Boat Builder Chooses Aluminum over Wood

Aug 4, 2014

As a fishing guide on the Rogue River, Willie Illingworth knew firsthand that a 20-foot, heavy cedar or plywood boat was tortuous to row and handle and required constant maintenance.  He figured an aluminum driftboat would make more sense.

Discarding the design of a pointed bow at both ends, Illingworth came up with a high flared bow, squat stern, and steep curves for the Rogue’s swift, shallow rapids. He knew it was difficult to weld aluminum.  Although he had little money, no welding experience and only one hand due to an accident as a child, Illingworth decided to tackle the job himself. Receiving a $4,000 loan from an Ashland fishing client to build six driftboats, Illingworth spent months in his Medford shop in 1971 shearing patterns and welding the first commercially successful, aluminum-welded boat.  After the prototype proved lighter and easier to handle than wood boats, Illingworth created his White City boat-building company, called Alumaweld. Although Illingworth sold the company later to start another, his replacement of wood planks by aluminum sparked a Pacific Northwest industry still centered in Medford.


Sources: Freeman, Mark. "Willie's Legacy." Mail Tribune 14 Apr. 2010 [Medford, Ore.] . Web. 25 July 2014. Woodward, Bob. “The Oregon Driftboat,” 1859, Oregon’s Magazine, 1 Oct. 2010. Web. 25 July 2014.