A Woody Boater Challenge! The One Weekend Bottom Job, Can It Be Done?

Well? You got waht it takes?

While at the ACBS Symposium at The Antique Boat Center last month a conversation at dinner took over the dinner. I tossed out on the table a question. Would it be possible to do a complete bottom job in a weekend? I will give that it could be a holiday weekend. So we are talking 3 days…Now hold on here.. I am talking a real utility or something. Not a plywood boat like a cavalier. We are talking planks… Can it be done? If Chip Foose can do an entire car in a week, surely we could figure out the “Weekend Bottom Job”! Now, hold out ..and wipe the coffee you just spit onto the computer screen off.. I never said that you could not have pre production.. or 10 folks ready to go. And yes, I am talking about some frames… Can it be done? Boat is flipped on Saturday morning at 12:01 and 36 hours later. Its floating. AND SAFE! The bottom line here is this. Regardless of the challenge, the simple act of this project will teach us all ways to speed the process up. And thus make quality bottom jobs a more realistic option of folks that can’t afford the 1000 hr job. Maybe we can learn new methods and ways to prep for such jobs. Is it even possible to add more guys to the job? Some say, to many folks makes it harder? IS there a efficiency expert out there in Woody Boaterville that wants to tackle the challenge of creating a formula with some real smart wood workers.. An army of restorers to gather in one spot to do this? All the wood would be in place. All the parts ready. Does 3M need to come up with a quicker method that works? So.. The floor is yours.. Comment away, its all part of the process.. We are going to try this. Are you in?

28 replies
  1. Jim Frechette
    Jim Frechette says:

    While I think the woodwork could be accomplished in the week-end by 3 or 4 experienced restorers, I think most of the problem is in the drying times of the various products used,. If you are doing a 5200 bottom, that product takes several days to dry. Then you have CPES, barrier paint and bottom paint, each of which has to dry before the next can be applied. I think there would be similar problems with an epoxy or cold molded bottom.

  2. Frank Miklos
    Frank Miklos says:

    The bottom could be done in a weekend with two installers and others shaping the planking… Heck when these boats were new most of the construction was done in a day…

    Is this all new framework, keel, forefoot (gripe), stem, and chines…

    If so this will be hard to do but not impossible with a large enough crew that knows what they are doing…

    When building new these items were all pre-cut and ready to go on the boat…

    • Ken Miller
      Ken Miller says:

      I was always amazed that my U-22-1705 had grease pencil markings with the date inside the cutwater as well as inside both transom bands. Always made me wonder how many of these things went out in a week’s time. My boat’s production date is 12-12-50. Jim Staib’s U-22-1707 is dated 12-19-50. Both of those were Tuesdays.

  3. Frank Miklos
    Frank Miklos says:

    It also depends on the boat. and is it done correctly… Meaning how the boat was built originally…

    So a Chris Craft with true double planking (perfered cc bottom) that all has to be fit will take more time than a Chris Craft with a plywood inner bottom…

    A Century with double rabited chines takes longer than a Chris Craft style chine.. Also cutting in battens on a century bottom takes longer than Chris Craft style bottom…

    CPES drys to the touch in about an hour it should not be a problem. and you can use 5200 which dry’s in 48 hours…

    Actually we like to install the bottom on a Chris Craft all in one day… (that is after all fitting has been done…) We like the 5200 to dry all at the same time. and all bond to the heavy canvas both sides at once…

  4. steven balcer
    steven balcer says:

    There is an impressive video out there of one of the garwood miss americas being built in a very short time. I beleive it was miss america x. I can’t say replaceing a bottom in one weekend looks easy but it could be done. with the “right” help like what was mentioned. there is 48 hours in a weekend. that’s a 40 hour week with some overtime added. with two people that’s 96 hours of labor.

    steve balcer

  5. Mike M
    Mike M says:

    Could it be done? Sure. Could it be done properly? Probably not. Would it be fun? Not likely.

