Bow Handle (Aluminum Boat)

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Project by John Smith posted 07-31-2020 06:02 PM 563 views 0 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Bow Handle (Aluminum Boat)
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This in not a metal working project:
This is what I had to do in order to get a bow handle for my boat.

-- there is no educational alternative to having a front row seat in the School of Hard Knocks. --

21 comments so far

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John Smith

2513 posts in 969 days

#1 posted 07-31-2020 06:03 PM

The aluminum boat bow handle is not the center of this project.
It is the woodworking method (pattern making) it took to get it made.
Anyone that has ever owned an old boat, car, tractor, or airplane, knows how difficult
it is sometimes to find a specific part that is really needed to make the project complete.
In this case, I have my family’s heirloom 1959 14’ Crestliner aluminum boat that has changed hands
many times between my two brothers and I that some of the parts have gotten lost over the years.
Putting the boat back close to original wasn’t all that hard. But, finding the Bow Handle was proving
to be a real challenge. After looking high and low for a few years, I decided to make it myself.
It is a Brand Specific style to that era of Crestliners and of course hasn’t been made in decades.
Having a little pattern making experience in my repertoire, I decided to make one myself.
I knew a guy in Canada that had one on his boat and he sent me many photos and precise dimensions
so that I could make a wood pattern to be reproduced in aluminum.
This is the journey:


-- there is no educational alternative to having a front row seat in the School of Hard Knocks. --

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John Smith

2513 posts in 969 days

#2 posted 07-31-2020 06:12 PM

after transferring the measurements to a piece of hardboard,
the pattern is used to shape the handle out of pine.

Two exact matching mirror halves of the pattern must be made.

the last step is to install “match pins” and sprues so the foundry
can match the two halves together precisely.

after the two matching halves are made, they are sent to the metal foundry
to be attached to a “Match Plate” to be cast out of aluminum.
after casting, the sprues are cut off and the rough (very rough) is returned.
much grinding, sanding and polishing is required to get it looking show worthy.


-- there is no educational alternative to having a front row seat in the School of Hard Knocks. --

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John Smith

2513 posts in 969 days

#3 posted 07-31-2020 06:45 PM

this is where the woodworking portion ends but the craftsmanship
of “shaping, sanding and polishing” comes into play. using as assortment
of grinding wheels, sanders, rasps and files, the casting imperfections are removed
and a couple of hours on the buffing wheel gives the desired finish.

on this particular boat, the bow deck is made in two pieces with a “seam cap” joining
the two pieces together. since the bow handle has to sit on the seam, a groove
or notch must be cut into the feet of the handle.
I made a wooden base for the handle, and with careful measuring, ran the assembly
through the table saw a few times to get the notch. then rasps and files finished it up.

and then the handle is attached to the nose cap and the assembly is complete.

and of course, you have to have a vintage running light. which is attached to a
cypress wood base.

and the bow handle project is complete.


-- there is no educational alternative to having a front row seat in the School of Hard Knocks. --

View pottz's profile


10350 posts in 1791 days

#4 posted 07-31-2020 07:20 PM

wow a lot of work but the result speaks for it self.great job.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View recycle1943's profile


4594 posts in 2429 days

#5 posted 07-31-2020 08:05 PM

boats are refered to as money pits, however this one seems to be a lobor pit – great job !!

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View Eric's profile (online now)


248 posts in 680 days

#6 posted 07-31-2020 11:12 PM

Nice job. It is a passion for those of who own old boats, bringing things back to life and making modifications. Furtunally I have all of the pieces for my project boat, just need to fabricate a few mahogany or teak pieces when I get back to it.

-- Eric, Upstate South Carolina

View shipwright's profile


8570 posts in 3604 days

#7 posted 08-01-2020 01:33 AM

Nice work John. I used to make patterns for custom castings when I was building boats. Mine were all aluminium bronze but the patterning is of course the same.
I always had an extra one or two cast. I’ll bet you would find a market for them if you did.
Again, nice work!

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

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John Smith

2513 posts in 969 days

#8 posted 08-01-2020 02:16 AM

thanks guys for your kind words.

