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Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 1:03 am 
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I have been asked a few times again recently about how I polish the rubber on old reels, so I decided to take some brief videos while I worked on an EVH #501 reel this weekend. This reel came to me in pretty good shape but upon closer inspection, the rubber had a lot of character marks that I decided to try and tone down a bit. (Compare the before and after pictures of the backplates).

The typical cleaning process (e.g. baths in mineral spirits and vinegar solution) makes the rubber go light brown where it has been exposed to UV. So it is assumed to be UV damage. Inside the backplates and under the throw switches, for example, the rubber is usually as black as the day the reel was made. To my eye, I would rather have a smooth, black rubber reel than a dull brown rubber reel with scratches and dents.



The polishing method described herein is heavy-handed to be sure and not for everyone. However, I like the resulting wet look of the rubber and it stays that way. I remove a very, very thin layer of the dull light brown rubber using a succession of automotive sandpaper grits (wet). The dark rubber underneath the light brown layer is revealed with the largest grit number eg 400 or 600, that I may use several times in a row to get to the black rubber under the brown rubber. But that leaves the rubber rough and it then needs to be smoothed, so I do a quick once-over with larger grit numbers used in succession eg 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1200, 1500, 2000, 3000... using each of these different grits in this order and rinsing off the rubber in fresh water after each change of grit. I also change the bowl of water I use to keep the abrasive paper wet, with each change of the grit number).

[The lower the number the coarser the grit. The higher the number the finer the grit. I have never gone below 400 grit of this application as that is a very coarse grit. By all means try starting with a higher grit. It just takes longer to get the brown off.]

This process is very time consuming, taking many hours per reel. It makes your hands dirty and it smells like burning rubber LOL. It is all done by hand to avoid the indiscriminate damage caused by a buffing wheel but renders similar results if you want to polish it that much. (Less is OK too; it is up to you.) A close look at the finished product will reveal most of the original flaws are still there but they are less obvious and the rubber is smoother and black. Detailing around the edges of immovable metal objects is something to do very carefully. Avoid applying too much hand pressure. Let the abrasive product do the work for you.

The focus of this post is on polishing the rubber so I didn't get into the full take-down, cleaning the major nickel silver parts or re-assembly, etc but a few video scenes, like the first 2, show the simplest of details for beginners.

I have provided some still images followed by video links so you can decide what you want to see (if anything at all) and in what order.

Before


After


During:


After cleaning but before use of abrasive vs. after use of abrasive vs. after initial polishing:


Videos-

Start of reel take-down:
https://youtu.be/L0JpL_VsYkE

Detailing a NS screw:
https://youtu.be/P9pOBLwH790

Start removing the light brown rubber resulting from the cleaning baths (I am a lefty so the turning directions may be opposite for a righty):
https://youtu.be/n6d8SJgyDFY

Rinsing the rubber between each change of grit size:
https://youtu.be/WHuQ0OTrQyo

More rubber polishing with a high grit number. (I am a lefty so the turning directions may be opposite for a righty).
https://youtu.be/dPhE3Eg1xhU

Final polishing with Simichrome. See the big difference before and after.
https://youtu.be/wRzKhCN67ek


Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 6:37 am 
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Incredible Post! Thank you, Paul!


Posted: Mon Apr 17, 2017 8:37 pm 
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Thanks for posting this, Paul. I'll try methodically moving around the reel in a counter-clockwise direction (I am right-handed) next restoration I do. I've never been so methodical about it - admittedly I've only done a few - so am curious why you have settled upon this method of wet sanding. Also, I've always added a little bit of Dawn dishwashing liquid (any soap would work) to the water for the wet-sanding. I noticed you did not. The times I've not added enough soap I've noticed the difference and preferred the feel when there is more soap. I think both methods probably remove the same amount of rubber. I learned wet sanding watching videos of guys doing body work on cars and that's how they did it.

Sid


Posted: Mon Apr 17, 2017 10:20 pm 
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The direction of rotation doesn't matter as long as it is generally consistent. It helps keep the surface even. Everything I am doing came from tips posted here over the past few years plus several tips from the ORCA restoration book. Use of dishwashing soap or anything other than water never crossed my mind because it isn't a cleaning process per se but rather a stripping method. This particular method for the rubber is a combination of a few suggestions I received when trying to remove damage to old brass reels (courtesy of Don Champion and others July 2014). I experimented with it on a rubber reel or two and it worked. I would rather not exfoliate at all but I never had much success just polishing with Simichrome and then trying to re-hydrate the rubber with oil. The results with oil seem to be blotchy, at least for rubber that has become very pale. This process can easily remove details in the rubber so a light touch is strongly recommended. There is a point where the "sanding" is complete but it still looks scraped. I use Simichrome and elbow grease over and over to complete the rubber polishing as shown in one of the videos. Sometimes I also use 0000 steel wool to make the finish matte.


Posted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 8:06 am 
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Thanks, Paul. I visited your website and got lost for a while in an old EVH catalog. You've got an impressive collection of reels I've neither seen nor heard about.

