The Seagull Part VIII: Finished!

In the factory, British Seagulls would have been fitted with a decal on the gas tank which included operating instructions, fuel ratios, and the special British Seagull logo. The decal on my Seagull had been scraped off somewhere along the years and there was nothing left of it except part of the ‘B’ and a bit of an ‘L.’ These last remnants were removed when I sandblasted the gas tank. This was probably my most absorbing outboard project so far, and I was motivated to restore the engine to its original appearance. I searched around online and managed to find a replacement decal on eBay. It was sold to me very appropriately by a man in Britain!

Above: The ‘British Seagull’ decal from eBay. In between the “British” and “Seagull” there is the figure of a man, facing away from the viewer. In his left hand, he is carrying a British Seagull and in his right he has over his shoulder a carrying case for a Seagull. If you purchased a Seagull, a carrying case was included.

I used PlastiKote Engine Enamel to protect the paint and add gloss to add some shine. I was very pleased with the results.

British Seagulls were fitted with a rope starter cord, which consisted of a rope and a wooden handle. I sanded the wooden handle and coated it with urethane, since it was in fairly rough condition when I first saw it. Fortunately there were no dents or chips in it. As for the rope, I let it soak in a bucket of laundry detergent and water in an attempt to clean off the years of grease and dirt. When you’re doing restoration it’s always best to try the gentlest methods first, like laundry soap or borax, then work your way up to more caustic solutions (heavy duty cleaners), when all else has failed.

Above: The wooden handle (lower left) after I applied some urethane.

When I attempted to start the Seagull for the first time after restoration, it wouldn’t work. I tried over and over again with no result. Something wasn’t right so I began to troubleshoot. Don’t be disheartened when this happens, because it will occur frequently when you’re working on older engines. The best method when you’re not sure what to do is to work backwards through the systems, and troubleshoot. Sure enough, I soon discovered that the gaps on the points (part of the electrical setup on the motor) were off. The correct gap is 0.020 inches (I looked this up online). Later I thought that I must have moved them when I was dismantling the engine (see what I mean about being careful?). After setting the gap to the correct width, the Seagull started up without any problems whatsoever. Here is a photo of me demonstrating it at our local 4-H fair during showmanship. Note the swanky garbage can full of water!

Above: The Seagull after start up. It worked great!

Now the only thing left to do was to put the Seagull on a boat, like the one my grandfather owns below! I attached the Seagull to the dingy and gave the flywheel a whirl. It took quite a while to get it started and KEEP it running, which I put down to the fact that it had been so long since it had been running in water. Remember this when you’re trying the same thing – and don’t get discouraged. Some of these old engines are finicky and all you can do is be patient and keep trying.

The Seagull was a lot more powerful than I expected! There was quite a wake too, and the water cooling system was working great. Tip: there should be a steady stream of water exiting the block.

Here we are in the bay by my grandfather’s house. Don’t forget your safety equipment: lifejackets and some spare gasoline!

Overall this was a very absorbing and exciting project. It worked well and I was glad it turned out the way it did; I have never been able to achieve the same result with any of my other outboard projects. I guess this comes with experience. The more careful and painstaking one is, the better the result. Rushed work never yields a good product.

When you’re working on projects of this sort, just remember a few things:

— Take your time and be as painstaking as possible. You’ll be glad in the end

— Make sure the parts you replace are the correct size and gauge

— Document the engine dismantling with a camera if you can. This will help you remember what went where, especially if there is a long span of time between taking it apart and putting it back together.

— Search around online or in the library to see if someone has Been There, Done That with a similar project, so you can get some tips or help.

— Check your local Heritage Society for retired machinists, or mechanics, because they are an invaluable resource (and they usually like helping new engine enthusiasts)

— Keep small pieces in plastic containers with lids, so you won’t lose them

— Keep all flammable materials outside, stored safely

— Don’t get discouraged!

The Seagull Part VI: Painting

Why paint an engine?

Painting helps prevent rust and makes an engine look brand new.

Above:  The 1958 Johnson Seahorse.

After sandblasting the next step in restoring the Seagull was to paint it. Before sandblasting the metal surface was smooth, but without any paint it was now a little more coarse, like emery paper. Dirt could easily stick to the metal, and if this happened I would have to sandblast it all over again to get the dirt off. Paint won’t bond to metal if there is any dirt in the way. I had to handle the parts with clean grease free hands to ensure that dirt wouldn’t get into the tiny grooves on the metal.

Painting can be tricky. If too much is applied it will run or drip and the finished result will not look very professional. When I painted the Viking (a past outboard project), I gave it one coat, and when I saw that some places didn’t have enough paint I sprayed it again before the paint had dried. This resulted in large globs of paint in various places and didn’t look very good at all. I had to resand it and repaint it which was very time consuming and quite frustrating. The proper way is to give the object several light coats instead of one thick coating.

Before painting, remove all the old paint. With a small engine, the best tool for the job is a sandblaster. Once the old paint is gone, prime the metal before painting or use rust paint (no primer necessary). Primer helps the paint stick to the metal. It is best to paint on a warm dry day; this will help the paint dry and bond to the metal. If there is too much humidity in the air you run the risk of the paint looking “sticky” or taking ages to dry. I like to use cans of spray paint because you avoid brush marks with spray paint. Make sure you have a large drop sheet or piece of plywood under your project before painting.

