Tolman Skiffs

Skiff Book

Tolman Alaskan Skiffs, Building Plans for Three Plywood-Epoxy Skiffs, By Renn Tolman

(Building plans in book form)

  1. Renn's Skiff
  2. Cy's Skiff
  3. Open Skiff
  4. Cliff's Skiff
  5. Renn's Skiff
  6. Hobb's Skiff
  1. Widebody with long hardtop and interior deck
  2. Widebody with short hardtop and no interior deck
  3. Standard 20-foot open skiff
  4. Jumbo prototype with Kachemak Bay-style cabin
  5. Jumbo, with tugboat-style cabin roof
  6. Twenty-Four foot Jumbo with 150hp Honda

About the skiffs....

Tolman skiffs are dory-style skiffs with semi-vee bottoms made of plywood/epoxy/fiberglass (sometimes called stitch-and-glue or composite construction). I have built over sixty since 1986 for sport and commercial use, and many others have been built by amateurs and professionals in the US, Canada, New Zealand, Europe, and elsewhere. I retired from building skiffs commercially in 2000, and I now spend much of my summers using mine here in Alaska.

I have designed three models, the "Standard," the "Widebody," and the "Jumbo." The Standard and the Widebody are identical in profile, but the Widebody has a 3-inch "chine flat" between the sides and bottom, like most fiberglass boats (ten million fiberglass boats can't be wrong). The Jumbo is a larger skiff in every dimension, has a 4-inch chine flat, and has a deeper vee bottom. The Jumbo is designed specifically to use the new four-stroke 115 to 150 horsepower engines.


  Standard Widebody Jumbo
Length 18' - 20' to 21'4" 22'-24'
Beam 7' 7'6" 8'
Beam at chine 5' 5'6" 6'
Max. hull depth 4' 4' 4'6"
Min. side height 28" 28" 36"
Deadrise: transom 8 degrees 8 degrees 12 degrees
Deadrise: admidships 14 degrees 14 degrees 18 degrees
Weight (in these pics) less than 700 lbs. less than 900 lbs. Less than 2000 lbs.
Recommended power 40-70 hp 70-90 hp 115-150hp

Note: Suggested maximum transom weight for engines should be: Standard: 300 lbs.; Widebody: 400 lbs.; Jumbo: 500 lbs. Exceeding these guidelines may result in trim problems.

Chines Drawing

Popular options include a recessed bow deck/locker, a console, a self-bailing deck, a cabin with sitting headroom and two bunks, and a short or long hardtop protecting the helm (in cabin models). The Jumbo can be built with any of the above options, with the Kachemak Bay-style cabin shown above or with a full cabin such as is found on the popular fiberglass C-Dory.

Build a Better Boat Than You Can Buy!

Tolman Alaskan Skiffs are thoroughly modern vee bottom, stitch-and-glue plywood boats that have dories in their ancestry. They are ocean-capable, ranging in size from 18 to 24 feet and powered by outboard engines from 40 to 150 horsepower. They can be built as simple open boats or full cabin cruisers, and anything in between. Tolman skiffs are ideal for sport fishing, beach camping and general recreation.

Skiffs designed for Alaskan waters
This Book Tells You:
  • The qualities needed in a good skiff
  • The pros... and cons... of Tolman Skiffs
  • How to build three basic skiff hulls, several cabin styles and custom features like steering controls, self-bailing decks and storage lockers
  • How to use epoxy and fiberglass, how to organize your workshop and what tools you'll need
  • Not only what to build but how to do it, with over 250 drawings and photos

Quote from inside front cover:

"In Alaska, the word 'skiff' calls to mind an open, outboard-powered boat of wood or aluminum, which is seaworthy, simple to build and cheap to run. Starting in 1973 Renn Tolman began a quest to build the perfect plywood skiff. The first improvement was then-new epoxy construction. Then in 1980 Renn substituted quick-to-build bulkhead-and-stringer construction for traditional ribbed framing, which eliminated the need for expensive 'clear' lumber and simplified the building process. In 1986 he replaced the flat bottom common to most skiffs with an easy riding modified vee. To form the complex bottom shape he adopted stitch-and­glue construction. Once the construction process was perfected, Renn brought out two larger models, reflecting the need for skiffs large enough to have cabins and to handle the new, heavier four-stroke engines.

Here are plans and instructions for building all three of the now world famous Tolman skiffs. Building a Tolman skiff is a project suited to the abilities of the average amateur wood worker. As Renn says, 'Here's a boat you can build with common tools, common skill, and common materials.'"

This book contains very detailed plans for how to build all three of my skiff hulls and the information necessary for adding many options such as decks, storage lockers, steering consoles, and a variety of cabins. The book is 8 1/2 x 11 inches in size and has 250 pages. There are 175 drawings and over 100 photos.

Questions about my skiffs or the book may be addressed to me at

Corrections to Tolman Alaskan Skiffs, First Edition

Page 80, Fig.9-12: On the table of values move all figures in the "heights" line one square to the left. Height 1 7/8 should be under distance 6, and so on.

Page 82, Fig 9-15: In the table, change "OUTER LINE" value under the distance at 80 inches to read 40 5/16.

Page 88, Fig. 10-1: Make the measurement to the top outer corner of the transom 40 1/2 inches instead of 41 1/2.

Page 94, Figs. 11-5 and 11-6: The rows of figures labeled "CHINE" should be labeled "FAIRBODY," and the reverse.

Page 98, Fig. 11-9: In the drawing, the next to last distance should be 130 1/8 and the last 132. The last distance on the table should also be 130 1/8.

Page 101, column 1, line 4 should read ". . .Figure 11-13. . ."