Restoration of a 1957 15 1/2′ Lyman Outboard – Part 1

by Jerry Valley

It is good to know we have a variety of types of boats owned and operated by chapter members to keep us from having a stigma that we only are involved with inboard runabouts. Outboards, sailing craft, race boats, canoes, and rowboats are among the boat types we own.
In this segment of Restoration Corner, BSLOL Treasurer Jerry Valley contributes the first part in a series of articles on the restoration of his 1957 Lyman outboard. The Lyman is of lapstrake construction with a steambent oak frame. It involves a restoration methods which are not common to the typical carvel planked hull, i.e., steaming wood to allow it to bend to form rather than sawing it to shape. Also, construction material is plywood for the majority of the boat. Paint is used for the topsides rather than varnish and with that there are unique problems to overcome to keep the sides looking fresh and shiny. So, with that, let’s see what Jerry has to tell us. (Ed Note) 

Determining what to restore, finding the right boat and getting started. Wmy search to the smaller, outboard versions because these would meet the criteria I had set for the project.
My approach to this restoration wasn’t nearly as planned or organized as it might sound. It sort of evolved over time as I looked at the limitations of time, space and money and my skill level and began to develop a plan in my mind. As I’m sure most of you do, I am always scanning the classifieds of the various wooden boat related magazines to which I subscribe. Last summer my eye caught an ad for a 1958 15.5’ Lyman (turned out to be a 57) on the original trailer. The owner was asking $1150 without a motor which seemed reasonable based on the description he gave me over the phone. A few days later I received some pictures in the mail showing the boat both on the trailer and in the water. I was still interested. Because the boat was located in Springfield, Ohio, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going on a wild goose chase if I decided to buy this thing. The owner assured me the trailer had new tires and wheel bearings and would have no trouble making it back to Minnesota. With that we struck a tentative deal, I sent the owner a deposit, and several weeks later I was headed for Springfield.
Upon my arrival, the owner met me at the hotel, boat in tow. A close inspection revealed things to be not quite as described, which is often the case when buying an old boat such as this. Some on the spot negotiating brought the price down several hundred dollars, a deal was struck, and I was on my way back to Minnesota.
Once I got the boat home, and before doing any disassembly, I photographed everything in great detail. It is amazing how much you can forget over a two year period. When it is time to put the boat back together you’ll be very glad you have these pictures, believe me.

Because winter was rapidly approaching I decided to strip the boat down to the bare hull, store the hull for the winter and begin the restoration process on those things that would fit into my basement. This boat is a combination of plywood and solid mahogany, the decks and cabinetry being primarily plywood and the windshield frames and seats being solid wood. Before the snow started to fly, I was able to strip and bleach all of the salvageable parts in the driveway, a task you want to avoid doing in doors if at all possible. Go for the strongest stripper you can find, one made for marine or aircraft applications. The environmentally friendly ones that I have tried just do not work. Don’t waste your money. If you do end up having to strip things in doors, try a heat gun. This method has worked very well for me and takes almost all the varnish off in a single pass. Raises hell with the smoke alarms however, so you may want to temporarily disable the one in or nearest your shop.

It is now early February and I’ve really made good progress. All of the interior woodwork , the windshield and side window frames have been stained and 12-15 coats of varnish applied. I’ve built a new dashboard and finished it as well. All of the interior plywood pieces have been reproduced, some in plywood and others in solid mahogany. These pieces have also been stained and varnished.
I will be replacing all of the deck plywood with solid mahogany so as of this writing I have purchased the lumber, had it resawn and planed to the proper thickness and I am in the process of rough cutting the decking and covering boards, using the old plywood as a pattern. These will not be cut to the finished dimensions until they are fitted to the boat much later in the restoration process. Expenditures to date include:

  • Boat $950
  • Motor $500
  • Mahogany $131
  • Millwork $52
  • Varnish $40
  • Plating $50

Total: $1723

In the next installment I will cover restoration of the hull. This phase of the project will be starting as soon as spring arrives and the big boat is in the water.