Above: Painting the float bowl.

Here’s website that offers some useful advice:
<http://www.oldengine.org/members/murphy/painting.htm&gt;

After painting it’s best to leave the paint to dry for at least a week. Once I left a motor to dry only for one day and the next day I tried to reassemble it. The paint scratched off almost immediately; when I tightened the nuts and bolts, the underside of the bolt would scrape paint off the surface. It was incredibly frustrating. If I had left it to dry for longer it wouldn’t have done this. The paint eventually dried but the finished result was (sadly) amateur looking.

Painting bolts and nuts can look nice, but I find that when they are being removed the ratchet bit can scrape paint off the nut or bolt. One solution is to buy new bolts and bypass painting them altogether. This also avoids the issue of having old nuts crack during reassembly.

Above: Don’t forget to clean the cap off when you’re done painting! Old paint will dry up and block the small opening on the nozzle.

To clear the cap of paint you turn the can downside and spray for a few seconds, until the paint no longer sprays out.

After painting I used PlastiKote engine enamel to seal the surface. This adds gloss and prevents dirt from sticking to the paint. It looks especially nice on gas tanks and flywheels. It also handy if you’re replacing engine decals as it will keep the gasoline from dissolving the decal.

 

The Seagull Part V: How to Salvage Original Bolts

Old British Seagull outboards had a lot of brass on them: the gas tank was brass; almost all the nuts were brass. There were some chrome pieces, including the drive shaft, throttle, and sometimes the exhaust manifold but this varied depending on the model. Overall a brand new British Seagull would have looked very shiny in the showroom. My Seagull had done a lot of sitting around getting rusty: the brass was rusted and the chrome was quite pitted. Some of the bolts were still in good repair so I started by buffing them, then moved on to polishing the chrome.

Above: Using a Dremel to ‘buff’ a bolt. The vice holds the bolt while the operator can use both hands with the Dremel. Don’t forget eye protection!

Above: You can easily see the difference between a newly buffed bolt and the old one.

Where most outboards have one lower ‘leg,’ British Seagulls had two: a drive shaft and a exhaust manifold (on other outboards these are amalgamated). The drive shaft was chrome while the manifold was only chrome on certain Seagull models. Otherwise it would be made of cast aluminum, as on my Seagull. Re-chroming is always an option, but also would be rather pricy.

Above: British Seagulls had two lower legs. The upper arrow indicates the exhaust manifold, while the lower arrow indicates the drive shaft. The chrome drive shaft has been restored on this one.

Above: Cleaning the chrome drive shaft. I used ‘Silvo’ chrome polish compound on it.

Above: The shaft after cleaning and polishing. It looks like it’s been re-chromed, doesn’t it?

Next I started cleaning the throttle…

Above: The throttle before.

Above: The throttle, in pieces. The white stuff on it is the Silvo chrome polish.

Salt water will corrode an outboard’s bolts if the motor is not flushed with fresh water after being used. Most corrosion occurs on the lower unit because this part is always in the water. Sometimes bolts are beyond restoring when they have become overly corroded and rusted through the years, in this case it is better to buy replacements. I encountered this problem on the Seagull when I discovered that all the bolts on the lower unit were rusted and I couldn’t get them out! I had to use a torch and heat them up before I could attempt to remove them. Once the bolts were out I could get a closer look, but I didn’t think it was worth cleaning them because they were chipped and dented. Plus, two were screws and only one was a bolt. Screws can strip easily so it would be better to replace them with bolts. I found some replacements at Fastener Force One Resources, a local place in town where one can find all sorts of machine parts.

Above: The original screws on the lower unit.

Above: New bolts from Fastener Force. The two center ones are the replacements for the old screws.

That’s how I cleaned up the bolts on the Seagull. Bolts are small pieces and it’s easy to dismiss them, but an engine looks much more complete when the bolts have been restored.

First Project: The Viking

My first project was a Viking outboard. I got it from the grandfather of one of the club members. This guy has lots of old machines in his yard and the Viking happened to be one of them. When I got it it was in terrible condition, and no one even knew if it worked because it had been sitting in his yard for 30 years. When I look back now I wonder what made me choose this engine, because it looked so battered and broken, but I’m glad I did, because it was a great learning experience.

Here it is after I built a sawhorse for it to sit on. This is one of the first things you should do when you get an old outboard, because it doesn’t naturally stand on its own.

Here’s the general outline of what I did when I restored the Viking:

1. Took pictures of the engine before dismantling, cleaning, and painting.

2. Took the engine apart. Sorted parts in labeled containers.

3. Cleaned the parts of the motor (removing the grease, old paint, rust, dirt).

4.  Painted the cowling, covers and other pieces (my first project, a Briggs and Stratton lawnmower, was new enough that it didn’t need paining. A spray bottle of pink solution and a cloth was enough to make it look shiny and new).

5. Finally, I put it all together.

I’m going to be discussing what I did in more detail in separate posts, so for now I’ll just introduce the project.