Mitchell Reel Museum - Mitchell Mates Discussion Group

A 'pilot' reel in the UK
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Author:  bailarm [ Thu Jun 18, 2020 8:44 am ]
Post subject:  A 'pilot' reel in the UK

On a UK forum a member there has found a 'pilot' reel.

Some UK collectors doubted their existence and I've never come across one myself, but images of the find make it identical to the images Wallace has had on this site for years.

It is worn and old, a later handle and bail arm had been put on it, but there's no mistaking that baffle and the 'missing' casting parts for right hand wind in the rotor.

I notice that there is red primer paint on the rotor, but apparently not elsewhere on the reel. This is a bit odd as I had thought primer had been abandoned back in the days of the very first third version half bails.......

Author:  Jeremy Fisher [ Mon Oct 05, 2020 12:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A 'pilot' reel in the UK

I am one of the doubting Thomas's where "Pilot" reels are concerned. I have seen no evidence to suggest that they are anything other than regular production reels. Perhaps I have missed something?

Based on the production records which have been posted on this site, it appears that the first full-bail reels were made around June 1953 with serial numbers as low as B23000. The reel was scheduled for release in the US around March 1953, so they missed that date. Understandably the first reels were destined for their biggest market. Certainly "B" numbered full bails are a tough find in Europe.

The earliest US advert I have seen for the reel is from Christmas 1953.

Because of patent no. GB380939 the reel could not be released in the UK until September 1954. Milbro advertised the reel as "new" in October 1954. One might expect the first UK reels to have "C" numbers and crosswind gearing; perhaps even the plastic transfer gear.

I know that some members like to see minty vintage reels so I attach photos of B33196 which came my way courtesy of that fine gentleman Dan Hawks. The reel is boxed. It has the required rotor and baffle plate and a dark blue metal knob. The first 2 parts can be found on high "B" numbered reels with plastic knobs. Red primer paint is present.

One variable with these early full-bails is the height of the handle stem. The reel pictured has a stem 2 inches high, but I have a half-bail number B11005 with the taller 2.25 inch stem. "B" numbered full-bails can be found with both stems.

For my purposes I regard the first version full-bail as a reel with a "B" number and level-wind gearing, although it must be admitted that the gearing is easily changed. I regard the 4th. version as the classic Mitchell reel so for me the first style is very desirable.

I hope members enjoy the photos. I have more if required.



Author:  bailarm [ Thu Oct 08, 2020 7:42 am ]
Post subject:  Re: A 'pilot' reel in the UK

I'm not sure if you are still active on the TFF forum Rolands, but there's no doubting this reel is 'different' to the first full bail reels in that it has yet to have the casting adapted for creating a right hand wind reel. Just a modification to the mould I imagine, plus the baffle being different.

Surprising really, since we were certain that even the very first version of the Mitchell reel had marking that were to show were to grind a slot for the bail release trigger of a 'gaucher'.

I expect we might not have appended the name pilot' here in the UK, more likely we would have chosen 'prototype'.

Strange to find one with a short leg to the foot.....that would suggest the body was cast in 1950 at the latest. Possibly a 'bitsa' then?

Author:  Jeremy Fisher [ Thu Oct 08, 2020 12:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A 'pilot' reel in the UK

Dear Nobby,

Many thanks for your interesting reply, but I'm not sure you read my post clearly.

The reel I showed is exactly like the one in Wallace Carney's book with the same rotor and baffle plate. Because I know how much you like these early full-bails and to avoid misunderstanding, I have for the first time opened the reel and attach some photos. She is factory-fresh and has never been on a rod.

That rotor was used for at least 6 months. I also have reel nos. B72494 and B99293 with that part. The baffle plate was used for a similar length of time.

Your last paragraph puzzles me. What do you base that dating on? Factory production records are available for the early years. Of particular interest are the numbers for 1954 because they are monthly and broken down between half and full-bails. A study and analysis of these records tell us that "B" numbers were first used around May 1953. The foot stem was lengthened at around that time : the lowest number I have seen is around B11000.

I recently made a study of these early full-bails with 3 seasoned collectors and, not surprisingly, reels exist with both lengths of stem.

Pilot or prototype makes no difference. We will have to agree to disagree on that one. The available information suggests that the first full-bails were first made mid-1953 and released in the US a few months later. I have seen nothing to suggest that they are pilot, prototype or test reels.

The number 7 inside the housing is interesting. Around this time housings of full and half-bails were numbered. Numbers 1 - 13 have been found in roughly ascending order.

I am not familiar with the term "bitsa". Perhaps you can enlighten me.

I hope you are staying safe in these difficult times.

Kind regards,


Author:  Jeremy Fisher [ Thu Oct 08, 2020 12:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A 'pilot' reel in the UK

Photos to complete the study.

Author:  bailarm [ Fri Oct 09, 2020 7:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: A 'pilot' reel in the UK

It was my understanding that the foot stem was lengthened for the first third versions in about 1950, not so then? I have never seen a third with a short stem...but then I've only worked on about 25 or so.

But it would make sense if it was done to stop the new full bail from hitting the rod or the angler's fingers

Bitsa is an old expression given to an object made from several donors.

It's strange that the pilot reels didn't have the consideration given to RHW, when we know that third versions did some years before.

I'm uncertain where Wallace got the information that they were only given to a few dealers to access.

Lovely reel you have there, box and all. Congratulations. Was it a UK or US find?

Author:  Jeremy Fisher [ Fri Oct 09, 2020 11:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: A 'pilot' reel in the UK

Good heavens!! A bitsa : what a thought.

Seriously though, the reel came from the US from the collection of noted authority Dan Hawks; who I'm sure you have heard of.

Dating is understandably a touchy subject in this place. Let me just say that a lot of work has been carried out over the last few years by some experienced collectors, and I think we now have a good handle on what went on.

"Mitchell production records" in History Discussions has proved popular and "Important Mitchell dates" in reel talk (Dec. 2019) is a good read.

I agree that the stem was lengthened primarily for the full-bail. I date this change to around mid-1953. The earliest long stem I have seen is on a half-bail B11005. Both stems were used side by side for a while.

As regards RHW, it is no great surprise that this was not available on the first production reels. They missed their planned release date of March 1953 and I think the first reels were a rush job for Christmas. See attached. The Christmas advert describes the full-bail as new.

Several different reels were being made during "B" numbers : half and full-bail, level and crosswind, metal and plastic knobs. I can discern no particular pattern. Even the metal and plastic knobs were being used haphazardly.

I'm surprised you didn't pick up on the internal numbers. They appear to have been used only during "A" and "B" numbers.



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