    At the symposium in Tavares we were shown a method for spiling in a replacement plank. When Richard finished, the first thing he said was “Yes, there are faster ways to do this. I do it this way because it “feels good” and it’s traditional. We’re here to enjoy the process, not speed through it”.

  6. Mark Edmonson
    Mark Edmonson says:

    Well Matt,
    Good challange but I can tell you that I have taken a U-22 from removing the boat from trailer and pulling the engine flipping it , remove bottom, new fore foot, 8′ of chine, two new frames, new plywood, new mahigany planking, all in 5200, CPES, painted and back on trailer in SEVEN days!!! DONE, floating…. can you beat that.

    FRANCHINI says:

    I guess the big question would be if you have to consume the same amount of beer during the weekend as would normally be consumed over the course of a winter rebuild? As MikeM says above, the point for me is to enjoy the process. Part of that process involves standing back at the end of the day and enjoying a cold beer or four to admire what got done. I get that there could be a few new tips and tricks to be gained by condensing the rebuild into a weekend, but if there is the same amount of beer, no one would remember them!

    • Rick
      Rick says:

      I’d be willing to be the sacrificial beer drinker. This way those who really know what they’re doing would not be slowed down. After a few I’d even be willing to give unasked for advice on matters not even related to the bottom replacement. I’ll even supply the beer.

  8. mfine
    mfine says:

    First, let me be the first to volunteer a boat if you want to try. It’s a 62 16 footer so relatively small flat bottom with plywood inner. It won’t get any easier.

    As for the feasibility, if you don’t require the boat to be in the water Monday it would help a lot. Then you could get it together and let the 5200 cure Monday and Tuesday.

    I think the hardest part would be getting skilled help. If the idea is a model for those without the money to pay for 1000 hours of labor I think you need to assume a DImostlyY model. I am not sure I could get the old bottom off and frames done in a day, let alone starting on the new bottom install working alone.

  9. steven balcer
    steven balcer says:

    I think the question is, can a bottom be put on a boat in a weekend. I’m going to answer yes it can be under the right conditions. They had liberty ships down to about 4-7 day turn around. right way wrong way ?? was not asked. I’ve worked on boats for about 25 years and done marathon work sessons and done a whole lot in a short period of time. So I say yes it can be done.

    I’m willing to help if the opportunity was to come about on the right project to give it a try.

  10. brian
    brian says:

    No doubt with determination this could be done. I would agree with Mike though in the sense that although one could paint the Sistine Chapel in a few days, would you really want it done? Some things just cannot be rushed. I could show you the techniques required to paint the Sistine, but you would not really be able to hone your skills in such a short period which perhaps would allow you to paint something else faster, to “speed up the process”. With some things, quality takes much effort and much time.

  11. Phil Jones
    Phil Jones says:

    Matt what a unique sell. You wouldn’t have a U-22 in mind for this test would you. 🙂

  12. Allen
    Allen says:

    I am surprised that with the number of U-22’s still out there that someone/shop hasn’t done some fiberboard templates to offer up…..once the curved sections are done, which should be a reverse of the same pattern it seems reasonable to have the planking pre-cut and then minimal fitting and someone doing each side. After all even though it sounds simple I understand a crew of (4) did (2) bottoms a day…..1700 screws each…..and the took Fords productionizing and process…..and precut parts….so if you had parts cut off templates like the plant
    prior to the roll-over…..the job is possible……

  13. wood-boater
    wood-boater says:

    Sure it could be done. But would it last? (Will those doing the work last 72 hours before fainting away?) Jim F. is correct in siting the cure times… which do matter. Not sure I’d want to ride in a boat that had a 72 hour 5200 bottom turnaround. You’re only asking for trouble, wasted time and expense. They were not using our modern adhesives in the factory, the pieces were pre-cut, and they were not removing a worn out bottom. It’s apples and oranges. Why race to get it done when the boat will hopefully be used for decades more use? Not the wisest idea. Take your time and do it right the first time.

