HOBBY STARTS BIG BOAT BUSINESS




A THREE-FOOT scale model of a plywood boat stands in the office of Burchcraft Boat Co., Inc. of Aberdeen, Washington. In the pursuit of a woodworking hobby, L. P. Burch, president of the company, completed it 12 years ago. At the time he fashioned it, there was no such thing on the market as exterior or marine plywood, and he did not realize that it was to be a pattern for a long line of over a dozen models of plywood pleasure and fishing craft. Nor did he think that a few years later he would be turning them out at a rate of over 1200 craft a year.
So carefully was the little model designed, however, one has but to glance at it to see in it the identical lines of the standard Burchcraft outboard motor boat of today.
Burch was sure of his design, however, and when the first exterior type plywood was produced, he approached Harbor Plywood Corp. of Hoquiam, Washington, for some panels for construction of his first boat. He completed a 14-foot boat in time to enter it in the Fourth of July outboard motor races in Grays Harbor in 1939, where it took first place in its class. From that time on Burch began to receive orders for similar boats. However, when he asked for sufficient exterior plywood for a hundred boats, the Harbor Plywood people worked closely with him and wanted him to try a few at a time to be certain that the plywood would hold up under the new use. The exterior panels proved their worth and the glue lines held. Burch established the Burchcraft Boat Co., now one of the country's largest producers of all-plywood pleasure craft.
The outstanding feature of the Burchcraft boat is that it has no ribs, but instead uses longitudinal oak framing. Single piece sides of exterior type Douglas fir plywood are moulded to the correct contour using 1/4-inch, 5/l6-inch and 3/8-inch plywood, depending upon the model. A moulded plywood false bottom extends beneath the foot room and helps in forming the rigidity of the boats. A heavy plywood stern transom and plywood deck are other simple ingredients of one of the sturdiest boats imaginable. The resiliency of plywood construction accounts for the fact that Burchcraft boats are hard to puncture. Mr. Burch contends that a boat stiffened with conventional ribs cannot begin to take the punishment readily absorbed by the ribless plywood job. The fact was established in a manner wholly unplanned some time ago when a truck load of boats was being delivered from the Aberdeen factory. Upwards of twelve or more boats are carried on a special truck and trailer arrangement and the load is naturally high. Rounding a curve on the highway near Shelton, Washington, a stiff gust of wind blew one of the top boats loose from its fastenings. It fell upon a guard rail post from a height of 12 feet, bounced into the air and went rolling down a bank. When retrieved and examined, the only damage suffered in the spill was a broken bracket and a small corner crack in the deck panel. In fact, the Burch people insist that damage cases are so few that up to now they have neglected to design a recommended patch for a ruptured side panel.
Burchcraft plywood boats are now produced in 15 models and four lengths, 12-foot, 14-foot, 16-foot and an 8-foot dinghy, with beams from 48 inches to 68 inches. The 12-foot model is offered in two styles, standard and deluxe. The 14-foot line includes the Fisherman, Tyee, standard, deluxe, standard runabout and deluxe runabout. The same variations are to be found in the 16-foot length. The company also makes 14- and 16-foot trollers with inboard, air-cooled motors, one model featuring a two-cylinder Fairbanks-Morse engine.
Deluxe sports models are finished with plywood mahogany decks, guard rails, stern transom and solid mahogany board seats. The deluxe fisherman models have the same finish with the exception of their use of solid cedar seats. Standard models are entirely of Douglas fir plywood. The largest models including the deluxe sports model weigh 300 pounds and are built to handle up to a 60-hp. outboard motor.
Sales of Burchcraft plywood boats are divided almost equally among the three Pacific Coast states of Washington, Oregon and California.
The personnel of Burchcraft Boat Co., Inc., a family enterprise, consists of L. P. Burch, president; H. E. Burch (son), vice-president; O. P. Burch (son), secretary; Dora F. Burch, treasurer.


Reprinted from
THE TIMBERMAN
An International Lumber Journal
PORTLAND 5, OREGON
Nineteenth Annual Plywood Review
VOLUME LI. NUMBER 3
JANUARY, 1950