Picture of Cheap Universal Fishing Line Winder

Build an inexpensive device (about $8.00) for filling fishing reels with line. Easy to use, tangle-free, solo-operable, far cheaper, and just as effective as commercial models, which sell for $30 to $120. It will work with all reels and spool configurations. Can be mounted horizontally on a table or workbench or vertically on a door or bookshelf.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials

(1) 5-1/2" x 8" x 3/4" plywood scrap
(1) 1-3/8" x 3-1/2" x 7/8" hardwood scrap
(2) 1-3/4" wood screws
(1) 1/4-20 x 8" machine bolt
(2) 1/4" I.D.  shaft collars
(2) thumbscrews to fit shaft collar set screw thread
(2) 1/4" I.D. x 5/8" O.D. x 1/2" thick nylon spacers
(2) 3/4" O.D. hard plastic conical faucet washers
(1) 21/64" x 1-1/8" x .035" compression spring
(1) 1/4" flat washer
(1) 5/16" flat washer
(1) 5/16-18 wingnut
(1) 2" x 3" x 5/16" square u-bolt
(1) 1/4" I.D. x 1-1/2" long rubber tubing
(4) self-adhesive non-skid spots


Wood saw
Flat file
Drill motor
13/64" bit or 3/16" bit
1/4" bit
5/16" bit
Appropriate countersinking bit for your wood screws
220 grit sandpaper
7/16" box end wrench
Wood glue
Measuring device
Screwdriver for wood screws

id.steelheader (author) 1 month ago
Hi buck2217,

Thanks! Did you build it?
buck22172 months ago

great idea

id.steelheader (author) 1 year ago

Hi trekgod3,

That is a very good looking build! The conical faucet washers I used did not originally have 1/4" holes. I drilled them out. I like the conical washers, because they center the line spool no matter what diameter the hole in the spool. I experimented with a few strengths of springs. I found the stiffer springs work best. If the spring exerts too much pressure on the line spool, just release the tension a bit by moving the shaft collar. Since posting the project, I have finished the wood with polyurethane. Your rounded edges are a nice touch. I have also moved the spring to the inside of the line spool. It makes changing spools a little easier. Thanks for sharing your project.


Since I posted the original project

trekgod3 made it!1 year ago

I rounded over all the edges on my router table and used a spray-on polyurethane finish on the wood parts. The hardware store didn't have thumbscrews that fit the collars, so I drilled a small hole in the base to store the hex-wrench for the collars. I also couldn't find any conical faucet washers with an internal diameter of 1/4", so I used large flat plastic washers instead. The spring I chose is a little weak, I might upgrade to a stiffer spring if needed.

tlcnate2 years ago
I added a yardage counter: http://www.amazon.com/Boye-3407578001-Yarn-Yardage-Counter/dp/B004HPDSGW/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1374464784&sr=8-2&keywords=yarn+counter

It isn't really attached to the winder. I can hand-hold it as I use cordless drill to take line off or on a spool and get a fairly accurate count of the amount of line being spooled.
tlcnate2 years ago
Here are the photos.
Line Winder Closeup.jpgLine Winder Without Spacers.jpgLine Winder Toilet Seat Bolts and Nuts.jpgLine Winder Spring.jpgLine Winder Shaft Collar.jpgLine Winder Parts 2.jpg
id.steelheader (author)  tlcnate2 years ago
Looks good. Good adaptation, thanks for the photos. I'll be posting another Instructable for a line stripper shortly. Stay tuned...
tlcnate2 years ago
I am back again with the final results.

I had a hard time finding the same or similar machine bolt. While looking at Home Depot hardware I came across a 3/8" by 8" spike (photos to follow). Since this increased the diameter of the shaft I had to change the size of all other parts to correspond. I ended up getting most of the "hard to get" parts from Amazon. While doing search for beveled washers I came across a set of bolts and nuts for a toilet seat. The nuts were perfect for this purpose. After looking for just the "right" type of spring I came across a bag of 100 assorted tension and compression springs. I got the spring I wanted and plenty of leftovers for other projects.

The shaft collars I went ahead and used with the hex nut set screws and I eliminated the "U" bolt cut in half by using 14/" bolts to secure the whole thing to a work bench that I had no problem drilling a couple of holes into.

The toilet seat nuts allowed me to eliminate the spacers since the shape of the nut provides a built-in spacer.

