Building the Popular Mechanics PM-38 from the August 1962 issue.

by Mark Reynolds
(Harpers Ferry, West Virginia)

A few people have asked about the popular mechanics PM-38 boat that I built so I thought I would tell a little about it.

I got the idea from my father who built the same boat back in the early sixties.

That boat rotted away years ago and was left in a farm field in Frederick, Maryland.

After figuring out what boat it was, and where he got the plans, I set to building one myself.

It took from around November of 2009 until May of 2010.

This was a new experience for me as I had never built a boat of any kind before, but I did have some wood working experience.

The popular mechanics magazine gives you just enough information that you can build the boat directly from the magazine without any of the larger plans.

Good luck finding those anyway.

All I did was go step by step and do one thing at a time, making very slight modifications as I went.

The hardest part of the build was getting everything to fit at the curved bow.

That took a lot or working and reworking and so forth.

It was a little tuff for a first timer.

I broke one of the chines as I was bending it into place and two of the sheer rails.

The chines I steamed with an old iron right at the main bend and that finally worked it out.

Also, good luck cutting all the pieces out of the few sheets of plywood they call for.

It took me several extras.

I used fir plywood and boards through out.

I added a small frame/ support on each side in the rear of the boat to firm up the deck battens that run to the stern.

They were a little wobbly due to how far they extended with no support.

Two extra transom knees were added and an extra support on each side of the stern to help hold the sides onto the back of the boat.

I also increased the size of all the gussets and added a few here and there where it looked like it could use them.

I also didn't cut the bottom arch out of the control panel like the directions say.

If you do there isn't room to fit the controls on it.

You just seem to figure this stuff out while you are doing it.

The directions say you don't need to fiberglass the bottom of the boat to keep it from leaking.

I did anyway and sure enough not a single drop leaks into it while its in the water.

I could not find any commercially available windshields so I built one out of thick scrap wood and Plexiglas to resemble a criss craft or a feathercraft windshield.

It turned out nice.

Teleflex supplied the steering.

We modified it to connect to the Evinrude motor I put on.

Lights were wired into the boat and a depth finder, etc...

For a trailer I found an old Sears and Roebucks trailer from the 1950's that some one had.

pm 38
Step by step instructions for building the PM 38 using modern plywood building techniques and materials.

We put the boat out on the Potomac river at Harpers Ferry for the first time on memorial day 2010.

It ran great and handles very well. It seems to draw a lot of attention due to its old style and unique looks.

Anyway this is getting a little long winded.

Anyone thinking of building one is welcome to email me at if you have questions.

I would do my best to answer them.

So far I have talked to no one else who has built this boat, or is building one except my own father.

It is a great boat for a beginner to build.

It just takes some thinking to figure it all out.

But what isn't like that?


Mark Reynolds......... 2010

Comments for Building the Popular Mechanics PM-38 from the August 1962 issue.

Click here to add your own comments

Aug 13, 2018
Stepped Hull
by: Mark

If you don’t want the step in the hull bottom just ‘butt’ the forward and aft plywood level instead of overlapping.

Aug 13, 2018
by: Mark

To get the 15 degrees just bevel the bottom of the transom after you've built

PM 38 Transom

Aug 08, 2018
pm 38
by: the newbee

Hello,im the newb to this forum ,although I have been in contact with Mike @diy boats,what a great guy,very helpful,Ive been trying to get an outside builders opinion,of what is missing in the build prints,and what precautions I should take before starting the build,also ive noticed that some builds didn't go with the stepped hull appearance. I was wondering how that was achieved,I built the transom already and Im wondering how to get that 15 degrees at bottom of it, I must have missed something on the print,because I think that 15 degrees should have been acquired somehow before building the transom,any thoughts comments or direction,would be absolutely appreciated,Thank You the newbie

May 12, 2018
I had one in 1966
by: Dave Bruyn

Back on Long Island I had one with a 35 horse Evinrude.

We took it across the Great South Bay and that was a bit of a challenge.

