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Thread: Lead keel pour.......done....... whew!

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
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    Murphy’s Law and Pouring a Lead Keel in the back yard!

    I report this account for those contemplating pouring a lead keel. This is also my way of returning the favor for all the good advice and opinions I have recieved in this forum. Those who have already done this task , feel free to add your criticism. The goal is to avoid accidents and injury.

    Having built the hull of the Grey Seal, turning it over was quite a rush. So I thought I was ready for pouring the keel. Respirator, face shield, heavy boots and gloves donned. The mold was made, all the lead was cleaned up ( Cleaning up the lead scrap is a necessary primer for pouring the keel!). I was loaned a drum with a flanged pipe bolted to the bottom by another generous boat builder. I got the propane burner and tank ready. I had a short section of 1” steel pipe from the drum to the mold. The mold was leveled up the weather was clear and dry and everything was a go.



    Saturday morning I started the burner at 11am. A watched pot boils oh so slow and this pot, 650 lbs of lead was only half melted at 6pm. It was getting dark so I turned off the burner. Bummed, but still thinking about the process, I went out and got another burner to put under the drum. It also seamed to me that the drum lost a lot of the heat to the air, so I devised a way to put some insulation around the drum.



    Sunday morning I started the first burner at 10 am. While this was heating up the drum I fashioned an insulating skirt around the drum using durock (cement board used for tile subsurface). The second burner was in place at 11:30 am. Lead was starting to puddle around 2 pm. By 4 pm the lead was totally melted and ready to pour.



    I pulled up the pipe that stoppered the flange. This allowed the lead to flow out through the bottom of the drum. With a gurgle and sputter it went through the hole. For all of about 3 seconds it flowed out then stopped.

    All of you who have done this before know what had obviously happened. The lead solidified at the tip of the pipe right above the mold. I manned the handy propane torch. I even moved one of the burners from the drum to under the pipe as well. I thought I had this problem licked. SPLAT! Lead started leaking out of the flange joint on the bottom of the drum and was landing on the burner. I moved the burner out of the way but I didn’t want to stress that area of the drum anymore. 600 lbs of lead on the ground would be a big mess.

    Lead, molten and as runny as water, was ready, mold ready, I did not want to start over yet again. Armed with respirator, leather cloves and a coffee can, I bailed the lead out of the drum and into the mold. Not an ideal solution to the problem, but it worked. I came up a little short of the level on the mold so I had to go back to the lead pile and add another 50 lbs. to the drum. This time, 6 pm came and I was done. It was poured, it looked good and nearly all the lead in the drum was now solidifying in the mold. I was ready for the moaning chair.


    Lessons learned:
    Be Safe, lead, especially lead vapor, is hazardous.
    Dress accordingly, protect yourself from splatters, splashes and vapors
    Have a backup plan or back away
    Think clearly.
    Have plenty of heat resistant tools for stirring, laddeling or even diking a spill.


    The mold was painted with refractory paint from Aremco. The paint was quite expensive but, remarkably, it protected the wood from charring. This image has 1/2 ' seperation between the hard lead and the end of the mold. Note how clean the wood looks.



    Be careful out there.

    M.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
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    Durham, NC
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    56

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    My appologies, I'll master this image posting yet another time.

    Murphy’s Law and Pouring a Lead Keel in the back yard!

    I report this account for those contemplating pouring a lead keel. This is also my way of returning the favor for all the good advice and opinions I have recieved in this forum. Those who have already done this task , feel free to add your criticism. The goal is to avoid accidents and injury.

    Having built the hull of the Grey Seal, turning it over was quite a rush. So I thought I was ready for pouring the keel. Respirator, face shield, heavy boots and gloves donned. The mold was made, all the lead was cleaned up ( Cleaning up the lead scrap is a necessary primer for pouring the keel!). I was loaned a drum with a flanged pipe bolted to the bottom by another generous boat builder. I got the propane burner and tank ready. I had a short section of 1” steel pipe from the drum to the mold. The mold was leveled up the weather was clear and dry and everything was a go.



