Stainless Steel FreeHand?

Hi Everyone,

Advice requested. I really really want to have the lower section of a freehand on my boat. The Monitor is great but its weight a long way aft and its a big hassle getting out of my dock with it.

Even if I could afford Mike Anderson’s work of art I suspect shipping it to Australia would nearly double the price so sadly that does not seem to be an option. Sailing across the pacific to buy one in the states is a long term possibility but doesn’t help now.

I have the drawings in the BCC manual to go off but I can’t find anyone who would try and fabricate one in Bronze (which sounds like a bad idea anyway) and I don’t have the skills to make patterns to have one cast so I am wondering if it would be an awful idea to have one fabricated in Stainless steel?

My boat is of an age where all the original fittings are bronze and I’d like to keep it that way but stainless seems the only option if I want the trim tab anytime soon. If I protect it with lots of Zinc anodes it should be OK shouldn’t it? SS should be strong enough? I don’t imagine the loads on it are that great are they?

Anyone with any thoughts?



I’m not familiar with the freehand, but of course have read about it in the Pardey’s books and on the forum here. Shaula has always had a lift up Aries. I guess you’re thinking of welding SS rather than bronze casting? How about welding silicon bronze plate which I’ve read is possible? Maybe bending or bolting?

The Larry Pardey-designed Mike Anderson-built Freehand Steering System has much going for it. That includes light weight, relative mechanical simplicity, and lack of the need for strong components. Those three things of course go together - because you don’t need much mechanical strength, the Freehand SS components can be simple and lightweight.

The major underwater component is the trim tab. That’s just a servo rudder to the BCC rudder, sitting as it does in the water flow just aft of the rudder. So the trim tab does not need to be a sophisticated NACA foil. The forces needed to turn the rudder are not huge and the direct connection to the rudder means you don’t need toothed gear wheels etc.

All that means that the foil of the trim tab can be a shaped plank of teak (we encapsulated Zygote’s trim tab in GRP after a teredo worm in tropical water found that teak, even though antifouled, too attractive to avoid).

The attachments to the rudder, the pivot of the trim tab, and the worm drive on the rudder head - all of which allow (1) the minor adjustment of the angle of the attack of the trim tab to counter the transverse prop walk of the prop when motoring; and (2) provide attachment for a simple tiller pilot (Z carries an Autohelm 1000 to drive the trim tab, the deal being that the forces involved in turning the servo rudder are tiny compared to the forces needed to turn the tiller).

And those two benefits, probably important in reverse order to what I have given, are high enough to justify just having the underwater parts of a Freehand SS. A tiny tiller pilot does a better job of steering than me most days. And for any shorthander, an inexpensive tiller pilot is a little superior to lashing the tiller.

I see no reason why you could not get those parts (or at least the metal ones) fabricated in stainless steel. Plain ss bar, threaded ss rod, and ss plate are easy to buy and work (or have fabricated). The factor to watch is related to galvanic action and whether you want to add to more ss to whatever mix of metal you have below water.

On Z, the rudder pintle/gudgeon set and the prop are bronze (the prop passes for bronze, goodness knows what it really is!). The prop shaft is ss. I have sacrificial zinc anodes on the prop shaft (a fixed prop) and on the lower gudgeon set. I recently added a tiny shaft zinc on the trim tab axle (bronze and seemed to show a little metal loss at last haul-out).

I conclude that you could fabricate the same parts in ss and likely just add the same additional chunk or two of zinc.

I think it would be advisable, if you DO manufacture your own, to settle on a royalty payment to Mike Anderson.

Alternatively, as the product is light. and it really is, purchase direct from Mike, the manufacturer. You will them receive a proven product.

Well, I have now received my bare castings from Mike Anderson, after a long and patient (on his part) email thread.

Sadly the entire unit was way beyond what my budget could go to but Mike made the generous offer of the castings and some plans at a price I could almost afford and so I jumped at his offer. I’m now starting to source some bronze rod and plate, some delrin to make bushes, and bronze bolts. I’m itching to get started but there are a couple of jobs ahead of it in the queue.

Thank you John for the prompt and thank you Mike for the castings and the help



Johnathan, you’re welcome about the castings, I hope the project is coming along…feel free to ask any questions… be happy to help you along. Can’t help about the cost of bronze, but remember you only do it once, better to be happy the first go around .

Hi John, in reference to a “manufacture’s royalty payment”, I answer with the same answer Larry gave me when I asked if he wanted a royalty for each Freehand made, he replied,“no need too Mike, it’s Public Domain”…I agree. If someone wants to build one, I applaud the effort, and will coach in any way I can.

Thank you for your consideration, speaks highly of you.


Hi Mike,

The project is, um, “on hold” shall we say. I took the castings to a machine shop several months ago, but sadly he stuffed me around for so long that I ran out of time before I needed to depart for Hobart in Tasmania for the wooden boat festival I have packed away the trim tab and the castings with the intention of finding a more reliable machine shop in Hobart. Fingers crossed I’ll have my freehand for the trip north in the autumn