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Reel Seat Ring Cutting

By Tom Smithwick

I have found the best way to cut reel rings from tubing is on the lathe. It will not cut with an ordinary parting tool, however, and must be cut with a pointed tool. You can cut from the inside out as I do, or from the outside to the inside.  This is my all purpose cutting tool. The point cuts to length. The flat portion in use here squares up the edge, and the chamfers on either side deburr after squaring. This ring was cut to length, and is now held in a pot chuck to clean up the cut edge.

Reel Seat Ring Cutting 01Here, an old MT #2 dead center is used to expand and taper the ring. The point is ground off the center, and enough material is ground off the fat end of the center that it can be driven into a 3/4" hole to release the ring after it is expanded. The ring is expanded by placing it on the center, then putting the center into a short piece of the same tubing, and tapping the center a few times with a mallet. You can also use a piece of 3/4" Id tubing that fits over the fat end of the center to tap off the rings after expanding them.

Reel Seat Ring Cutting 02Two views of the homemade pot chuck, which holds the ring while it is deburred.

Reel Seat Ring Cutting 03Reel Seat Ring Cutting 04The sequence is as follows:

  • Mount the tubing in the headstock with a couple inches extending. Deburr the edge of the tubing, then cut one ring to length. Deburr the edge of the tubing, and cut another ring until you have enough rings.
  • Use the pot chuck to deburr the remaining rough edge on each ring.
  • Expand and taper the rings.
  • Hand finish the edges to suit yourself.

I also made a split ring chuck to hold the tubing without marring it when cutting the rings to length. I used NS, but aluminum will do. start with a 1" diameter round rod about 1 1/2" long. Bore out the center on the lathe until the tubing just fits through it. If your lathe chuck has any runout, mark the jaw positions, so that you mount the ring chuck in the same position every time. Then saw a slot, just like on the pot chuck, so that the lathe jaws will cause the split ring to grip the tubing. You can also make these out of tubing, if you have some in the proper size. It is a good idea to bore the ID to size, however, to eliminate runout when cutting the tubing.

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