richardkell (richardkell) wrote,

specialist tackle ...


In essence a fixture to machine / mill the windows or apertures in a bar-turned fly fishing reel, another contraption to move along in my thirty year workshop move, a vast amount of 'stuff' that the bods that decided to redevelop the site had utterly no idea about. It illustrates my approach of perhaps not much money to throw at it but lots of application and hard graft.

When I was at Hardys of Alnwick circa 1975-82 it was nearly all turned from castings from the foundry, the need for purer anodising spec bar material was not yet neccessary to any great extent but on reflection hazy memory tells me occasional batches of sawn billets had started to appear. The foundry product is a much quicker and economical way of doing things as opposed to masses of machining to reach the 'as cast' dimensions before finish machining, foundry frames even have the rough cast apertures for the windows and is nice stuff to machine.

All my own Richard Kell reels were hard anodised and probably the first in the world to be able to resist the 'Stanley knife test', a standard of anodising that is very specialised and few if any anodisers either agree to it or can be trusted to give the reel maker what he wants. In the design and development work I had three patent applications also that were I assume unique (and useful) features. But after a few months in the mid 1980's and another two thousand hours over three years 1996-99 my enthusiasm dwindled, I was tired of it as a one-man activity as it is an awfully tortuous and long route to a finished saleable product, and so I am left with a lot of dedicated tooling, work in progress and development work that only sold a handful of reels, lots of it probably unique because of my approach to such work. If you are given a regular wage at this activity then the pressure is a fraction of being a one-man business living from what you make and deliver, but when you are financing everything yourself such big projects are very dangerous, the pace as with all self employed price work is fast but at least with simpler products you arrive at something saleable much quicker. Points of quality and detail drive the completion time further and further away. My problem also is that my standards are too high, I am a fast worker and intensely applied but at too high a level, I see faults that others cannot, it pains me if something is not 100% correct.

There was a lot of innovation in the tooling as well as the product, not so much as 'development' as I usually got the tooling right first go in my head: I have incredibly good visual imagination, so that i can build/ make whatever i want in my head and run it, theres no need to 'lets see if it works' crap. This is as long as I'm interested in the problem, latterly with very occasional customers for one-offs I'm afraid I run up to a blank wall, I'm no longer interested.  All this multitude of new tooling and apparatus for the reels occasionally embodied new tricks that I've never seen elsewhere to achieve quality and repeatability. I'm not particularly clever but as it is what you do for a living therefore you are bound to become adept, have insights; probably merely just a little bit ahead of most workers and with the luxury of working on my own. I was obsessed with tooling and controlling the process, to generate the quality I was looking for and once fully tooled many imponderables would have been dealt with.

So this fixture is a good example of what I achieved.

To cut a long story etc this device is an excellent solution for a difficult problem, it is not a Hardy solution (they do it differently for volume)  but mine is merely a method that sprang to mind with the resources at my command and aiming for a flawless and repeatable solution. Engineering is all about minimising what can go wrong, to control the process. I was delighted with the surface finish I could achieve with this for milling reel frame windows, 'straight off the tool'.


So that is the start of it, bar turned and as shown above the need to mill the 'windows' cut with a homemade concave cutter, with a high quality finish straight off the tool, reflected light is the great test. Also fool-proofed in operation as already there has been a lot of time invested in the component ie turning, drilling (accurately) and engraving. All turned moulded features are hand turned and never touched with abrasive paper, real freehand turning. The 'art' of hand turning metal ie the trade of the 'brass finisher' is very rare indeed in this modern world and I couldn't personally count myself a turner if I couldn't do it, because in my own place handturning of metal adds so much more to product quality, for instance look at all the tiny gleaming chamfers on my honing guide bobbins, for other work I often apply double chamfers ie 30 and 60 degrees cut with razor sharp tools.

Another instance of the cleverer man is the practical 'art' or delicacy in being able to both drill accurately and fit steel location pins as per the location plate above, unless anyones done it to an equal standard they don't know how close I can make it, as in the above situation there must be no slop or discernable movement, whereas in many jigs and tooling there must be a controlled clearance introduced so that the jig and component are easily manipulated ioe loaded / unloaded.  For instance knowing the feel of a transition fit and knocking off a half thou or a third of a thou to give yourself the clearance you are aiming for becomes intuitive, its mostly done in the minds eye aided with a micrometer to determine and verify; your hands are trained, they know themselves what to do. Also, I never use a drill 'straight from the packet', always doctoring it to produce better and more accurate results, I can control how a drill works or the size it produces to within say a quarter thou in small sizes, it is a developed intuition that comes form pushing ones-self to do better, mostly its minds-eye stuff. If I worked amongst others there would be too much of the 'near enough' ....  I have the luxury of being able to focus and concentrate in my own environment.


The frame of the fly reel clamps onto a multi-pin aluminium location pad that accurately registers onto the larger steel rotating faceplate and shaft, circular motion actuated by the large (ex lathe of 1895) changewheel and custom-made worm to match the DP (diametrical pitch) of the Edward Hines changewheel.  In fact the change wheel is going back to where it belongs on a stack of them, any (if any of say half a dozen makers in the world) is a potential buyer of this window milling fixture they will need to locate or have made a suitable replacement, its not an impossible task.

The white rectangle helps 'dampen' any potential chatter or looseness when cutting and also any potential slop when reversing the direction of rotation ie to achieve a very good surface finish, split at bottom to nip up onto the O/D of the rotating steel faceplate. The ally block underneath means for fast setting up, merely held in the machine vice, as small cutters are used this is quite tolerable, and its all done in the Bridgeport so we have the advantage of mass. I'm usually quite secretive re my methods but as theres a vast amount of other techniques and tooling, this is merely one tiny part of the whole.


Think about the provenance, the Edward Hines lathe of Jamie Maxtone Grahams grandfather the 14th Marquis of Colquoy (Mrs Miniver etc)  ...  a changewheel from ditto (and incredibly a full set) ... and here we are helping to make richard kell reels. You couldn't make this up.....

I think this post illustrates my integrity as a workman, you cannot fake this calibre of activity; this pleases me, it is the level at which I work.

On top of this chagewheel fits an ally plate with a fork and a pair of locknuts and allen screws that adjusts and clamps onto one of the changewheel spokes, this has to be deliberately set up so that the overlying brass plate with apertures to allow movement against a fixed index pin functions and provides 'windows' where they are needed in correct relation to the drilling and the engraving.

All clever stuff and a dream to use when its all correctly set. The changewheel is not my largest for the Edward Hines treadle lathe, merely an 80 tooth wheel; diameter 6-7/8 in, the fixture is 11-1/2in tall. The Edward Hines treadle lathe has been an inspiration throughout all of my working life, I bought it in 1976, just turned eighteen, impeccable design and workmanship that still astounds in this day and age !


Note extractable stop pin in bronze block; forked block to engage with one of the changewheel spokes (that is the original paint from 1895) and makeshift detachable dividing plate to form handle.

What prompted me to write this post in the first place was brushing this down and being amazed how accurately and easliy the rig still worked, showing this next day to a neighbour at the workshops, a mechanical man, he too was very impressed.

I have mvi footage to add to this later  .......

see my honing guides and woodworkers tools on

copyright richard kell 2014 all rights reserved. E&OE
Tags: fly reel tooling, fly reel windows, machining methods, making fly reels, milling fixtures, specialist tackle, the richard kell approach to making reel

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