Brass S-Crank

This reel, serial number 72, will probably be a one-off. I have given up trying to make batches of reels to sell.

It is 3 inches across pillars. Because it is mostly brass it is heavy, 7-1/8 ounce. Only the spool end plates are aluminum. It is sized for WF5F and a modest amount of backing.

The black side plates (plastic laminate) are decorative only. The reel is fully functional without them. The end plate webs are just .030 inch thick, but contribute to the weight.

Inside is my usual click mechanism, acetal ratchet and pawl. Both the pawl and spring pins are symmetric; a kink in the spring biases the click strength.

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Red Chile

Yes, I do like the local Carne Adovada, but “Red Chile Water” is New Mexico’s designation for fly fishing only, catch and release streams.

The Covid epidemic kept me from fishing for more than a year, but this summer I have visited the Navajo Dam area of the San Juan River twice. It is a tailwater fishery and grows many large trout that feed on invertebrates washed from under the dam. It is also a state park. Water temperature is 42-46 degrees F year around, but I do not know whether natural reproduction takes place.

Guided fishing is very popular here because a guide can load his clients into a boat and easily control the situation. Fishing is done with a pair of small nymphs, split shot, and an indicator (known to bait fisherman as a bobber). I was on such a trip a couple years ago and can attest to the effectiveness of the method. Here on a 1 inch grid are a tandem set of flies left from that expedition. The beadhead is probably size 14 and is there mostly for weight. The smaller fly catches the fish.

A typical float trip starts at the Texas Hole boat ramp and goes downstream to the Crusher Hole ramp. The boats cannot go upstream from Texas Hole because they cannot navigate the shallow riffles in that direction. Here is a shot of one the riffles, looking down at a passage into the Hole.

Wanting to fish on my own rather than satisfy the need of a guide to prove himself, I have found that the riffles are full of 8 to 10 inch rainbows that will take swung wet flies of size 14. (The guides at the Hole and below will hook one up with 16+ inch fish.) Wading here is reasonably easy when water flow is 400 cfm or less. Also, there is a slow, silty area above the lowest set of riffles where fish surface feed in the late morning and dry fly fishing is effective. I have been very pleased with my two visits.

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Orvis Reel Repair

Francisco has an Orvis Odyssey IV reel, the largest of 4 Odyssey sizes and the one advertised as a “Big Game” model. The spring is stainless wire, but was fatigued and needed replacement. It is a simple shape and so an easy DIY task.

I sent him a bit of the finest wire that I had, .024 inch diameter. But it needed something finer yet.

He bought some finer sizes from McMaster (Spring Back Multipurpose 340 Stainless Steel Wire) and ended up installing .015 inch diameter.

How is it that I am typically using .029 wire for trout reel springs, and he needs much smaller wire for “Big Game”? The answer is of course geometry. I have a greater distance between wire support points and a quite different contact with the pawl.

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Ferrule Shrinking: Avoiding a Ridge

Jim is a rod builder/repairer in Australia who recently described his use of the ferrule shrinking tool.

“I bought one of your tools quite some time ago and have used it often over the years to fix old rods I’ve done up, or just heavily used later builds belonging to myself and friends. One bugbear I used to have was repositioning the tool over a longer female and producing the ridge you describe in one of your earlier articles (if the repositioning didn’t quite overlap where the ‘first pass ended). Worse still was doing a third pass over the ridge (big mistake) which produced a ridge inside the female which is very difficult to remove.
More recently I’ve been using the tool slightly differently and that seems to have completely overcome those problems. First, I mark the maximum depth the male slide will reach inside the female and mark just short of that point (ie just beyond the moisture dam) on the outside of the female with a fine permanent marker. I then insert the female vertically into the tool from the bottom up and tighten the two tension screws evenly with the mark just showing beyond the lower edge of one of the bearings. I then wear a leather glove on my left hand to protect the side of my hand from friction, grip the shaft of the rod with a closed fist and turn the rod and tool sideways. I have found that spinning the tool quickly with my right index finger against the tension screws for leverage WHILE also applying sideways pressure with my gloved hand gripping the rod shaft, will gradually spin the tool the full length of the female – but ensuring I end just shy of the reinforcement ring. The result appears to apply even pressure over the whole length of the female, so overall the ferrule fit is more even. If several passes are required with slightly more tension each time, the mark is still there, so it is just a case of going over the process.
By the way, I’ve never had to tighten the tensioning screws beyond finger tightness on any ferrule I’ve worked on to date.
I also bought one of your lovely little reels and that is still going strong – the patina on the bronze is superb after several years.

