Introduction: Aluminum Boat Fishing Conversation and Restoration

Picture of Aluminum Boat Fishing Conversation and Restoration

Epilog Challenge VI: I have entered this into the Epilog challenge please vote on it if you like the build. I would use the laser to help me with some really cool projects like laser cut wood objects, led illuminated signs, engraved tile and much much more. As an engineering student I have programmed Epilogs before.

I recently bought a 1985 14' Blue Fin aluminum boat that I thought would convert well into a small fishing boat. My plan is to use the boat to fish for pan fish and walleye. The main objective in my conversion was to create a large, flat, and sturdy deck area in the middle of the boat to stand on and cast from. I also wanted to add storage areas for fishing equipment and boating accessorizes. Last but not least, I wanted to enhance the overall appearance of the boat. A .GIF file above shows the overall process and the steps involved with the process. I am not a professional craftsman by any means, but I do have a good amount of experience with the common tools used in this build. All drawings from SketchUp have been modifications of I used the original model and edited it. Thanks to studioberger for sharing there file. .

Time: 30 - 60 hours

Cost: $200 - $450 (Excel file with my cost is attached - approximately $400)

Circular Saw or Table Saw
Jig Saw (aluminum and wood blades)
Drill Bits
Tape measure
Staple Gun
Orbital Sander
Screw Driver
Utility Knife
Microfiber Towel (optional)
Polishing Pads (optional)

8X1-1/4 Exterior Screws w/ bit (1lb)
9X2-1/2 Exterior Screws w/ bit (1lb)
1/2" x 4' x 8' Plywood (x2)
2" x 2" x 8' SPF Furring Strips (x8)
2" x 8" x 8' Fir Larch
3' x 5' American Flag
Ace Hardware 15-oz. Flat Gray Cold Galvanizing Compound Rust-Oleum
Painter's Touch 2X Primer
Ace 15oz International Blue Gloss Rust Stop Machine And Implement Enamel Spay Paint (x2)
Ace 15oz International Red Gloss Rust Stop Machine And Implement Enamel Spay Paint (x2)
Ace 15oz White Gloss Rust Stop Indoor/Outdoor Enamel Spay Paint (x3)
1-1/16" x 48" Brass Hinge (x2)
1-3/8" x 2" Brass Hinge (set of 2) (x2)
Painters Tape
3/8" T-50 Staple 1250 pack
Miscellaneous Fasteners
Exterior Carpet (6' x 15')
Exterior Carpet Adhesive (1 Gallon)
1/16" x 1/16" x 1/16" sq Trowel
Flush Pull Large Black (optional)
Rod Holder Black (optional)
Cup Holder Black (optional)
Sand Paper


Safety Glasses

Painting Mask

Step 1: Design and Planing

Picture of Design and Planing

First, start out by taking the major measurements of the boat. The major dimensions will be just fine for now. Next, you should figure out the layout you want for your boat. Are you going to stand and cast, or sit? Are you going to troll, drift or anchor? How many people are going to be on board at once? You need to keep the size of the boat in mind when answering these questions. Since I was working with a somewhat narrow 14' boat, I designed the boat to be used by two people that are sitting and/or possibly casting. Since I am going to fish for pan fish and walleye, I planned on dropping an anchor in my fishing locations. I would have liked to add a trolling motor to make it a more versatile boat, but because of weight concerns I did not. If you do add a trolling motor make sure to that the weight of the batteries, mount, and motor will not be a problem. I started will a rough drawing of the side and top view of my boat and modified to it match my ideas. These plans will also help you decided how much lumber and materials you will need. The materials needed will differ from mine depending on your boat size and your design.

Step 2: Prep Your Boat

Picture of Prep Your Boat

Remove everything you can remove from the boat (gas tank, anchor, battery, ropes, gear, ect...). Next, remove additional components that will not be part of the final boat. For me this was the middle bench, two cheap plastic cup holders and a box the previous owner had build for the battery. Be very careful if you do remove a bench, as they are structural parts of the boat and designed to take part of the load. Read up on this before removing any benches, and if you do, I strongly recommend reinforcing the area. If you choose to remove the bench seat, do so by drilling out the rivets. Then, wash everything down and scrub the boat so that all surfaces are free from mold, sand, or dirt. This step will be very important if you are planning on doing any painting.

