Rowing Dinghy

Keith Julier reviews the Midwest Products kit for a static model.

This kit, from Midwest Products Co. Inc. of Indiana is for a 1:6 scale rowing dinghy inspired by the Amesbury Style Skiff and the construction procedure for the model follows that used for the full-size boat. The side planking, although only three strakes per side, is lap-straked (clinker built) using pre-spiled die-cut planks. The package is designed for modellers at Skill Level Two as defined by the manufacturer. That is, the kit is for persons having some prior experience of the cutting, shaping and fitting techniques used in building wooden boat kits. Throughout the review I have used the imperial dimensions referred to in the kit which is fairly standard for kits originating from the USA. For any other material sizes I have used metric measurements.

The kit

All shaped parts were pre-formed and laser-cut or die-cut in bass or mahogany. The fittings pack contained cord, a towing eye and cast metal oarlocks. The one sheet hull plan was drawn to the actual size of the model and was supported by a 35 page, comprehensive instruction manual that showed what, how and when everything had to be done. Each stage of the construction process was accompanied by a relevant sketch and identified the source of the particular parts. This is an excellent example of how an instruction manual should be. The finished model is 20 inches long with a beam of 4 3/8 inches.

Tools and consumables required
Craft knife and replaceable blades
Razor saw
Sanding block
Wire cutters
Drill with 3/32in and 1/8in bits (2.4mm and 3mm)
Large headed push pins or small spring clamps
Clear varnish
Abrasive paper various grades
Medium grade cyanoacrylate adhesive

White PVA may be used as an alternative adhesive, but some joints may require pinning due to the more extended curing time.

A flat scrap piece of timber (approx. 400 x 100 x 12mm) is recommended for a building board, used particularly for inducing the curvature in the bottom of the boat.

Getting started

As with all kits, the first essential was to read through the manual and get familiar with all the construction procedures. A further point worthy of mention at this stage is the use of basswood for many of the structural parts. It tends to create a very fine dust that clings to everything, particularly clothes from man-made fibre, with the consequence that it can get carried all around the house if you are not fortunate enough to have a separate workshop. It can also play havoc with your respiratory system, so a dust mask or respirator should be seriously considered, together with the frequent use of the vacuum cleaner.

Frames and bottom construction

Medium grade cyanoacrylate glue was used throughout this part of the construction. Each of the frames comprised three parts aligned and glued together over the drawing, the sub-assemblies being held secure while the glue dried. The inside and bottom edges were then cleaned up to remove the laser burnt discolouration, Photo 1.

The bottom, also comprising three parts was cleaned and assembled, ensuring that the laser-etched lines were facing uppermost and correctly aligned with each other. Three cleats, or lateral reinforcements, were cut from a length of 1/8in x 1/4in basswood and glued in the places indicated. These were left over-length for later trimming and fairing, Photo 2.

The assembly of the frames to the bottom was not difficult, but it must be done correctly. The first frame at the bows canted forward, the amidships frame was upright and the stern frame canted to the rear. This was done so that when the required curve was induced into the bottom of the boat, all three frames became upright. It was also important to get all the frames facing the right way round. To get the angles correct, a pre-cut gauge plate was provided, Photo 3.

The transom and its associated knee parts were removed from their host sheets and the stern strip positioning marks pencilled on to the rear face of the transom. The two knee pieces were glued together and when dry, were cleaned up on their visible edges and assembled to the forward face of the transom. The bottom edge of the transom was then bevelled to match the angle on the bottom edge of the knee and the entire sub-assembly glued in place on to the bottom/frames assembly.

The two stem parts were glued together ensuring that the laser-etched lines were on the outside faces. The front edges were bevelled and the inner edge cleaned up before gluing the stem in place on the boats bottom. The preparation of the transom and stem prior to assembly is shown in Photo 4.

The assembly of the basic framework can be seen in Photo 5. When all the glue had had time to thoroughly cure, all outer edges were faired (bevelled and tapered) to follow the lines of the hull from stem to transom. This procedure needs very careful work due primarily to the vulnerability of the frames, but is essential in order that the contact area between planks, frames and bottom is at a maximum. I found that a 150 x 100mm sanding board made from a piece of 5mm ply with the appropriate grade of abrasive paper glued to one face was ideal.

