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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    55 44.3N 003 43.4W

    Default How to make a Fly Reel

    I thought I would share with everyone on the Forum the Step by Step process of making a 3 Piece Style, 4inch Wide Drum Fly Reel.

    This style of reel has become popular of late in the States and especially amongst Steelhead Fishers. Ed Ward even has a Narrow Drum Perfect hanging from his Loomis Dredger in his DVD Skagit Master.

    With collectors paying silly money for an old one, and the latest reproductions just as expensive I decided to see what all the fuss was about and make my own.

    I decided to use 8082 T6 Bar stock to make my reel, which is stronger than 6061 T6 that a lot of American Manufacturers use. I also set myself the challenge of making it entirely on my 1960s Lathe and hand tools.

    The Main Frame/Cage

    Centre drilling prior to machining

    Cleaning up the Bar Stock

    Parting as deep as possible

    Cutting the remainder by hand

    About 2 lb

    Machining the inside of cage

    Profiling the outside

    Milling out the windows (only using my dividing head as my rotary table is too big to fit on my vertical slide)

    After some hand finishing

    View from winding plate side

    The Reel Foot

    I have decided to make the foot to the AFFTA Spec so that it should fit most rods.

    A lot of the older reels have huge feet and some people actually fish with their reel taped to their rod with electrical tape!

    Squaring up some alloy for the reel foot

    Machining to thickness

    Drilling locating holes

    Using a Ball Nose Slot Drill to profile the Foot

    Making a mandrel to hold the foot

    Ready for machining

    First taper complete

    Second taper complete

    Using a Fly Cutter to radius the foot base for locating on cage

    Counterboring for heads of fixing screws

    Completed foot

    Fits nicely on the cage

    Bearing Assembly

    Starting off with a 2 Piece of Brass

    Turn to size


    Ream to size

    Form a groove for the ball bearings

    Insert some Stainless Steel Ball Bearings and form a cup around them by a process called spinning whereby the metal is forced into shape by applying pressure from a polished tool as it rotates.

    I still have to drill and fit 3 retaining screws, but things are starting to take shape


    I decided to make the Spool out of a hard black plastic called Delrin. It is used to make items such as bearings and gears and it does not absorb moisture as much as Nylon so can be used in marine applications. Also it is nice to machine.

    Roughing out to size

    If you keep the tools sharp you can get a good finish without the need for papering.

    Setting up for drilling the holes in the spool. I am sure whoever made the original model of this style of reel had a warped sense of humour by making a 13 hole pattern. As you will have probably guessed 13 does not go into 360 degrees exactly. The worm drive on my dividing head is 60:1 so I need to turn the handle 4 and 56/91 turns to advance the spool to drill the next hole. Luckily the outer ring on plate N0.1 has 91 holes, so all I need to do is turn the handle 4 complete turns and 56 notches.

    I am using a stub drill which is a lot shorter than say a normal jobbers type drill bit. This prevents the bit from wandering and saves using a centre bit to start the hole.

    Almost complete.

    I think the black ads a bit of colour if you know what I mean.

    Spindle and Gear

    I decided to make the check gear teeth out of some silver steel which is a type of tool steel that can be hardened then tempered if required. Because it is a pawl type arrangement and not a train of gears then there is no need to cut an involute profile. I have used a 60 degree double angle cutter and 40 teeth makes it a nice easy 1 turns of the dividing head per tooth.

    Drilling out a piece of 40mm Silver Steel

    Roughing out a piece of brass

    Pressing the ring of Silver Steel onto the spindle and securing with retainer. I will drill some round key pins at a later stage

    Turning the groove to fit the ball race

    Threading the end of the spindle

    Set up for cutting the teeth using a dividing head on the vertical slide on my lathe

    First cut

    After three cuts per tooth

    Finished spindle and check gear

    This is where it goes

    Winding Plate

    I decided to make the winding plate out of Delrin to match the spool. I was a bit worried that the thin disk of Delrin would not be up to the task so I needed a way of strengthening it. I decided to make a serpentine shaped handle that would provide the strength and then the Delrin would just be a cover plate bearing no load.