Step 3: Designing the Deck Support Skeleton

Picture of Designing the Deck Support Skeleton

With the plan you have created in mind, design a support structure that will fit your needs for the deck. If you are not going have any compartments in you deck floor, I recommend placing 2" x 2"s that span across the width of the boat (ribs) at the height that you want the boat deck to sit. These should be spaced approximately 18" apart. But the spacing will depend on the thickness of the plywood used. Next, connect them 2" x 2"s that run lengthwise (beams) that are spaced appropriately for the thickness of the plywood. Finally, add vertical supports to help support the load of the deck. The amount of supports you will need is dependent on the thickness of plywood and the size of the deck.

Because I wanted two large doors in the middle of the deck so that I could use the area under them as storage (for fishing poles, oars, and anything else), my design was a little more complex than the simple design described above. I designed the doors to be located side by side in the middle of the deck and to measure 58" long and 12" wide. Because of this, I used four 2 x 2 ribs across the width of the boat and three long beams running the length of the boat. I positioned one beam in the center of the boat and the other two 12" off center.

Add vertical supports as you see needed. Also add beams or cross members wherever two pieces of plywood meet up. In my boat this was in the front center and back center of the main deck. I needed to split the plywood to fit it tightly into the boat. I will explain this more in a later step.

Note: More support can be added later if needed.

Step 4: Building the Deck Support Skeleton

Picture of Building the Deck Support Skeleton

Measure the width of the boat where the ribs will be located, and cut a 2 x 2 to this dimension. Then take a piece of cardboard and cut it to the width of the 2 x 2 and about 5 in long. Next cut the cardboard piece so that it matches the contour of the boat where the rib will be located. Lay the cardboard on the 2 x 2 and trace the shape on both ends. Use a jig saw to cut the 2x2 to the shape of the hull. Use a Dremel or sand paper to help finalize the shape. Repeat this procedure for the rest of the ribs that will span the width of the boat.

Cut beams from 2 x 2's to run perpendicular and fill the gap between the ribs that run the width. With 2 x 2's in place, connect them with two screws on each end.

Then cut and shape 2 x 2's to be placed vertically from the bottom of the boat up to the beams (for support). Once these supports fit, screw them into place. Add more 2 x 2's if you feel they are needed.

For the back support on the rear deck, cut out a piece of plywood that is the width and length of the rear seat. Cut a 2 x 2 the width of the rear portion of the seat and attach it to the plywood. This will be where the rear storage doors will rest. Cut and attach one 2 x 2 that spans the width of the boat into the transom.This should be parallel to the 2 x 2 mounted to the plywood.

For the front support, cut a 2 x 2 to span the width of the boat and fit right in front of the bow bench. Later this will be screwed to the aluminum bench. This should fit the shape of the hull. Cut another 2 x 2 that is parallel to the last one but 13'' farther forward. It is very important that this is the same shape as the hull as two screws will be holding it in place that come from the outside of the boat. Next cut two 2 x 2's that gap the length of the last two you just cut. Screw these 4 pieces together, making sure that all of the tops of these pieces are flat and parallel to the top of the aluminum bench in the bow. Finally, cut a 2 x 2 that extends from the front of the assembly you have just made to the to the bow of the boat. Make sure to shape it to the boat and screw it into the middle of the assembly. This assembly can be seen in the left lower picture above.

Step 5: Cutting the Deck and the Storage

Picture of Cutting the Deck and the Storage

Lay a large piece of cardboard down on top of the deck support that you have just finished. Cut the cardboard to the size of boat. Then trace on to the plywood and cut to size with jig saw. Test the fit in the boat and adjust if needed. I cut the plywood in half so that it would fit into the V in the side of the hull. This helps support the end of the plywood. If you can not do this, make sure to make modifications to the support you have build in the previous steps to support the plywood properly. Next, mark the the locations where the doors will be located and cut them out. Cut more off each side so that the door will have room to close when carpet is added. The amount will depend on the thickness of the carpet. Next, cut the front and rear storage areas and decks. Again make sure to leave extra room for the thickness of the carpet. I chose to have one removable hatch in the front for storage and an area to place your legs. I also made two doors in the back for the more storage an area to cover the gas tank. To cut the front deck, use the same procedure as the main deck by using cardboard as a guide. Add hole to all parts that will have flush pulls, cup holders, and rod holders. Make sure to size them accordingly and leave room for carpeting. Later if you find you have not left enough of a gap for the carpeting you can make modifications. However, it can be time consuming and somewhat difficult.