    Saturday morning I started the burner at 11am. A watched pot boils oh so slow and this pot, 650 lbs of lead was only half melted at 6pm. It was getting dark so I turned off the burner. Bummed, but still thinking about the process, I went out and got another burner to put under the drum. It also seamed to me that the drum lost a lot of the heat to the air, so I devised a way to put some insulation around the drum.



    Sunday morning I started the first burner at 10 am. While this was heating up the drum I fashioned an insulating skirt around the drum using durock (cement board used for tile subsurface). The second burner was in place at 11:30 am. Lead was starting to puddle around 2 pm. By 4 pm the lead was totally melted and ready to pour.



    I pulled up the pipe that stoppered the flange. This allowed the lead to flow out through the bottom of the drum. With a gurgle and sputter it went through the hole. For all of about 3 seconds it flowed out then stopped.

    All of you who have done this before know what had obviously happened. The lead solidified at the tip of the pipe right above the mold. I manned the handy propane torch. I even moved one of the burners from the drum to under the pipe as well. I thought I had this problem licked. SPLAT! Lead started leaking out of the flange joint on the bottom of the drum and was landing on the burner. I moved the burner out of the way but I didn’t want to stress that area of the drum anymore. 600 lbs of lead on the ground would be a big mess.

    Lead, molten and as runny as water, was ready, mold ready, I did not want to start over yet again. Armed with respirator, leather cloves and a coffee can, I bailed the lead out of the drum and into the mold. Not an ideal solution to the problem, but it worked. I came up a little short of the level on the mold so I had to go back to the lead pile and add another 50 lbs. to the drum. This time, 6 pm came and I was done. It was poured, it looked good and nearly all the lead in the drum was now solidifying in the mold. I was ready for the moaning chair.


    Lessons learned:
    Be Safe, lead, especially lead vapor, is hazardous.
    Dress accordingly, protect yourself from splatters, splashes and vapors
    Have a backup plan or back away
    Think clearly.
    Have plenty of heat resistant tools for stirring, laddeling or even diking a spill.


    The mold was painted with refractory paint from Aremco. The paint was quite expensive but, remarkably, it protected the wood from charring. This image has 1/2 ' seperation between the hard lead and the end of the mold. Note how clean the wood looks.



    Be careful out there.

    M.
    ime.

  3. #3
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    Great post Mike. This is a daunting part of boat building that causes much trepidation for wannabees. The advice to "back away" is good reminder. It's always tempting to turn a bad situation into a disaster.

  4. #4
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    Hey...it's a heckuvva lot easier than machining the keel from a solid block of depleted uranium or manganese.........good show..

  5. #5
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    How to hang in there Mike!
    The story is a testimony to the glue that binds us all together.
    FG folks do all they can to avoid the mechanics that you describe. In some ways it is dreamy to go to a lot, pick one out, rent a slip, run up a sail and have a swell day.
    Your method is attractive to a very special lot.
    How the heck did you have the where-with-all to take snap shots.
    Thanks for sharing your pain/pleasure.

  6. #6
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    I thank you for the lesson.Though I'll never have such a chore,I ramain fasinated with the special things you raggers must attend to in your persuits.The results are usually pretty spectacular.
    Chris is on the same wavelength as I with his question about pictures.
    I kept imagining you either dropping everything and stepping back for a quick shot,or, yelling HONEY...please come out here and take some pictures.
    Nevertheless,thanks again for the tutorial.

    Darryl

  7. #7
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    I thank you for the lesson.Though I'll never have such a chore,I ramain fasinated with the special things you raggers must attend to in your persuits.The results are usually pretty spectacular.
    Chris is on the same wavelength as I with his question about pictures.
    I kept imagining you either dropping everything and stepping back for a quick shot,or, yelling HONEY...please come out here and take some pictures.
    Nevertheless,thanks again for the tutorial.

    Darryl

  8. #8
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    As someone who is contemplating the same "foolishness"... Would you do it again or bite the bullet and just pay a foundry?

