Vintage brass fly reel

While fishing with a grandfather’s fly reel, a long time customer, damaged it. When I received it, the lightweight brass reel was bent and twisted. The sentimental value along with the owners desire to maintain the appearance made this project a challenge however, when I returned it I witnessed an outburst of jubilation!

A key to straightening is the ability to hold the object firmly so as to concentrate the forces only where needed otherwise, more than likely, you’ll make it worse. Even before that you have to identify where the work is needed. If I could take the reel apart it would be easier however, the riveted construction would require some of the parts to be made new and the age worn rich patina would be lost.

The solution eluded me because of the construction and complexity inside and out.

How can I hold this thing and still get in there do the work? It’s fragile how can I concentrate the forces without bending it elsewhere?

It remained on my desk for a while. I thought about it while driving, in my leisure time, and before falling a sleep at night.

It wasn’t until I imagined how it was made that I found the solution that had escaped me. It would require accurate measurements and precision machining but it was the best and realistically the only option.

First step was to machine a cavity allowing me to locate and hold the back plate. I added some dowel pins and through holes to locate and clamp the part that would be doing the straightening.

This is the part that’s going to be doing the straightening, either by clamping alone or in combination with the hydraulic press. The center hole will locate the spindle the reel rides on. I had to mill out a pocket to clear the spring and click mechanism.

Fits good —time to clamp it up.

Not much room but I was able to fit four threaded and two dowel pin holes between the spokes.

All clamped up and super tight!

Looks good, but I had to take it apart to actually see the progress. It worked but, oh boy, was it jammed in there. The part grew slightly when pressed back to round. (It’s hard to measure something when it’s bent and twisted.) How do I get it out without damaging it? Very slowly and carefully; I actually used the pieces machined to realign the standoffs in the next step. Thankfully it worked without further damages.

The pieces to realign the standoff’s slide in from the sides and also help control the space between the back plate and the ring.

To keep everything on location the sliding pieces have a register milled around the perimeter that mates with the base.

With the back held tightly, the rod shoe and the standoffs are properly aligned and held. Now it’s time to make the ring round again.

The center hole registers on a cylindrical portion of the piece that clamps the reel back in the base. The dowel pin holes align with the sliding pieces and the base so that the counterbores align with the rivet heads that hold the ring on.

The protruding ring is tapered so that as the parts are pressed together it works the ring back to round.

When everything is pressed together the ring is also pressed flat and parallel with the back plate.

All the pieces. The flange on the base allowed me to clamp it in a vise.