You are on page 1of 25

Everything You Need to Know About Propellers

In determining boat performance, propellers are second in importance only to the power available from the engine itself. Without the propeller's thrust, nothing happens. Your boat's propeller affects every phase of performance-handling, riding, comfort, speed, acceleration, engine life, fuel economy and safety. Like tires on a car, the propeller conducts the power from the engine to the road. Your propeller is the primary connection between your engine and the water. Which propeller or propellers you select to make that connection is critical to achieving optimum boat performance. We prepared this web site to help you make that choice wisely. We'll show you how a marine propeller works, and how engine and boat performance are directly related to the propeller. !ecause propellers are vital to engine performance, "ercury "arine# manufactures over $%% different and distinct "ercury &ropellers# for "ercury# 'utboards and "er(ruiser# )terndrives. *hese range from the simplest plastic propellers for electric trolling motors to the blueprinted, custom-tuned "ercury +i-&erformance,-acing propellers. .ach propeller is designed to ma/imi0e the performance return available from a specific engine or group of engines. We can assure this only through designing, engineering and manufacturing our own propellers - over half a million a year - at dedicated facilities. 'ur engineering staff is the industry's most e/perienced in propeller design and innovation. *his site has been compiled from engineering data and factual engine and boat test results obtained from our onthe-water test sites. *his information represents the latest technology for marine pleasure boat and racing propellers. *his site is designed to provide even the novice boater a solid understanding of propellers. +owever, some of the information presented here is also very technical. )o, if you have 1uestions or need assistance in propeller selection, contact your local "ercury 'utboard or "er(ruiser )terndrive dealer.

(+2&*.- 3 - +I)*'-Y 245 5.6.L'&".4* *he concept of a propulsion device resembling what is now called the screw propeller is certainly not new. *he e/perience of ancients with sculling oars, coupled with the later development of rotary engines, obviously suggested a combination of a series of inclined plates secured to a rotary hub. In 78$ !.(., the .gyptians used a screw-like device for irrigation purposes. 2rchimedes 9:;<-:3: !(=, the first scientist whose work had a lasting effect on the history of naval architecture and ship propulsion, has been credited with the invention of the screw. +e created the screw to pump out flooded ships. *he screw pump, designed by 2rchimedes for supplying irrigation ditches, was the forerunner of the screw propeller. 5rawings done by Leonardo 52 6inci 938$:-3$37= 9>igure 3-3= contain pictures of water screws for pumping. +owever, his famous helicopter rotor more nearly resembles a marine screw.

5espite this knowledge, application of screw propulsion to boats and ships didn't take place until the advent of steam power. 5ue to greater suitability with the slow-turning, early steam engines, the first powered boats used paddle wheels for a form of water propulsion. In 3??3, *oogood and +ays adopted the 2rchimedian screw as a ship propeller, although their boat design appears to have involved a type of water @et propulsion. 2t the beginning of the 37th century, screw propulsion was considered a strictly second-rate means of moving a ship through the water. +owever, it was during this century that screw propulsion development got underway. In 3;%:, (olonel Aohn )tevens built and e/perimented with a single-screw, and later a twin-screw, steam-driven boat. Bnfortunately, due to a lack of interest, his ideas were not accepted in 2merica. *he Invention of the )crew &ropeller *he credit for the invention of the screw propeller narrows down to two men, >rancis &etit )mith and Aohn .ricsson. In 3;C?, )mith and .ricsson obtained patents for screw propellers, marking the start of modern development. .ricsson's patent covered a contra-rotating bladed wheel, as well as twin-screw and single-screw installations. .ricsson's propeller design took advantage of many of the uni1ue benefits of the bladed wheel. With the wheel, it was possible to obtain the increased thrust of a large number of blades in a small diameter without cluttering up the area ad@acent to the hub. Yet, both the inner and outer elements supplied propulsive thrust. *he wheel design was inherently strong, without much unnecessary material to interfere with its basic action. *he outer ring also served to keep lines, ice, and debris away from the blades. *here is no clear-cut evolution of the bladed wheel into the modern screw propeller, although the bladed wheel possessed most of the elements of a successful propulsive device. It seems to have been used in the original .ricsson form and then dropped in favor of the conventional screw. 9>igure 3-:= *he >ortunate 2ccident "ost of these 2rchimedian screw inventors suggested little to improve the configuration of the screw for use as a propulsion device. *heir main variations consisted of changing the number of convolutions or altering the diameter along the length of the screw. >rancis &etit )mith accidentally discovered the advantages of a shortened 2rchimedian screw. 'riginally, his wooden propeller design had two complete turns. !ut, following a collision on the &addington (anal in which half of his blade was carried away, his boat immediately gained speed. )mith capitali0ed on his observation by increasing the number of blades and decreasing the blade width - for a design not unlike modern propellers. In 3;C7, impressed by the superior performance of &etit )mith's screw, I.D. !runel changed the design of the Ereat !ritain, an iron ship under construction, to screw propulsion. *he Ereat !ritain had 3$%% indicated

