Riveted Boats - Pros/Cons Leaky?


Help Support TinBoats.net:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.

Tin Man

Well-known member
TinBoats Supporter
Oct 1, 2011
Reaction score
Long time boat owner. Previous tin boats, then fiberglass, and now thinking back to tin. I'm retired, older, and looking for simple, comfortable , safe, and easy fishing boat. I will be taking my two sons (one 17yo with Autism), so safety is paramount. I could always add railing (bow/stern) boat if needed.

Considered a pontoon (18'-21') for the safety, but the size and hassle I think would be just too much.

Looking at a 1996 Starcraft SF16. It appears to be riveted. All my previous tin boats were welded (Crestliner, Gregor, Bayrunner).
Do these riveted boats leak? I assume that is part of being riveted...if they do not currently leak...they will evetually!

Here on the west coast we don't have many of the other tin boats common to the midwest/east. Gregor, Klamath, and Valco are the most common. They tend to be 12'-14'. I would like a 16-18' boat so that three can fish somewhat comfortably.

Do you tinny owners prefer tiller or side console steering?

What should I be looking for with this boat or any other tinnies?

Lund boats have been riveted since the 'dawn of time' and go over some big waters. Guy on another forum has a 20' Lund Pro-V Bass 2075 - riveted hull - and he takes it out on both Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. 4 years now he's done that and nary a leak to be found.

A quality riveted hull is just as tight as a welded hull.

If needed, how are permanent rivets installed? I saw the temporary ones, but I'm wondering how permanent ones are installed, i.e., pneumatic riveting gun? How do you know they are installed as was done in factory when new to ensure no water entry?
Tin Man said:

If needed, how are permanent rivets installed? I saw the temporary ones, but I'm wondering how permanent ones are installed, i.e., pneumatic riveting gun? How do you know they are installed as was done in factory when new to ensure no water entry?

All rivets are considered permanent - it's just the type of rivet used

Factory built boats use solid brazing rivets - inside the hull, one person holds a 'bucking bar' in place; outside the hull, another person uses a pneumatic air-hammer with a brazing head driver.

I'm using regular pop-rivets on the interior frame on my rebuild - dome head in most places and countersunk where the decking will go over it to give the rivet joint a flat surface.

But for the aluminum angles that attach to the outer hull I'm using drive-rivets. Drill the hole, insert the rivet, pound on the protruding head with a hammer.
Outside looks like this - a little epoxy to seal it
Drive-rivet exterior.JPG
Inside looks like this - the 'split' parts hold the piece solidly in place.
Drive-rivet interior.JPG
Tin Man said:
If needed, how are permanent rivets installed? I saw the temporary ones, but I'm wondering how permanent ones are installed, i.e., pneumatic riveting gun? How do you know they are installed as was done in factory when new to ensure no water entry?
FYI, the basic tooling includes:

  • $50 pancake compressor, $20 air tool and a $15 air line kit, all from Harbor Freight or other source
  • $20 bucking bar from Vintage Trailer (https://www.vintagetrailersupply.com/Bucking-Bar-p/vts-825.htm) , or use a sledge hammer head to go on the cheap
  • $10-$13 brazier head tool for the air gun, to properly set the rivets (see: https://forum.tinboats.net/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=41248)

Then just add 1100F alloy 3/16" solid aluminum rivets (https://rivetsonline.com/solid-aluminum-rivets-5-32-to-3-16.html) and go to town!

That's $115 worth of new tools for your collection, but you are all set if ever needed to work on tin boats again! Plus the compressor has many uses around the shop/home.

How to properly drill out OLD rivets: https://forum.tinboats.net/viewtopic.php?p=454767

Also see: https://forum.tinboats.net/viewtopic.php?p=424709
I honestly prefer rivets. They hold things tightly, but still allow some flex and movement under stress. Welds don't, they just crack.

And if you do get a few that loosen up, like DaleH illustrated, you can rebuck them with $100 in tools. Can't fix a cracked aluminum weld without a lot of training and high dollar welding machines.

Not all riveted boats leak. I had an 80 model Alumacraft that was beat all to heck and wouldn't leak more than a coffee cup in a day. My current 84 Tracker doesn't leak at all.

I think there was a period of time where manufacturers were transitioning from rivets to welding that I would avoid. Probably late 2000s. Took them a while to get the new process figured out, but don't have nearly as many problems with cracks nowadays.
I’ve had a few of both. Most of the riveted boats in my area are significantly lighter than their welded brethren thus easier to handle and cheaper to power.
I also like that it’s relatively easy to fix something in my boat myself without taking to a welder.
A few years ago had two slowly leaking rivets in the bottom of mine which I use in saltwater BTW. I decided to try JB steel epoxy before buying a complete rivet set and to my surprise it’s held up fine for the last two seasons without a leak.
In your case I think the capacity and bottom width for stability will be much more important than rivets/weld.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
Awesome info guys; much appreciated! I'm a hands on DIYer so tools and repairs are right up my alley! I have no problem with HF tools!