As you work your way around a side plate with wet sandpaper, do you pay special attention to the pins and other metal protrusions that are not removable? Or do you just use a light touch and go over and around them as best as possible? You mentioned this briefly, but I didn't see you try hard to go around the screws in the video; they also didn't protrude very far. I read about the 600 grit little hobby sanding utensil you use, I'll be looking for one at Michael's or Hobby Lobby soon.

I suppose you determine the amount of work you will put into a spool by matching it to what you can accomplish with the rest of the reel? A perfectly-polished spool on a reel with tarnished metal elsewhere just wouldn't look right. I suspect the spool would be the last part of the reel you would work with after finishing up everything else?

Thanks for your help.

Sid


Posted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 12:33 pm 
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Sid:
I generally work around protruding/immovable metal objects. If the obstacles are flush to the surface there is less dodging involved and I lighten the pressure if and when I go straight over those areas. At times I have covered pins and screw heads with painter's tape to avoid scouring them. ( My example of a Trowbridge fly reel with spring pins protruding from the hard rubber backplate would be a more obvious candidate for that sort of protective measure. Refer to the last picture at bottom this post: http://reeltalk.orcaonline.org/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=19135&hilit=trowbridge).

For the spools, after cleaning with mineral spirits and vinegar-water solution, I wipe with a swatch of Nev'r Dull. If it still has cosmetic issues, sometimes I carefully mount the more robust spool journal in the chuck of a variable speed drill and turn it slowly against Simichrome-laden 0000 steel wool. Then Simichrome and a soft cloth. This would probably take the nickel plating off a NPB spool so is best reserved for a solid metal spool and then only when it is really needed.

The club promotes preservation of old reels. These methods can easily cross that line into transformation or worse. So please exercise restraint!


Posted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 8:03 pm 
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Paul M wrote:The club promotes preservation of old reels. These methods can easily cross that line into transformation or worse. So please exercise restraint!
I have also taken a Nickel Silver Penn Senator spool to a variable-speed drill and resurfaced the flanges (and to a lesser extent the arbor) in this reel Image

Now, had there been chrome on this to begin with I would have done my best to preserve it, but since there never had been in the first place I took some wet/dry to it and was quite pleased with the results.

I'm trying to get a handle on "transformation". I did, indeed, transform the reel above, and maybe I took the polishing to a level above what had come out of the Penn factory. Maybe I need to take it back to 1000 grit wet/dry to take some of the shine out of it... it wouldn't look nearly as pretty :Bawl:

Should I have exercised more restraint?

Thanks,
Sid


Posted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 8:25 pm 
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:D It's a beauty just the way it is!

Paul M


Posted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:43 pm 
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Nice job Paul! Years ago before life got difficult and busy, I too spent endless hours cleaning and polishing. I built myself a custom workstation with 5 different types of woods back to back screwed, mitered the edges then palm sanded, triple clear coating and so forth, the bench top was to pretty to work on. Then the polishing wheels, presses etc...ok let me get to the point. Many times I'd find myself on a Saturday evening cleaning and polishing till the early morning. Turns out Saturday mornings find are now Saturday nights project. All to often I found/had high end pieces with chewed/damaged screw heads. What I did was secure them in a drill and turn them against the finest emery cloth until the damage was corrected. I would then clean out the head slot with a straight edge razor or dental pick. The final step was to put a mirrored finish on it by polishing the screw head against a polishing wheel in the same direction as the slot. Again clean it out and continue. Before reassembling hand clean the threads with WD40 then drop of oil on the threads. Tight lines Nick in NY


Posted: Sun Apr 23, 2017 8:26 am 
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Paul M wrote: Use of dishwashing soap or anything other than water never crossed my mind because it isn't a cleaning process per se but rather a stripping method.
I don't believe the soap adds much to the cleaning (as in surface dirt removal); it makes the surface slicker and the paper moves more easily and quickly over the surface (maybe it helps keep the exfoliated rubber from clogging the paper and rendering it less effective - not sure about this). I've tried it both ways and prefer using the soap; in fact, I've started out and then gone back and added more soap to the solution when I didn't feel it was slick enough. Let me know what you think if you decide to try it.

Sid


Posted: Sun Apr 23, 2017 10:07 am 
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Sid:
While I was researching another subject I learned that certain dishwashing soaps like specific versions of Palmolive, for example, contain chemicals that can change/accelerate the patination of metals like brass and silver found on these antique reels, at least if not washed off. So, without going deeper into that detail, I would suggest that plain water for the process described above helps avoid unintended consequences for anyone that is trying to work in such a way to preserve the existing patina on the immovable metal parts.

Paul


Posted: Sun Apr 23, 2017 10:16 am 
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Hmmm, do you recall where you read this? I'd like to look into finding a soap that won't do this, and wherever you read this could be a good starting point. BTW, "patination" - great word, so much more descriptive than "oxidation".

It's a rainy south Florida morning.... hasn't stopped yet since shortly after I awoke. Likely I'll gravitate to my bench some time after the traditional Sunday brunch and start a new project. Or better yet, finish an old one! I've already got a few started.