With the 8" spike I eliminated the need to first tread the bolt to the wood and then cut the bolt head. I just drilled a through and through hole in the wood scrap and pushed the shaft in from behind. I did have to grind the sharp point down and dressed it with a fine file. The advantage of the 8" spike is it provides enough room to use a cordless drill for rewinding line onto a spool.

I added a line cutter from a twist-tie dispenser so no more looking for clippers or a razor blade.
tlcnate2 years ago
I have been fishing for about a year and bought most of my reels used and with line on them already. Until today I could not figure out what the big deal was with a line winder instead of winding/unwinding by hand. Today I had to re-spool my conventional reel and after an hour or so of winding line around a can I figured out the advantage of a more automated system! This week this is on my to-do list.

I noticed some people mentioned a line cutter. Here is what I think is a good solution:


You will notice this little roll of twist tie comes with it's own press-cutter conveniently equipped with two holes. It ought to be a fairly simple process to remove it from the roll and use the two holes to secure it to the plywood with wood screws.
id.steelheader (author)  tlcnate2 years ago
Hi ticnate,

Thanks for suggestion, and I hope you will build the line winder. Most of my fishing is for salmon and steelhead, and I always replace the last 50 or 60 yards of line on my reels after landing 3 or 4 of the big fish. Salmon and steelhead don't come often or easily, and I sure don't want to lose one due to abraded or overstretched line. The line winder makes replacement of the old line much easier and quicker.

I think the line cutter you suggest would work well. I should incorporate one, but I've used a clipper for so long with good results that I haven't gotten around to adding another type of cutter.

Good luck on building the line winder. Let me know how it works for you. Thanks again for your suggestion.

Good fishing,
JACKBARRY2 years ago
I made one similar but we added a drill to electrically wind the line on
id.steelheader (author)  JACKBARRY2 years ago
Hi Jackbarry,

I'm glad you took a look at the line winder. I'm interested in your use of the electric drill. Did you make an adapter to use drill to turn the reel handle?

I'd like to see a photo of your set up, if possible.

Tight lines!

and sorry but i cant get you a picture
Jorrell3 years ago
where can i get all the materials needed to make this Cheap Universal Fishing Line Winder???

can i get every thing at a homedepot or lowes???
id.steelheader (author)  Jorrell3 years ago
Hi Jorrell,

I'm glad you are interested in the line winder. I live in a small town - population about 2400 - so I also had to do some searching for the parts. The nearest Lowes and Home Depot are each over 100 miles away, so I didn't look at either, but I think both stores should have the long bolt , the square U-bolt, and the springs.

I found the bolt in the bulk fastener bins at a Pro-Build lumber yard. I found the square U-bolt, thumbscrews, springs, and the conical washers at a True Value Hardware store. The local NAPA auto parts store ordered the shaft collars from one of their hardware vendors.

Once you gather up the parts, I think you'll enjoy building and using the line winder.

Grimmy Grim3 years ago
I just used my toes resting on a shaft with the spool on a rug but that always seemed so wrong. This is what I need.
id.steelheader (author)  Grimmy Grim3 years ago
Hi Grimmy Grim,

Thanks for your comment. I think the line winder will work well for you. Have you built it yet? If so, let me know what you think about the building instructions and using the winder.


Built one of these a couple years ago for a friend with three spool holders so it could be used for storage as well. It was meant to be secured with a clamp though. The only suggestion I can make from that is a line cutter. I used a razor blade secured down with a screw, but it was a bit thrown together, I'm sure there's a better way. Nice build.
id.steelheader (author)  MissouriVillian3 years ago
Hey MissouriVillian,

Thanks for taking a look. I used spring clamps for a while to secure the line winder, but the L-clamp seemed a little cleaner and easier. I also thought about a line cutter. I never came up with a good design, so I just keep a clipper handy. I'll think about your razor blade idea. Thanks again for your suggestions.

ty Steel...i know how that other guy feels about a pencil or even chopsticks and holding them down with my feet...but now i am looking for one and came across this article and stopped me in my tracks...now i am in afghanistan but a true hard core fisherman, when i get back home ill be building me one. i may put some pics or name brands fishing supply on it as to know it is mine...but also a thank you note to you...if not for people like you, where would other fishermen be??? still buying them...thank you very much again and Aloha from afghanistan!!!