Bending the bottom

The bend was induced by resting the bottom of the boat on 5/8in blocks fore and aft, and screwing down the centre to a 3/8in block. The blocks were provided pre-cut and were fixed to the surface of a piece of scrap timber in the position designated by the plan, Photo 6.

The manual recommended the use of Windex window and glass cleaner to help in the bending operation, but I found that a good brushing of tap water to the underside of the boat served adequately and when left overnight, the bend had become permanent. The frame construction remained secured to the bending blocks for the duration of the planking process, Photo 7.

One point of note that will save a bit of time, is that the front jig support was subsequently found to need a chamfer on its front corners to avoid it fouling with the overlapping bottom edge of the garboard planks. I used a 1/2in x 45deg. chamfer to overcome what was definitely a touch of the nears. Not a major problem, but one better dealt with before you get all the edges glued to fit the planks.


All planks were brushed with water and pre-bent with thumb and fingers to facilitate fitting. The two garboard planks were the first to be positioned and the guidelines laser etched on the stem and the notched transom provided accurate alignment for the port plank. After the glue had thoroughly set, the overlap at the stem was cut off and faired before fitting the starboard plank in the same manner, Photo 8.

A faint pencil line was drawn 1/8in down from the top edge of the garboard planks as a guide to the correct placement of the middle planks. The pre-formed planks fitted well and no trouble was experienced in completing the planking procedure according to the manual, Photo 9.

The boat was then removed from the jig board and the lower edges of the garboard planks trimmed flush with the bottom of the boat. The 1/16in overlap of the planks with the transom was also trimmed at this time, Photo 10.

The coming together of the planks at the stem was tidied up and a 1/4in (6mm) flat was produced to make a seating for the grip (stem capping strip). The strip was cut from 1/8in x 1/4in and pre-bent before gluing in place. Once the glue had properly set, the strip was bevelled and blended flush with the bottom. The two jig holes in the bottom of the boat were filled and the strip/skeg pieces added to the stern.

Risers and seats

The risers were cut to length and the after end bevelled to suit the angle of the inner transom face. Although I soaked the pieces and bent them roughly to shape before attempting to glue them in place, I found it a little difficult to maintain the ends of the risers against the transom in the correct laser etched position. I got around the problem by gluing a small block made from scrap 1/8in x 1/4in to the outside edge of each etched rectangle. Once the risers had been glued in place, the seats (thwarts) were cleaned up and adjusted for fit, Photo 11. They were then removed and set aside for later permanent installation.

The inwales and guards

In preparation for fitting the inwales, the breast-hook and knees were made up and fitted. Care was needed to bevel the edges of these three parts in order to achieve the correct fit inside the boat shell, their top faces being flush with the upper edges of the top planks and transom.

The fitting of the inwales required frequent offering up to ensure that the length was trimmed for a good fit between the breast-hook at the prow and the knees at the stern. The tops of the frames were then removed flush with the top edges of the inwales and the top planks, Photo 12. Packing pieces to house the rowlocks were fitted in place and the guards (rubbing strakes) added to the upper outer edge of the boat.

The oars

The oars were simple to make, basically comprising a dowel shaft with half-blades fitted either side at the business end. The secret to success was to make sure that the blades were well glued and that the adhesive had thoroughly cured before attempting to do the final shaping.


The recommended finish was attained by several coats of varnish using a gloss polyurethane product, with the usual rubbing down between coats. Once the desired finish had been achieved, the rowlocks and towing eye with painter were added, the latter being neatly coiled in the bottom of the boat. The bumper rope was an option for personal choice and one that I preferred to forego; I thought that the model looked better without it. The finished model is shown in Photos 13 and 14.


I found this kit a joy to build, providing a delightful result without having to contend with rigging and sails. The kit was well designed and the instruction manual is accurate and easy to follow. The materials were of top quality and I considered the package excellent value for money. I could well be tempted to try one of the other small boats in the same range. The Rowing Dinghy kit is a product of Midwest Products Co., Inc. 400, S. Indiana Street, PO Box 564, Hobart, Indiana, 46342 U.S.A.

The kit costs £40.00 (plus p&p) and may be purchased by mail order in the United Kingdom from: The Model Dockyard, 17, Tremorvah Barton, Tregolls Road, Truro, Cornwall, TR1 1NN. Tel: 01872 261755, Email: or visit their website, or indeed any other good model shop.