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A Layout for Flowing Water

A Layout for Flowing Water

Scott Nichols of Meridian, Idaho, spent many hunting days wishing he could set up under the waterfowl cruising the center of the Snake River or near rafted ducks on nearby reservoirs. He wanted a layout boat, so he studied plans and articles for many years before trying to make his own.

The Foam Core Layout Boat built by Scott Nichols tows well and rides higher than traditional layout boats. The boat is stable enough to stand up in. Stability is important for layout boats, however, standing in a layout boat is dangerous and not advised.

"After reviewing numerous plans for wood-and-fiberglass boats, I was concerned about complex aspects of bending wood and laying fiberglass inside narrow hulls," Nichols said. "Finally, a critical design factor in a traditional layout boat would render it useless in the lakes and bays where I intended to use it. A traditional boat slopes to the water, allowing the low profile to blend with the water. Anchored in a river, the boat dives underwater as the force of the river covers the bow. The low profile also renders it difficult to tow."

Nichols set about designing a layout boat with four criteria: The boat had to be simple, inexpensive, seaworthy in flowing water and provide a stable shooting platform.

"The result is my Foam Core Layout Boat," Nichols said. "A foam-based layout provided all the qualities I needed."


First step is cutting two 1-inch-by-8-inch pine boards 81 inches long with a 45-degree angle on each end. The tips are squared by cutting off 2 inches. Next, cut a 22-inch and 26-inch length of 1-inch-by-10-inch pine for the footboard and headboard. Using a table saw, cut a 45-degree angle along the long edges of the footboard and headboard to provide a flush surface with the bottom. Two more lengths of 1-inch pine are cut to 22 inches and 26 inches by 2 inches wide, with a 45-degree angle along the bottom side to return the head and foot interior walls to a 90-degree angle.


Glue and screw together the hull frame. Glue and screw a 3â'„8-inch fir plywood floor to the bottom. Attach the floor, leaving a 1-inch to 3-inch overhang to allow a router to remove excess wood, creating a perfect hull taper. Glue and screw 5 mm Luan the top of the hull, extending at least 12 inches outside of the hull.

Use a router to remove the Luan from the midpoint to the footboard. Circumscribe a 6-inch arc around each corner of the head end and use a router to remove excess Luan.

The Luan wing supports the foam core and establishes the finished contact area on the water. To mark the outside edge of the wing, measure 12 inches from the inside of the hull at the foot corners and 14 inches from the inside of the hull at the head corners where the arc begins. Mark a straight line between these points on each side. Between the two head points, mark a parallel line 14 inches from the inside cut. Mark 12 inches from the footboard. Cut the foot exterior to an oval shape and round the corners of the head exterior. Cut the straight line along each side. A perfect cut is not necessary. The hull is now complete and looks like a shallow, tapered coffin with a Luan wing.

The foam core deck is assembled using 2-inch thick blue foam insulation sheets. Layers are progressively narrower and glued together to create a pyramid profile. Cut the foam with a heated butcher knife.


The layout features fiberglass/resin-covered foam wings and a coffin-shaped cockpit that sits below the waterline. The sides and combing ride higher than those of a traditional layout boat to stave off flowing water and large waves.

With the hull upside down, glue two 18-inch-by-8-foot pieces of foam to the wing bottom. Cut and glue more layers, extending 6 inches beyond the wing. After the glue dries, turn the boat over and glue two more foam layers to the top of the boat. Each layer is 2 inches narrower than the underlying layer, and each piece is placed with the factory edge to the inside of the boat. The edge width is established by the 18-inch foam width.

The head and foot is cut 6 inches beyond the Luan wing. The deck angle is cut to 25 degrees using a handsaw and Shurfoam rasp.

A notch cut in the upper foam exposes 1â'„2-inch of the Luan wing around the frame. Glue a 1-inch-by-8-inch pine board on each side of the frame for combing. Combing for the curved head end is created with five layers of cardboard bent to shape and laminated in place with System 3 Sculpwood filler.


Shape the foam with a handsaw and rasp, using sandpaper attached to a wood block for final finishing. Fill anomalies with wallboard compound. Great Stuff foam spray fills any large holes and the gap created by the Luan wing between foam layers.

Cut a 10-ounce, non-woven fiberglass mat base and top layer of woven fiberglass cloth to fit the entire boat, then bond both layers in place at the same time with System Three surfboard epoxy resin.

A wooden arch provides the interior-mounting surface for a foot cover. Three fiberglass rods inserted into aluminum tube sockets along the interior sides add support for a roofing rubber cover, which is attached with Firestone Bonding Agent. The boat was painted gray-green. The total cost of the boat was less than $1,000.

"It floats perfectly and is stable enough for standing up in it," Nichols said. "If it rides high with a lightweight hunter, I just add sandbags for balance."

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