Step 6: Adding Support

Picture of Adding Support

This step is only needed if you have removed structural components. Use 2 x 8 lumber to connect the side of the hull and the deck to strengthen the side wall. Use the holes from the old rivets that were removed as the locations for the added structure. Cut 4 triangular shaped pieces to be used as the added support structure. If the side of the hull is not flat, use cardboard as a guide again. Use a Dremel or sand paper to help shape the lumber to fit the shape of the boat.

Step 7: Seat Risers (Optional)

Picture of Seat Risers (Optional)

This step is optional based on whether or not you want to add seats or raise the seats like I did. Luckily the seats I had were the same width as the the lumber I had from the 2 x 8 I used for added support. I used two thickness for each seat. Decide how many thickness you would like to use for each seat, and cut as many as needed to size. Screw the blocks together if using more than one thickness of lumber. Then cut 2 x 2's to be used to anchor the 2 x 8 blocks just created to the seats. I used 4 for each seat. Seen in the image above, each 2 x 2 fit a gap in the seat base. Screw the 2 x 2's on to the base block. Test fit the seat, and adjust if needed.

Step 8: Built in Minnow Bucket (optional)

Picture of Built in Minnow Bucket (optional)

In the desired area, trace a line around the edge of the minnow bucket that you are going to use. I placed mine within arms reach of the rear seat. Using a jig saw, cut a hole in the seat just outside the line you traced to leave room for the carpeting. Place the bucket into the hole and make sure there is about an 1/8" gap all around for carpeting. Place the piece of wood in its final location and trace the hole you just cut on to the aluminum seatbelow. Cut along the line you have just traced using a jig saw. Dig out any foam if needed. Test fit the piece of wood and the bucket with the aluminum.Make modifications if needed. I recommend picking up a small aerator. They only cost $10 to $20 and can be found at lager tackle store. This will keep the minnows alive much longer when they are not getting fresh lake water.

Step 9: Painting

Picture of Painting

Remove everything from the boat and set aside. Vacuum the entire boat until clean. Wipe down everything again and use vinegar to clean the bare aluminum areas. Once everything is dry. Apply the cold galvanizing compound to all areas that have exposed or bare aluminum. Apply a second coat or multiple coats as recommended by the paint specifications. After this primer has dried, tape off all areas that will not be painted. I wanted a patriotic boat, so I painted stripes down the side walls and stars on theseats. First, tape the top edge and all other areas that will not be painted. Then, using spray paint, cover everything on the side walls of the hull and the vertical portions of the aluminum seats white for a base coat. Apply coats as recommended by the spray paint manufacture. Make sure to apply even light coats to avoid streaks and runs. After allowing the paint to thoroughly dry, apply tape over the areas that will be left white. Apply another coat of white paint over the tape to help create strong tape lines. Once everything is dry, apply the next color of paint. Next, spray the red paint over the white areas that are not taped to create the red stripes. Apply a second coat or multiple coats as recommended by the paint specifications. When dry, tape off the areas that have been painted with the stripes. Next, cut full adhesive sticky notes to the shape of the US flag's stars. Apply them to the vertical portion of the seats with even spacing. This should be white from earlier. Spray a couple of paint coats over the sticky notes and make sure they are firmly pressed on. When the paint is dry, spray blue paint over the stars on the seats. This will create a blue background with white stars. Once all painting has been done, remove all tape. Touch up any areas needed.

