Mako Reel Design – Precision Aerospace Machining

Jack began his career in precision aerospace machining in 1965 in the Los Angeles area working for companies producing components for some of the leaders in the high technology arena. With the ensuing period of space exploration and growth of military technology he witnessed a wave of technological advances within the machining industry itself. After establishing his own precision aerospace machining company in 1974, he and his wife Judy acquired computerized equipment (CNC) in 1978. As a result, their quality and production increased to the extent that they became suppliers to many major aerospace and medical manufacturers.

Jack has owned and operated a group of companies over the last 33 years, all heavily involved in the latest technologies of precision machining, computer hardware and engineering/manufacturing software. As a result the latest precision machine tools and computer systems were employed at Charlton Outdoor Technologies that allowed the production of fly fishing reels made to standards of precision and engineering that met or exceeded those of the aerospace work performed for over three decades. Like the original Charlton reels the new MAKO reels are produced in the same facility in Washington State, United States of America.

Reel making?

After many years of fast paced activity in the aerospace industry it was clear that the industry was leveling out and this was an opportunity to employ 40 years of acquired knowledge towards producing a product surrounding the activities he loved. At the same time he could apply his engineering, machining and computer skills to a product that had become antiquated over the course of time; the fly fishing reel.

He believed if current technology and advanced materials were combined with an innovative design, one could develop ‘a precision instrument for fly fishing’. After re-locating his aerospace machining facility from Southern California to Washington State in 1991, he began to formulate the original design for the Charlton Signature Series reels. Although conducting the normal business of producing flight control components for missiles on a daily basis; when commuting to and from his home on San Juan Island, he would make drawings on napkins then feed this information to advanced computer software when arriving at work. The result was the original Signature Series reel debuted in Livingston, Montana in August of 1993. The rest is history.

Q&A with Jack on reel design.

Why Carbon drag systems?
By definition both Charlton and MAKO reels were destined to be different than any other reel previously produced. The truth was I had been exposed to only two other fly reels before designing my original products and believed that ignorance would be bliss if ingenuity could prevail. Cork brakes on automobiles do not exist for obvious reasons; so why on fishing reels? Thru experience I knew that when the United States Air Force wanted to stop expensive aircraft like the B-1 Bomber they did not choose cork or plastics. They chose carbon. When Indy 500 racers stepped up their efforts to brake from speeds of 200+ miles per hour, they used carbon not cork! So in order to produce ‘a precision instrument for fly fishing’, it was apparent a modern material would need to be used to provide powerful and predictable stopping. This was just a starting point.

Considering the applications of the modern fly reel, specifically, salt water fly-fishing, it was imperative the reel be absolutely sealed from the elements. To meet these requirements I drew from my experience in flight control hydraulics to create a reel sealed like the pumps on jet aircraft. No water, sand, salt or other contamination was allowed to ruin the performance of the product. With a reel having its’ sophisticated mechanisms sealed, the angler does not have to lube or clean drag materials during an expensive fishing excursion. After developing a superior drag system the angler has the joy of dialing in just one turn (360 degrees) the reels full range of performance. No endless turns never knowing what to expect.

Why use Type III Anodizing?
Another issue most reel buyers understandably do not consider is the longevity of their reel. My answer to insuring the reel would maintain its beauty and resistance to corrosion is a process called Type III anodizing. Type III anodizing virtually penetrates the aluminum with near ceramic hardness while building-up on the surface by an equal thickness. Although the cost is many times that of Type I or II, it becomes worth it to the angler to own a reel that appears like new after many years of severe use. All-black MAKO reels come in Type III anodizing only.

Don’t all reels have Quick Change spools?
Many small reels have offered a means of quickly removing spools for years. The original Signature Series reels pioneered quick change spools for large salt water reels that could be changed rapidly. It is one thing to retain the spool on a small trout reel but to do so with large spools that experience tremendous loads is another. The new MAKO reels adopt the same principles, making use of our ‘taperloc’ technology.

What is a “Configurable” reel?
Charlton Outdoor Technologies invented the configurable reel in 1996. This won “Best of Show” at the International Fly Tackle Dealers convention that year after only three years in business. It was possible to fish line weights 1 thru offshore with only 3 of the original Charlton reels. By simply snapping another spool for the desired line weight onto the reel spindle, the angler instantly changed capacity and line weight. MAKO reels are also available with a choice of spools for different line weights.

How can a reel have increased “Structural Integrity”?
All of us have slipped and damaged our gear. Broken rod tips, scratched or bent reels / spools, broken reel handles, you name it. The MAKO design employs a technique used in aerospace called “monolithic design”. This concept eliminates the cheap hardware for fastening the mechanical components. Rather than attaching parts to achieve mechanical function, MAKO reels are made of complex and highly machined components that eliminate the need for useless hardware. Appearing as nearly one piece units our reels are comprised of precision machined components fitted together. Although expensive to machine, this provides uncompromised strength and beauty. Thus when under severe conditions the spool does not bend, the handle does not break and the drag system continues to perform flawlessly.

What is your basic design philosophy?
I have a pretty simple approach towards product design; give the consumer their moneys’ worth. Make the difference between price and value apparent by building products comprised of the latest technology and produced to the highest standards of quality.