My current reel design has a brass or bronze frame. The “5 weight reel” is a little less than 3 inches over the pillar lugs, and the “3 weight” is a little less than 2.5 inches. I made the first two 5 weight reels from c360 brass, for which I could buy 1/8 and 1/4 thick rectangular bar stock (3″ wide) from Online Metals. It was easy to cut off the required square with a power hacksaw.
I have made 3 reels of the 3 weight size by now, and for those I used c544 bronze. This is available only as round rod, and the largest rod offered by Online Metals is 2.5 diameter. Here is the setup in my garage for cutting disks from the 2.5 inch rod.
Online Metals will cut special lengths, so I buy 1.4 inch lengths, which is enough to make 3 reels (3 front rings and 3 rear end plates), if the hacksaw cuts are carefully made.
I wanted to start making 5 weight reels from bronze also, and had to order 3 inch rod from a distributor who is not as well onboard with Internet shopping. I bought a 13 inch long rod; it weighs 29 pounds.
To hold the rod in the vise, I made two rectangular collars from UHMW.
A 3 inch disk is a little too large to turn using the standard Sherline chucks; the backs of the jaws will hit the lathe bed. I milled 4 flats on the disks so that I could turn without using riser blocks.
Update 9 July 2015: Using my small bandsaw, I cut 14 disks to make 7 reels. But I also cut a couple of unuseable disks. The wooden guide frame is not rigid enough to keep the blade from wandering if I apply too much hand pressure while making the cut. Also, I found that I was spending a lot of time in squaring up the sawn disks.
Parting the 3 inch rod takes a cut-off tool of .120 inch width, so a lot of material is lost in this process. But it is not a lot more than the amount of material that I had to allow for clean-up when using the bandsaw.
Little Machine Shop makes a bandsaw that I probably would have bought had it been available at the time I made my wood frame tool. It has a metal frame that is more rigid, and it is pivoted from the light end of the portable saw, allowing gravity to provide more of the cutting force. This might be the ticket. Of course, there are also full size horizontal bandsaws available from many sources.