horsepower and achieved a speed of 33 knots. 5espite this success, it was many years before screw propellers overwhelmingly displaced paddle wheels for seagoing applications. *he 4e/t )tep 2lthough the 2rchimedian screw in a wide variety of forms continued to be proposed for ship propulsion, the final transition of this type of propulsion device to what is now recogni0ed as a screw propeller was made by Eeorge -ennie's conoidal screw. -ennie combined the ideas of increased pitch, multiple threads, and minimum convolutions in what he called a (onoidal propeller, which was patented in 3;C7. 5espite the successes of )mith and .ricsson, there were still many problems to be solved in the design, construction, and operation of screw-propelled ships. *he early wooden-hulled ships were sub@ected to heavy vibration, and iron hulls were needed to resist the vibratory forces. With shaft and machinery below the waterline, stuffing bo/es had to be developed to prevent leakage without damaging the rotating shaft. *hrust bearings were re1uired to transmit the forward force e/erted by the propeller to the hull. +igher speed engines had to be developed in order to reali0e the inherent efficiency of the screw, and techni1ues were needed for casting and machining strong, tough metals. 2s many problems were gradually overcome, and as higher speed engines were developed, more and more screw propellers were installed to supplement or replace paddle wheels. In 3;?7, (. )harp, of &hiladelphia, &enn., patented a partially submerged propeller for shallow - draft boat propulsion. It employed a large yaw angle to offset the transverse force generated by the propeller, as well as high pitch and cambered or cupped blades. )ir (harles &arsons inadvertently discovered the phenomenon of propeller supercavitation when his first turbine ship, the *urbinia, initially failed to achieve its predicted speed of C% knots due to the envelopment of the propeller blades in cavities. *his problem was solved by fitting three propellers to each of three shafts. *he invention of the marine reduction gear soon rendered multiple propellers per shaft unnecessary. *he .nd of the &addle Wheel )crew propellers installed in the 3;?% era lacked refinement, but their performance e/ceeded all other devices conceived up to that time. *he paddle wheel was gradually rendered obsolete in seagoing ships, as the screw propeller became practically the only type of propulsive device installed in seagoing ships 9>igure 3-C=. 5uring the twentieth century, the art and science of marine propeller technology has steadily advanced in the direction of greater efficiency, more reliable design and performance prediction, improved materials, and cavitation resistance.

(+2&*.- : - !2)I( &-'&.LL.- &2-*) *he first step to understanding propellers and how they work is familiari0ing yourself with the basic parts of a propeller. 9>igure :-3= !asic &ropeller &arts 2. !lade *ip *he ma/imum reach of the blade from the center of the propeller hub. It separates the leading edge from the trailing edge. !. Leading .dge *hat part of the blade nearest the boat, which first cuts through the water. It e/tends from the hub to the tip. (. *railing .dge *hat part of the blade farthest from the boat. *he edge from which the water leaves the blade. It e/tends from the tip to the hub 9near the diffuser ring on through-hub e/haust propellers=. 5. (up 2 small curve or lip on the trailing edge of the blade, permitting the propeller to hold water better and normally adding about 3,: 93:.< mm= to 3 9:$.8 mm= of pitch. .. !lade >ace *hat side of the blade facing away from the boat, known as the positive pressure side of the blade. >. !lade !ack *he side of the blade facing the boat, known as the negative pressure 9or suction= side of the blade. E. !lade -oot *he point at which the blade attaches to the hub. +. Inner +ub *his contains the >lo-*or1 rubber hub or >lo-*or1 II 5elrin# +ub )ystem 9>igures :-: and :C=. *he forward end of the inner hub is the metal surface which generally transmits the propeller thrust through the forward thrust hub to the propeller shaft and in turn, eventually to the boat. I. 'uter +ub >or through-hub e/haust propellers. *he e/terior surface is in direct contact with the water.

