Prop School – Part 3: Blade Rake

Ventilation occurs when blades break and re-enter the water’s surface.

Continuing from Prop School….Part 2 .   Here, I will explain the science behind blade rake.

Rake is the angle of a propeller blade face relative to its hub. If the blade face is perpendicular to the hub, the prop has zero-degree rake. As a blade face slants back toward the rear of the prop, blade rake increases. Rake is either flat (straight) or curved (progressive). Most lower horsepower (“lower” by Mercury Racing’s reckoning)  propellers, like Black Max aluminum and Vengeance, have 15-degree rake and are designed to operate fully submerged to push a boat across the water. Typically, higher horsepower outboard and sterndrive propellers have a higher flat or progressive rake.

Rake is the angle of a propeller blade face relative to its hub. If the blade face is perpendicular to the hub, the prop has zero-degree rake. As a blade face slants back toward the rear of the prop, blade rake increases.

A greater rake angle generally improves the ability of the propeller to operate in a ventilating situation. Ventilation occurs when blades break and re-enter the water’s surface — such as occurs with 1) a Bravo sterndrive (XR, XR Sport Master or XR Sport) installed with a high “X” dimension, 2) a surfacing drive (M6 or M8) or 3) an outboard installed or jacked high on a transom. In surfacing operation, higher rake can hold the water better as it’s being thrown into the air — deflecting it aft and creating more thrust.

In surfacing operation, higher rake can hold the water better as it’s being thrown into the air — deflecting it aft and creating more thrust.

On lighter, faster boats with a high prop shaft, increased rake often will improve performance by holding the bow higher. This results in higher speeds due to less hydrodynamic hull drag. However, on some very light boats, more rake can cause too much bow lift. That will often make a boat less stable. Then, a lower rake propeller (or a cleaver style for outboard) is a better choice.

Looking at examples:

  • A runabout with Alpha sterndrive usually performs best with a lower rake Black Max or Vengeance pushing the boat. The aim is broad capability and utility for many recreational activities.
  • A lighter weight runabout with Alpha drive may increase performance with higher rake Enertia propellers lifting the bow offering less wet running surface (lower drag).
  • Bass boats can vary widely because of the design differences among hulls in the market. Mercury offers high rake propellers such as the Tempest Plus and Fury for these applications. Mercury Racing specialty props for the bass market include the Lightning E.T., Bravo I FS, Bravo I XS and Pro Max.
  • The Bravo XR drive, used with higher horsepower multi-length and weight applications, typically use props with high rake and large blade area — such as the Bravo I and Maximus.

Our Pro Finish 5-blade CNC Cleaver prop is available with 15, 18, or 21-degree rake.

The Pro Finish 5-blade CNC cleaver propeller shown on the M8 surface sterndrive.

Performance applications using Mercury Racing’s CNC Pro Finished Cleavers with  M6 or M8 drives have three rake choices: 15, 18 or 21 degree. Most “V” and step “V” bottom boats utilize a 15 degree rake — unless the center of gravity is forward of the helm; then, 18 degree rake works best. The higher rake helps lift the bow — positioning the boat to ride appropriately on the steps. Air entrapment hulls (catamarans and tunnel hulls) pack air and lift during forward motion; they typically use props with 15 to 18 degree rake — since air pressure does most of the lifting.

The Pro Finish 5-blade CNC cleaver propeller.

The 15-degree and 18-degree rake Pro Finish CNC Outboard Cleaver is being used in a variety of applications including bass boats, performance center consoles and catamarans.

Your head probably hurts by now, so I will discuss blade cup in Prop School – Part 4.

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42 thoughts on “Prop School – Part 3: Blade Rake”

  1. WE love these informational propeller posts. Its good for us and our customers to refer to when trying to fit a prop to a Motor and Hull for optimal efficiency and power. Being that were in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are many fisherman that we must teach these very same principles to. Even the High performance guys need help… Thank you for the post

    1. Thanks, Jason. Pleased to help. We held the same belief: more knowledge is good.
      Even high-perf guys,” you say? Especially high-perf guys! 😉

  2. Great Stuff!!
    Ok a couple of questions, I read in an old prop book that props are generally more efficient when they turn slower. Can you shed some wisdom on this? Do you focus on this a lot when finding your self choosing gear ratios for High Performance products? Is there an ideal shaft speed you shoot for?
    Are you going to cover multiple blades in a future post? The CNC race props seem to defy the laws of drag because you continue to add blades and the boats just go faster!!!
    Thanks and keep it up!

    1. Good questions. The old wisdom was based on one element of efficiency – submerged blade hydrodynamic drag, where slower = less. (That still works for ships.) On higher speed craft, there are many more variables. We don’t focus on prop shaft speed; that’s an output of the design, not an input.

