Bob Aitken has provided this story on anniversary of the remarkable Alvey fishing reels.
This year (2020) is the 100th anniversary for iconic Australian fishing reel manufacturer Charles Alvey & Sons. Over the 100 years, Alvey have used a range of materials for their reels (eg. Bakelite spools were introduced in 1936; graphite backing plates in the 1990’s) but here I will mainly describe their wooden reels.
The company began production in 1920 when Charles Alvey used a treadle lathe (no electricity at the factory) to turn spools and backing plates from Silky oak. By the mid 1920’s powered lathes enabled the backing plates to be machined from gunmetal and the spindles made from brass. Rosewood and Red Bean (Miva Mahogany) timbers were used to turn spools.
For a brief period after World War II, post war material shortages lead to the use of Camphor Laurel for spools. For the larger diameter spools it was necessary to replace Camphor Laurel (which had inconsistent grain) with finer grained cedar. By the 1950’s Australian Red Cedar was used almost exclusively for the spools.
Alvey reels are known for their quality and longevity so pre-production treatment of the timber was important. Selected cedar was slabbed and seasoned for two years. Spools were rough turned and then set aside for a further two months before final turning. I have restored a number of wooden Alvey reels from the 1950’s and have been impressed by the general soundness of the old spools and fittings.
In 1974 Alvey stopped using cedar and the spools were made from a polyester and fibreglass mix. However, the company has marked anniversary milestones by producing limited editions of reels with Cedar spools.