*he blades are attached to the e/terior surface. Its inner surface is in contact with the e/haust passage and with the ribs which attach the outer hub to the inner hub. A. -ibs >or through-hub e/haust propellers. *he connections between the inner and outer hub. *here are usually three ribs, occasionally two, four, or five. *he ribs are usually either parallel to the propeller shaft 9 straight =, or parallel to the blades 9 helical =. D. >lo-*or1F )hock-2bsorbing -ubber +ub -ubber molded to an inner splined hub to protect the propeller drive system from impact damage and to fle/ when shifting the engine, to relieve the normal shift shock that occurs between the gear and clutch mechanism - generally used with low horsepower applications. >lo-*or1 II )hock-2bsorbing 5elrin# +ub &atented hub system designed to resist slippage, yet fle/ during engine shifting and cushions the drivetrain upon underwater impact. *he >lo-*or1 II system makes "ercury &ropellers compatible with almost all marine engines. L. 5iffuser -ing 2ids in reducing e/haust back pressure and in preventing e/haust gas from feeding back into propeller blades. ". ./haust &assage >or through-hub e/haust propellers. *he hollow area between the inner hub and the outer hub through which engine e/haust gases are discharged into the water. In some stern drive installations using a through-transom e/haust system, this passage carries air. 4. &erformance 6ent )ystem 9&6)= &6), a patented "ercury ventilation system, allows the boater to custom tune the venting of the propeller blades for ma/imum planing performance. 'n acceleration, e/haust is drawn out of the vent hole located behind each blade. When the ne/t propeller blade strikes this aerated water, less force is re1uired to push through this water allowing the engine -&" to rise more rapidly. Water flows over the vent holes once the boat is on plan sending e/haust through the e/haust passage. 6arying the si0e of the e/haust holes engine -&" can be controlled, outboards perform better with venting and stern drives typically re1uire less venting if any at all. +ub (onfigurations


is If

the center of the propeller the hub. e/haust gases are discharged into the water through the hub, the propeller is called a through-hub

e/haust 9or Aet-&ropF e/haust= propeller. If the e/haust gases are not discharged into the water through a passage in the hub, but rather over the hub, the propeller is called an over-the-hub e/haust propeller. *his design allows the engine to wind up 1uickly as the propeller bites into water and e/haust. *op peed may improve due to the reduction in drag associated with the outer hub, but generally acceleration suffers slightly. *here are three types of hubsG one with a >lo-*or1 rubber hub 9round or s1uare= 9>igure :-:=, the second with a >lo-*or1 II 5elrin hub system 9>igure :-C=, and a solid hub 9>igure :-8= which are generally used on racing engines.

The &Push'Pull& Concept

! H"# PR"PE$$ER% #"RK

*o understand this concept, let us free0e a propeller @ust at the point where one of the blades is pro@ecting directly out of the page 9>igure C3=. *his is a right-hand rotation propeller, whose pro@ecting blade is rotating from top to bottom and is moving from left to right. 2s the blade in this discussion rotates or moves downward, it pushes water down and back as is done by your hand when swimming. 2t the same time, water must rush in behind the blade to fill the space left by the downward moving blade. *his results in a pressure differential between the

two sides of the bladeG a positive pressure, or pushing effect, on the underside and a negative pressure, or pulling effect, on the top side. *his action, of course, occurs on all the blades around the fall circle of rotation as the engine rotates the propeller. )o the propeller is both pushing and being pulled through the water.