    Clean up some 4 Alloy and turn a small boss to secure to spindle and part as deep as possible prior to sawing off by hand

    Drill and Tap

    Saw by hand and face to thickness

    Mark out the serpentine shape

    Saw roughly to shape

    File to shape

    Turning and threading the counterweight before parting off and chamfering

    Turn, chamfer, drill and counterbore the Delrin for the handle

    Turning a flat disk of Delrin on a mandrel

    Completed winding plate assembly

    Ive still got lots to do but couldnt resist a sneak preview

    Check Mechanism

    I am starting off with the shoe for the check spring by turning a ring of aluminium and parting off to size

    Set up to cut out a groove with a flycutter

    Super Glue the ring inside the reel cage and set up to drill hole for rim tension adjuster

    Tapping the shoe with a 6BA Tap

    A couple of hours work to make this little bit of metal!

    Clean up some brass for the rim tension adjuster

    Knurl (would have used a fine straight type knurl if I had one)

    Turn down to size for thread

    Form thread

    Part off and dome head

    Pawl retaining screw about to be parted off

    Set up for slotting heads of screws with a slitting saw. Note the improvised use of an angle bracket to get close the headstock.

    Drill, countersink and partially part a piece of silver steel to make the pawl

    Mark out prior to sawing and filling to shape

    Almost ready for assembly

    Completed check mechanism

    I am not too keen to have any bare brass on show on the outside of the reel as I think the gold clashes with the black and silver. I have decided to nickel plate the rim tension adjuster and the reel foot screws. I have gone for a matt finish rather than the normal shiny finish as I think it matches the aluminium better.

    After a scrub with a toothbrush and detergent I wrapped some fine copper wire around the groove in the thread and lowered it into some nitric acid based de-oxidiser and de-smutting solution for 30 seconds.

    After a rinse in some de-ionized water I am ready to lower it into my DIY plating tank containing nickel electrolyte heated to about 30deg with nickel anodes running off a twelve volt battery.

    I never used any brightening solution and found that twenty minutes was enough to give a nice matt finish.

    I think this should match the aluminium nicely.


    Instead of a highly polished finish I prefer a matt finish to the aluminium which I achieved by using a scotchbrite pad for the final polish. Prior to anodising I gave everything a good scrub with detergent and rinsed thoroughly.

    Each component gets attached to some aluminium wire then the first step of the anodising process is to dip them into some sodium hydroxide de-oxidising solution. Remember these any nasty chemicals so please do not try this at home unless you know what you are doing and remember to wear protective clothing, rubber gloves and face protection and work in a well ventilated area.

    Here you can see the solution at work. The longer the item is left in the solution then the more matt the surface becomes

    Rinse in de-ionised water then dip in nitric acid based de-oxidiser and de-smutting solution

    Another rinse in de-ionised water then into the anodising bath containing sulphuric acid and powered by a 12Volt battery

    Bubbling away nicely

    After about twenty minutes remove and thoroughly rise in water. If the items were to be dyed then that would be done next followed by boiling in a sealer to fix the colour.

    After re-assembly and some final adjustments it is ready to put a line on it and go fishing.

    The reel weighs in at 11 ounces and is pictured here loaded with 100yds of backing and a #10 Double Taper Salmon Line.
    Last edited by Blue Zulu; 15-03-2011 at 03:22 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2009


    Superb Neil,

    Another brilliant post, thourghly enjoyable. I await the next with the bearing mounting.

    It's amazing the number of Bridgeport Mills with Steppers and Cnc units attached that are being discarded for free currently, looks like your got space

    Last edited by Scanny; 12-01-2011 at 03:51 AM.
    "In Britain we have a saying for situations like this.......difficult, difficult, lemon, difficult"

  3. #3


    Very interesting and entertaining pics - many thanks! Gives a little perpective to those who think that a machined fly reel should be a cheap instrument.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2008


    Fair play Zulu,most intresting thread i've seen on here in ages.
    I'll take your second effort off your hands .
    and in August.... the barley grew up out of their graves

    Seamus Heaney ,Requiem for the croppies.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Clitheroe Lancs


    Excellent post and as a time served machinist I can fully apreciate the work involved. I just wish I had made my own when I was still on the machines as I dont get to do any machining in the quality dept.

    Looking forward to the next part.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Co Antrim/ Qatar


    First class Great bit of engineering. When are you taking orders?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2009

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    London / Co. Mayo


    superb work. top marks.

    i cant wait to see part 2.

    do you mind me asking how long would it take to make this reel from start to finish?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2009


    Well done mate. Lovely to see the lathe working.

    Years since I used one .

  10. #10


    Nice work!

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