Mark Kapaona, Honolulu HI.
id.steelheader (author)  mark.kapaona3 years ago
Hey Mark,

I'm glad you found my Instructable for the fishing line winder. When you get it built, let me know how it works for you. I think you will like it.

Good luck in Afghanistan. Return home safely.

ID Steelheader
druski3 years ago
Easiest way i found was a TensionMate.
Thess can be found at

SIRJAMES094 years ago
this is AWESOME!! and talk about timing, it's perfect timing!!

I was just thinking yesterday on how to make a line winder as I'm getting a new reel(my first baitcasting reel) soon. I never ever use the line that comes with the reel, never know how old it is or how it was wound on the reel.

TY for sharing this!!
id.steelheader (author)  SIRJAMES094 years ago
Hi James0124

I'm glad you were able to find the line winder in time to fill your new baitcaster.
I use my winder for re-lining all types of reels, and it makes the job quick and easy. Good luck with the winder construction, and good fishing! Let me know how things work out.

PS - Here's a baitcaster hint I've found very useful. Fill the reel spool to within 1/16" to 1/8" of the spool rim. Then pull out the final 50-60 yards of line and cut the line near the rod tip. Tie the two parts back together with a blood knot. Wind the line back onto the reel until the knot is on the spool. Cover the knot with a strip of electrician's tape that spans the spool. Finish winding on the line.I do it this way for 2 reasons: 1) Most of the time you only need to change the last 50-60 yards of line. This is where 99% of the wear and stretch occurs. Pull off the old line down to the knot, retie the new, spool the new on. Saves lots of $ 2) The tape prevents loops of line from becoming buried deep on the spool when you have a backlash (professional overrun??) It won't stop the backlash, but it reduces the chance of hopeless ones.


TY Sir for your advice.

Well I finally took out the reel on its first fishing trip....

I caught:

6 catfish
4 bass
25 blue gills
15 crappy
12 sunfish(I think that's what they're called-bright yellow on the sides)
18 bull heads(I sliced them up for bait)
8 walleyes
and I used nightcrawlers for the most part.

Now keep in mind that I was out for over 26 hours straight fishing & I had 12 different screen fishing containers with me.
I had to have help carrying everything home(paid 2 kids $5 each to help me)
and when I got home, I dumped all the fish in a horse trough(watering trough), took a shower & went to bed. I was exhausted but in a good way. :)
id.steelheader (author)  SIRJAMES094 years ago
Hi James0124,

Great fishing trip! I'm glad your gear worked well for you.

SIRJAMES094 years ago
TY Sir. Sounds like a great plan!!
albacore5694 years ago

Do you have any recommendations as to where I can buy the parts? Neither Home Depot or Lowes carry the bolt, shaft collars or square U-bolt.

id.steelheader (author)  albacore5694 years ago
Hey albacore569,

I'm glad you are interested in the line winder. Sorry you are having trouble finding the parts. I live in a small town - population about 2400 - so I also had to do some searching for the parts.

I found the bolt in the bulk fastener bins at a Pro-Build lumber yard. I found the square U-bolt at a True Value Hardware store. The local NAPA auto parts store ordered the shaft collars from one of their hardware vendors.

Jefe754 years ago
This look awesome! Sure beats the way I used to do it... putting the spool on a pencil and holding it with my feet. That sure was a pain. Even when I had my kids help me by holding the spool, I never felt like we got the tension right. Thanks for the Instuctable.
id.steelheader (author)  Jefe754 years ago
Hey Jefe 75, You are welcome! I'm glad the line winder works for you. Controlling line tension was one of the big reasons I put it together - plus - my feet aren't very dexterous.
l8nite4 years ago
I bet this comes in handy when having to reline a number of reels
id.steelheader (author)  l8nite4 years ago
Yes, it does. I replace line on my reels regularly during the fishing season, but usually I replace only the final 50 or 60 yards of line. The line winder makes this chore much easier and quicker.
jdege4 years ago
When I've needed to do something like this, I just chucked up a length of all-thread in a vise. I never built anything permanent.
id.steelheader (author)  jdege4 years ago
This allows you to adjust the tension necessary to pull the line off of the spool, resulting in a tighter, neater wind onto the reel.
Nice build and much better than my method of winding the line through the phone book.
aeray4 years ago
Looks good to me. Easy, eh?