*hese pressures cause water to be drawn into the propeller from in front and accelerated out the back, @ust as a household fan pulls air in from behind it and blows it out toward you 9>igure C-: below=. *he marine propeller draws or pulls water in from its front end through an imaginary cylinder a little larger than the propeller diameter 9>igure C-C=. *he front end of the propeller is the end that faces the boat. 2s the propeller spins, water accelerates through it, creating a @et stream of higher-velocity water behind the propeller. *his e/iting water @et is smaller in diameter than the actual diameter of the propeller. *his water @et action of pulling water in and pushing it out at a higher velocity adds momentum to the water. *his change in momentum or acceleration of the water results in a force which we can call thrust.


*here are a variety of terms used to describe propeller characteristics as well as performance attributes. It is important that you have a good understanding of them, as detailed here.

5iameter is the distance across the circle made by the blade tips as the propeller rotates 9>igure 8-3=. 5iameter is determined primarily by the -&" at which the propeller will be turning and the amount of power that will be delivered to the propeller through the shafts and gears. *he degree to which the propeller may operate in a partially surfaced condition, as well as the intended forward velocity, will also play a role in determining the most desirable diameter. Within a given propeller line, the diameter usually increases for propellers used on slower boats and decreases for faster boats. If all other variables remain constant, diameter will increase as power increasesH diameter will increase as propeller -&" decreases 9slower powerhead or engine speed and,or more gear reduction=H and diameter should increase as propeller surfacing increases.

&itch is the distance that a propeller would move in one revolution if it were moving through a soft solid, like a screw in wood 9>igure 8-:=. When a propeller is identified as 3C C,8 / :3, it has a 3C C,8 9C$ cm= diameter with :3 9$C cm= of pitch. *heoretically, this propeller would move forward :3 in one revolution.

&itch is measured on the face of the blade 9>igure 8-8=. 2 number of factors can cause the actual pitch of a propeller to vary from the advertised pitch stamped on it. "inor distortion may have occurred during the casting and cooling process. 2d@ustments or modifications may have been made by propeller repair stations. 2nd finally, undetected damage may have altered the pitch.

*here are two common types of pitchG constant 9also called true or flat = pitch and progressive pitch 9>igure 8-C=. (onstant pitch means the pitch is the same at all points from the leading edge to the trailing edge. &rogressive pitch 9also called blade camber = starts low at the leading edge and progressively increases to the trailing edge. *he pitch number assigned 9for e/ample, :3 = is the average pitch over the entire blade. &rogressive pitch improves performance when forward and rotational speed are high and,or the propeller is operating high enough to break the water surface. It is commonly used on mid- to high-horsepower "ercury propellers. &itch is rather like another set of gears. >or a given engine that wants to run at a given -&", the faster the boat can go, the higher the pitch you need. If you select too low a pitch, the engine -&" will run too high 9above the top of the recommended limit=, putting an undesirable higher stress on many moving parts. You may have a great acceleration but your top speed will probably suffer and your propeller efficiency will definitely suffer. If you select too high a pitch you will force your engine to lug at a low -&" 9below the recommended range= which is generally at a higher tor1ue level and can be very damaging to your engine. *op speed may not suffer too much, but acceleration will be seriously reduced.

When a propeller blade is e/amined on a cut e/tending directly through the center of the hub, as in >igure 8-8, the face side of the cross section of the cut blade relative to a plane that is perpendicular to the propeller a/is would represent blade rake 9>igures 8-$, 8-?, and 8-<=.

If the face of the blade is perpendicular to the propeller hub 9>igure 8-$=, the propeller has 0ero degree rake. 2s the blade slants back toward the aft end of the propeller, blade rake increases 9>igure 8-?=. With standard propellers, the rake angle varies from -$I to :%I. !asic propellers for outboard engines and stern drives commonly have around 3$I of rake. +igher-raked 9high-performance= propellers often have progressive rake which may go as high as C%% at the blade tip. -ake is either flat 9straight= as shown in >igures 8-$ and 8-?, or curved 9progressive= as shown in >igure 8-<.

