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Old 01-23-2006, 04:51 AM
Doodfish Doodfish is offline
Join Date: Aug 2005
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Location: Sydney Austarlia
44 (55) Gallon drum pontoon boat

I was just wondering if it was possible to use these welded lid steel drums to make the pontoons of a small 20 foot closed water party type pontoon boat, intended for slow cruising/fishing and powered by a couple of 5 hp outboards. I am on a small budget and want to make it as cheap and simple as possible.

My thoughts were to weld roughly 7 drums together for each pontoon and weld two steel angle irons across the top for a backbone to mount the platform supports also adding a cone on the front of each for bows.

The surface area of the drums, at a glance, seems larger than the pontoons of an actual properly designed plan that I have bought for a plywood pontoon boat 22 to 24 inch diameter versus 18 wide by 19 inches deep for the plywood plans.

The thickness of the steel drums is about .8 mm to 1.2mm depending on the drum as I am not experienced with welding, would his be thick enough to weld with ARC welder?

Would the pontoons as I've described possibly buckle be easily dented?
And if so would filling each one with some type of floation foam help give them enough extra rigidity.

As the skins of the pontoons would be far from smooth - the raised pressing at 1/3 and 2/3 marks and lid and bottom ( I'd endeavour to smooth out the joins as much as possible) - Would the extra drag be a too big a burden?
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Old 01-23-2006, 08:24 AM
jeremy66158 jeremy66158 is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
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Location: Los Angeles
How will you prevent rust? The common drums are not thick metal. Even if painted you would still always be in a battle to prevent rust. Unless you intend to take your boat out of the water daily I suggest you look at some other material. If you do go with the common steel barrels you may want to fill them up with old styrofoam from packaging from TV boxes and where ever you can get styrofoam pieces and then join all the pieces together with expanding foam. You might also try plastic barrels with foam inside and wood to hold it together? Here is a bunch of super cheap/free boat builders and their craft's web site:
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Old 01-24-2006, 11:35 AM
maddyfish maddyfish is offline
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Location: cincinnati
I'm not super knowledgeable, but there are tons of 55 gallon drum pontoons running around the lakes here in Ky., USA. Seem to work pretty well.
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Old 01-24-2006, 01:41 PM
nevadamike nevadamike is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2006
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Location: Spring Creek, Nevada
These things always seem a good idea.... until they sink. Welding them together yourself is ok...practice a little, they're kinda thin.
Here's my take. barrel-built pontoons seem to work well enough at first, if very well built. Even then, though, leaks, poor performance ,appearance, and other factors weigh in. As stated in a note to another builder, why not investigate factory built but discarded pontoons? I recently saw a post on a website that said these pontoons are widely available, cheap. I believe 'twas pontoon world or some such.
I am from the north country of the Dakotas. I've seen these things repeatedly. the barrel built pontoons are just not worth the work. find some pontoons and build your own deck, etc.... great. good luck. Mike
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Old 01-25-2006, 09:51 AM
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SamSam SamSam is offline
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Location: Coastal Georgia
Some places they are illegal because when they rust through, whatever residue was inside gets washed out and pollutes to varying degrees. Keep in mind the risk of explosion welding an empty barrel that used to hold who knows what. Sam
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Old 01-25-2006, 09:43 PM
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PAR PAR is offline
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The hull, or pontoons in this case, is a small amount of the effort, material, equipment and cash you will need to build, even a small boat. You will save little by using drums, particularly if much welding effort must be performed. If you count the linear footage of all the drum to drum seams you need to weld up, plus the cross bracing necessary to tie the pontoons together, you may approach the volume of welding for a simple scow or punt type hull. Both of those hull forms would provide as stable a platform as the pontoon, plus considerably more load carrying and sea keeping ability. No I wouldn't recommend old tin roofing, off the barn as hull plating, but a junk yard can yield surprising finds if you can haggle a bit for some steel.
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Old 01-30-2006, 07:33 AM
mcollins07 mcollins07 is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2006
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Location: Texas
Pontoon boats

We used these barrle based pontoon boats a lot when I was a kid. They will work fine. The barrels do rust, but it takes a long time. You can also fill the metal barrels with foam, then you have a type of composit which does not sink. The barrels will not rust if they are well maintained with paint, and can last indefinitely.

I would suggest making a frame of angle iron. The frame has two runners of angle iron on each side and just above the vertical center of the barrels. From these risers go up to the floor and the metal frame for the floor holds the two pontoons together. You could also create risers to a canopy. A great advantage to this approach, verses welding the barrels together, is that you can repair and replace the barrels individually. If a barrel rusts and fills with water, it will sink from the boat leaving a vacant spot for a new barrel. Of course it is usually not that simple, but you get the idea. Any barrel can be removed by sinking the barrel or raising the boat. And I have never seen any barrels come out in from under a pontoon boat (or barge as we called them) while in use.

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