Step 10: Carpeting

Picture of Carpeting

Once every piece of lumber has been cut, you are ready to carpet them all. First, label the bottom sides of all the pieces. Also draw arrows pointing toward the bow of the boat. This will help you place all of the pieces on the carpet so that the pile goes in the same direction. Cut the carpet to size, plus an extra allowance of approximately 2.5" on all sides. Lay the carpet on top of the wood in the correct direction and lay a weight in the middle of the bigger pieces. Pull back one half of the carpet being careful not to shift it. Apply outdoor carpet adhesive with a trowel to one half of the top side of the wood. Then slowly lay down the carpet, without shifting it, starting in the middle and moving toward the end. Move the weight to the other side, and then apply the adhesive to the other half, and lay down the carpet. Flip over the work piece. Pull the edges tight around the back side and staple them to the bottom of the lumber. Repeat with the rest of the pieces of lumber. For small pieces, you can apply adhesive to the entire piece at once.

Step 11: Finishing Touches

Picture of Finishing Touches

Place everything back into the boat. Screw the front deck support to thealuminum seat so the the top is collinear with the seat. Then drill a hole through the side of the boat where the middle cross member is located. Secure the front assembly in place with a screw on each side mounting it with the hull. Then, screw down the decks to the supports, and the supports in place, using the holes you created from removing the middle aluminum seat. Add the hinges to the doors and attach them to the boat. Add cabinet catches if needed/wanted. I used two, one for each rear door. Then, screw down all other panels that are not movable. The screws will be hidden well by the carpeting. Locate the flush pull handles, and screw them into place. I used brass screws on all the pull handles and pole holders to match the hinges. In some places you might have to cut a hole in the aluminum seatsbelow the plywood for cup holders and rod holders to fit. Mount a fish finder and/or any other accessories in desired locations. Fasten the flag pole mount to the boat. Rub any bare aluminum with steel wool and polish with aluminum polish if desired.

I hope you have enjoyed the build. Congratulations! You're done. You now have one kick-ass patriotic boat.

Step 12: Final Notes

Feel free to make what ever modifications you would like to. Also, please feel free to ask any questions you may have. Keep in mind this does add a lot of weight and can reduce the strength of the boat making it more dangerous. Always use safety glasses when cutting and drilling and a paint mask when priming and painting. All drawing from SketchUp have been modification from I used his original model and edited. Thanks to studioberger for sharing he file.

Step 13: Enjoy Your New Boat on the Water

Picture of Enjoy Your New Boat on the Water


bluedevislalx (author)2017-10-15

Has anyone roughy found out how much of a general weight increase doing this is?

MrSteele21 (author)2017-02-10

I love this idea but I'm not very confident in building the deck. This will be my first time in doing anything like this bymyself... any advice

RichardF66 (author)2016-01-08

Nice job. I am curious on how stable the middle of the boat is? I have wanted to do this my 16ft boat but worry about the sides buckling and warping with the seat removed?

NitroRustlerDriver (author)2014-08-21

Instead of using carpet (which hooks can get stuck in and bait can make smell), use a clear polyurethane on the wood and throw some sand in it before it dries, then top coat over the sand. This will give a high traction surface that can be washed down.

The main reason I use carpet on my boat is for deadening the sound of walking around, banging tackle and poles, etc. I've caught a lot more fish now that I have carpet instead of just wood with traction paint.

Thats really cool idea. The carpet I use is short and a non looped ply. This helps keep hooks from getting stuck.

BruceBurr (author)2015-02-14

Outstanding...I'm going to do that to my little boat. THX

amrcnsldr (author)2015-02-08

I have a 10ft jon boat, do you think I would be able to do something like this to it?

UdyRegan (author)2014-11-26

I’m going to have to agree with a lot of the guys here about using carpet on a boat! It just doesn't seem like the best of ideas given how water can seep into the storage compartments below and totally soak the material!

stbatch (author)2014-09-11

Instead of carpet I used truck bed liner paint which is black then painted it with silver paint to keep it cool. It lasted about 3 years before having to repaint it. I was surprised it lasted so long and we used the boat a lot. Got to say yours looks great. If I can't sell mine this year I may try this myself.

sk1701 (author)2014-09-05

I have a 14 ft Aluminum Craft boat from the 80,s this sounds like a really good winter project

jacob.singleton.716 (author)2014-08-20

How sturdy is the front casting platform? how about the middle section of the boat? if you were to stand and cast how much would the boat wobble?

