Gordon Lewis successfully applied for patent protection in 1946. The first six prototypes reels were produced with Bill Gallagher’s lathe at his home work shop. The first 50 production models had no markings, the difference being that these had two cross bars instead of one. In 1947 Lewis went into partnership with Dalkeith Hilder.
In January 1949, he had ten skilled employees working for him at his King Street factory and spent £2,000 tooling up. H Dagwell was in charge of production. Thirty-five main dies and hundreds of smaller tools are needed to produce a reel, which has 63 parts, including screws. At the somewhat small factory, there is one golden rule; every tool, tin or screw must be replaced exactly where the user found it. “I insist on that rule” said Mr Hilder. “If we didn’t make sure of that, there would be a mess.” Mr Hilder’s factory, which was approaching the mass production stage, cannot meet the demand for reels. Orders came from New Zealand, Tasmania and other parts of the world. At least one reel has been used in Norway and Scotland, where it was described as being “as good as anything ever used there.” With this background, Mr Hilder might’ve been expected to be keen fishermen. Well he wasn’t. He likes flying and shooting but never got time to practise either. Hilder sold the business to Bob Conaghan in the early 1950’s. In the ten years from 1950-1960, over 50,000 Surfmasters were produced.
I had intended writing to you and your letter arrived, so I make it urgent. There a few comments I would like to make both in possible new areas and some slight corrections.
The design of the Surfmaster was to embrace certain features.
- Light weight construction (aluminium)
- Be resistant to corrosion (anodise)
- Large bearings so that varying grades of oil could have some control over drum over run
- Dog clutch free wheeling with auto knock off when handle was turned
- Dismantlable on the beach without loose parts for drum change if required
No1. Easily obtained first model was machined from 3’’ solid aluminium bar
No2. Aluminium parts were anodised a process that permits dyeing by the colour percentage of aluminium hydroxide. This progress is not a coating and does not alter size like plating,
No3. Large bearings so that oil could help control drum speed and over run. This was possible on only one end and was not on the first prototype batch.
No4. The dog clutch and knock off feature was patented and improved on the first production models of 50 reels
No5. The prototype did not have dismantling screw.
Retainers and dog clutch would drop out. The first production model permitted removal and/or change of that drum, the application of heavier oil to slow drum up without loose parts. All parts were fixed to end plated. The small initial batch one of which you photographed was the only model with single bar construction. This was a prototype. Double bars were on all production models – you seem to be in error here. The drag model was designed but not produced in my time. Hilder knew nothing of fishing or fishing reels but was a good engineer. Incidentally the first batch were supplied in blue leather draw string bags.
Hope this will be of interest to you – Gordon
1st production bath of 50 had double bar construction. Retaining circlips on dismantling screws and redesigned dog clutch with id not drop out when dismantled.