“The only things I might add is that the ‘gloved method’ does feel a little awkward at times to get that sideways pressure, but it is worthwhile persisting. Also, subtle, even, incremental tightening is important to ensure each pass moves up the female without binding in one spot. I did one for an acquaintance a year or so ago where I got distracted with too much fishing talk and either overtightened, or tightened unevenly and the tool got hung up straight away, which was bad news! However, that is the only fail so far using this method.”

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Powder Coating

My friend Terry has been experimenting with powder coating for reel finish.

Powder coating is done with a dc supply aiding the attraction of paint to the object. I quizzed Terry about the process, and here is his explanation:

“I bought all of my powder coating equipment from Eastwood .  I also bought a small pancake air compressor from them, but I could not get the spray gun to work right with it, so I ended up using my larger Craftsman compressor, which worked really good.  You only use about 7 or 8 psi maximum with the gun.  For some reason, the pancake compressor could not provide enough air volume at the required pressure to allow the gun to spray the powder properly.  I made a small jig that press fits into the hole for the spindle in the frame.  It has a 4 inch long 1/4″ diameter spindle and a 3 inch diameter base the is 3/8” thick.  Both the base and the spindle are made out of aluminum.  Using this spindle, The spindle presses into the back of the frame.  I first placed the frame on the floor with the back side up and the spindle and base sticking up.  Then I sprayed the back and sides of the frame.  Then I very carefully picked up the frame by the jig and the set the base of the jig on the floor.  This positioned the frame with the back down and the inside of the frame facing up.  This allowed me to easily spray the inside of the frame.  The jig also allowed me to turned the frame in either position 360 degrees as required.  The ground wire for the electrical system is attached to the spindle just above the base.  Once the frame is fully sprayed, then I very carefully picked up the jig with the reel frame on it and placed it in the toaster oven I bought and brought the temperature up to 400 F.  Then allowed it to bake for 25 minutes after I seen the powder flash and flow.  I also bought a digital remote temperature gun from Eastwood to keep track of the temperature of the part while it was baking.


“The thickness of the powder coat is about 0.002″ +/-.  The powder coat is really tough, and if your want to remove it, it is really hard to get off.  I even tried a steel wire wheel on my Dremel tool and even that barely worked.”

Eastwood is a supplier of equipment for auto work, and I think that powder coat is used for engine parts because it can take high temperatures. Perhaps there is another powder coat source that offers a smaller gun that would work with a small compressor. I searched a bit for guns, but they all look pretty large.

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Electroless Nickel

I showed this reel in a 13 June 2020 post (A “Perfect” Reel Configuration), with all the interior shots. But the anodize process for the frame and spool had failed, so it was not very attractive. I tried stripping the coating and re-doing the anodize, but appearance did not improve. Finally. I took the two aluminum parts to a local plating shop and had them put on a nickel coating.

I had been thinking that I would “blue” either the frame or the spool, but investigation revealed that nickel plating does not take bluing. Nickel silver rod parts can be blued because that alloy is mostly copper.

Electroplating is not workable for a complex geometries like this, it would be difficult to design an anode that made a uniform electric field over all the surface of the parts.  Electroless nickel is the only approach.

The naturally developing oxide on the surface of an aluminum part is a problem for either electroplating or the electroless process. Parts have to first get a “zincate” coating, which displaces the oxide layer and protects the surface until nickel plating occurs.

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Terry’s Reel #6

This is my friend Terry’s most recent reel project. The intended use is steelhead and salmon fishing with heavy tippets.

Photo of the finished reel. This reel is 3.75 inch in diameter and is patterned after a Hardy Marquis #9, except that the spool is 1/8 inch wider.

Back of the reel frame.

End view.

Front of the spool and inside of frame, also the spool retaining screw.