We used it mostly for skiing.

Fun boat!

Oct 05, 2015
I'm working on one
by: Peter

Hi All,

The wife recently expressed an interest in tooling around on a nearby lake so I have started looking for a smaller boat.

They seem hard to find used so I decided to look for what folks have done on the DIY-side.

As a kid I wanted to build a boat once but never got the opportunity. I came across the PM-38 and both the wife and I like it so I'm going to give it a go.

Don't have too much advanced woodworking experience but did make it through wood shop in school many years ago.

It seems doable.

I have found a local lumber yard where I can get marine grade plywood in the sizes need.

I'm having trouble finding Fir lumber so have opted for Ash as I saw some use that instead.

So far I am in the very early stages and just have the transom ready.

Trying to take my time and hopefully do things right the first time.

Anyway, just wanted to add a comment here as another one interested in this old design.

Sep 20, 2015
by: Mike

This might help anyone struggling to bend any chines, clamps rub-rails or the like.

Aug 12, 2014
PM 38
by: Wayne Vos

Built one in 1974 at 14.

Worked with my dad during the day to buy lumber that summer.

He offered to buy motor if I could acomplish this project.

Wow what a great experience, he ended up buying trailer, johnson 25 electric start, windshield from sears boating catalog, steering gear.

When I got my drivers license I towed it with my 1979 trans am.

Now 54 and I'm gonna do it again, maybe it can be as rewarding as the first time.

My plans where from popular mechanics encylopedia.

My dad always made sure I had whatever I needed to acomplish my goals.

Still have the bow hung in my garage like a trophy.

Aug 05, 2014
PM 38
by: Tom

I'm amazed that there is still interest in this boat project.!

As a 16 1962 I saw this boat in the magazine and decided to build one.

I didn't have any real problems, but I did decide to put two layers of fiberglass boat cloth and gelcoat on the hull and transom!

Probably paid off because I started with a 35 hp mercury but I was disappointed in it's ability to tow skiers.

Sooooo... I hung a 50 hp (four cylinder) merc on it and that cured the skiing!

The boat hung in for 15 years until I sold it.

I doubt it's still in existence but many photos and memories certainly are!

It found it's way to many lakes in Nebraska, Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lakes in Colorado, Milford reservoir in Kansas, the Missouri River and on and on. if you have interest or questions.

Jun 05, 2014
Progress on Toronto PM38
by: Anonymous

I am almost ready to start gluing on the plywood planking.

I also am planning to include a self-draining motor well.

I am planning to keep the bench seat but will add a sideways facing seat behind it so the boat will seat three.

I have a 1965 Peterborough, ON built 40 hp Johnson for it.

Jun 05, 2014
PM 38
by: Gary

I built one when the magazine came out and used it several years fishing and water skiing. I had a 35hp Evinrude.

I modified the seats. I made back to back seats with a walk through, so there were seats for 4.

I also put in an outboard well that self drained.

I managed to find a windshield that fit it.

I glassed the whole thing and used an epoxy paint.

I'll have to see if I can find a photo of it.

I still have the plans and when I can locate them I plan on building a model of it including the modifications I made.

Apr 29, 2014
Pm 38
by: Alan B

Im starting to build my own Pm38 on Friday, I will keep you updated.

Feb 13, 2014
Framing Wood
by: Roger Duncan

If your wood has knots it is a problem if the wood is stressed.

The supposedly clear fir I bought will cause me some trouble as I work around the knots.

The lumber yard people make you pick your own "clear" wood so you can't complain or try to take it back.

Smart move on their part I would say.

Feb 13, 2014
Framing Wood
by: Roger Duncan

For framing I would use pine but work around the knots.

You can't have weak points half way across the width of the keelson for instance.

Are you sure you can't get clear pine?

I got clear spruce but of course it has the odd knot.

That's why the lumber yard guys get you to pick it out yourself!


Feb 13, 2014
by: Alan

Roger, thanks for your answer.

But I'm not talking about the plywood, I own that already.

