Keel conclusion

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.”

My original idea was to cast the keel using a section of steel and a combined crucible and mould – see this post

I managed to find a suitable offcut of steel quite cheaply, sandblasted it and painted it inside with stove paint. I then embarked on the great melt:


Sadly, the two gas burners I had were woefully inadequate and would melt no more than localised puddles of lead, so I ended up listening to the combined voices of reason and friends and called in the professionals in the form of Irons Brothers. The result was excellent and far better than I could ever have achieved. Apart from accurately cast and pre-drilled components, I also benefited from being able to have small percentage if antimony in the lead which makes it much harder – useful, I thought, considering all the grounding the boat will encounter.

One of the problems with making the lead so hard was that it simply refused to conform to the shape of the boat. Using ordinary soft lead, I imagine the keel would almost flop into shape under its own weight, but not this stuff! Once again I was in the fortunate position of having the furniture workshop to call upon, and having made some moulds, put the lead pieces in the veneer press and let rip with maximum pressure. They never stood a chance!


Hoisting the keel sections onto the boat was tricky, but nothing a borrowed engine hoist couldn’t manage. The actual lifting when up on the hull was achieved with some home-made gantries (of which more later) and some Ebay-tastic chain hoists.


After months of wasted time with aborted castings, waiting for proper castings, sourcing bronze bolts, assembling lifting gear, researching bedding compounds etc, the day finally arrived when the keel would finally be fixed in position.

I went of silicon bronze bolts, nuts and washers (at vast expense).

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I opted for a polysulphide bedding compound called Arbokol 2150. It certainly looks the part, and can only hope its efficacy compensates for its nasty smell and its tendency to go everywhere whilst trying to apply it!


It made an excellent bed for the lead to sit on. After the bolts were installed I covered the heads in the keel with more Arbokol. Not sure if this is standard practice, but it made sense as an added barrier to water. If the bolts ever need taking out, this extra bedding compound should dig out easily enough.


Fairing the lead into the rest of the ‘keel’ was genuinely fun. We first used a belt sander with 80 grit paper, but soon discovered that it was actually easier to use a plane. It was truly weird to see slivers of shiny metal coming out of a plane with very little effort or, seemingly, too much blunting effect:


This entry was posted in Keel.

One thought on “Keel conclusion

  1. Interesting – and very useful – story. Curious about the antimony. Boatbuilders have not heard of it, books do not mention it; but Australian boatbuilders use a tiny percentage – 1%? – to make it possible to drill holes in the lead, which otherwise blocks up the drill bit.

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