    • Jim Frechette
      Jim Frechette says:

      Are some shops really billing a thousand hours to do a replacement bottom? I am not not asking about a 30′ vintage Hacker or Riva but, say, a U-22. I think maybe the point of this exercise was to question how much people are being charged for a bottom vs. how long it really takes. I strongly support an owner doing his own work and taking the time to really get it right and enjoying the process, but a professional shop should have the system down, regardless of system, and be able to do the job in a correct and affordable manner. A new bottom is not rocket science, just carpentry done in a relatively skilled manner using the correct products. I think most restorers are far more skilled than the people who built the boats originally. With the addition of our more modern materials and methods, a good, safe, long-lasting bottom can be produced in way less time than 1000 hours. Sure, longer than a week-end, but not months. I would like to hear from some people about how much they have paid for a replacement bottom and how long it took.

  14. Texx
    Texx says:

    Hi Jim – Are you sure you want to hear from some people about how much they have paid for a replacement bottom and how long it took?

      • Kevin F
        Kevin F says:

        I think that would be a GREAT TOPIC. I feel that an experienced shop that has done many U-22 bottoms (my boat), should know exactly how long it takes to do the bottom. How much per frame, chines, etc. At this point, I would think they would have some templates as well. I have heard quotes ranging from $8k-25k for mine. I know some shops may feel their reputation justifies a slightly higher price, and I know the low one MAY be based on something else. However, the range seems to me a bit big, and I am not sure how it could be justified.

        Some shops will only quote an hourly rate, stating that they “don’t know what they will find once it is apart”. Well, let’s assume it needs a chine; how much does that add to the cost? How much per frame? I feel that if they have done a number of these, they should know. I have a fear that if I put my boat with them for a quote of $12k, then they “find” this and that, and based on an hourly rate, all of a sudden they own my boat!

        There are “reasonable” priced bottoms put on by good or great restorers that will last. I feel that with the sharing of this knowledge about prices and quality, we can make better informed choices. I also feel that if there were enough of these types of restorers identified, than more people may get into the hobby and not be scared away about dropping as much into a bottom than they have into the purchase price of the boat. At this time, the cost of replacing the bottom on my boat exceeds what I would spend if I were to sell mine and buy one completely done from bow to stern.

        Let the knowledge be shared!!

  15. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    I plan to find out for myself how much a bottom job on a 21′ Continental will cost later this year. It is plywood inner so probably cheaper thank planked. I have never had to do a bottom, but have shelled out for literally everything else. That is what happens when one possesss no skill or ability, but likes old wooden boats.

    People like me don’t have much of an option, other than of course doing the smart thing and buying a boat that someone else has already fully restored.

  16. Al Benton
    Al Benton says:

    Well, here I am coming in late again. It all boils down to a certain number of hours of work to accomplish. So whether you were to have 4 or 5 guys working around the clock for 36 hours or have one guy working for 4) 40 hour weeks to install a bottom, it’s about the same quantity of hours (and no where near 1000 of them). An experiment of this sort may discover some shortcuts that knock a little time off the complete project but I’m not sure it would be the kind of things that will be worth the effort or instill any savings that amount to much.

    • mark edmonson
      mark edmonson says:

      I had six people helping twwo with experence and the rest to give a hand. Everything was premilled. Plywood CPES and we had all wood work done in three days. The rest of the four days was for sanding and dry time for the paint/CEPS.

  17. wood-boater
    wood-boater says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but mistakes and accidents occur when in a rush. Knock yourself out, but I’ll stick with the ‘do it right and follow the product manufacturer’s recommendations’ for cure times, etc. I wonder how many would want to buy a boat with a 72 hour replacement bottom. No one that I know.

  18. Peter Adams
    Peter Adams says:

    I would be interested!
    I have a 1965 Century Resorter with the bottom off that I’m
    completing the replacement framers now that I would be willing to offer as the project boat.

    Peter Adams

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