I'm talking about the lumber for making the frames, etc.

Thank you

Feb 13, 2014
What Plywood to Use
by: Roger Duncan


Pretty well any good quality plywood should be OK.

Make sure it has very few or no cavities.

Put the good side on the outside of the boat.

The stuff I got is called "sanded": nice finish on one side but the other is pretty rough.


Feb 13, 2014
pm 38
by: Alan

Oak is also not easily findable here.

I am between pine and eucalyptus but eucalyptus is too heavy and pine has some knots.

What do you think?

Feb 12, 2014
Other woods to use.
by: Mark Reynolds

Perhaps Oak and Marine grade plywood.

Feb 12, 2014
Pm 38
by: Alan

I want to start building an Pm38 boat soon, I live in Uruguay and there is not fir wood here. Which one can I use instead?

Jan 14, 2014
Reply PM38
by: Anonymous


Maybe I will add coaming like I have on my Minimax sea flea. That ought to work.

Regards, Roger Duncan

Jan 14, 2014
Glad to hear someone else is building a PM-38.
by: Mark Reynolds

It is good to hear someone else is building one.

I have heard mention of other people changing the plans to create a slight V type hull going toward the back.

If I was to build the boat again, I would make the sides on the rear frame (transom) about 2 inches taller.

If you look at the plans the rear frame slopes off on each side 7 inches.

Consider giving it less of a 'slope'so the sides are a little taller in the back.

This is because when I get in the back of my boat with the motor, battery, and gas tank, it sinks down into the water to where the water level is up over the sides and onto the rear decking.

I suspect if another adult was back there with me it would sink the boat.

Good luck with it!

Jan 11, 2014
PM 38 in Toronto
by: Roger Duncan

I am building one in my garage right now on my year off.

My big modification is that I am dropping the keel by three inches creating a curved bottom.

That's because I will primarily run the boat on Lake Ontario which nearly always has a pretty good chop.

I love flat bottomed boats but I can console myself because I already have a Minimax that I built.

I hope my modification will be successful and that the boat will perform well out on the big lake.

Roger Duncan

Jan 23, 2013
Nice Job!
by: Robert

I have one of the pm 38 in my garage and have been building since 2011, taking my time.

I have used some of your photo's as guide in my building of my pm 38.

I have put a center deck in mine and think it will be a eye catcher for the craft.

If you have any pictures you could e mail me of the frame on yours it would be greatly appreciated.

May 06, 2011
Another PM 38 joins the club
by: Mike

"Damm Yankee" is Russell’s second PM 38, built 47 years after he built his first one.

Apr 20, 2011
Popular mechanics
by: Mike

Hey, a PM-38 Club, that sounds like a great idea.

I wonder how many of those boats were actually built, successfully that is?

If anyone would like to send photos, information, yarns, whatever you can email them to me at and I will do my best to make a web page just for you.

I can also if you wish add photos to your comments here.

What about some of their other designs, including the 'wacky ones'?

I believe "Popular Science" also had some boat plans.

By the way did you know that you can view all the PM back issues at Google books?

Apr 19, 2011
PM 38
by: Robert Edsall

I have been working (summer of 2010) on the pm 38 and have the hull done, was getting ready to put the deck on when my dad stopped by one day.

He bought a chysler boat, motor and trailer of a 1976 vintage that has taken me away from the pm 38.

The Chrysler boat had to be gutted and all new stringers and flooring and interior, and engine rebuilt.

It has been full time and costly, however you are right to say that what we enjoyed as a child we should enjoy as and adult..........great feeling!

Got off the thought pattern........

I will be getting to the pm 38 this summer and hope to finish it by fall.

I plan on putting a center deck in the boat with the steering and throttle set up, want to put a 50hp on it, so if anyone has picture please send them would be fun to show our work to each other.

Maybe we can start a pm 38 club


Apr 03, 2011
by: Greg

My Dad and I built a PM38 around 1962.

It was our second home built boat, the first was a Glen L Witt utility 11'6".