      We start with the application: Based on experience, how fast will a boat (of a particular design and range of operating weights) go with the applied power? What style of prop design is proven to work in that application? What pitch works well at that speed and still provides enough thrust at low speed to get on plane? What is the peak engine RPM range? So, expected prop pitch (on the output end) and engine RPM (on the input end) determines the desired overall reduction. The range of applications and boat weights (speeds) then points to the combination of prop pitches and gear ratios that are needed. Obviously, there are limits at both ends: Zero pitch and there is no thrust; infinite pitch and the blade slaps the water like a paddle wheel (only sideways). There’s science behind the designs that gets us very close; however, final selections remain empirical (There are also drive and gear design considerations related to size, drag, torque capacity and life, but that goes well beyond your question.)

      As for the higher blade count on our CNC Pro Finish propellers, think about the surface piercing world in which they operate. More blades make them smoother and reduces the impact on blade entry (because parts of other blades are still under water — pushing and stabilizing). Drag is a balance: Higher prop shaft elevation reduces the drag as less blade area is in the water; That compensates for more blades which would increase drag. Generally, more is better, but there is a practical manufacturing limit: Even with a 5-axis milling machine, there is a point where the tools cannot reach in to machine all the surfaces and neither technicians or media finishing can obtain the final surface quality.

  3. Wow definitely a ton of things you guys get to think about while staring at your clean sheet of paper, or is it empty CAD file?
    OK so I am just making sure I am thinking of this right. Would you say rake has more to do with lift and pitch has more to do with thrust. I know they both have to influence each other but can you make that broad of a statement?
    Looking forward to the blade design post. I am very interested in the Cleaver vs Chopper, Over the hub vs Thru hub, etc etc.

    1. You’re spot on with the rake and pitch. For me it’s staring at running boats along with getting out to events, listening and talking to customers. This weekend it’s the FLW Cup in Hot Springs, AR.

      1. One thing I forgot to ask is what influences a prop to create bow vs. stern lift. We talk a lot about Tempest vs Trophy vs Hi Five and Fury and everyone has an opinion. What is your opinion based on a typical bass boat? How do the different flavors of Merc props have different types of lift?

        1. Opinions, everybody has them and for good reason because there are so many different boats, motors, set backs, engine heights and weight of equipment combinations.
          It’s awesome that Mercury offers so many different propellers and as a general rule of thumb, most 3 blades (not Cleavers) will offer more bow lift than a 4 or 5 blade. In simple terms the 4 blade props typically offers more stern lift, some say picking the whole boat up.
          Fury doesn’t require allot of trim (compared to Tempest Plus) which can decrease gearcase drag improving top speed.
          The Tempest Plus is a fast prop and offers more trimming compared to the Fury. If there’s allot of fishing gear in the front compartments the boat may plow through the water. The Tempest will offer a tremendous amount of bow lift offering good top numbers.
          The Trophy is used in many high speed applications where boat control is key (80+mph). The Trophy offers less steering torque compared to 3 blade because there’s always some metal in the water.
          The HighFive offers awesome hole shot but expect 3-5 mph loss on the top compared to 3 blade.

  4. I am over in the UK and have a Phantom 25 with twin 200xs ss motors counter rotating( outwards) with 1.87 sportmasters on 5″ setback jackplates.
    At the moment i have Et lightnings 14.25 x30 pitch. The boat really takes loads of throttle to get to plane with engines fully down and trimmed in.Also with about 50kg plus of water up front in the bow tank(literally impossible without weight up front) .With engines fully down the bullett is level with the bottom of the hull. Someone has suggested Bravo ones would be better but i did not think they were surface piercing props.
    Any suggestions would be great.

    1. Nick,
      The Bravo I prop lines can be used for surfacing. Consider the Bravo I OC. The barrel design channels the exhaust through the blades for enhanced venting and improved hole shot. The props are Lab Finished to 14.75” diameter for a quick spool-up and offer added cup at the maximum diameter. A total of eight adjustable PVS vent holes regulate the exhaust venting during planing and the shortened barrel minimizes drag at wide open throttle.

  5. From my reads Bow lift from rake is actually the result of the rear forced down due to rake. Increased rake results in a increased downward force from the prop with resultant change in hull angle of attack relative to the still water line. On my outboard hydros there is sufficient aero lift over the deck and air compression under the hull plus rear hydrodynamic lift designed in the hull that props with about 6 degree rake are used to keep the bow lift in check and not excessive

  6. Hi,
    I have a 33ft Powerplay with 2x300xs sportmaster. I tried the bravo 1 3 blades in 28″ but the engine had cavitation up to 4500 rpm and planed after 40 sec. I reached the 58mph what I find little. Now I’m in bravo I finish lab 22″ 4 blades and the problem of cavitation is solved but I only reach 54 mph.
    what advice can you give me to have better performance ?
    thank you

  7. I run a 15′ Boston Whaler. 90 hp Mercury 2 stroke, 4″ setback on a powered jackplate. Except at high speeds, I have the motor trimmed all the way in (down) to reduce porposing as much as possible, using the jackplate and out trim some to fine tune as speed increases. Currently running a bow lifting Laser 2 with 22 pitch.
    What prop could I try to reduce porposing tendency?