You would not want to stand up front and cast it would be too tippy. The main deck would be fine most fishing. I have cast from a few times and it is no bad at all if your standing in the middle.

dmadam (author)2014-08-17

You just gave me a new project. An uncle passed away and left a '60's featherlite 16ft that we were going to sell but now maybe not.

granato.m (author)dmadam2014-08-17

Sorry to hear that. I really enjoyed doing this project and it might be a real cool way to remember you uncle.

agentmoller001 (author)2014-08-17

I am now officially on the hunt for an old aluminum boat! Great job!

granato.m (author)agentmoller0012014-08-17

It's a blast to do and use. Good luck finding one and doing this if you choice to.

BOFH_2 (author)2014-08-17

I made the mistake of using regular plywood when I replaced my center board in my boat. I even sealed it with an an oil based sealer and it rotted. look for a product called MDO. It is made for marine applications.

granato.m (author)BOFH_22014-08-17

I did some research before doing this and have read that some people have done this without marine grade wood and have not had a problem over an extended time. I would have love to use marine grade plywood but it is 3 to 4 times more expensive.

Andsetinn (author)2014-08-17

Even though IMO you went a little bit overboard with the decorations, this is a really nice looking boat. The layout is nice and I especially like the space in the centre. It's almost a patriotic party boat.

Carpets, even exterior carpets, are hard to keep clean and mildew free in a fishing boat environment. With the extra deck it will also be hard to get rid of the water that will collect in the bottom unless you add a bilge pump. I think it's also better to make sure to use marine grade plywood.

granato.m (author)Andsetinn2014-08-17

My next steps are to add a bilge pump and navigation light so I can fish at night. The bilge pump is not necessary for me because I only have it in the water when I am using it.

richard1726 (author)2014-08-17

I did this exact project, no live well, but I did include a 7' 2'' rod storage locker and two swivel fishing chairs on a 12 foot Al boat.

The boat was so heavy it would no longer come up on plane, increased HP from 9.5 to a 15 HP. Still way too heavy to come up on plane. Then I stripped everything including the Al seats and floatation. We now fly around the lake sitting in very comfortable, cheap, plastic chairs and life jackets. In the very unlikely case that we tip over one of our fishing floats will unreel and mark the sunken boat for retrieval.

granato.m (author)richard17262014-08-17

I plane out just fine still with one just me or two of us in the boat. I only have a 9.9. The area for the rods extended under to front and rear seat so I can store 8' plus rods.

Cueball21 (author)2014-08-17

Very nicely done!

Did you consider spacing the supports that take the place of the middle bench seat a little further apart? Looks like they might become hazards for tripping when landing a fish.

Also, why did you not drill holes in those supports and use them as rod holders? Looks like a natural to me.

Great job! Thanks for sharing!!!

granato.m (author)Cueball212014-08-17

The reason I used that spacing was I use the holes created from drilling out the middle seat. I also thought about making them in to rod holder by either drilling holes or buying rod holders with the foam but they are too close together.

malaprop (author)2014-08-17


tofugami (author)2014-08-16

Excellent work. I like your before and after in 1 pic too.

young_macgyver (author)2014-08-15

This is so cool and creative great job

BenjiDaa (author)2014-08-15

Great job!

MonolithFab (author)2014-08-15

What a fantastic labor of love. I'm sure you turn some heads and start conversations with that boat. Great job.

Chance218 (author)2014-08-14

I have a 12ft v-hull that I'd like to do something like this too but I'm concerned about it being back heavy when sitting in water, is there a way to make it set higher?

Jobar007 (author)Chance2182014-08-15

If by set higher you mean float higher out of the water, you would lighten the hull/load. If you are just concerned about the stern, you need to move more weight to the center of the boat. Move fuel and batteries amidships. Sit further forward of the stern and use a tiller extender. You could also build flotation chambers off from the stern that are rigidly attached to the hull that flank the outboard. They do make your boat longer so you have to register it as a longer craft though.

Wolfhound6 (author)2014-08-15

Assume boat, great job!

aspica75 (author)2014-08-14

Very nice work
Great pics and instructions

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