Inside of frame showing two pawl layout. Two pawls increase the outgoing drag. If drag is too much, one pawl spring can be removed.

Back of spool with Delrin clicker gear.

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Improved Cutting?

I received a lengthy technical education at Purdue University, and as an astute organization they keep track of me in case I might make them some future bequest. So I get regular bulletins from them covering research activities. One of the reports recently caught my attention.

This report concerned ordinary machining, and I am pleased that people at a university would still consider such a mundane thing. The full text of the research paper is here: Organic monolayers disrupt plastic flow in metals

But the summary in the bulletin is what I found interesting:
“The researchers previously showed that the application of a permanent marker or Sharpie, glue or adhesive film made it easier to cut metals such as aluminum, stainless steels, nickel, copper and tantalum for industrial applications. Marking the metal surface to be machined with ink or an adhesive dramatically reduced the force of cutting, leaving a clean cut in seconds. Now, they have discovered how these films produce the effect.”

Can this be a technique for us home shop machinists? I did a quick and dirty test, marking a piece of 6061 with a Sharpie.

Then I took a pass at .020 radial depth. The bit is HSS.

Was cutting easier/cleaner where the Sharpie covered? I could not tell a difference. But this was just one quick experiment.

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Reel #5 by Terry

This one is a 3.5 inch trout reel, similar in design to previous work by Terry, but an improvement in details.

This view of the back of the spool shows the Delrin ratchet, which is one piece with the bushing. The bushing runs on a stainless spindle. Terry says he has a good fit of the bushing bore, that a spin with the finger will cause 6 revolutions (in the absence of a pawl). Editor: for my reels I have been using 5/16 inch ground stainless shaft material and just drilling the bushing with an 8 mm drill. I believe that when Delrin is drilled, the bore is slightly small than the nominal drill size. The fit is good but it is not as free spinning as this.

The frame windows were cut with the frame mounted to a rotary table that is at right angles to the mill bed. For a clean inside surface, he made the final pass as a climb cut around the each window.

The spring wire was bent freehand and so is not a tidy fit to its two pins. This really has no effect on spring action. Having a bending fixture would help.

Clockwise from top left are his five reels so far: diameters 4.5 inch, 2.25 inch, 3.5 inch (this one), 2.88 inch, 3.25 inch.

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Reel #4 by Terry, Trout Size

Another reel by Terry from Idaho. He has been busy designing and making one-off reels for his own use. I think this one is just slightly larger than his first reel. Pictures and captions below by Terry.


Here a 1-1/4” long piece of aluminum is being cut off of a 12” long billet of 3.5” diameter 6061 aluminum in my horizontal band saw.
Editor’s comment: For someone just starting out in reel making, a metal cutting bandsaw does not have to be at the top of your tool list. Vendors like Online Metals will cut bar stock to custom lengths.


This is the reel frame mounted in the rotary table set vertically on on my milling machine.


Now about ½ of the sides are cut out of the reel frame. Note the 2 holes drilled in the top of the reel frame to the right of the area that has already been cut out. These holes are the alignment for the milling cutter to start to cut out the right side of the reel frame.


Photo of the side of the reel standing on the reel foot.


Inside of the reel frame showing the Delrin pawl and spring.


The reel spool. You can just barely see the Delrin clicker gear on the right side of the spool. The reel frame and cap screw are in the background.


The brass cap screw.


Interface of the reel foot and frame. On this reel, I cut a radius in the bottom of the reel foot that fits the outside radius of the reel frame. I think this makes the reel slightly stronger since I did not remove any material from the outside of the reel frame so the reel foot could fit in a slot. This just leaves a little more depth of aluminum material where the screws that hold the reel seat in place pass through the frame.
Editor comment: This is a small but important detail. The securing screws need to have about 3 threads engagement into the reel frame, and making the interface curved helps. It is also possible to turn the screws around, threading into the foot from inside the frame. I did this on my “Reel 37”. Had to fabricate a long countersink to reach across the frame.


The reel with a machinists scale laying across the top to give you some reference as to the actual size of the reel (3.25” diameter).


Here all 4 of the reels I have completed so far. The newest reel is at the bottom right of the photo.

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