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May 2011 Newsletter

The Eclectic Angler
The May, 2011 Newsletter
It is finally spring in most of the country! After a very long snowy winter here in the Northeast, followed by torrential rains and swollen rivers, things have finally started to settle down. The fishing has been good and the weather downright pleasant. We've been busy in The Eclectic Anglerworkshop working on new products and techniques to share with you. Our tip this month covers a hot topic - how to flame polish Delrin. Reelflections takes a look at an interesting drag patent and a reel that incorporates that patent.

Table of Contents
  • Announcements
  • New Products
  • May Specials
  • Tip #8 - Flame Polishing Delrin
  • Reelflections - The Rabbeth Patented Adjustable Drag
If you have a story requests or would like to submit a story or tip to the newsletter, please contact me at mhackney@eclecticangler.com. Let's get started!

Our Special Edition Reel Kits have been very well received! The Raised Pillar kit sold out very quickly - but don't worry, we are working on Raised Pillar standard kits in brass and aluminum to be released soon. We are also nearing release of our 2 3/4" 3wt reel kit in brass. Announcements will go out when these are available - with a special offer for our Newsletter subscribers.

The Eclectic Angler is also pleased to announce that we can now accept most major credit cards on our web site, over the phone and even face-to-face (with a very cool iPhone credit card reader). You can also still use PayPal to purchase with a credit card if you choose.

We also wanted to let you know that we will be offering a Reelsmithing Workshop at the Colorado Rodmaker's Reunion. The Reunion goes from July 14 to 16 at Chair Mountain Ranch. The workshop will likely take place on the 14th. Contact me for more information if you would like to attend. The class is almost full.

The Eclectic Angler was interviewed by a reporter from Blood Knot Magazine earlier this year. Blood Knot's "Blue Collar Issue" with the interview was published yesterday. You'll have to scroll through the magazine to read it. It's a little fun and edgy!

New Products
This month we have extended our Fly Line Combo Pack selection to include 3wt, 4wt and 5wt lines in yellow, olive and sand in stock. The sale on these combo packs is continuing this month (see May Specials below). And, of course, watch for several new reel kits to be introduced this month:
  • a 3" all brass raised pillar kit
  • a 3" all aluminum raised pillar kit
  • a 2 3/4" brass 3 weight reel kit

May Specials
Aluminum Reel Kit Sale!
Our metal supplier had a special deal on aluminum last month that we couldn't pass up. So, we are able to offer our Silent and Click Check Aluminum Reel Kits at a great price through May. The Silent Check Aluminum Reel Kit is now 
on sale for $65 and the Click Check Aluminum Reel Kit is on sale for $80 - that's a $15 and $20 savings! You have your choice of black or white Delrin™ for the handle and hub. These aluminum reels nicely compliment fiberglass and graphite rods and light bamboo rods.

Fly Line Special!
We are continuing our popular Fly Line Combo Pack sale through May. These combo packs include your choice of a 3wt, 4wt or 5wt premium quality line in yellow, olive or sand with backing and a tapered leader - 
all for $36. We normally sell these combo packs for $45 and other retailers sell them for $59. We can also special order 6wt to 8wt combo packs at this special price - just email us or add a note to your order with your line weight.

Our tip this month covers a hot topic - flame polishing Delrin!

Tip #8 - Flame Polishing Delrin
Delrin is an amazing synthetic material that has found widespread use in industrial and consumer applications. Delrin is the trade name for a thermoplastic material developed by Dupont in 1956. It's common name is acetal or acetal copolymer. The material is light weight, tough, wear and abrasion resistant, high strength and has a low coefficient of friction (it's sippery). Delrin is naturally white or off-white but can be filled with carbon black to make it black. Both the white and black nicely compliment brass, aluminum and nickel silver reel components. Delrin and acetal polymers are easily machined, drilled and tapped.

For all of its great properties, Delrin has one problem - it is a little tricky to get a nice surface finish. This is not usually an issue for its typical applications as mechanical components but problematic for visible parts. Being a thermoplastic, most of the sheets, rods and tubes you purchase are extruded. Special parts like gears, screws and washers are usually injection molded. Both of these processes leave the surface smooth and glossy looking - quite attractive. However, once you machine Delrin on your lathe or mill, or even work it by hand, that smooth glossy finish is destroyed.