2 higher rake angle generally improves the ability of the propeller to operate in a cavitating or ventilating situation, such as when the blades break the water's surface. With such surfacing operation, higher blade rake can better hold the water as it is being thrown off into the air by centrifugal force, and in doing so, creates more thrust than a similar but lower raked propeller. 'n lighter, faster boats, with a higher engine or drive transom height, higher rake often will increase performance by holding the bow of the boat higher, resulting in higher boat speed due to less hull drag. +owever, with some very light, fast boats, higher rake can cause too much bow lift, making hese boats more flighty or less stable, in which case a more moderately raked propeller would be a better choice.

When the trailing edge of the blade is formed or cast with an edge curl 9away from the boat=, it is said to have a cup 9>igure 8-;=. 'riginally, cupping was done to gain the same benefits as @ust described for progressive pitch and curved or higher rake. +owever, cupping benefits are so desirable that nearly all modem recreational, high-performance or racing propellers contain some degree of cup.

(upping usually will reduce full-throttle engine speed about 3$% to C%% -&" below the same pitch propeller with no cup. 2 propeller repair shop can increase or decrease cup to alter engine -&" to meet specific operating re1uirements on most propellers.

>or a cup to be most effective, it should be completely concave 9on the face or pressure side of the blade= and finish with a sharp trailing edge. 2ny conve/ rounding of the trailing edge of the cup, on the pressure side, detracts from its effectiveness. (upping is usually of little value on propellers used in heavy-duty or work applications where the propeller remains fully submerged.

+)portance of Cup $ocation
Bsing a round-bladed propeller as an e/ample, if the cupped area intersects pitch lines, as in >igure 8-7, it will increase blade pitch. (upping in this area will reduce -&" by adding pitch. It will also protect somewhat against propeller blowout 9see (avitation, below=. If the cup is placed so that it interests rake lines, >igure 8-3%, it then has the effect of increasing rake 9see -ake, above=. *here is clearly some overlap where cup effects both pitch and rake.

In some cases, adding a normal cup has reduced engine -&" by an unusually high number, asmuch as 3%%% -&". *his blown out, a situation not uncommon and often undetected until a cupped propeller is tried. 2 partially blown-out propeller has a mushy, somewhat unresponsive feel, and may produce e/cessive propeller spray. 2n accurate slip calculation 9see )lip, below= can be beneficial here. )lip will generally @ump from its normal 3%J to 3$J to over :%J for a partially blown-out propeller 9on an average - to lightweight boat=.

2d@usting the cup on a cleaver-style propeller is moredifficult. )ince the trailing edge is very thick and runs straight out on a rake line, any ad@ustment will have far less effect on altering rake 9>igure 8-33=. *he added pitch created by the cup can be reduced substantially by filing or grinding away some of the cup. 2t the same time, rake can be altered slightly. >or less rake, decrease the cup in the area close to the tip. >or more rake, reduce the cup in the area close to the hub. 'bviously, any cup reduction will also result in an -&" increase.

Rotation /&Hand&0
*here are right-hand rotating 9-+= and left-hand rotating 9L+= propellers 9>igure 8-3:=. "ost outboard and stern drive propellers are righthand rotation. *o recogni0e a right-hand propeller, observe the prop from a position shown in >igure 8-3: 9resting on either end of the hub is 'D= and note that the right-hand propeller blade slants from lower left to upper right. 2 left-hand propeller will have the opposite slant-from lower right to upper left. *he bladeslopes or climbs up in the direction of rotation. 2 right-hand rotation propeller has the same basic blade slopeas the threads on a common right-hand screw.

2nother method of recognition is to observe the propeller rotating in forward gear from behind the boat. 2 right-hand propeller turns clockwiseH a left-hand propeller turns counter-clockwise.

