Acorn to Arabella: How They Safely Poured A Lead Keel

There was an amazing buzz after we shared the Acorn to Arabella video of the two talented boatbuilding buddies doing some hard thinking about how to safely pour themselves a nearly 9000-pound lead keel for their Atkins ketch. Because Steve and Alix are building in their backyard, they have to be extra resourceful and thorough with their setup.  Their entire process, not just the keel pour, is one of excellent planning and forethought and lots of precaution. They circle back with us here after their lead pouring video, to go through their entire process, and even answer all of the environmental questions raised by this very sensitive and potentially hazardous project.  As you might expect, Steve and Alix do a great job of explaining away most fears and criticisms.

After the video of the lead pouring, there were many blog comments left here for Alix and Steve, as well as the tremendous concern in the comments made on the video by the many lead keel pouring experts out there. We followed up with the duo and asked them to weigh back in on the latest in the great lead debate.

Thanks to Steve and Alix for chiming in here:

Thanks to all our viewers for your concern and comments about pouring the lead keel for Arabella. Steve went and got a lead level blood test, and he has had much much more exposure than anyone else, so if he is fine everyone else at the pour should be as well.
Here is some information that we picked up throughout the process.
– Lead is poisonous if ingested (orally or inhaling dust.  Physical contact, less so.  It can leach into the skin but you really need to be IN it…)
– When melting lead, there are some fumes released but the biggest threat is if you overheat it and it starts to off-gas a lot.  As long as it’s close to melting point and you aren’t sticking your head over the fumes and huffing… you should be fine.
– Respirators need to be rated for lead… obviously.  A full face mask one is the best.  Steve got one for the shaping and as you know, a Festool Vac as well (that thing is awesome!).
– Working the lead afterward and creating dust is the most dangerous part.  Not the melting and pouring (in terms of poisoning).
– The lead blood test is relatively cheap ($100~).  A level of 5mcg/dL is the limit for children.  10mcg/dL is the limit for adults.  Steve was at 7mcg/dL (no idea if it was from the work or already there previously).   Symptoms apparently don’t necessarily show before 45mcg/ dL and they don’t start Chelation Therapy before 55mcg/dL.

According to the doctors, we should live to fight another day and don’t have to fret about any long-term issues for our health.



8 responses to “Acorn to Arabella: How They Safely Poured A Lead Keel

  1. Your residual non-melting block marked “KIRK”, may be silver, as Kirk was a local Baltimore, MD silverware manufacturer. The melting point for silver is almost three times higher than that of lead; hence its not melting in your carefully temperature controlled vat.

  2. You are very impressive in your ingenuity in planning out the various processes that you need to perform – and often for the first and only time! You may not need to know this in the future but I believe the pipe fitting that you needed to join two pipes is called a union.

  3. So many people start to build a boat and never finish – that’s obviously not going to happen with Arabella. Keep the progress/videos going

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