Rushton I.G. rails


Beginner Canoeist
Can anyone share what the rails should look like and their dimensions for Rushton Indian Girls? I've not seen a complete one in person. The little I've been able to poke around on ours leads me to believe I won't have much of the inner rails for patterns. Additionaly the outer rails were removed :mad:. I'm trying to get an idea of what is what and do my research before I start pulling the fiberglass off etc.

I've got enough for you to get measurements for the profile. How soon do you need the info? If you're ever in the area stop by and take some measurements.
Dave, thank you for the offer, that would be great! I'm not in a great hurry. I'll definitely get in touch with you and see about getting out your way.
Hi Jason,

I have an image handy from last fall on the computer. This outwale section is from our Indian Girl 16, SN 2261. Going by memory, I believe it is 3/4" by 1". It is a smooth curve on the outside, unlike that little notch that shows in the picture. I will be watching with interest what you do to the inwale. My intention is to do open gunwales rather than deal with all of the joinery required to make a flush top surface. It really gets to me not being able to easily drain a boat with closed gunwales.

Indian Girl Outwale (4).jpg

Thank You for sharing the image, that helps. I had read they were D-shaped, that clarifies what the profile should be. I understand your concern over not being able to drain it out, the remnants of our rails are a testimony to that problem. I just started pulling fiberglass last night, only got about 6' of rail uncovered. I'm going to have to do more detective work as to whether we had solid rails or not. Some sections seem to be inletted while others appear to have filler pieces, but I couldn't tell if they were truly seperate or just rotted pieces coming out (the side I started on is that bad). I'll post when I determine it.

Our boat also had a lot of rot on the inwales, especially near the middle of the boat; probably the side it was always stored on. The top of the inwale rotted off in a small area exposing the rib tips, and they don't appear to have much rot in them. The inwales were all very neatly fitted around the rib ends. I'd like to see some discussion of how to mark out and fit these closed inwales on a rebuild.

I’m attaching a copy of a page from The Outing Magazine with a Rushton ad in the lower right. Apparently open gunwales were new in 1913, which ought to be up in the 5 digit serial numbers by my guess. Also including a photo of the short section where the rib is exposed. Yes, that is fiberglass showing in green, which all came off very easily (maybe 4 hours with a heat gun, plus a lot of time popping the resin out of the gaps with a pry tool).

The Outing Magazine 1912-13 Open Gunwales for 1st time 1913.jpg IndianGirl (8).jpg
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I helped a guy in Madison replace pocketed inwales on a Morris. We used a light batten to mark the location of all of the pockets, and used that to cut the pockets in the new rail. Worked pretty good.

Yes, open gunwales were introduced in 1913, but Rushton only built about 5500 Indian Girls - there should not be any with a 5 digit serial number (if someone knows of one I would like to hear about it!). The lowest serial number I have recorded so far for an IG with open gunwales is just over 5100.

Given that Rushton's production of canvas canoes was less than 3% of Old Town's, and only a third of that of Kennebec and Morris, it might be worth considering restoring to as-built condition. I realize that these canoes are fairly deteriorated and it might not be worth it, but...

Thanks for that quick response. You must have an alert that sounds when a post comes in! Did you route the pockets before fitting them individually? It would seem easiest to have a standard undersized pocket and then trim the rib ends to fit. I suppose these days, with the ability to epoxy encapsulate the rib ends, there isn't quite as much concern about rot. How much extra time do think was involved for all of this fitting? Our canoe is really not in bad condition; just dead gunwales, stem ends, and decks (that might sound pretty bad to some!). When I get serious about this I'd better start a closed gunwale thread.

Thanks for sharing the ad and a close up of your rail. I didn't get a chance to look at ours, will try again tonight. I did see some marks similar to yours on the top where there was chisel work or something. My first guess is our rails had been spliced.

I agree on the need for a discussion for marking and laying out the rails for inletting. My first guess would be to make a template out of heavy card stock (pieces taped together) that could be spring clamped on and marked? Or for a more rigid template, make it out of luan? I don't know if you could get behind to mark with a pencil, or a sharpened 90 degree pick to scribe a line? The problem is then transferring onto the stock... I'm a complete newbie so I'm commenting to spur discussion.
Did you route the pockets before fitting them individually? It would seem easiest to have a standard undersized pocket and then trim the rib ends to fit. I suppose these days, with the ability to epoxy encapsulate the rib ends, there isn't quite as much concern about rot. How much extra time do think was involved for all of this fitting? Our canoe is really not in bad condition; just dead gunwales, stem ends, and decks (that might sound pretty bad to some!). When I get serious about this I'd better start a closed gunwale thread.

Here are some photos of taking-off the rib spacing. We lowered it a little as the tips were shot. Morris used a forstner bit to make the pockets, and so did we. I don't recall how long it took, as it was a med school grad student who was working in my shop at off times on his own project.

You could "cheat" and cut a full length rabbet into the inwale to accept the rib tips. When all together the look will be the same, unless someone pokes their head up underneath. You could fill the spaces with spacers.

Regarding longevity of closed gunwale canoes, I think it is Gil Cramer who often comments that the canoes with the best gunwales and tips are the ones that have been stored upright...



