Repair of Bronze Rudders and Propellers by Resurfacing
The repair of bronze rudders and propellers normally requires the boat to be pulled up onto a slipway, lifted out of the water to the quayside or dry-docked.
The resurfacing and machining of the rudder can be carried out by an experienced DIY person. However because of balance requirements and blade profile, propeller resurfacing and subsequent machining is best carried out by a professional repair engineering company.
There are several methods used to resurface the components to their original thickness and profiles; two current ones are;
- Bronze Alloy Epoxy Resins
- Laser Coating
The components are transported to the boatyard’s workshop where they are shot-blasted using nonmetallic grit to create a key for the epoxy filler. They are then dipped into a bath containing a cleaning fluid such as a tetrachloroethylene-based degreasing agent before being dried. Old cloths or rags are not used for this operation as threads can be left on the rough surfaces that can act as wicks, so therefore air drying is normally used.
The components are now ready for the application of the epoxy. This is carried out manually using suitable flat and round wooden bladed hand-tools.
Epoxy is normally supplied in two parts of different colors to assist with the mixing; a thick paste is used for corrosion/erosion damage on the rudder; a more liquid epoxy mix being applied to the pitting on the propeller.
Once cured, a further coat of epoxy can be applied then the components left aside and allowed to fully cure until the epoxy is hard.
The components can now be machined; the rudder by a milling machine, before final sanding to a smooth finish by hand.
The propeller is machined using a machine tool such as a CNC or other specialist milling machine to the original blade configuration. The components can now be re-fitted to the boat.
Author’s Notes on Protection against Corrosion
Prevention is better than a cure so I have included a few notes on protection against corrosion;
1. Zinc anodes can be used to help protect the components from galvanic corrosion. Aero-dynamic shaped anodes can be bolted to the rudder to prevent galvanic corrosion between stainless pins and rudder/rudder bushes. A split zinc anode collar supplied in two halves can be fitted around the prop shaft just f’ord of the propeller. This will prevent galvanic corrosion between the stainless steel prop shaft and the bronze propeller. A sketch of the arrangement is shown below.
2. A galvanic isolator can be fitted to the boat's electrical earthing circuit to prevent stray currents causing electrolytic corrosion damage.
3. Although laser coating using powder is a relatively new method of resurfacing, in the past I have built-up worn steel components such as screw conveyors and wear plates using stick welding. This provided quite a hard surface that proved difficult to machine using normal equipment; a 6" hand grinder did the job in the end.
4. I have included a link to laser coating technique in the reference section for information and a link to US companies specializing in resurfacing rudders and propellers.