Sid


Posted: Wed May 03, 2017 12:40 pm 
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Paul M wrote:Sid:
While I was researching another subject I learned that certain dishwashing soaps like specific versions of Palmolive, for example, contain chemicals that can change/accelerate the patination of metals like brass and silver found on these antique reels, at least if not washed off. So, without going deeper into that detail, I would suggest that plain water for the process described above helps avoid unintended consequences for anyone that is trying to work in such a way to preserve the existing patina on the immovable metal parts.

Paul
Paul, thanks for the PM. Some soaps, Palmolive being one, contain selenides or sulfides that will accelerate oxidation if left in contact with the metal long enough. If this bothers you, try using the same soap you use in the initial stages of cleanup, and rinse well when done. The soap provides a slick surface, kind of like a lube, that makes the whole process quite a bit easier in my hands.

Sid


Posted: Sat May 06, 2017 10:23 pm 
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I've almost finished with the 621 3/0 I've been working on and will be taking and posting pics tomorrow. It turned out well, but I guess I was a little heavy-handed with sharp corners of the screw holes, which are now a little rounded - other than that I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. I've re-watched your videos and will try to more closely emulate your technique. Thanks for posting those.

A few thoughts: as I was removing the left bushing and sliding cover plate my thought was, "why did they put this on so tightly?" On reassembly, I found out. If the cover plate isn't screwed tightly enough to the bushing to pull the bushing towards the tail plate it hinders the spool rotation by not providing enough axial free play.

I practiced poor screw management and got away with it this time, but I've begun a second 621 (a 4/0) and have kept track of every frame screw and its location. It's amazing how closely two screws can appear but still not fit into each other's places...

The hardest part of this 621 restoration for me was the small round dished-out area just outside each end cap where it is recessed slightly - deeper on the tail plate than the head plate. I'll be experimenting with different techniques for this, but so far a pencil eraser and tin oxide powder are what has worked... the eraser is soft enough and rounded enough to fit the round depression almost perfectly, and the tin oxide was not at all aggressive - in fact, I had to be really heavy-handed for that to be productive - but trying to roll up pieces of sandpaper to fit that rounded (in two dimensions) area was not easy or rewarding. A coarser abrasive than tin oxide in the initial stages of sanding this area is needed.

I'm trying to design a sanding block or pad shaped like a small trowel with a small surface onto which I can attach sandpaper of varying grades. I'm looking at the double-sided foam tape used to mount photos to put between the block and the paper - firm, but with some cushioning to distribute the pressure evenly. I haven't yet found that small, trowel-shaped (preferably plastic with some flexibility) tool to adapt to this use. This is how I hope to avoid rounding the screw hole corners in future... other suggestions are welcome.

Sid


Posted: Sun May 07, 2017 4:15 am 
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sdlehr wrote:...I haven't yet found that small, trowel-shaped (preferably plastic with some flexibility) tool to adapt to this use. This is how I hope to avoid rounding the screw hole corners in future... other suggestions are welcome.

Sid


Sid, see the "stylus" discussed in the bottom half of this post. http://reeltalk.orcaonline.org/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=19135&hilit=stylus#p87684

Caution: This is also heavy-handed, so practice on a beater piece of rubber first.


Posted: Sun May 07, 2017 8:40 am 
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Yup, saw that already, but the finest grit I could find was 400 (talk about heavy-handed). I started to use it just a bit on Friday, it's clogging a lot right now. In my post above I was thinking of something larger that could be used on the broader surfaces (instead of a flexible hand or finger on the paper so it will be flatter). I'm thinking of something small, maybe not more than 1.5-2 square inches, shaped like a piece of pie with a handle above it. The handle would be long and flexible enough to be held comfortably and absorb some of the pressure exerted on the paper. I'll put something together soon as a prototype.

Sid


Posted: Sun May 07, 2017 11:29 am 
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After you design it, file a patent!


Posted: Tue May 09, 2017 9:02 am 
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Paul M wrote:After you design it, file a patent!

I've got two prototypes completed (I think), and will be testing today.


Posted: Wed Jun 21, 2017 10:51 am 
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Apologies for having taken so long to create this post. I pretty much completed all this about a month ago, maybe more! I purchased most of the few items pictured from Office Depot.
the disposable cake cutters pictured at the top were free at the local supermarket bakery

Image

I scored the cake cutters with an Exacto knife and was able to trim them to an iron-shaped working surface. I used the Scotch Mounting Tape (double sided sticky) to stick the sandpaper to the instruments, but because the paper would wear out I made the whole thing a little more useful by using the Elmer's School Glue to affix the sandpaper to the pad. This held up well to water (after I learned the trick of sticking the sandpaper on 5-10 minutes before planned use. The Command "Damage-Free Hangers" were in Office Depot next to the mounting tape. They appeared to be something that could be useful in fabricating a small sanding block. Here's what I ended up with

Image

I originally took this on after I realized I had done a poor job and rounded some edges of some screw holes in this post

I'm happy to say that this technique allowed me to both avoid rounding screw holes, and as an added benefit it allowed me to sand very close to all things protruding from the HR plates, as seen here

Image

Image

Image

I also feel that this shortened the time needed for the first sanding step, the most time-consuming

Image

I've posted pics of the final restoration here


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