    1. Mark,
      Consider the 4-blade Spitfire X7. Typically, 4-blade props change the angle of how the boat runs through the water via added stern lift compared to bow lifting 3-blade props. This could minimize porpoising. The tallest pitch Spitfire is a 21-inch which should achieve similar rpm to the 22-inch pitch Laser II.


    1. Jerry,

      This one is a little puzzling because your motor has a rev limiter that kicks in at 6000 and you would definately not be seeing more than 6100 rpm. I think you should try a shop tach from your local dealer to ensure that you are getting the correct reading. Since you are not on the limiter, you may not need to go up in pitch, but if you went to a 21, your rpms will go down by 150. Expect to gain around 1 mph. With that said, you have done a great job of dialing in your boat!


  9. NICK,

    1. Jerry,

      Wish I could be of more help but you are dialed in! There isn’t anything that Mercury offers that will outperform the Laser II on your setup. You may find 1 mph more on top end by switching to the 21 pitch, but hole shot will always be better with your 20.


  10. Thanks again Nick. I sincerely appreciate you getting back so soon. I will consider this project complete. I am very happy with the overall performance and economy of this package. Performs beyond my expectations. (Wish the XS 115 had been around when I bought this package. There would have been one living on my transom.)

  11. Hi so we are have a Nitro ZV 18 200 Verado 10″ jack plate. Boat came with Enertia 18, top speed 44 mph @6100. I raised the engine 1 1/2″ and I’m at 46 mph @ 6350 it handles good but looking for more speed. Bought a Tempest 19 speed still 46 but rpm 5900 so i raised the engine another 1/2″ now at 6100 but no increase in speed. Boat is bow heavy thought the tempest would lift the bow. Looking for a suggestion for more top end, nitro says it should run close to 50. Thanks CJ

    1. CJ,

      Consider the Bravo FS 20 pitch. Switching to a four blade propeller will help to keep you hooked up now that you are at elevated engine heights. For reference a good starting point for engine height will have 2.75 inches between your cavitation plate and the bottom of your boat. Measure by leveling your boat with its trailer jack and measuring from the ground to the bottom of the boat, and then the ground to the cavitation plate and subtract the difference. The FS is a great bow lifting prop, it will also help reduce your slip for higher top end speed.


      1. Thanks Nick
        I didn’t have a lot of time to play with the Tempest as it got cold here, Do you think a 20 pitch would be to much?

        1. CJ,

          A 20 pitch in a Bravo will be very close considering they run light in pitch compared to other propeller families.


  12. I have a Ranger 198 pro, 2019 with a 150 Mercury engine. The boat came with a 23 pitch prop. The motor will turn 5500 rpm but I cannot get the front end up. About 6 foot of the boat remains in the water at full trim and will only run about 42 mph. It does good at about 30 mph, motor holds the bow up so we don’t get wet, this is about 4000 rpm. If I increase the motor speed and trim the motor it seems to go down in the bow and gets to about 42 mph max. seems like about 60 % of the boat is in the water. Makes for a wet ride…..any suggestions “

    1. Raymond,

      Does your boat have a jack plate? It sounds like your engine height could be off. These boats usually come standard with the 23 Tempest and run around 57-58 mph. A few guys have switched to the Bravo I FS and gained in top end speed and hole shot but we would need to figure out your engine height issue first.


  13. I have a 20 ‘Tuffy with a 2000 optimax 200.
    My boat had a terrible porpoising problem so I raised the motor one hole. It totally eliminated the porpoising it’s amazing. I am running a 21 P Tempest plus. The bow comes down in less than three seconds on the hole shot now and stays down no matter what the speed. Bow almost seem a touch low but boat does cruise very level. At WOT trimmed up I had a steady alarm go off twice and it would go away once I pulled back. At WOT it was 50 mph at 5700 RPM. I tried out a friends 21P Rev4 fully plugged before I raised the motor and it had an incredible hole shot and really improved handling but it did nothing for the porpoising. Am I over revving now with the 21P Tempest Plus ? I have also lost 3 mph now at top end when I raised the motor one hole.

    1. Nate,

      At your elevating engine height, your slip is increased. Consider the 22 pitch Bravo I FS, the fourth blade will keep you hooked up. Expect similar RPM at wide open throttle and a pickup of 3-4 mph.


