construction is correct for a S&G boat. The place that your and all drift boats suffers the greatest damage in overall use is the sides of the boat at the waterline. That is where you will unfortunately hit rocks and logs unless you are an extraordinarily skilled boater. Can you determine how many layers of fiberglass cloth have been placed on the inside and outside where the sides meet the bottom? The greater the number, hopefully, more on the inside than the outside provide the strength. If you can't determine the number of strips of fiberglass cloth you may want to consider adding more.

The shelf and the fly line deck are made of plain old plywood which will quickly delaminate. It is up to you if you want to mess with a lower shelf. A hanging net is much less work and just as useful. Sandy has used them in his boats. You will need to purchase some marine plywood to remake the fly deck. You can purchase marine plywood at Windsor Plywood in Spokane. They commonly 13 mm. The marine plywood is put together with waterproof glues and doesn't have any interior voids if it meets the British Standards 1088 I believe. They stamp it on the plywood so you can check for it. Any exposed edges of plywood need to be covered with an appropriate epoxy to prevent water intrusion. You will also need to sand down all the plywood edges that have been exposed to the weather and smoothed out. You can see pictures of completed boats on here.

Any exposed epoxy needs to be eventually covered with a UV resistant finish. I suggest paint on your boat. You can also use varnish but the condition of your plywood sort of negates that. You will also need to provide a good sanding job and many coats of varnish with sanding and time to dry between each of the common eight coats.

Enough for the time I have available tonight. I run a fly fishing school for the Spokane Fly Fishers and preparation takes a good bit of my time. 

It would be handy to have some more details pictures of the gunnel and the rear of the boat.

The major difference between a framed boat and a stitch and glue boat is how the plywood pieces are joined. Beyond that it is marine woodworking and paint skills which are the same on both boat styles, so from this point on the skills are the same.

Rick Newman

Hey Rick,

This is what I was told:

Bottom: 3 fiberglass layer and 6 Epoxy layers

Sides: 1 fiber 2 epoxy

Chines: 1 Honeycomb still tape 2 epoxy inside and out

 Aero Marine Products


Have you tried the forum at Montana River Boats?  http://montana-riverboats.com/index.php?fpage=Driftboats/&slide...    They build boats stitch and glue and might be of a little more help although I'm sure there are people here that can help also.  

I have contacted Sandy. I will be posting on their site soon. Thanks

From the pics the glass and fillet work seem ok,the gunnels look like they have been outside for a while.

Lets start with the Fiberglass,it appears to be the right stuff.What your looking for is white spots under the glass,this means air trapped.Are you able to get a good look at all the seams?If these are all good then the other stuff is just a matter of removing and re doing.

I will soon remove the seating and fly deck.  I will send pics after the removal.  From what I can see there is no obvious problem with the seams except at the top of the bow.

Sandy is posting pics today. He is very helpful.

Indeed he is. He is very responsible for the development of the S&G drift boats. He has donated a lot of time and effort to the continuation of this species of boat.


Rick Newman


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