Building a small pusher tug

This project came to mind when I came across illustrations of a small pusher tug, typical of probably hundreds which are on lake and harbour duties about the world. The 'Springer ' tug has caught the imagination of model makers and the ' Springer .( Model ) class has become established.

There are set rules for Springer class competitions including set hull lines and dimensions, propeller and rudder size and also motor power. These details are available from Springer sites about the web and in the UK from Martins excellent pages at

There is a saying among modellers that ' There is a prototype for everything ' . A look around the marine pages on the web proves that this is indeed the case and one of the joys of building ' freelance fashion ' is that any detail which takes the builders fancy can be included in his models !

This feature of having a design for a proven performing hull can be a great asset to scratchbuilders. Now back to my build......

Stern view of my My ( Revised ) Springer

The construction......

The project was chosen as a break from more demanding work and was to be built ' On a shoestring ' from scrap, odds and ends of wood and using accumulated bits and pieces left from previous models. Ply will be the main purchased item.

As my projected model is not for competive sailing I introduced more interesting plan shape by kerfing the side members and fitting fillets to widen the beam at about the third point. Ordinary household PVA adhesive is used throughout as it will be protected by shellac and several coats of paint ( Dulux interior primer, undercoat and gloss ) I bought a gallon of PVA adhesive years ago from a building supply stores and over the years it has saved me a great deal of cash compared with buying in small tubes and bottles !

Deck beams having been installed earlier, the position of access hatches to the ' works ' could be established and suitable bearers fixed to support the joints between hatches and fixed areas of deck.

The raised and inclined foredeck formers are visible in the left hand image, as can the hull taper towards the bow. The construction here is strongly built to resist forces from pushing or recovering another boat. As can be seen from images throughout my pages, the plastic clips, available from ' Pound shops ' are invaluable tin much of the building process.


Watertightness of hatches can be ensured by using the elastic type of gasket seal from the tube. Applying the gasket gel to the bearing surface of the joint after painting and then placing the painted and lightly greased (Vaselined ) hatch cover will form a gasket whilst permitting the cover to be removed and replaced as required.

When laying ply decking with inserts such as hatches and coamings it makes sense to form the opening, shape and place the insert, pinning hatches lightly in place, then lay decking between the insert and the the hull edges, in this way one can obtain the best fit between insert and the surrounding deck.

Where adhesive is used adjacent to a part to which no adhesive should stray ................clingfilm prevents adhesion.

Dental burrs are ideal for cutting apertures in up to 3/16" ply. Whilst the dentist tells me that his drills run at 200,000 r.p.m, when cutiing ply I find that 5,000 r.p. m ( a speed within the capability of most 'mini drills' ) is fine. Where cooling vents are being modelled the expanded aluminium supplied in motorbody repair kits can provide a suitable grille material. In this case, as with glazing, the grille will be fixed after the paint job is complete.

The next step has been to install the pushposts. These have been remade following research on the Internet where push posts ar generally taller that those as the saying goes ' I prepared earlier '.

I find it useful to have the most frequently used tools handy in atray, in this case a discarded baking tray.

In scratch building, construction methods must be devised as work proceeds. Having built ' Freelancers 1 & 2 ' I have found it essential to make card templates for items such as rounded and inclined stern bulwarks. Card from a cornflakes box is ideal.

Having cut the parallel sides on the card to bulwark height the template can be lightly pinned in place then bent and inclined such that the tumblehome is as required. It is then a simple matter to mark top and bottom of the template for cutting to maintain the bulwark height required as well as a being a good fit on the deck side. The profile of the template can then be transferred to the ply, ensuring that the grain of the outer veneers is vertical at the centre of the bend.

As usual with bends, dampening the outer veneer will assist in the acheiving the required shape. It is best to avoid joints in ply at any sort of rounded corner otherwise alignment and maintenace of line becomes a problem.

After part glueing has been carried out and the ply fitted snugly all round the best joint between parts will be acheived by overlapping the sections after fixing the bend and whilst the ends are free of glue cutting the eventual joint with a sharp blade prior to completing the glueing.


The wheelhouse has been completed

The railings around the upper deck have been built insitu. The whole deck and wheelhouse are removable, the engine room is firmly fixed to the hull and provides space for fing fuse, switch, Esc. etc.

Whilst being removable, the deck above the engine room and the deckhouse were constructed in place with clingfilm in the joint. This ensured that the joint was ' Tight ' and the join invisible.

Radio and controls were installed and tested dry and on the water now for some equipment. Construction of the crane proceeded

The boat floats level with battery, controls and ballast (Cast iron sash weights from the local hardware shop, well down in the hull ) my deck construction presents problems with mounting a whip ariel. I will probably leave the wire on deck as a ' Stray cable '.sometimes there's the a few on a tug.

The winches are based on those seen on the web, my source of information on just about everything.

I have been receiving Emails from visitors requesting details of the hulls for my boats and I have included those for ' Freelancer 2 ' on that page. The hull details for the Springer Class of model are available on Martin Davis' excellent site . my version of the boat incorporates a taper towards the bow to improve the appearance of the hull and is thus i ' Out of class ', this doesn't bother me as I don't compete as many boat modellers do.

Page updated 2nd March 2011

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