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I just OK'd your friend request, not knowing what that really means.

For rail marking I think you will need to have your top plank removed. The light batten mentioned by Dan can then be pulled around the outside of the ribs. You can then mark (from inside the boat) where the rib enters the bottom of the rail.

I assume you will steam the rails and form them on the boat, hopefully with some thwarts holding the shape. With my existing rails I can clamp new ones underneath while they dry, hoping the strain doesn't blow everything apart! On second thought, this probably calls for a separate form to shape those rails before subjecting the boat to them. I think just a form for the ends is sufficient.

Gees! These messages are coming so hot and heavy that I didn't see Dan's message while I was composing this one! I've seen Carleton canoes that use the "cheater" method of inwale fitting. It certainly would be faster and should dry out a lot quicker. The upright stored canoe would be drier, but around here it would probably have rats or racoons living in it!
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I"ll be making in/outwales for my 15' IG. I have found the cherry, so that's good. I have considered making the rabbet to the depth of the rib and plank and avoid the pocketing issue while maintaining the closed gunnel. But I am probably going to steam and bend the inwales and outwales from one piece. then I'll split them and rabbet and pocket the inwales and shape the outwales. If that doesn't work, i'll try something else.

I think friend request is just an easier way to contact each other...

OK, starting to form a mental picture from Dan's pictures (Thanks Dan!) and your description. Top plank removal may be easier that thought in a spot or two, and needed (punky on the edge in a couple spots).

I'm really going to need some help formulating a plan on the rails when I get to them. None of them are complete, with some major gaps. Does clamping battens along the outside, then cutting several shallow U-shaped spacers to slide over to maintain width sound like it will be enough to hold and prevent "blow-outs"? I'm quite aways from that...

Have you tried bending both rails in one piece before? I would think you could accomplish the same thing by ripping the separate pieces out and keeping them in the same places to maintain your grain match. That seems like a lot of strain to bend something that thick.


I've taken a week long class with Jerry Stelmok, but that was too long ago and I am struggling to remember all of this stuff. I think the notched battens slipped over the rail area is the normal way to deal with alignment. Also straps around the entire hull help. If you shape your rails on a form first, then you can play with fairing them as you ease them into your hull, moving your notched battens and straps around as you go.

OK, we're "friends" now. I haven't seen the evidence that we are communicating easier! But, hey this works.
I have not bent double wide gunnels but I have and always do bend stems that way. the extra width is an advantage.
Hi Fred, I don't know the difference either, but wanted to say Hi.
What is the differerence between double gunnels and closed gunnels ? Fred

Here is a picture from one of the last (circa 1916) Rushton catalogs. It is a little confusing, because Judd reversed the quality perception.

The one labeled "CG Grade" is the "double gunwale," which would have typically been used on A Grade Indian Girls. The inwale is rabbeted to accept the ribs and planking - on many of these the ribs are in "pockets" or individual mortices. The outwale is also relatively substantial and is screwed on. There is a single seam between the inwale and outwale, visible when looking down from top.

The one labeled "Deluxe" is typical of the B grade Indian Girls. It has a beefy inwale, and a thin outside rail and rail cap - a "three-piece gunwale" if you will.

For whatever reason, probably because it was easier and cheaper to build, Judd Rushton started promoting the B grade style gunwales as the Deluxe version.

When open gunwales were introduced, unlike other builders, the outwale was not rabbeted, so the edge of the sheer plank is visible in the completed gunwale.

Clear as mud?



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Thank You for posting that page Dan. Yeah, it's clear as mud... :p It is a head scratcher, especially when you take into account the 30" decks, outside stems and higher grade wood on the DeLuxe? As you mentioned, must have been production costs driving it. Interesting to say the least.
I just pulled the end planks off the Rushton. I’ve had the impression that the Indian Girl was a ******* step-daughter of Rushton’s and suspected that he shopped out a lot or most of the work. I think he wanted the shop to only produce all wood canoes, but his son pushed the canvas covered ones. My impressions were reinforced by the mediocre work on the hidden parts of the gunwale. The pockets for the ribs appear to all be cut out the same size, almost as if they were done by a router jig (did they have anything like that then?). The gunwale rib pockets towards the ends of the boat have up to ¼ inch gaps beside the narrower ribs used there. At least I know I can use relaxed craftsmanship when I am restoring this boat, in keeping with the original focus. I’ve had some real trepidation when contemplating trying to carefully fit those ribs all along the gunwale; no more worries! I am considering just a continuous rabbit under the gunwale, but I still feel rather strongly that I might just use an open gunwale so the poor boat can dry out after a trip!
I stated earlier that you would have to remove your top plank to replace the inwale. I had forgotten that nice 6" wide top plank on the Indian Girl. I believe we can cut the top 1/2" or so off of the top plank to expose the fasteners and then replace that portion with a new strip of planking which will be hidden under the outwale. I would like to hear from anyone who knows a good way to accurately trim that plank off, especially in my case where the inwale is gone in places. I guess accuracy is not as important as having a good clean cut line to match new planking to.

The top planks on the ends come off very nicely. I removed all four in about an hour without damaging them.