Nu)ber of 1lades
2 single-blade propellerwould be the most efficient - if the vibration could be tolerated. )o, to get an acceptable level of balance with much less vibration, a two-bladed propeller, practically speaking, is the most efficient. 2s blades are added, efficiency decreases, but so does the vibration level 9>igure 8-3C=. "ost propellers are made with three blades as a compromise for vibration, convenient si0e, efficiency, and cost. *he efficiency difference between a two- and a three-bladed propeller is considered less significant than the vibrational difference. 4early all racing propellers are presently either three- or four-bladed. In recent years, with the growing fre1uency of propellers being run at an increased height 9surfaced=, four- and five- bladed props havebecome more popular. *hey suppress the higher level of vibration and improve acceleration by putting more blade area into the water. *hey can also help to make the rake more effective in lifting the bow of the boat for added speed.

1lade Thic.ness

Like a tree limb growing from a tree trunk, a blade is thickest at the point where it meets the hub 9blade root=. 2s theblade moves out from the hub to the tip, it becomes thinner 9>igure 8-38=. *he basic reason for this is that, as with any cantilever beam, the load that any blade or beam section must support is the load on the blade or beam between that section and the tip of the blade. *hus, at the tip there is 0ero load re1uiring 0ero thickness. +owever, to be practical, a given minimum edge thickness is chosen for a given propeller material and type of use.

)ince there is only so much power available, blades should be as thin as practical 9considering the strength of their material= because it takes more power to push a thick blade through the water than a thin blade.

!ut what about the thickness variation from the leading to trailing edgeK When viewing a common blade cutaway at a given radius from the center of a constant pitch-propeller 9>igure 8-3$=, an appro/imate flat surface will be observed on the positive 9pressure= side and a circular arc surface on the negative 9suction= side, with the thickest point in the center. .dges usually are .%? to .%; 93.$ mm to :.% mm= thick for aluminum propellers, thinner for stainless steel. >or propellers intended to run partially surfaced, as in racing applications, the cleaver blade shape 9see >igure 8-38= is popular. Its blade section is usually a wedge. !lades with a thick trailing edge such as this should only be run surfaced. When they are run deep, where surface air can't ventilate the low-pressure cavitation pockets formed behind the thick trailing edge, they are less efficient.

1lade Contour
(ontour is the shape of the blades as viewed from directly over the blade face or back. *he contour is generally completely rounded, commonly called round-eared or shaped with a straight trailing edge, commonly called a cleaver.


2 blade that is swept back versus a blade that is radially symmetrical in contour is said to have skew 9>igure 8-3?=. (onsiderable skew 9sweep back= is helpful in allowing a propeller to more easily shed weeds. +igher skew on a surfacing application reduce the pounding vibration of a propeller blade re-entering the water.

6entilation occurs when air from the water's surface or e/haust gases from the e/haust outlet are drawn into the propeller blades 9>igure 83<=. *he normal water load is reduced and the propeller over-revs, losing much of its thrustH however, as the propeller momentarily over-revs, this brings on massive cavitation 9see (avitation, following=, which can further unload the propeller and stop all forward thrust. It continues until the propeller is slowed down enough to allow the bubbles to surface, and the original cause of cavitation is eliminated. *his action most often occurs in turns, particularly when trying to plane in a sharp turn or with an e/cessively trimmed-out engine or drive unit.

'utboard engines and stern drive units are designed with a large antiventilation plate cast integrally into the gear housing 9also commonly called the gearcase = directly above the propeller 9>igure 8-3;=. *his plate is fre1uently, but incorrectly, referred to as a cavitation or anticavitation plate. *he purpose of this plate is to eliminate or reduce the possibility of air being drawn from the surface into the negative pressure side of the propeller blades.

>or improved engine and boat performance, most "ercury propellers feature a hub design with a flared trailing edge or diffuser ring. *his assists e/haust gas flow and provides a high-pressure barrier that helps prevent e/haust gases from feeding back into the negative pressure side of the blades 9>igure 8-37=, which is another form of ventilation.

We all know that water boils at :3:I> 93%%I(= at normal sea-level atmospheric pressure. !ut water also boils at room temperature if the atmospheric pressure is low enough.