Paul – I belong to the vintage Crestliner forum and there were several members
that needed the authentic bow handle. I made a total of 27 handles for the members
and then another couple dozen that I sold on E-Bay.
I learned the pattern making technique waaayyyyyy back when I was in the Navy.
I haven’t had any interest in it for a couple of years now so I guess everyone that
needs one has one.
I made many plaques with brass and bronze through my sign shop – I really enjoy the craft.



-- there is no educational alternative to having a front row seat in the School of Hard Knocks. --

View therealSteveN's profile


5949 posts in 1381 days

#9 posted 08-01-2020 06:33 AM

Interesting post John. Glad you got it worked out.

-- Think safe, be safe

View dbeck's profile


71 posts in 1165 days

#10 posted 08-01-2020 08:10 AM

Thank you for sharing your craftmanship, it is on point. It is always a treat to see work from those with so much passion and of course skill

View Peteybadboy's profile


2032 posts in 2756 days

#11 posted 08-01-2020 09:59 AM

Yes, thank you for sharing this. Nice of you to make extra.

-- Petey

View doubleDD's profile


9539 posts in 2850 days

#12 posted 08-01-2020 12:50 PM

That’s getting the usefulness out of woodworking to a new height. Excellent work.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View splintergroup's profile


3865 posts in 2029 days

#13 posted 08-01-2020 02:19 PM

A true labor of love John! If I did that, I’d be guaranteed to find the original shortly after instilling the new part. The Murphy field is strong in my area.

Looks like many hours of finish work, glad you went ahead and did a small production run to help offset your time. Did you do the finishing on the remainder or sell them in the rough?

I remember doing dozens of aluminum castings in JHS shop class, one of my favorite things to do with the split moulds and sand casting. Finishing sucked 8^)

View GR8HUNTER's profile


7668 posts in 1519 days

#14 posted 08-01-2020 03:03 PM

you know me John i would like to see pictures of the whole boat this is like looking at pictures of women and only seeing the head LOL :<)) if you have extra time please

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

2513 posts in 969 days

#15 posted 08-01-2020 05:12 PM

SG – I gave the customer the option of finished handles for $85 or in the rough for $55 +s/h.
most were sold finished. LOL one guy bought one in the rough and he actually
sent it back to me to be finished – paying all additional fees. (it ain’t as easy as it looks).
the ones I sold on Ebay were the same options. having the correct finishing tools
and knowing what you are doing makes quick work in projects like this.

Tony: sorry I don’t have many photos of the boat. but here is one with red paint.
notice the Barn Door bow handle and the car style steering wheel. the motor is my
“beater” 1979 25hp Johnson. I put the “good” motor on for show and cruising the waterways.

the current renovation is the SeaFoam Green and white which I like much better than the red.
the dash is Florida Cypress and the green steering wheel is authentic to the period that I found
at a nautical swap meet a few years ago. it is the old school cable and pulley steering system.
this is the 3rd set of wooden seats of this design: the 1st set was red oak = they rotted out
within 3 years due to neglect. the 2nd set was select pine = they rotted out in 2 years.
the 3rd set was that plastic lumber stuff that is NOT good for boat seats.
I now have some Florida Cypress that I will take my time and do the seats RIGHT this time.

my father bought this boat new in 1959 and has been in the family ever since.

this photo is after the first coat of the green/white and the cypress dash.

this is the “show motor” that I restored from the inside out. it is a 1958 35hp and
purrs like a sewing machine. it currently lives under a tarp in the storage shed.

I also have 4 of the old steel 6 gallon OMC/Johnson gas tanks that are being restored.

hopefully, I can get the cypress boards planed down within the next week or two then get the
new seats done. they will be deeply sealed, primed and varnished with about 15 coats of
Epifanes Marine Spar before they go in the boat.

these seats are painted select pine ~ they lasted about two years.

and THIS TIME, I have bought a Sunbrella boat cover so the boat will be covered
when not in use or being tinkered on.
the trailer (not shown) is a 1959 Gator which ties it all together as a 1959 package.
so this is the very last boat project that I will be doing and hopefully, my grandson
will take an interest in it in a few years.

Thanks to All who have shown an interest and passed along your kind words !!


-- there is no educational alternative to having a front row seat in the School of Hard Knocks. --

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