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There are many ways to make your own carbon drag washers. The technique explained here will produce a nice, concentric washer with a nicely centered hole.

I have embedded my YouTube video of the process here if you would like to view that. If you like this sort of thing, please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel so you will be notified as I put out more content. My YouTube Channel

Carbon based drag washers are a great upgrade for reels that do not already have them. They are smooth in operation, reliable, consistent and hold up to heat better than other types of drag washer material. Aftermarket carbon drag washers are available for many reels and are an easy, drop in solution. I enjoy fishing with vintage fishing reels and, more often than not, you will not find the exact size carbon drag washers you need. If that is the case, you can make your own washers from Carbontex sheet material. You can find the material online. While it isn't cheap, you get enough material to make drag washers for several different reels and it does actually work out to be a good deal.

How do you turn the sheet stock into finished washers? That is what I will be covering here in this instructable...let's get started!

Step 1: Disassemble/Label/Measure/Order

Carbontex is available in different thicknesses. In order for you to find out what thickness you need, you will have to disassemble your reel to remove the drag washers. This process varies from reel to reel so I will not cover that here. If you don't know how to get to your drag washers, you may be able to find a tutorial online or a parts schematic that will help you out with the process. For this instructable, I am replacing the drag washers on a vintage Shakespeare 2052 spinning reel.

It is important to label your parts as you remove them. In my example here, the drag washers are in a six piece stack that uses leather drag washers and metal ones. I will also be making a new spool washer to replace the old leather one that goes under the spool. I have labeled the washers to make sure I reinstall them in the correct order. The leather washers are the friction washers that will be replaced with carbon based washers.

You will need a way to measure the material thickness of your old drag washers so you can determine what thickness your will need to order your Carbontex sheet in. Here I am using calipers to measure the thickness.

You can order your Carbontex sheet once you have determined what thickness you will be needing.

Step 2: Tools Needed to Make Your Washers

The tools we will be using are:

  • Scissors (the material is hard on cutting edges so you might not want to use your best pair)
  • Drill - I use a drill and a lathe here. You do not need a lathe, you can use a drill instead.
  • Drill Bits
  • Center Punch (optional)
  • A Fine Tooth File
  • A Screw or Bolt of the Appropriate Size (more on that in a later step)
  • Drag Washer Grease

Step 3: Cutting the Material Down

Use scissors to make these cuts. Trim off a strip of material slightly wider than the diameter of the original drag washers and long enough to make enough squares of material for the quantity of drag washers you need. You want the squares of material to be slightly larger than your original drag washers.

Step 4: Drilling the Center Holes

You will need to find a drill bit that is a tight fit in the center hole of your old drag washers. That is the size that you will use to drill the center hole of your new drag washers. Using an old drag washer as a guide, center punch the Carbontex square as close to the center of the hole in the old washer as you can. If you do not have a center punch, mark the spot where you will be drilling your hole and be careful when aligning your drill bit to the mark.

Now you are ready to drill your hole. I have found that it is much easier to get a clean hole drilled in the Carbontex material if you run your drill in reverse. When running forward, the bit will want to dig into and twist the material which can make the holes raggedy looking. If you drill the hole with the drill running in reverse, you will end up with a much cleaner center hole for your new washers.

Step 5: Cutting the Material to Its Rough Final Shape

The first photo in this step shows my old drag washer on a screw. As you can see the screw head is the same diameter as the outside diameter of the old drag washer. The washer is also a tight enough fit on the screw that the washer must be threaded onto the screw. While all of this isn't 100% necessary to make your own drag washers, it is incredibly convenient. The tight fit on the screw will come in handy on the next step and the diameter of the screw head also serves as a guide for shaping the new washers. At a minimum, you will want to use a screw that is very close to the same size as the diameter of the inner hole of your drag washer. In the example shown I was able to use the screw head as a guide to cut the washer to its rough final shape using scissors. If you are not able to find a screw with a head that will work as a guide for trimming the new washer, use the old washer as your guide by installing it on the screw next to what will be your new washer and cut the material to its rough shape with scissors.

Step 6: Final Shaping

For final shaping, we are going to chuck our screw with the new washer material into a drill (I am using a lathe here but a drill will work just fine for this) and use a fine toothed flat file to file the washer to its final shape while spinning the screw in the drill. If your washer was a tight enough fit that it had to be threaded onto the screw, you can run the drill in reverse and (using a light touch with the file) the material will tighten against the screw head, locking it in place/keeping it from spinning, while filing it to shape. If your washer wasn't a really tight fit onto the screw, you may need to tighten a nut onto the material to keep it from spinning on the screw while filing.

The result is a nicely shaped new drag washer with a well aligned center hole. You won't get NASA tolerances with this technique, but we aren't sending a man into space here either :-)

Step 7: Grease and Install

Now that you have made your new carbon drag washers, all that is left to do is lightly grease them with your favorite drag grease and install them into your reel!

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Bio: I enjoy fishing, kayaking, woodworking and making a wide variety of things.
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