To be precise

Someplace just to show that reel collectors do have a life
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Jason
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To be precise

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Fractions were fun in the 3rd grade but now that I'm an adult, fractions seem like more of an approximation. I don't know how many times, I've purchased a reel from an auction listed as something like 1 5/8" only to find it's really 1.745". In the case of early ball handle reels, that .120 is a big difference, 1 3/4" reels are scarce but fairly common, 1 5/8 would be extremely rare. If you must use fractions, here are some old tools from my collection that might help you measure down to the 1/100th of an inch. Get your glasses and enjoy. Like fishing reels, measuring and machinist tools have a great history and many can be found at auctions for not a lot of money.


It can be hard to date old machinist tools. Some basic hand tools that Leroy Starrett patented in the 1880’s are still being made today virtually unchanged. This combination square is still being made but they have discontinued this tiny 4" version and changed the casting pattern. The maroon box also indicates that it was from the early 20th century.


Here is an early Starret 3" rule and small gold plated caliper. A key to dating rules is to look at the number fonts. Starrett's earliest tools used fancy script numbers, especially the numbers 2, 3, and 5.


Another neat Starrett tool is this tiny 1" square which appears to have been discontinued in the 1940's.




This Starrett № 160 machinists clamp is often confused for a small vise. The 1" version is very scarce and rarely described properly in auctions since they are all marked № 160. They can be spotted by carefully looking at the proportions and sometimes picked up for a song. The 1" version was also discontinued in the 1940's but the larger one is still made today. The blue finished steel is beautiful.



Here's an example of a tool that is brand new but has been in the Starrett catalogs for a century. These tiny drill indexes are also still available from Huot.


In addition to the gold plated Starrett caliper, here is a Stevens & Co Caliper. The coil spring design was patented by T. C. Page and George W. Hadley of Chicopee, MA on Feb. 8, 1870.

Lady legs were popular in the late 19th century. These Calipers were manufactured by Peter Lowentraut of Newark NJ. The Lady leg tweezers are marked "PAT APLD FOR" but I've yet to find the patent. Maybe one of ORCA's patent sleuths can help me.



Brown & Sharpe is a company that has been in business for 190 years. Fortunately they have changed names a few times and that can help in dating their tools. Tools marked "Darling, Brown and Sharpe" or "DB&S" are easy to find and were made prior to 1892 when Mr Darling left the firm. These early Triangle and Square rules came in sizes from 3"-6" long and had various increments from 1/8ths to 1/100ths. Newer ones can be found marked Brown & Sharpe and appear to have been made up till WWII.



The caliper square is another neat little tool. Here are a couple from the DB&S era in the smallest size, one of which with well modified jaws.



Nathan Ames of Boston, MA was granted Pat. No. 9,089 on July 6, 1852 for this unique centering square. These were later produced by Brown and Sharpe and available in several sizes. Here is the smallest 4" version from the DB&S era.



Handvises are another small tool that eventually found a use in the fishing world but their origins were more of a general holding tool often used for holding wire in the watchmaking trade as far back as the 17th century in France. Here is a small english made vise and a newer one made by the Mauser corporation.


Here are some other great tools from the watchmaking industry. A wide variety of dividers and calipers can be found, often hand made by the watchmaker himself. This brass pedestal tool might look like a small vise but is actually a poising tool, used to test poise of a watch balance. They can be relatively affordable and are a great way to display your favorite fly.


Lastly, I'll leave you with a picture of my absolutely favorite rule. This Brown & Sharpe 6" beveled edge rule is in beautiful condition.
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RonG
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Re: To be precise

Post by RonG »

Hey Jason, thanks for the tutorial on these early tools. I learned something.
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john elder
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Re: To be precise

Post by john elder »

Very nice collection and descriptions, Jason! I have assorted tools i’ve picked up over the years, but never put to use. You’ve given me the impetus to go through and see how many “field finds” i have in the garage!

John
ORCA member since 1999
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Specializing in saltwater reels...and fly reels...and oh, yeah, kentucky style reels.....and those tiny little RP reels.....oh, heck...i collect fishing reels!...and fly rods....and lures
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klonder
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Re: To be precise

Post by klonder »

Lovely presentation. Thanks!
My father was a machinist, as was my grandfather. Both were fishers.
My brother got my pop's toolbox but I managed to grab a few small items. Looks like pop modified a hand vise to get a stream side tying vise.
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Steve
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Re: To be precise

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I've always liked to believe that George Gates built his reel prototype with Starrett tools. When he lived with his sister and brother-in-law in Athol, he was within walking distance of the company. For all we know, he may have tried to sell or license a couple of his other inventions, including a wrench, to Starrett.

Steve Vernon
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Book: ANTIQUE FISHING REELS, 2nd Ed.
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"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose."
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Mike N
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Re: To be precise

Post by Mike N »

Jason, thanks for taking the time to put together such an interesting post. I enjoyed reading it and learned several things.

A few years ago, Ron alerted me to this auction house which specializes in antique tools:

www.GreatPlanesTrading.Com

There is also the Mid-West Tool Collector’s Association that is worth checking out. They have their national meeting in Green Bay, WI June 14-17 this year.

www.mwtca.org

Mike N.
Mike N.
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Jason
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Re: To be precise

Post by Jason »

Thanks Mike, I'll check out those sites.
bettybarr
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Re: To be precise

Post by bettybarr »

This fascinating history should be an article in The Reel News. Jason, please send this to Richard Lodge. All members should read this. Thank you for taking the time to educate us.
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Paul Roberts
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Re: To be precise

Post by Paul Roberts »

Yes, very cool post!
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