Step 1
Achieving a nice looking finish on machined Delrin parts begins with the machining. Delrin likes to be turned or milled at high RPMs. It is important to use lathe tools that are radiused and very sharp. For that reason, sharp high speed steel (HSS) tooling is much better than carbide or carbide insert tooling. A slight rounding of the tip (I usually use a 1/64" radius on my Delrin lathe tools) helps minimize machining marks, as does a high speed. For some applications, this finish is suitable and maybe even desirable for tool or reel grips and other items that are handled.

Step 2
Once you have a nicely machined surface, the next step is to use a fine Scotch-brite™ pad to further smooth the surface. This is also best done in a lathe if possible with the workpiece turning at high speed. Simply hand-hold the pad and touch it lightly to the surface. This should remove most of the tooling marks and leave the surface with a nice uniform matte appearance. Again, this may be suitable as the final finish for some applications. I like to use this technique for spool plates. The matte finish nicely compliments shiny brass and aluminum. If your part can not be turned in a lathe, you can hand-hold the pad and buff the surface.

It is important to NOT use sandpaper or emery cloth at this stage. These materials inevitably leave a fine grit that impregnates the Delrin surface and is very difficult to remove. After using the Scotch-brite, micro-mesh pads can be used with a final treatment of plastic polish (Flitz™ works well) to produce a low gloss surface. You don't need to do use micro-mesh though if you are going for a flame polished finish.

Step 3
For the ultimate in Delrin finish, flame polishing is the way to go. Flame polishing is exactly what it's name implies - slightly melting the surface with a flame (or heat gun) to produce a smooth glossy finish. The trick to flame polishing is to make sure the part is well prepared and scrupulously clean and apply the heat quickly.

Let's start with cleaning. After machining and Scotch-briting (is that a verb?) the part, wash it in soapy warm water using a soft sponge or rag. Rinse well in cold water and blot dry. The part should not have a dusty residue. Once the part is clean and dry, it is ready to flame polish.

First a safety note: make sure to do this in a well ventilated area and have a fire extinguisher on hand. Better yet, do it outdoors on a calm day. Delrin burns with a very hot colorless flame. If you are not careful, you can get badly burned or set something on fire. Use common sense!

If at all possible, it is best if the part is spun in a drill, drill lathe or lathe while flaming. This helps even out the heat and results in a better finish. I use a 3M 5" sanding pad (without sandpaper attached) on my electric drill and use double sided tape to attach the pad. The Delrin disk is simply stuck to the pad. You are not applying any force to the part, so tape works well.

I use either a propane torch - the kind you can get at the hardware store with a disposable tank - fitted with a flame spreader nozzle to spread the flame or a heat gun (not a hair dryer but an industrial heat gun). The heat gun is slower and gives more control. It is probably the best way to start if you have one. 
Delrin has a melting point around 347°F so set your heat gun to about 500°F. Your torch should have about a 3" flame from the tip of the flame spreader nozzle. Don't attempt to use the normal round nozzle that comes with the torch, it concentrates the heat and is very difficult to control without ruining the part.

Get the part spinning quickly, I find that faster is better. Then, holding the heat gun about 2" away or the torch about 4" away, start at the center of the part and move it to the outer perimeter and off the part in about 3 seconds. You should see the surface of the Delrin change from dull to glossy. If it doesn't, you either need a hotter flame or heat gun (hold it a little closer or turn up the heat) or slow the movement of the heat source over the part. When done correctly, the entire part will look glossy as the heat source moves across it. Turn off the drill or lathe but do not touch the part, it is hot and you might leave a finger print in it. Let the part cool before removing it and doing the other side.

  • Practice with some scrap Delrin first. No sense ruining a good part.
  • I like to do the back side first and then the "good" side.
  • Be careful with edges (like the outside edge of a disk), the heat will cause them to round over. A little rounding is good but it is easy to over do it.
  • It is best to flame polish the part before porting. The heat rounds over the edge of the holes. I find a nice crisp edge looks best on these.
  • If the part does not polish in the first pass or two, let it cool before trying again. You want to keep the heat on the surface and not penetrate the part. The more passes you make over the part, the more you are heating it to its core. It will eventually melt and warp.
  • Once the part is flame polished and cold, a little paste wax helps protect it from scuffing.

