McFeely: New York Mills fishing dreams begin as a roll of aluminum – InForum

New York Mills, MN – Lund’s boat starts as an aluminum fascia. Just a big roll of heavy grade foil, if you want to look at it that way.

The rolls are located at the beginning of the manufacturing line at the south plant of the five-building Lund complex in this Minnesota town, 75 miles east of Morehead.

From there, the aluminum is cut, bent, machined, assembled and painted—with dozens of other components added like flooring and electronics, of course—before it shows up at the other end of the factory as a fishing boat ready to wreak havoc in Minnesota and North Dakota Wallis.

Aluminum coils are ready to be turned at the Lund Pot Company in New York Mills, Minnesota.
David Samson / Forum

Or not, because luck and skill will get it.

With the annual Minnesota fishing inaugural tinderbox on Saturday drawing nearly a million fishermen to the state’s lakes and rivers and North Dakota’s season increasing as the weather (probably) improves, it’s a safe assumption that tens of thousands of boats are starting on the water as an aluminum coil at New York Mills.

Lund boats are the bestselling fishing boats in the Upper Midwest. The Crestliner, another popular aluminum fishing boat, is located in the Lund complex. Both brands are owned by Illinois-based Brunswick Corporation, the world’s largest manufacturer of pleasure boats.

An amateur man cutting aluminum sheets.

Sections of cut aluminum panels were processed at the Lund Pot Company in New York Mills, Minnesota.
David Samson / Forum

“We’re going to consume 8 million pounds of aluminum in a year,” said Jason Oakes, Lund’s marketing director.

That’s a lot of boats, although Lund won’t reveal how many boats she makes in a year. Lund also offers a range of fiberglass boats, but they are made in a different location.

Oakes and Forum photographer Dave Samson led me on a 90-minute tour of the Lund factory last week, showing us how the aluminum coil turned out to be a Tyee, Pro-V, Impact or Adventure.

A person in welding equipment is welded to the bow of a boat.

The seams are applied to the Crestliner line at the Lund Boat Company in New York Mills, Minnesota.
David Samson / Forum

Couple of fast food:

  1. The men and women who make Lund and Crestliner boats are skilled and hardworking. Appreciate the company’s 600 employees when you’re on the water having fun.
  2. The boat is made from dozens of pieces of aluminum, large and small, and hundreds of components overall. Much more than the average person might think. It was great to see a boat come together from nothing but flat pieces of aluminum.

(Disclaimer: I own a Lund, an Impact 1775 model purchased new 10 years ago. Prior to that, I purchased a 16ft Alumacraft, bought new in 1990, and still own it. Both have proven to be excellent boats.)

A person sprays insulating material into a part of the boat.

Foam insulation is applied during assembly at the Lund Boat Company in New York Mills, MN.
David Samson / Forum

Lund Boats started 75 years ago in New York Mills in founder Howard Lund’s garage. Its most famous product remains the red no-frills fishing boat first built in the 1950s—often propelled by a Johnson, Evinrude, or Mercury engine—and which has become synonymous with Minnesota fishing.

The company still offers the signature red boat in 12, 14 and 16 foot versions.

A man bends over a boat frame.

The boats are installed at the Lund Boat Company in New York Mills, Minnesota.
David Samson / Forum

Lund now has five buildings, including two boat manufacturing plants in them. The southern plant handles larger production lines while the northern plant makes smaller boats.

“Everything keeps growing,” Oakes said. “We kind of keep creeping, bigger and bigger.”

These are busy times in the recreational boating industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted Americans to discover or rediscover the outdoors, and they are buying boats. US boat sales hit record levels in 2020 and were well above average in 2021, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association. Strong sales continue into 2022.

Man polishing the unpainted hull of a boat.

The hulls of the boats were prepared for painting at the Lund Boat Company in New York Mills, Minnesota.
David Samson / Forum

In the case of Lund and Crestliner, it all starts at the beginning of the line where the aluminum coil is rolled up.

Raw aluminum sheet rolls are unrolled and, using computerized machines, cut into all individual pieces that will eventually be assembled to make a boat. The small, detailed pieces are laser cut.

Then workers bend the cut parts to form the raw components.

From there, the larger pieces are bolted together (welded, in the case of the Crestliner) to form the chassis, sides and lever. The stabilization is a two-person job, with one person driving the nails with a gun from the outside and another under the inverted chassis offending (or supporting) the nails.

A man in goggles stands near a partially completed boat.

Jason Oakes, Lund Boats’ Marketing Director, talks about installing upholstery on an assembly line in New York Mills, Minnesota.
David Samson / Forum

“The Titans live under the boat all day,” Oakes said.

Installing is a noisy business, doubly so for the person below the boat because the sound is trapped. Lund uses 31 tons of nails a year.

The support beams then enter, and the boats float in a test tank to make sure there are no leaks.

Then comes the foam. A worker sprays expandable foam at the bottom of each boat. The foam comes out sticky but eventually hardens and becomes buoyant. It’s a safety feature, making sure the boat will float even if the hull is punctured or the boat capsizes on the water.

The sprawling space shows unfinished boats, wires, and boxes.

A wide view of the Lund Pot Company’s assembly line in New York Mills, Minnesota.
David Samson / Forum

The boat is given a preliminary coat and painted in a closed booth before entering the oven for baking – 20 minutes at 230 degrees. Reduces curing time for paint, increases production.

“It’s kind of like a biscuit. We put it in and bake it until it’s done,” Oakes said. “It makes the coating beautiful, firm, and strengthens the aluminum.”

Most boats have at least two colors, considering that many hulls are painted gray. Lund offers 11 different colors for its boat lines.

A man inspects a black engine on a black boat.

Engines are added and verified at the Lund Boat Company in New York Mills, Minnesota.
David Samson / Forum

“There is a great deal of detail and even artwork that the people who paint for us need to perform,” Oakes said. “They are doing an impressive job.”

The boats move to the “plumbing” area where livestock wells and gas tanks are installed. Then we move on to the finishing section where floors, consoles, electrical wiring and windshields are added.

The final touch: workers put the appropriate labels on each boat – this is where the Lund is on each side.

A man uses a blowtorch on white plastic surrounding a boat.

The shrink wrap is heated to protect new boats for shipping at the Lund Boat Company in New York Mills, Minnesota.
David Samson / Forum

Brunswick also owns Mercury Marine, so the familiar black Mercury engines are installed on the girders before the boats are sheathed for protection and set on semi-trailers. They are shipped to merchants and eventually sold to fishermen.

One day, there might be a walleye that’s dropping to the ground or swimming in the neighborhood.

And it all started as a roll of aluminum at the factory in New York Mills.

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