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.

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Step 1: 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

Step 2: Assemble

Photo One:

1- Cut out wooden parts. Sand smooth.
2- Drill a 13/64" hole 1/2" from the top of the piece of hardwood, centered on the 7/8" side
3- Use the 7/16" wrench to thread the machine bolt into the hole
4- Use the hacksaw to remove the bolt head and dress the cut with the file
5- Drill a 5/16" hole in the center of the 8" side of the base, 3/4" in from the edge

Photo Two:

6- Attach the upright to the base using the wood glue and the two wood screws in countersunk holes. The side of the upright should be 1-1/2" from the edge of the base.
7- Attach the 4 non-skid spots to the base. Put two at the corners of the 8" edge nearest the upright. Put the other two 1-1/8"  from the other corners, along the 5-1/2" edge.

Photo Three:

8- Use the hacksaw to cut the U-bolt, making an L-bolt
9- Slide the rubber tubing over the short leg of the L-bolt

Photo Four:

10- Remove the existing set screws from the shaft collars, and replace with the thumbscrews. The thumbscrews may need to be cut off, leaving about 1/2" of the threaded portion.

Photo Five:

11- Use the 1/4" bit to enlarge the holes in  the centers of the conical washers

12- Assemble the parts as shown, paying special attention to the orientation of the conical washers.

Step 3: Usage

NOTE: The rod, reel, and winder are shown close together for photographic convenience only. In practice, the line is passed through all rod guides and the tip of the rod is positioned a few feet from the spool.

Photo One:

Baitcaster, Fly, Center Pin and Alvey-type reels (axle of reel parallel to winder shaft):

1- Clamp line winder to a convenient vertical or horizontal surface using the L-bolt.
2- Remove outer shaft collar, spring, flat washer, nylon spacer, and conical washer.
3- Install line spool with the line unwinding off of the top of the spool, towards the reel.
4- Replace the conical washer, nylon spacer, washer, spring, and collar.
5- Position the spool in the center of the shaft and tighten the inner thumbscrew.
6- Make sure that conical washers are centered in the spool.
7- Achieve the desired rotating resistance on the spool by compressing the spring, then tightening the thumbscrew on the outer shaft collar.
8- Attach line to reel and reel away.

Note: When filling fly reels, center pin, and Alvey-type reels, the spool of line should be mounted on the shaft with the line coming off of the bottom of the spool, rather than the top.

Photo Two:

Open-face Spinning and Spincast Reels (axes of reel and winder in-line):

1- Clamp line winder to a convenient horizontal surface using the L-bolt.
2- Remove outer shaft collar, spring, flat washer, nylon spacer, and conical washer.
3- Loosen set screw on inner shaft collar.
4- Place spool on shaft.
5- Replace conical washer, spacer, washer, and outer shaft collar. Spring not used.
6- Secure outer collar on the very end of the shaft.
7- Center the spool on the outer conical washer, slide inner assembly snug to the spool and tighten to prevent the spool from turning.
8- Attach line to the reel and reel away.

NOTES: The rod, reel, and winder are shown close together for photographic convenience only. In practice, the line is passed through the rod guides and the tip of the rod is held a few feet from the spool.

When filling spinning and spincasting reels, it is VERY important to pay attention to the line coming off of the spool. If this line begins developing twists or kinks, stop reeling and reverse the spool of line on the shaft. The line must spool off its spool in the same direction as it is wound on the reel. Often, but not always, the label on the spool of line should be facing the reel.

Good Fishing!

1 Person Made This Project!


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36 Discussions

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


6 years ago on Introduction

I added a yardage 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.


Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

Looks good. Good adaptation, thanks for the photos. I'll be posting another Instructable for a line stripper shortly. Stay tuned...


6 years ago on Introduction

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.


6 years ago on Introduction

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.

1 reply

Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

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,

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!



7 years ago on Introduction

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???

1 reply

Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

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 Grim

7 years ago on Introduction

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.

1 reply

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.

1 reply

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.



7 years ago on Introduction

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 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.

1 reply

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