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Old 27-09-2011, 14:05   #1
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Lead vs Iron Keel

Not sure where to place this query and I'm certain its been asked before but I can't find out where, so I'm asking again: thank you in advance.

From a quality/safety/performance standpoint (I know, that's three POVs) is the preference for a keel material lead. Is it because of cost? Is it because of center of gravity control that iron keels don't have? Is it electrolosis? Or does it matter?

In my search for a boat, how much should the material of the keel weigh into a decision?

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Old 27-09-2011, 14:19   #2
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Re: Lead vs Iron Keel

the only advantage of steel keel is lower cost

but just because a boat has a steel keel doesn't rule it out as long as it has been maintained
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Old 27-09-2011, 14:23   #3
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Re: Lead vs Iron Keel

Properly maintained it wouldn't matter... but if I had two identical boats and one had a lead keel and one had steel then I would likely choose lead since it is non-ferrous .
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Old 27-09-2011, 14:31   #4
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Re: Lead vs Iron Keel

keel being ferrous needs to be better protected from the stray current corrosion through barrier coat or fiberglass. also due to its softness can take some of the stress away from an impact in grounding.
all being equal would defiinately take the lead, but wouldnt deter me from buying a steel keel if that is what is on a vessel.
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Old 27-09-2011, 14:53   #5
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Re: Lead vs Iron Keel

I would assume, that for a given weight, an iron or steel keel would be bulkier than a lead keel since lead is heavier, volume for volume.
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Old 27-09-2011, 15:00   #6
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Re: Lead vs Iron Keel

Iron is cheaper than lead and usually indicates the builder is saving money by using the former. A cynic might say that is at least somewhat indicative that the builder is saving cost whenever possible on materials which begs the question what else is being marginalized.
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Old 27-09-2011, 15:10   #7
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Re: Lead vs Iron Keel

yes but for the most part the importance is in ballast to displacement ratio...which usually falls into a 25 -33 % ratio. if you are buying a vessel from a known builder usually the stability factors are well in the proper safety zone.
if it is an unknown builder, one off or customized (shortened keel, etc.) ; then you should might need to contact a naval architect.
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Old 27-09-2011, 15:29   #8
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Re: Lead vs Iron Keel

Iron rusts... Iron only works in encapsulated keels. and even then, if you run aground, or have a leaky joint (not encapsulated), you better fix it quickly. Lead is simply bolted onto the keel, the only thing you need is anti-foul.

Plus what the others said...
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Old 27-09-2011, 16:19   #9
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Re: Lead vs Iron Keel

Another advantage of lead is that, because it takes up less area than the comparable weight of iron - as mentioned - the ballast can be lower in the foil. In other words, ballast to displacement ratios have a value, but where the ballast lays is important, as well.
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Old 27-09-2011, 17:21   #10
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Re: Lead vs Iron Keel

Density of iron: 7.87 g/cm^3
lead: 11.35 g/cm^3
gold: 19.32 g/cm^3
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Old 27-09-2011, 18:00   #11
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Re: Lead vs Iron Keel

That seems to be a prevailing notion.
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Old 27-09-2011, 18:05   #12
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Re: Lead vs Iron Keel

Hmmmm....gold? Maybe the Inca had gold keel boats. Nice comparison. thanks
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Old 27-09-2011, 18:08   #13
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Re: Lead vs Iron Keel

Lead corrodes less, allows better ballast placement. Even Catalina uses lead. I wouldnt rule out an iron or steel ballast boat though.
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Old 27-09-2011, 18:09   #14
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Re: Lead vs Iron Keel

Shouldn't make too much difference on a well designed and constructed boat. Iron certainly is cheaper, but it serves it's purpose well. For preference I'd take lead, but having said that we just hauled out my 34 year old iron-keeled boat and the keel looked in perfect condition. We'll check the keelbolts this winter of course, but I'd be surprised if we see a problem. Good design, good construction, and planned preventative maintenance...
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Old 27-09-2011, 18:43   #15
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Re: Lead vs Iron Keel

Quote:
Originally Posted by pillum View Post
Shouldn't make too much difference on a well designed and constructed boat. Iron certainly is cheaper, but it serves it's purpose well. For preference I'd take lead, but having said that we just hauled out my 34 year old iron-keeled boat and the keel looked in perfect condition. We'll check the keelbolts this winter of course, but I'd be surprised if we see a problem. Good design, good construction, and planned preventative maintenance...
Ultimately it is a matter of density versus available space, versus cost. Lead weighs around 700 pounds per cubic foot, while iron and steel is around 450 to 500 pounds per cubic foot. Concrete is around 150 pounds per cubic foot. All are used as ballast; even spent uranium which is around 900 pounds per cubic foot if memory serves was used at least once in a Canadian racing sloop before the ballast was disqualified. But the point is, for a given draft, the higher the density the lower you can position the ballast and the stiffer you can make the boat. External lead ballast also provides a slight amount of cushion upon a hard grounding, the lead will deform or give a bit whereas steel or iron may transmit more stress to the keel bolts.
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