The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders

Pouring a Lead Keel
by Charlie Jones

My friend Charlie Jones just completed a B&B Princess 22. One of the final steps was pouring and attaching the lead keel. Here are some pictures he sent of the process

The Princess keel is 3 1/2 by 3 1/2 and 7 feet long. Specs call for 400 pounds. I melted and poured 450 pounds.

Pouring the lead

I had to have a crucible built to contain the lead while being melted. This is built from a HEAVY section of square steel pipe. It's 9 1/2 x 9 1/2 by 16 inches tall.
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And of course a collection of lead. This is only a part of the lead. I had gathered just under 600 pounds all told. Some wheel weights, some bullets from Martin Tidswell's bullet trap and some lead from Jon up in New York.
And here's the setup all fired up and heating lead. I put in 100 pounds at first then added new stuff in 50 pound lots. The shields kept the heat closer to the crucible and made the thing very effective. click to enlarge
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And here's a look down into the pot- that's 450 pounds of very hot lead. When adding lead to the crucible it is EXTREMELY important that there be absolutely NO moisture on the lead being added. If there is ANY moisture, when the damp lead hits the molten stuff, you will get a violent blowup. What happens is that the damp lead sinks under the surface and the moisture becomes superheated steam which blows lead up and out.

it isn't shown in any of the pictures but I was wearing a double cannister respirator any time I was adding or skimming dross. The fumes coming from the molten lead and from the heated dross are not to be breathed.

Heating the pipe. The molten lead flows into the pipe, but cools up at the top so you have to reheat that plug of cooled lead to get it to flow. Once it flows things BETTER be right cause there's NO stopping it. click to enlarge
click to enlarge And here's when it let go! Took it about 30 seconds or so to fill the mold. Looked pretty cool (If molten lead can be called cool) made waves back and forth in the mold.
Here's a shot of some HOT stuff. Yeah - those are bubbles. click to enlarge
click to enlarge I did have one small leak in the threads where the pipe was connected. It was only hand tight so it could be pushed over to let the lead flow out. Made a pretty neat stalagmite.

Altogether it took 2 1/2 hours and used slightly less than one tank of propane. The wooden mold scorched but only slightly. All in all a very successful day

Installing the keel

click to enlarge Here is the bottom of the Princess 22. Having a chain fall fore and aft sure worked great to position the boat.
Here's the lead keel all cleaned up and ready to position under the boat. click to enlarge
click to enlarge Done! That's masking tape above the keel; keeping the epoxy off the paint.