I was around 10 at the time and my job was to clamber under the form to clean the glue runs after screwing down the panels.

All those brass screws that broke if you weren't careful!!

The frames were Philippine mahogany and a chine log broke too during building.

It started life with an Evinrude 40 HP Big Twin, then an Evinrude Workfour 60 HP and finally a Starflite 80 HP.

With the 8o HP came electric start and push button gear shift.

The transom was stiffened and glassed in to take the bigger motors. It was a great little boat for skiing and with all the power did way more than 38 mph.

We moved on to a glass V bottom in the 70's.

The boat bug is still with me and I have built and am still building boats.

The latest being a timber & Epoxy 21 ft deep V epoxy.

What started in my youth is still going on :)

Feb 18, 2011
PM 38
by: Carl streeter

My oldest son ( ten at the time) and I built the PM38 1n 1963.
No particular problems that I remember

just that I ruined my wife's steam iron bending some of the pieces.

I also remember making a steamer out of a length of down spout that really didn't work.

We had the boat for many years,adding fiber glass
seams and bottoms at one point.

Repainted several times by my 3 sons to suit their changing tastes.

We had a 35 Merc on it but never got 38 mph.
And it cost more than $38 and took more than 38 hours--but it certainly paid off in hours(years) of fun.

We now have the Merc on a 17ft PennYan that we restored--a real beauty!

Sep 28, 2010
More about PM 38
by: David

Timmynocky, you are so correct in saying that what influenced you in your youth stays with you.

So many things I have done in life come from this.

I searched and searched for the name of this boat as the one I remember in Melbourne Australia in my youth had no name.

I stumbled on the plans from Popular Mechanics then posted on this forum.

Thank you to all.

I hope we can gather even more people with the same interest.

Sep 25, 2010
PM 38 Plans
by: Timmynocky

Those are great stories guys!

Mike, I read somewhere once that the passions we have in our youth are the ones we should follow later in life.

So, why not have a go at building your dream boat?

You've got the plans so, what are you waiting for,
you might just surprise yourself and get a great deal of satisfaction.

Sep 24, 2010
My experience with the PM-38
by: Mike

Mark, thanks for sharing this story and your experience building this boat.
I thought you might find my PM-38 story interesting.

When I was a kid my Dad got Popular Mechanics magazine.

We were both interested in fishing and being on the water.

I was ten years old.

I read the magazine and suggested that we build the PM-38.

He told me that if I could save $38.00 he would order the plans and we would build it.

I had a paper route and saved the money to his was quite a bit of money in those days for a 10 year old.

He ordered the plans and bought the wood to get started.

Unfortunately, at some point, he was unable to make it work and after some additional effort he gave up on it.

Needless to say, I was very disappointed.

When I became an adult, I would often tease him about it asking if he got anywhere yet or...had figured it out and so forth.

So many years have passed since then.

I entered the USAF and completed an active duty career in 2006 of almost 35 years.

My Dad died later that same year.

To this day, I have never owned a boat despite wanting one for all this time.

I always knew that if I got a boat I would name it "PM-38" to keep the memory alive.

Then, just the other day I was looking through some personal files and stumbled onto the PM-38 plans from 1962 with a note from my Dad saying, "Here are the plans should try this yourself and keep the dream alive."

Today, I used the Internet to see what info about the PM-38 might be out there.

Back to your posting Mark--it was helpful and motivating.

While I lack the skills to build this boat I am seriously considering having it built for me...stay tuned.


Sep 24, 2010
More pics please
by: David

Mark if it is not too much of an imposition, have you got a picture 1. side on, and 2. from above (to depict the width) if possible.

If you don't want to post here, my email is

Thanks David

Sep 21, 2010
Motor Shaft length
by: Mark Reynolds

It is a short shaft motor.

Sep 21, 2010
Thanks Mark
by: David

Thank you Mark for the great description of building this fabulous boat.

No wonder it turns heads.

I wish to take on this same project and your info will be invaluable.

Is that a short or long shaft on your boat?


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