2s a shape passes through water at an increasing speed, the pressure that holds the water to the sides and back of the shape is lowered. 5epending upon the water temperature, when the pressure reaches a sufficiently low level, boiling 9i.e., the formation of water vapor= will begin. *his occurs most often on a propeller near the leading edge of the blade. When speed is reduced and the pressure goes up, boiling will subside. 2s the water vapor bubbles move downstream into a high- pressure region that won't sustain boiling, they collapse 9condense back to li1uid=. *he collapsing action, or implosion, of the bubbles releases energy that chips away at the blades, causing a cavitation burn or erosion of the metal 9>igure 8-:%=. *he initial cause of the low pressure may be nicks in the leading edge, too much cup, sharp leading edge comers, improper polishing, or, sometimes, poor blade design. "assive cavitation by itself is rare, and it usually is caused by a propeller that is severely bent or has had its blade tips broken off resulting in a propeller that is far too small in diameter for the engine. 9)ee 6entilation, above, for another common cause.=

*he cross section of a propeller blade in >igure 8-:3 shows an e/ample of one cause of cavitation. In this instance, a sharp leading edge produces cavitation and resulting cavitation burn as the bubbles condense further back on the blade face. )uch cavitation burn can usually be corrected by repairing or rounding off the leading edge directly in front of the burn. (avitation and cavitation burns can also form on the side of your gearcase. *his will almost always be the result of a sharp edge directly ahead of the burn. -ounding off the sharp edge will usually eliminate the problem.

Angle of Attac.
*o further understand how propellers work, it is important to appreciate the concept of angle of attack. 9*his concept is also important in understanding propeller slip, detailed below.= *o do so, it is helpful to compare how a propeller blade works to how an airplane wing functions. *he wing of an airplane and its ability to carry the weight of the plane by providing lift is very similar to the spiraling travel of a propeller blade, which provides thrust. If a wing with symmetrical airfoil 9>igures 8-:: and 8-:C= is moved through the air so that air moves symmetrically above and below the wing, there is e1ual pressure above and below resulting in no lift. *he wing is said to be operating at 0ero degree 9%I= angle of attack.

With an angle of attack 9>igures 8-:8 and 8-:$=, there is a pressure change ordifference above and below the wing which creates liftG negative 9lower= pressure on the top and positive 9higher= pressure below.

2lthough it is clear that the airplane wing and the propeller blade move through air and water respectively, marine engineers prefer to talk about the situation in terms of the water moving into the blade. 2llowed that freedom, consider >igures 8-:? and 8-:<, which show the same angle of attack phenomenon, only in this case, for the propeller blade.

>igure 8-:? shows blades operating at 0ero angle of attack. *his creates no positive or negative pressures on the bladeH therefore, there can be no lift or thrust. !lades operating with some angle of attack 9>igure 8-:<= create a negative 9lower or pulling= pressure on one side and a positive 9higher or pushing= pressure on the other side. *he pressure difference causes lift at appro/imately right angles to the blade surface. Lift can be divided into a thrust component in the direction of travel and a tor1ue component in the opposite direction of propeller rotation.

)lip is the most misunderstood of all propeller terms, probably because it sounds like something undesirable. )lip is not a measure of propeller efficiency 9see .fficiency, below=. -ather, slip is the difference between actual and theoretical travel resulting from a necessary propeller blade angle of attack 9see 2ngle of 2ttack, above=. >or e/ample, in >igure 8-:;, a 3% propeller actually advances only ;-3,: in one

revolution. .ight and one-half inches is ;$J of 3% , leaving a slip of 3$J. If the blade had no angle of attack, there would be no slipH but, of course, there would be no positive and negative pressure created on the blades and, therefore, there would be no thrust.

*o create thrust there must be some angle of attack or slip. *he ob@ective of propeller design is to achieve the right amount of slip or angle of attack, which is around 8%, give or take a degree 9>igure 8-C%=. *his is accomplished by matching the right amount of blade diameter and blade area to the e/isting engine horsepower and propeller shaft -&". *oo much diameter and,or blade area will lower slip but will also lower propeller efficiency, resulting in reduced performance. >igure 8-:7 illustrates this point.

