Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rushton Construction Details

On the WoodenBoat Forum someone asked for construction details for this dinghy and I thought that was a good idea, though its bitterly cold today and even colder in the barn where I store the boat, but I did find some decent shots from the day I brought the boat home.

Of all the things missing from the dingy the saddest might be the match to this rowlock.  I know there are sources for replicas but it would be fun to have the real thing.  I didn't get oars either.

A small thing but no doubt intentional: the curve of the grain matches the curve of the rabbet in the deadwood.  Some historic photos of the Rushton shop show dinghies and the entire deadwood is radiused parallel to the rabbet.  My understanding has always been that this allowed boats to be launched off ships with less risk of banging gunwales.

You can make out here how the rubrail transitions to almost a square edge at the location of the rowlocks.  Its beautifully done and of course easy and functional and with the hardware on it the transition seems to disappear. 

Note the thwart risers are about as minimal as you can get.  Obviously a weight savings, handy in a dinghy.  I regret that I built a strongback around the boat to preserve its shape (slightly hogged) and I didn't weight it beforehand, but its extremely light.

The frames are half-round stock, possibly red elm.

Rushton made no attempt to use natural crooks for the breasthook or quarter knees.  They might be mahogany.  The breasthook is two pieces for strength and I need to investigate how the two halves are fastened.  That particular detail is visible in the sketch in Rushton's 1903 catalog (reprinted by the Adirondack Museum) but note that the sketch of the dinghy in the catalog is not at all reflective of the overall shape of this boat.

I can see daylight through much of the stem at the rabbet so I think it is two-piece, with an inner stem and a cutwater applied.  All steam-bent stock, of course.  This is a faster and more fool-proof way to make a stem.  I did the same thing building the Rushton catboat, though I laminated material.

There is a link to my builder's log at the bottom of the page.

The lifting rings fore and aft are simply a piece of flat stock with a hole in it that passes down through a metal pad.  The flat stock is screwed into the inside face of the transom and stem.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rushton dinghy

This blog has been dominated by boats from just one half of the blog title "Boats East and West."  Its time I posted something about a Western-style boat, and this one is very special.  A few years ago I saw a boat sitting upside down in a front yard just a few miles from my home.  It was obviously a lovely boat, so I stopped and got reacquainted with the owner, someone I hadn't actually spoken to in several years.  He wanted to get rid of the boat and said that several people had stopped by offering to take it and restore it.

The boat was obviously special, and from my museum work I knew that this boat was NOT a candidate for restoration.  It was obviously very old, and so it was truly an artifact.  It was also clear that while the boat was basically intact, restoring it would involve a complete rebuilding, replacing most of the original material.  In short, the boat was more valuable left as is.

It took several conversations with the owner, but amazingly he remembered me and my museum work and so he sold me the boat.  After getting it home and turning it over I discovered the builder's tag.  The boat is from Henry Rushton's Canton, New York shop.  I have a reprint of Rushton's 1903 catalog and this boat is clearly identifiable as one of his five sizes of dinghies.  I've been told that this style of tag dates the boat to before 1890.

As I looked at the dinghy dimensions I realized that the Rushton catboat I built several years ago had to be the same hull as the largest dinghy listed: 15-feet long with a 5-foot beam.  Having rowed the catboat I can say its too big for a good rowing boat so Rushton must have repurposed that model for his catboat, giving it a deck and coaming in the process.  You can read more about this boat at the Rushton catboat page at my website, as well as the link at the bottom of that page for a series of articles I wrote detailing the boat's design and construction:


Since getting the boat I've done some more research on Rushton's dinghies.  There are some historic photos online of the Rushton shop and several show dinghies in the varnishing room and one photo showing one being rowed on the DeGrasse River just outside the shop.  I took the lines (measured) of my boat and plan to loft and fair the lines to give me a table of offsets.  Obviously I would like to build it.

The boat has a lovely whitehall shape and its incredibly light.  The thwarts and floorboards are missing, along with one of the oarlock sockets.  The boat has lifting rings fore and aft that seem like add-ons, so this boat must have hung in davits at one point.  The details of construction are too numerous to list, but suffice to say that the quality is exquisite, with many very interesting elements.  Its been a real pleasure and an education to study its construction.