Feeling better about riveted boats. I will not be excluding them in my search.

Now....just need a to find a nice one.

I'll want alum rails, as previously mentioned (probably have to be fabricated). I'll also want as deep of gunnel height as possible.

Any boats with deep gunnels I should be considering?

I have a 16' Naden (riveted) likely made in the 70's that lived its former life as a resort rental. Doesn't leak a drop. My first riveted boat that didn't, however they are usually easy to tighten up and repair. I prefer tiller steer for the type of waters and fishing I do. Lund, StarCraft and smokercraft all have deep sided models.

Sent from my CLT-L04 using Tapatalk

i had a tracker deep v 17 pro. it was riveted (about a kabillion rivets)! was an 88 model and was beat against rocks and trees its entire life and never leaked.. high gunwals and really wide in center and rear. i think something like that would be great for your sons. had 4 seats too. my knees got so bad i couldnt get in and out of it from the bank anymore, so i downsized.
post pics of that boy catchin a wollygopper!
I think I’d try it with your boys (in life jackets) a few times before adding rails. Not only do they interfere with fishing but are a trip hazard getting on and off the boat which I think makes them more dangerous than the protection we perceive them offering.
Additionally, you can guarantee that every child that gets within reach of a rail will hang their entire weight on it. I have toddlers and their falling in was something we worried about but had been a non-issue on either my fully decked bay boat or my Jon.
A better investment might be in auto inflatable life vests so the older kids will be willing to wear them all the time.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
Great intell guys! I agree with life jackets....especially the auto inflate type!

Attached is one boat I may go look at in the next 1-2 days.

It is a 1996 Starcraft SF16. Freshwater use only since new.



  • sf 8.jpg
    sf 8.jpg
    93.7 KB · Views: 381
  • sf 7.jpg
    sf 7.jpg
    71.5 KB · Views: 381
  • sf 6.jpg
    sf 6.jpg
    234.9 KB · Views: 381
  • sf 5.jpg
    sf 5.jpg
    174.2 KB · Views: 381
  • sf 4.jpg
    sf 4.jpg
    209.8 KB · Views: 381
  • Sf 3.jpg
    Sf 3.jpg
    131 KB · Views: 381
  • SF 2.jpg
    SF 2.jpg
    161.7 KB · Views: 381
  • SF 1.jpg
    SF 1.jpg
    198.9 KB · Views: 381
Basically what I have. A 16' utility. Tough, light and stable.

Sent from my CLT-L04 using Tapatalk

biggest problems i see with that one is the bench seats will be very limiting for any more than 2 people, and will be a trip waiting to happen. the other problem is the angled floor (v-hull without decked level flooring). another fall waiting to happen. an young person may be boat shy, but one that flips out of the boat may be permanently scared to th point of not wanting to go again.
I favor the welded boats they're just a sturdier boat in my opinion. They do require welding when they crack, etc.. They're heavier due to thicker material.
I have a 1976 Grumman 4.4. Its Figured in some places spaced 3/4" apart (Think WWII Fighter Plane) I've owned it 11 years, never had any leaks.
I've never owned a riveted boat that didn't feel like a big flexible metal bucket-especially when running on plane in any chop. I can be sitting in the back running the tiller motor, and any wake, look over the front of the boat and watch is flex. Port to starboard, or vise versa. Or sometimes the entire floor moving up and down.

Riveted boats are generally less expensive, there is less material (thinner), and they are a little bit less maintenance intensive.

Welded. Once you've been in a welded boat that is worth anything, you'll understand. Much more confidence inspiring. First time I got in one, I was sold-I said to myself someday I'm going to own one of these. And I now do, and have since 2012 with no plan on changing that.

Out here, a lot of folks use their tin boats for duck hunting. A riveted boat is usually thinner material and they just do not hold up to that type usage, in flooded timber. Quite easy to bend. Mine is .100" thick bottom, transom, sides-and I've run over some rocks and logs that would have kinked my old riveted Grumman pretty good. This one, you can't even tell other than a deep scratch or two. I call them battle scars. In the winter I put the hull up on my car lift and usually try to at least file down the burrs (and fill them if really deep) then paint over 'em. So far, so good. Zero leak, in the 10 years and approximately 1100 hours of use that I've owned it.
If u find a a riveted one and you are unsure about it leaking or not or if it DOES leak, u can simply pains some steelflex on the bottom to seal any leaking rivets.
I have both. a 16 tracker welded and a 14 starcraft riveted jon for duck hunting. (no stumps near me)

I've used both in saltwater too w/o issues but I DO have steelflex (w Teflon) on the jon for the marsh