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Wooden Boat Building and Restoration

1955 Larson Crestliner 14' Commodore


The Larson Crestliner 14' Commodore was one of the most popular boat models built by Larson Watercraft Inc. in Little Falls, MN back in the 1950's. This 1955 model has four bench seats (thwarts) and is open (no deck) with aluminum buoyancy tanks under each of the seats (except the forward most seat). It has a shallow draft, wide beam, and high freeboard allowing it to cope well with rough water. The hull is made of thick 14 gauge (0.64") aluminum with an aluminum keel and aluminum spray rails. The transom is a little thicker than the hull at 12 gauge (0.81") aluminum and has three knees for additional support. The seats were made from Redwood and the gunwales were made from Oak. The motor mount on the transom was also made of Oak. The boat is rated for an outboard motor up to 33 HP.

Project Scope

The owner of this boat asked to have to have all the woodwork (seats, gunwales, and motor mount) replaced. All new woodwork will be of Black Ash. The original Redwood seats were well worn and cracked beyond repair. The Oak gunwales were thoroughly rotted through, and the plywood motor mount was soft in places. He asked to have a set of oars made as well.

He told me the boat's story... he's owned it since he was a teenager and has used it regularly at the family cabin on nearby Pike Lake over the years. His mother earned the money to purchase the boat, brand new, back in 1950's by weaving rugs for their neighboring cabin owners on Pike Lake. Now he wants to hand it down to his daughter to be used as a rowing boat on Pike Lake.

I found the story to be a bit heartwarming and as such, even though I don't do too much metal work, I felt obliged that the boat ought to have a little more work done to it in order to clean it up to match the beautiful new woodwork. So additional work will involve repainting the bottom, inside and out, and polishing and buffing all the exposed bare aluminum. The bottom of the outside of the hull will be repainted with an automotive quality paint job and the bottom of the inside of the hull will be painted with an anti-skid coating paint. The paint (inside and outside) will match the original factory colors. It just didn't make sense to replace all the woodwork without cleaning up the boat some too. The hull was in pretty good shape... a few dings here and there, lots of oxidation, peeling bottom paint, but no real damage anywhere.

A set of Pete Culler style oars will be carved for his daughter to row this boat with as well. This boat has a wide beam of 57½", requiring an 8' or 8½' long oar. With a longer oar, a Pete Culler style oar makes sense because it offers a heavy square upper loom to help balance the oars to make them easier to lift out of the water when completing the pull stroke. These oars also have a long narrow blade taking advantage of the long length of the oar shaft, and an unusual slightly tapered handle to aid in gaining a firm grip of the oar.