  14. I have a 25 Fountain CC (later rebadged at a 23 TE for SKA rules) running a 2006 225 Pro XS. The boat had a Yamaha SWS 15 1/4 x 19 pitch 19-M prop which was maxing out at 47 MPH and 5300 RPM. Target RPM for this motor should be about 5700 so in entering this data into the Prop selector, the top recommendation for speed was the Mercury Enertia 14 x 19. I bought an Enertia 19 and have been a bit disappointed with the performance thus far. It actually seems like it has lost some bow lift at all RPM’s and is across the board a little slower than the generic Yamaha prop. The Enertia 19P is maxing out at 45 MPH and 5400 RPM under the same load and trim condition. On a positive note, the Enertia prop does handle a little better and has less tendency to porpoise at speeds below 35. I really want to get a prop matched with the optimal 5700 RPM as that Pro XS isn’t reaching its peak horsepower until you get to 5600- 5700 rpm. I also would like to improve the top end and feel that I should be able to crack at least 50 mph. I’d really like to see 52 or so.

    1. Dave,

      18 to 20% slip sounds accurate for the Enertia. Consider the 20 pitch Bravo I FS. Your RPM will still only be around 5500 but you should pick up speed, netting you about 50 mph.


      1. Thanks Nick. Do you think I would need to raise the engine to take advantage of the 4 blade setup? It doesn’t seem to me that going to 4 blades and a higher pitch prop would actually increase speed and rpm without some other adjustment.

        1. Dave,

          Run it at your current height first and adjust from there. You want to change one thing at a time to see what works and what doesn’t.


  15. Very interesting series. On the topic of rake, and curved rake, are there any efficiency penalties for adding rake to a propeller? I know that very upright blades (low rake) are generally stern lifting, and very raked blades are typically “less stern lifting” so they lift the bow instead (or at least so I’ve come to think of it). But if we ignore what a particular hull wants in terms of lift for a moment is there such a thing as “optimum rake” to maximize forward thrust trough the water?

    Also, which prop that Mercury makes do you think has the most bow lift for use around 35-50 knots in submerged single 300 hp applications? Bravo FS? Bravo XS? Bravo OC? ProMax? Something else?

    1. Fredrik,

      It is hard to pin efficiency based on one dimension. Straight shaft drive race boats (Arneson drive) that run our propellers typically use 13 degree rake, which is basically only pushing the boat forward and not providing lift, especially when compared to the 18 or 21 degree rake cleavers. Blade shape, diameter, blade count, and size of the barrel also play into how much rake is needed. Higher blade count, larger diameter, and bigger barrel size (non cleaver) will all add stern lift. In order to balance this out, more rake is added.

      The Bravo I FS will have the most bow lift for that speed range. Three blade Mercury propellers such as the Tempest will offer more bow lift yet.


      1. Thanks Nick, very interesting. It’s definitely a bit of a rabbit hole trying to understand it all works with blade area and rake etc. We have a boat which is running a tad wet (nose heavy) but which still probably requires 4-blades for grip and rough water handling, I think we might try the Bravo I FS.

  16. Is there a reason that the Bravo FS is not recommended for the sportmaster gearcase and only the HD 5.44″ case? Im considering running one on a 300R.

    1. Alex,

      The only Sport Master application that the Bravo FS is not recommended on is the 450R due to the addded stress all of that power brings. For a 300R, it is a great prop. There are guys running them on bass boats over 85 mph all day.


  17. what the suitable racing prop for 15hp with the small speedboat…i mean,what the diameter,pitch and style are good?

    1. Alau,

      What kind of boat are you running? We no longer make the smaller race props but I can try to point you in the right direction.


  18. So, if rake is important to bow lift.. If a cleaver with 15 degree rake works well on a 22ft liberator with a 300R with a tested weight of appx 1600 lbs
    What(cleaver) rake angle would be best for a similar hull design that requires more bow lift (Simmons 22ft Top Cat) with a 300R weighing in tested at 3100 lbs?

    What rake does the Bravos FS & XS have ?
    Would you choose a cleaver based on the same rake of say a Bravo FS if it was working well for you ?

    1. Don,

      I believe Simmons has tested our cleavers in the past, may be worth a phone call to Eric to discuss. The 18 rake could be a good fit, although typically the cleavers will see the most impactful gains on hulls over 100 mph. The first step to improving speed over a Bravo I FS would be the MAX5 ST. On a 100 mph boat, slip is typically cut in half when switching to the MAX5 from the Bravo, and then cut in half again when switching to the Cleaver from a MAX5. If you are seriously considering a cleaver, we can find a way to facilitate a test.

      Rake is very high on the Bravos and MAX5s because you have to offset the stern lift generated by having a barrel.


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