Advantages and Uses of Roller Bearing Sailboat Blocks | Expert Advice

So you may be asking yourself, Why would I need a fancy shmancy Roller Bearing Block? What makes them so special anyway? Well..we are here to show you.

Roller Bearing Block

One of the greatest advantages of a Roller Bearing Block over a Plain or Ball Bearing Block is the low friction safe working loads.  Highly loaded lines in a Roller Bearing Block will run faster, and adjustments are much easier.

Roller Bearings may not necessarily run as free as ball bearings, but they do offer a significantly higher working load. Ball bearing block are only able to offer about a third of safe working load versus a similar sized roller bearing block.  So, what’s the catch? Why not use roller bearing blocks all over the place? My thoughts exactly but the answer comes down to, Cost!  They are just a wee bit more expensive than both Ball Bearing and Plain Bearing blocks.

The high-load Torlon bearings are self-lubricating and come in either a cassette or as loose individual rollers. The Torlon rollers provide a greater surface area (spread the load out) than ball bearings and provide the block its high working loads.

Why’s that so great? Under the same high loads, ball bearings would flatten out then not roll as  freely, and plain bearings would handle the load but with even more friction.

Roller Bearing Block parts

Roller blocks come with small, Delrin ball bearings around the sides of the sheave that take up side loads when the block is unevenly loaded.  These added ball bearings prevent the sheave from rubbing directly on the check plates of the block.


Where to use Roller Bearing Blocks

These blocks are designed for high load applications that are adjusted somewhat frequently and need to operate with a minimum amount of friction.

They are usually found on boats that are 35′ and above. Roller Blocks are perfect for backstays, mainsheets, afterguys, guy leads, tack lines, etc.

Roller Bearing Block parts

Maintenance for Roller Bearing Blocks

Roller bearing blocks can be easily taken apart with a hex wrench to clean or replace parts.

Hose blocks with fresh water to remove dirt and salt.  Do not use Sailkote on roller bearings (nor ball bearing) blocks.  Rollers (and ball bearings) require just a bit of friction to entice the desired rolling.  This stuff is too slippery and may impede rolling.  Stick to McLube OneDrop if lubrication is required.

While these blocks are a bit more expensive, they are still unbeatable for high load, high performance situations.

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