Shipyard Memories #17: Keel Bolts

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Blog entry by shipwright posted 02-21-2011 06:09 PM 4076 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 16: Boring Bars and Custom Castings Part 17 of Shipyard Memories series Part 18: Finished, Launched and Sailing »

To answer some of the questions asked about the keel bolts after my last entry, here are some photos from Friendship that show the process a little better.

This is the lead keel for Friendship (900lbs) freshly poured and cooled. you can see the copper pipes, 1/2” in this case, sticking out. You can also see the effect of the molten lead on the pieces of plywood that were used to keep the pipes in position.

This is the lead with the concrete mold broken off of it.

In this photo the lead has been laid on it’s side and the wood keel has been clamped on and drilled through the pipes. Then it was bolted together and righted. Then, with the two bolted firmly together, the wood keel was planed and sanded to perfectly match the lead.

The next step is to fix the wood keel to the hull permanently and drill through keelson using the holes in the wood keel as a guide. Now you have holes on the inside of the boat very close to their planned positions and the necessary strengthening pieces can be installed directly onto them.

Prior to mounting the boat onto the lead keel, the keel is counterbored to recess the nuts on the bottom ends of the bronze keel bolts. Even on this small keel you can see how little room there is for error in placing these holes.

Now a thick layer of epoxy is troweled onto the top of the keel….

and the boat is lowered into position. One person on the inside of the boat drops the bolts in, the bottom nuts are installed and then the top ones are tightened.

The excess epoxy is cleaned up and it’s time to relax.

Sorry I wasn’t clear the first time. This should clear up the foggy spots.

Thanks for the questions. They definitely make for a better experience for everyone.


-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

5 comments so far

View HalDougherty's profile


1820 posts in 3749 days

#1 posted 02-21-2011 06:19 PM

That’s impressive. I’m surprised you don’t have a series on the Discovery channel or History channel about boat building…

-- Hal, Tennessee

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3628 days

#2 posted 02-21-2011 07:22 PM

amazing how much work there is in such a little thing like the keel
evn though I know the keel is importen its still amaze me to see it every time

thank´s for sharing

View PetVet's profile


329 posts in 4000 days

#3 posted 02-21-2011 09:48 PM

Hey Paul, thanks for posting this. As a sailor, we worry constantly about dissimilar metals and electrolysis. Are the bronze keel bolts and the copper tubes close enough on the galvanic scale to not have to worry about this?

-- Rich in Richmond -- Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

View shipwright's profile


8381 posts in 3310 days

#4 posted 02-22-2011 12:09 AM

Yes Rich, The better bronzes are fine. Silicon bronze is over 95% copper with just a little (1-3%) silicon and about 1% other alloying agents so it’s as close to pure copper as s**t it to swearing. Just to be sure though the nuts are filled over with epoxy so they never really see sea water.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Pete_Jud's profile


424 posts in 4265 days

#5 posted 02-22-2011 06:57 AM

i had some bad keel boats of a boat that I owned years ago. To prior owner had let the bilge pump wires mix with salt water in the the bilge. The first one I pulled out was shaped like a carrot. I dropped the keel in the yard, in other words, build a cradle to hold the keel, and have the travel-lift lift the boat off from the keel. I then had to rebed the area between the keel and the pylon with 3M 5200, and have the boat set back down on the keel. I then drilled new holes through the pylon, and into the lead of the keel. Long and very costly drill bit. I then with a rattle gun, 6 stainless 5/8 24-36 inch long lag bolts into the keel. The keel on this boat only weighed around 5000 lbs. On my present boat in comes in at over 12,500 lbs.

-- Life is to short to own an ugly boat.

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