Dan Nelson – Nelson Boat Works

This is the third in a series that highlights the professional restorers who are also members of BSLOL. We are defining a professional as an individual who earns his/her living by restoring boats. We don’t endorse any individual, however we will attempt to factually record some of their accomplishments.

Dan Nelson began restoring boats on a part-time basis in 1989. As his skills became known to the wood boat community so did the number of clients requesting restorations. In 1996, he became a full time restorer of wood boats, much to the appreciation of many BSLOL members. Dan works from his shop behind his home in Mound, Minnesota. He has also hosted a few of our winter workshops that included epoxy bottom techniques and drilling the shaft hole in a new keel.

He says he likes to work on boats that require a keel-up restoration because of the satisfaction in completing such a project. Indeed, each of his preferred methods can be incorporated without the need for working around previous repairs. Wherever practical, the wood is encapsulated in CPES and then bedded to the frames with #5200 compound.

The bottoms usually have any number of suspect frames replaced. The frame pieces are then bedded to each other and the keel. The bottom is made up of a layer of inner plywood and an outer layer of conventional planking with #5200 between the layers. The decks are made of an inner layer of plywood with the outer planking glued on with epoxy. The inner plywood layer is bedded to the deck beams. This method assures a stable deck that won’t have any seam movement, while the 3M #5200 bedding allows for some hull flexing. The topsides of a typical runabout are restored with
traditional plank on frame batten seam construction. Dan prefers to use varnish and will use as many as 20 coats to achieve the desired finish.

At the 1998 BSLOL rendezvous, he won the best Contemporary Classic with a 1998 replica of a 1941 Chris Craft 19’ Barrel-Back that he constructed in his shop. This boat appeared on the cover of the April 2000 issue of the BoatHouse. In 1999 he won Best of Class & Show at Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire with a 1941 Chris Craft 17’ Custom and in 2000 he won Best of Class at Coeur d’Alene with a different 1941 Chris Craft 17’ Custom. At the 2002 BSLOL Rendezvous, Dan won the Best Professional Restoration for a 1930 Hackercraft 30’ Triple “Tusk” owned by the Hicks family, and best Chris Craft a 22’ Utility owned by Bill Eklund.

Currently Dan is restoring a 1942 Chris Craft 23’ Custom for a New Hampshire client that has its original Chris Craft model M 130 hp engine with reduction drive. This boat was missing almost all its hardware, was badly hogged and would qualify for the sobriquet of “pattern boat”. This model boat was one of the favorites of Bob Speltz, and with only its present four coats of varnish, it is a beauty. In addition, he is doing a keel-up restoration on Karl Newman’s 1955 Chris Craft 20’ Holiday that will be powered by a 158 hp Chris Craft model MBL engine. This boat is in the frame and batten stage.

Finally, for his own pleasure, Dan is restoring the 1955 Higgins 23′ convertible that he first showed to us at the 2001 BSLOL Rendezvous. This Chrysler Hemi-powered red and white painted stud muffin should really turn heads at our upcoming 2003 Rendezvous where Higgins will be the featured Marque.

If you are in the Mound, MN area, give Dan a call at 952-472-3687 and visit him in his shop. Every conversation with Dan is a learning experience.