The Rabbeth Patented Adjustable Drag
Albert Einstein said "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." I think that is especially true with angling equipment! When I come across a simple but effective design or early patent, it catches my attention. A few months ago, while perusing some US fishing reel patents, I came across patent #691,073 granted Jan. 14, 1902 to Francis J. Rabbeth of Boston, MA. This patent was especially interesting to me since I study and collect MA rod and reels. I'd heard of the Rabbeth patent but never really spent time trying to understand it. But this time I did.

The patent is for an adjustable drag mechanism that is as elegant and effective as it is simple. The basic idea was to isolate the handle from the spool with a "frictional connection". In other words, the spool can turn while the handle is held stationary and the amount of resistance (friction) can be increased or decreased. Here is a quote from the patent:

"In practical use the angler will use the crank-handle in the ordinary manner when he desires to reel in the line. Whenever the fish makes a rush, the angler may continue to turn the crank-handle or he may hold the crank-handle stationary, and whenever the strain upon the line becomes sufficient to overcome the frictional connection between the crank-handle and the spool the spool will turn, while the crank-handle remains stationary, thus paying our the line until the struggle of the fish ceases."

The handle is simply connected to the drive train via a simple clutch. This is an especially nice feature when chasing big game like tuna and tarpon! The fish can run and the angler does not have to worry about busted knuckles from the rapidly spinning handle. In fact, the 1907 Abercombie & Fitch catalog offers two models in several sizes of "Rabbeth" patent handles that can be retrofit on to existing reels. The "Rabbeth" sold for $5 and was made for large game reels. Here is a copy of the product page:

Abercombie & Fitch 1907 Catalog
The "Governor" was a smaller version suitable for lighter reels. The drag is preset to yield just below the breaking point of the weakest link of tackle (usually the line or tippet). Here is the excerpt for the "Governor":
Abercombie & Fitch 1907 Catalog

Of course, several reel makers offered reels with an integral "Rabbeth" handle too.

Shortly after discovering the Rabbeth patent, I acquired this reel fitted with the patented handle. Let's take it apart and see what's inside! 

First, the handle assembly is attached the standard way. A square hole engages the square end of the handle shaft, in this case, the multiplier gear shaft. The embodiment of the patent is contained in this handle assembly (nickel plated brass):
Note the 6 small screws. They are used to control the friction by tightening or loosening them. On my reel, this is set and left alone. I have seen some reels that have 2 or more miniature wing nuts that can be used to adjust the drag on the water.

Here is the backside of the handle. It is stamped "PAT'D JAN 14, '02". The easiest way to track down reel patents by date is with Jim Brown's wonderful book Fishing Reel Patents of the United States 1838-1940. It was published in 1985 but can still be found. It's a real (reel) time saver.

Removing the 6 screws reveals the mechanism:

Here are the guts of the mechanism. The screwed on "cap" is on the right surrounded by the 6 tiny screws. The handle itself has a large hole and a circular recess that holds a thin ring of rubber. I did not want to remove and possibly damage the rubber. The circular part on the left fits in to the recess and its backside contacts the rubber ring in the handle. It appears to be made of nickel silver. It also has a thin rubber ring on its top surface. This presses against the cap when assembled. It has a square hole that engages the reel's drive shaft.

This should give a pretty good understanding of how the drag works. The metal slip disk (left) is screwed on to the reel's drive shaft like a normal handle is. The handle sandwiches the metal slip disk between 2 thin layers of rubber. The cap holds it all together. If the 6 cap screws are fully tightened, the rubber disks grab the slip disk so that it can't turn (except under extreme force). However, if those screws are loosened, the slip disk can be precisely controlled to slip at a specific amount of torque. I have seen reels outfitted with cork, rubber, and leather disks.

The drag works remarkable well and is very simple and easy to fabricate. It seems to have enjoyed a following, especially with the big game anglers, until more sophisticated drags like the star drag were developed. This idea is applicable to today's reels and could easily be incorporated in to one of our reel kits or the design from The Reelsmith's Primer. John Bett's has built and written about a similar slip clutch in his Reels and Making Them (see Section 3 - A Diary). I am going to experiment a little with this and report back in a future issue.