This section is from the book "American Game Fishes", by W. A. Perry. Also available from Amazon: American Game Fishes: Their Habits, Habitat, and Peculiarities; How, When, and Where to Angle for Them.
The material generally used for their construction is brass, hard rubber, and german silver. By german silver, is not meant nickel-plated-for this is only a brass foundation, plated over with nickel, and after a short service, the latter rubs off, leaving an unsightly looking surface; but german silver is hard solid metal, the same color clear through, takes a high finish, and is about the best material used for making reels.
A perfect multiplier requires as much care in its construction and as skilled workmanship as the finest watch; and when you see an announcement that a firm is making an all-machine article, and have done away with "the old-time hand-made principle," you had better not go to this firm, for a lasting i mpanion.
In 1834, fifty-five years ago, I saw the need of a first-class reel-one that could be relied upon, and that would always be found in order, I was then at the watch-making business. I spent several weeks at hard work, and at last finished a reel of as fine workmanship as I was capable of doing.
This was made of brass. I had hardly finished it, when a local angler who had experienced much trouble, came in and at once bought it for twenty dollars. He used it for a long time, and it proved so easy and so smooth, in operation, and stood the rough usage so well, that several other anglers came and ordered duplicates of it. So the "Frankfort, or Kentucky" Reel was first made.
Those made for local anglers found their way abroad, and a good trade has been built up on this class of reels. Anglers have found that a reel that is high-priced at first, proves cheapest in the end, for those made away back in the thirties, are good to-day, and have been in constant use ever since they left the shop. There is only one way to make a pericet whole, and that is to make each part perfect as you go. In the first place, you should get your metal rolled hard till it springs like steel. The caps and plates are then cut from this. Never should a casting be used; it is too soft, and a smart fall may break your cap, and render this part of your outfit useless. Bars are turned from the same hard material. Next, your gearing must be adjusted so that you feel not a bump, but a steady roll when the handle is turned and the weight is put on. The pinions must be of properly tempered steel, and the wheel of hard-hammered brass. Thus, all your parts gotten out, they must be put together with great care, so that when the thing is complete, it runs noiselessly and smoothly, yet the spool is free from shake or vibration.
The secret, in a long-lived reel, is the gearing. This must be made to absolutely roll. If there is the slightest friction the evil will continue to grow with use, and soon you will have a regular coffee mill. This is the part that requires the greatest skill in its construction.
The truest machinery will occasionally produce an imperfect tooth. After we have made our wheels with the latest and best gear-cutter, also our pinions, every pair is tested and the least bump or jar is taken off with a file by hand. This requires experience and knowledge, and herein lies the superiarity of our hand-made gearing. We expend more time and labor on our gearing alone than is used to make a complete machine reel; but after this is done, and done correctly, you are equipped for a life-time. We make eleven sizes, from oo to 9. The 00 is one and one-fourth inches in diameter, and the 9, three and one-half. Nos. 7, 8 and 9 are for Tarpon-fishing and heavy sea-work, while o and 00 are fancy sizes, and too small for much heavy angling. Nos. 2, 3 and 4 are the sizes most used. We attach a click and drag so that our reels can be used for bait-fishing, fly-fishing or trolling.
A reel requires a great deal more care than many of them receive. We frequently get them in, for repairs, that have been used ten or twelve years, and that have never been oiled. A reel is a delicate piece of machinery, and requires oil and care accordingly, if you would get the best work out of it. Properly, it should be cleaned and oiled every fall, after the fishing season is over, and every spring before it begins. With a little care, one can clean the reel himself, and save time and money. First get a screw-driver, small enough to fit the screws on face-plate, then take the handle off first, next remove the top screws, then the bottom screws. Never touch the alarm and rubber screws; let them alone and they will take care of themselves. They are so arranged that you can get your cap off and not interfere with the blocks. So, be careful, for this is where you are likely to get into trouble, by taking out alarm and rubber blocks and not being able to put them in properly. It is best, as already stated, to let them alone. Now you have all the screws out of the cap, and you find the cap refuses to slip off. See if you have the rubber off; if you have, that is the cause; for the rubber block is under a spring that is screwed to the inside plate, and holds your cap fast; so slip the bottom, so that the drag is on. Now try, and if you cannot pull the cap off put one of the top screws in the outside hole, in the one it came out of; don't screw it in, simply put it in as far as it will go, and then tap the head with the butt of your screwdriver, and your cap will drop off. Now take out the screw in the end of the top-bar, and your end-plate will come off, and your reel will be in pieces and ready to clean. Get a tooth-brush and some alcohol, and clean every part, and then take a piece of pine, sharpen the end and put in the first holes at the ends of plate and cap, cut off the lock dirt and put it in again, and again clean it till the stick comes out clean. Clean inside of wheel in same way. After you have your parts all bright, you are ready to oil. The great mistake made, generally, is in putting in too much oil. By doing this, you clog your spool and it will not run. Put one drop of good sperm oil in the first hole in plate, one in cap, two on pinion that reel runs on, one on end of drag-pin, and three on the teeth of the brass wheel at different points. Now put the parts up just as you took them down, and your reel is as free-running as when new. Do this every fall and spring, and a good reel will last fifty years.
No matter how tight-fitting your reel may be, you should clean and oil it after fishing in salt water-not every day, but after each salt-water trip, it should be cleaned and oiled, for nothing injures a reel so much as salt water. It fairly chews up the steel parts, so the salt water should not be allowed to stand long on a reel.
By B. C. Milam.