Calculating Rotational %peed3 1lade Tip %peed and %lip
*he relationship of angleof attack and slip are shown when we consider rotational and forward speeds. &ropeller engineers like to study propellers at the <,3% radius 9<%J of the distance from the center of the propeller hub to the blade tip=, which generally is the section of the propeller blade that is most typical of the whole blade. *he <,3% radius rotational speed 9in "&+= can be calculated by the following e1uationG

and can be shown by a vector 9arrow= 9>igure 8-C3=.

!lade tip speed can be calculated using the following e1uationG

*he forward speed can be shown by an arrow in the direction of travel 9>igure 8-C:=. *he length of the arrows again reflects the speed in "&+ for both the measured forward speed and the theoretical 9no slip= forward speed 9see e1uation below=. When the rotational speed and forward speeds are combined in a simple vector diagram, some interesting things appear 9>igure 8-CC=. (onsider the following actual e/ampleG

2 3?' boat powered by a 3C$ +& engine with :G3 gear reduction turning $8%% -&" uses a 38 diameter by 37 pitch, cupped propeller to push the boat 8C.$ "&+. What is the slip and angle of attack at the <,3% radiusK 2s stated above, the propeller rotational speed e1uation isG

*he e1uation applied to the e/ample boatG

*heoretical boat speed e1uationG

*he e1uation applied to the e/ample boatG

Bsing some basic trigonometry, the angles and blade velocity come out as shown in >igure 8-CC and slip is calculated as followsG

Easy!To!4se Propeller %lip Calculator Available
2n easy alternative to the above slip calculations is to use the "ercury &ropeller )lip (alculator 9>igure 8-C8=. *his special slide rule lets you 1uickly calculate propeller slip. 9*he other side of the slide rule is designed to calculate the performance of a given boat,engine combination when changing to higher- or lower- horsepower engines.= *o order online click "ercury &arts ./press, specify part number 56!789*:A93 '- locate your nearest "ercury 5ealer. )uggested retail price is L$.%%.

Calculating Efficiency 2lthough the average boater is not going to be able to calculate propeller efficiency, it is worth e/plaining to further ensure that propeller efficiency will not be confused with slip, a common misconception. In simple terms, propeller efficiency is divided by the power going inG

Let's use horsepower 9+&= for our units. >irst, to calculate +orsepower 'ut, the boat speed 9"&+= must be measured 9relatively easy=. )econd, the propeller thrust 9lbs.= must be measured 9very difficult=.

*o calculate horsepower in, the propeller shaft speed 9-&"= must be calculated 9easy=G

*hen the propeller shaft tor1ue 9ft. lbs.= "ust be measured 9difficult=. +orsepower In, then is calculatedG

4otice that although all the characteristics of a propeller- diameter, pitch, number of blades, rake, even slip - may affect efficiency indirectly, none appear in the efficiency calculation.

(onsider the boat in the previous e/ample - a 3?' boat powered by a 3C$ hp engine 9:G3 gear reduction= which runs 8C.$ "&+ while the engine turns $8%% -&". With sophisticated instrumentation, the propeller shaft tor1ue is measured to be :?% ft. lbs. and the propeller thrust at 8C.$ "&+ is found to be ;;% lbs. 4ow, armed with all of the necessary information, the calculations for horsepower in, horsepower out, and thus propeller efficiency, can be madeG

Efficiency and Angle of Attac.
*he graph in >igure 8-C% 9above= shows how propeller efficiency increases and then decreases as angle of attack is increased. In the e/ample, in >igure 8-C%, efficiency peaks at appro/imately ;%J 9C degree- 8 degree angle of attack= and begins to decline as the angle of attack increases beyond the optimum.

Efficiency and Pitch ' -ia)eter
In a given propeller series, the ma/imum possible efficiency decreases as pitch decreases. >or e/ample, a :C pitch propeller with 3C-3,: diameter can have a peak efficiency of ;%J, but a 3C pitch propeller with a 3? diameter can have a peak efficiency of only ?$J. If all other variables remain unchanged, propeller efficiency increases as the pitch,diameter ratio increases.