View Full Version : Backrest ideas for dory skiff?

09-10-2006, 01:13 PM
I'm getting ready to build a backrest for my Chamberlain dory skiff, and am looking for designs and/or ideas. I've got the pertinent Gardner books, the Times _Classic Boats_, and few other sources, plus have been viewing the photos from wooden boat shows and Mystic on this forum.

Any online sources I should know about? Here's a shot from the web of a very plain backrest -

My boat isn't really fancy, and I'll probably go for painted lettering rather than carved -- since I can't really carve well. I have a nice chunk of mahogany from a boat table I built 20+ years ago that will fit, so just need ideas. My boat has gone beyond workboat finish, but will never be yacht-finish -- something in between...

;0 )

Top and sides can't be too fancy as I have steering lines from the yoke tiller to deal with. Currently plan to fit the bottom as per Gardner -- two small oak "thumb-cleat-like" bumps in front of the base of the backrest, probably another two small ones in back. Probably will have the top edges come onto the gunwales where they meet the stern quarter knees, angle to be determined for comfort.

But I'm open to different ideas for all elements - including attachment methods, support methods, etc.


Maybe something with the top corners cut out into curves for the steering lines, top below the sweep of the yoke head?


09-11-2006, 04:51 PM
No takers? C'mon guys, I'm not much of a designer when it comes to wood parts...

Rob Stokes, N. Vancouver
09-11-2006, 04:59 PM
I haven't though this through yet, but in the name of conversation - the first thought I had when I was the ropes o the tiller is to have holes in the seat to allow them to pass through. Then I scrolled down and saw your "mock-up" with cutouts instead of holes.

Maybe draw up a design with smallish (2" diamerer?) holes (with broken edges) that will move the ropes a wee bit towards the gunwales and allow for a bigger backrest??


09-11-2006, 05:16 PM
Something about the cut outs on top doesn't look right. I think the fuller top of the pic you posted looks better. Perhaps some through holes as suggested or a couple of brass eye straps on the seat edge to run the line through.

The eye straps could also go on the underside of the cutouts in the pic.

09-11-2006, 05:42 PM
Don't think I want to go for holes, as the lines change angle as the yoke turns -- plus it sort of locks in the backrest when I may want to remove it.

How about shrinking the backrest and just using a simple curve to clear the steering lines? Only one person can sit there, so width isn't a major issue -- just leaning on that stern knee is a bit lumpy...

;0 )


09-11-2006, 06:05 PM
Go back to the larger backrest, put two small Skene chocks on the outer edge of each side for the lines to the yoke.

Steve Lansdowne
09-11-2006, 06:46 PM
For comfort, perhaps some vertical slats like the back of an Adirondack chair would be more comfortable than just a flat piece of wood, nice though it is. Depends on whether you're going for comfort or appearance.

09-11-2006, 07:27 PM
Steve - I'd never really considered it until I saw just a glimpse of that setup on the Whitehall from the Mystic photos on this forum. But in this small of a boat, I'm concerned about the gaps snagging lines or whatever.

But if I really waste my mahogany plank somehow, I'll try drawing one up and see how it looks. Would be more comfy in the heat, that's for sure.


Cuyahoga Chuck
09-11-2006, 11:54 PM
I got it! A set of backrests for different occasions.
Plain teak with rubbed-oil finish to impress the boss.
Plywood with stain and varnish and fretwork inscription like "To hell with Spain Remember the Maine".
Rough wooden plank covered with overstuffed green plush for "tender moments".
Denim covered plank with large "Ralph Loren" label.
And there's always rattan, Gustav Stickley, Art Deco and, like that.


"I ain't an enemy of reason but, the slob next door hates my guts."

09-12-2006, 02:25 AM
The 2nd scenario you showed looks better than the notches. Would that allow you enough height for a backrest.The notches would look better if in a longer serpentine shape maybe instead of the little notches with a slight reverse scroll at the end at the end of the lines travel which would look to contain them instead of avoiding them. Does that make sense?

09-12-2006, 08:47 AM
Pipefitter -

You hit the nail on the head with the height question. I blocked up the back of the boat trailer and made up a cardboard pattern to test, backing it with oak scraps. It is *just* tall enough to lean back on, but low enough that you might get a bruised back if you hit a wake or fell back on it.

Now I'm looking at raising the curve (and thus the height) of the back another 4-6", but will need to see how the end result looks. This also means I'll have to glue up another piece of mahogany to the current one, not a big deal.

The curve on the top may determine the shape of the sides, still thinking on that also.