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c.1892 J.H. Rushton Saranac Lake model

1892 J.H. Rushton Saranac Lake guide-boat

1892 J.H. Rushton Saranac Lake guide-boat 1892 J.H. Rushton Saranac Lake guide-boat

1892 J.H. Rushton Saranac Lake guide-boat
1892 J.H. Rushton Saranac Lake guide-boat 1892 J.H. Rushton Saranac Lake guide-boat
1892 J.H. Rushton Saranac Lake guide-boat 1892 J.H. Rushton Saranac Lake guide-boat
1892 J.H. Rushton Saranac Lake guide-boat 1892 J.H. Rushton Saranac Lake guide-boat

1892 J.H. Rushton Saranac Lake guide-boat

This is an extremely rare guide-boat. It is one of only two known to exist showing a transition between Rushtons' first and second design phases. It is commonly thought that he began experimenting with new designs for his Saranac Laker model in 1891. During 1892 and 1893 he eventually arrived at the final new design for this model that began full production in 1894. This boat contains elements of both the 'new' and the old.

1888 saw Rushton’s entry into Adirondack Guide-boat production. This example of his craftsmanship has significant historical import as it represents the first round of technical improvements from his original efforts and began the widespread acceptance by both genuine guides and ‘sports’ for his boat output. In 1892 the old guard Adirondack guides were declining due to age and a shift in boat use from the carriage of people and their gear destined for remote camps, to more ‘sporting’ purposes like day trips and hunting. The detail exhibited in the scrolled solid brass oarlocks of our boat attest to it being built for gentrified camp use rather than haulage. Unfortunately (for the deer) these hunts consisted mainly of ‘jack lighting’ whereby a makeshift lantern, lit with bundled spruce twigs and projected onto the shore via a rudimentary tin reflector, was employed to make them easy night prey for a rifleman straddling the bow seat. This boat retains a round hole in the original bow deck to accommodate the lantern stanchion.

While Rushton generally shipped his guide-boats with a natural cedar finish on the exterior hull, the vast majority of camp owners painted them immediately upon delivery; either with their camp colors or predominately black, to make them less conspicuous for night hunting. By the end of the 1890’s these guide-boats were widely known as the ‘Black Snakes of the Adirondacks’. We’ve chosen to retain this color scheme.

Of note are the saw tooth copper sheet planking repairs (see lower right photo). This methodology was commonly employed from about 1905 to 1920 to repair planking cracks, prior to the advent of more ‘modern’ solutions involving early plastics or other polymers. Several museum curators have implored us not to “mess with” or replace these early efforts as they show what was another important example of period craftsmanship. Not to worry with regard to water-worthiness, however, as the entire exterior hull has been covered with a thick layer of marine epoxy prior to painting.

Guide-boat Statistics:
Original Owner:
Believed to be the A.S. Blagden family of Upper Saranac Lake, NY.
This name is neatly carved on the underside of the bow seat.

(maximum at yoke cleats):
38 inches
15 feet 4 inches
(fully outfitted):
about 70 lbs.
14 inches
Stem Height
(maximum at bow and stern):
22 inches
Bow 27 inches at the edges and 21 inches at middle; Stern 19 and 15.5 inches
Bang Plates:
Solid brass, original
Boot Plates:
0.20 Copper Sheet
Scrolled solid brass, original
Oar Pins:
Cast iron
7 feet 10 inches White Ash (period, not original)
Solid Spruce, leather end protectors, brass nails and caps are original and have been restored.
Hull Shoes:
Replaced with 24 gauge 300 stainless steel at 5/8 inch width

Sawn Tamarack root/stump
Tamarack stump
Scribe Ribs
(bow and stern):
Red Elm
Hand-caned Black Cherry
Northern White Cedar
Decks and Caps:
Northern White Cedar
White Ash
Steam-bent Red Elm
Seat and Yoke Cleats:
Black Cherry
White Ash

Restoration Details:
  • 100% of the hull, cleat, yoke, gunwale, deck and seat bottom wood is original and without rot. The only replacement wooden parts are the 3 seat backs. As with the seat bottoms, they are hand-caned Black Cherry.

  • More than 95% of the hardware is original. We’ve extensively reused original screws and tacks where possible. The Bang Plates were in pieces so they’ve been brazed and refinished by hand. The Seat hinges and Strap buckles are new as are the leather seat straps. The Boot Plates are new 24 gauge copper sheet cut to original size, installed as per the original pattern and affixed with clenched brass tacks recovered from a 1903 Old Town canoe during recanvassing.

  • The hull, gunwales and decks were sanded inside and out, then oiled with a 50/50 raw turpentine/boiled linseed oil mix. They were allowed to cure for 6 weeks in a temperature and humidity controlled environment.

  • The interior hull has 6 coats of gloss UV protective Spar varnish over one 50% thinned coat of the same varnish. Each coat was hand-sanded with 320 then 400 and 600 grit abrasive, vacuumed and tacked before application of the next coat.

  • The seats and cleats each have 10 coats of the same varnish noted above employing the same technique.

  • The exterior hull is sealed with 10-mil layer of 2-part marine epoxy applied by roller (4 coats) and hand-tipped. After curing for 2 weeks the epoxy was lightly sanded and 3 coats of epoxy primer were spray-gun applied, sanded and then followed by 6 coats of acrylic enamel wet-sanded between coats. With all modesty, the finish is extraordinary and tough as nails.

Defects Still Present:

  • There are cosmetic imperfections throughout this guide-boat. With wood that was milled more than 115 years ago and pressed into service as watercraft, it’s reasonable to expect this. We’ve been very fortunate to completely restore it without encountering any rot or structural weaknesses. Hopefully the photos provide an accurate view, however, to genuinely appreciate this near perfect meld of form and function you should see it firsthand. Give us a call.


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