Antique Vom Hofe reels have end plates made of hard rubber. The modern version of this is Ebonite, used to make bowling balls. This material is available in a suitable form to those who want to be as authentic as possible; see Perfection Fly Reels.
My skills are not at the level where this degree of authenticity is warranted, so I make the end plates from black Delrin.
One advantage of Delrin is that it is a great bearing material. When I made my first reel, this point did not occur to me, so I went to the trouble of inserting Oilite bronze journal sleeves. For the group of 5 reels that I am now working on, I will just run the shaft right on the Delrin end plates.
Delrin is available in rod or plate form. I chose to use rod, but I am not yet convinced that it is the best choice. It may be easier to get the blanks that I need from plate. Here is how I proceed with 3.5 inch diameter rod, which can be purchased by the foot.
For the first reel, I cut slabs using my Delta 14 inch bandsaw. It worked, but I did not like doing it that way. The problem is that the saw has a conventional single phase AC motor, and the speed is fixed. This speed is suitable for most wood cutting, but is a little too fast for cutting plastic. Melted chips re-solidify in the saw’s slotted throat plate and make it difficult to feed the rod into the blade. It helped somewhat when I made a scrap wood sled to carry the rod because the rod was then up off the saw table.
Later I bought a handheld bandsaw from Harbor Freight, because it had a universal (brush type) motor and could be speed controlled by reducing voltage. I made a pivoting frame so it would work more like a real metal cutting bandsaw. This saw has a speed control built into its trigger switch, but I found it somewhat difficult to control so I used a variac to reduce the speed. With lower speed, there is no problem with melted chips.
The fixturing shown here is not the final word; it is awkward to hand hold the rod down on the vise while cutting, and it will become more difficult as the rod gets shorter. So I plan to make a custom V-block vise, probably from wood.
After turning flat faces on the slabs, there is the problem of cutting the proper O.D.; jaws of the chuck are in the way. So I next put in the bores for the shaft journals. That allow me to clamp the slabs against a faceplate from the center. Here is the fixture, using a brass core with Morse Taper 1 to fit the Sherline headstock, and a Delrin plate to apply pressure.
From here on, the material can be held on its finished O.D. with a 3 jaw chuck. But a spacer is needed to get the material parallel with the face on the chuck and to provide clearance from the chuck jaws. Here are two views of my spacer; the back side has slots to clear the vise jaws.
The profiling of the plates can be done with any lathe tool, but I made a special one in order to get the finish as smooth as possible. The cutting element is a 3/8 diameter round carbide insert (RCMT-32.5), available from McMaster. It takes some hunting to find the special screw that secures this insert. (Google “CO-4011 insert screw”. It is M4 – 0.7 x 0.465)
Even with the well rounded cutting edge, visible machine marks are still left in the Delrin. I have decided to leave them as-is, they show that the reel was handmade from bar stock. If anyone has a procedure for polishing Delrin, I would be interested.
Here is a view of finished front and back end plates. The back end plate is dished to accomodate the click mechanism. The only operation not done is drilling for the pillar screws. I intend to make a drill template for this and use it on the end rings also.