  9. #9
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    Originally posted by Art Read:
    As someone who is contemplating the same "foolishness"... Would you do it again or bite the bullet and just pay a foundry?
    Art,
    I'd do it again, but smarter. I'd use a channel to funnel the lead to the mold rather than the pipe.

    The foundry wanted a huge sum of money with me sending the mold to them. If I recall correctly, the quote was $1,400 to cast the keel.

    M.

  10. #10
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    Ouch! Was that with YOUR lead? You think the channel would have prevented the problem with the flow from the crucible? Actually, I kind of liked your coffee can, "bailing" fall-back plan. Seems to me that avoids a lot of the "logistics" involved. So, how hot was it reaching in there to scoop it out? Did it cause a lot of extra waste?

  11. #11
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    That quote was with their lead.

    It was a wee bit warm with the leather gloves on. There was very little waste, a few splatters here and there. I was able to tilt the drum and puddle the last remaining lead in a corner and scoop it out. The coffee can had a flattened edge which aided in gettin all but a few pounds out of the drum.
    M.

  12. #12
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    Jan 2002
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    thanks for a great post MikeP. Reminds me of when I was younger and sillerier and working in a pretty well set up yard, casting much smaller stuff.

    As I get older and lazy, I tend to think the besst ballast is a 6000 lb engine and to hell with all that mast, rigging and canvass.

    jim

  13. #13
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    Pouring a lead keel is one of the things that is keeping me from starting a full-keeled boat. Maybe when I finish my current projects I will build up enough nerve to tackle something grander.

    Chad

  14. #14
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    Thanks for the interesting post, Mike.

    Two cents worth on the clogged outlet problem: Would a channel be prone to clogging and overflowing rather than plugging? Could cause a bigger problem?

    Instead, how about a bigger diameter pipe for the outlet? Say, 2 inches or more? And pre-heat the pipe with a torch before pulling the plug?

    I've never poured a keel, but it seems to me that once the flow was established without the cold pipe solidifying the first lead to pass, the hot lead would keep things flowing.

    Best of luck on the rest of the build!

    Wayne

  15. #15
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    Great post Mike!

    I wish I had been set up to take pictures during my pour.

    I'll add one lesson learned: Make sure the mold is strong enough! On my first try the mold broke open at the bottom after 5,000 lbs of lead had been poured. This all ended up freezing on the floor 3" thick in my garage. After many hours and many saw blades I chopped it all up re-melted and poured into a new mold. The second pour went much better.

    Basically my setup was the same as yours but I used 4 melters. Each melter had a piece of copper pipe brazed to it with a brass gate valve and all fitting were brazed instead of soldered. Each melter held 2000# and was insulated with unfaced fiberglass. The burners were homemade from 1 1/2 pipe. It took a total of about 50# of propane to melt the lot.

    Thanks again, those pictures brought back fond (mostly) memories.

  16. #16
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    Wayne is right on with heating the pipe before starting the flow according to Glenn Ashmore. It would be wise for anyone thinking of pouring a lead keel to take a look at his site before starting.

    http://www.rutuonline.com/

    I know I will be checking it out before I pour mine.

    Randy

  17. #17
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    Makes my pouring of 10-20 pound brick in bread pans look pale! I won't be intimidated next time!!!

  18. #18
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    Good job Mike. And thanks for all the info. I'll be able to put it to use in a few months.We're in the middle of winter right now.

  19. #19
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    Been there also mike, did a 9500lb. ballast for SAFARI. Took lots of old glass covered ballasts, cut up, lots of chainsaw blades, and on pouring day, Lots's of beer. And all went well.
    marinebr />

  20. #20
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    Well done, Mike, and well depicted.

    Thanks for a good post.

    Alan

  21. #21
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    Grand job, Mike.
    As an aside, others without your fortitude might want to look in the 'phone book for battery recycling plants. The one near me pours a number of boat keels (they can pump 1000lbs of molten lead a minute). Roughly 50c(US) per pound, poured. I couldn't say no....

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