The Allcock Stanley Threadline spinning reel, the Morris Minor of spinning reels by a true Brit.
By John Stephenson.
Small in stature, big in ideas, Walter Stanley was a force to be reckoned with in fishing tackle design.
Around the turn of the century many new patent inventions hit the fishing reel market, c. 1900 you would normally have a drum type spinning reel making spinning a practised art.
In the UK, early production spinning reels or ‘threadlines’ started appearing with the famous Alfred Holden Illingworth range of reels. The first, the Illingworth No1 Patent in 1905 hit production in 1907 and was a thing of beauty. It was expensive in its day so not everyone could afford to buy such a high-end piece of tackle, especially in the coarse fishing market.
That set Walter Stanley thinking…
An accomplished engineer, master moulder, designer and teacher, he set about building a competitor to the Illingworth reels at a fraction of the price for the ordinary man. The very term ‘threadline’ was adopted by Stanley as he wanted a reel that could cast ordinary thread which was cheaper than the more expensive silk lines at the time.
Commencing his initial drawings c. 1907, the WW1 conflict stalled his developments.
Taking the design on again he finally made a working model and in 1928 he tried to self-market the reel.
In my book The Stanley Story, it relates a true story when having sent a number of reels to various tackle shops, Mr George Wood, a tackle dealer in Sheffield wrote to Stanley to say, “despite having the reel for 3 years, there is no interest,” and so in 1931 he returned it unsold, having not paid in the first instance anyway!
Finally, after many letters and disagreements between Cortney Williams of the famous S. Allcock & Co. in Redditch and Walter Stanley himself, the Allcock’s Stanley threadline spinning reel was born in 1933.
Determined to do better in 1938, Stanley registered another patent for a half bail arm model of the Stanley reel (really rare now), but by this time Hardy had hit the market with the stunning Altex reel with its patent bail arm and the writing was on the wall.
The Stanley reels never worked well, the fibre drive washer being the main culprit, but the 90 degree turn from drive wheel to washer was also a nightmare, never mind the line laying crook bar. Despite this, in the 1960’s/70’s you could still buy (but why would you) a Stanley reel in the same tackle shop that had been selling the Hardy Altex and the famous Mitchell 300 reels for years.
I remember seeing one in Scrimgeours tackle shop of Falkirk in Scotland and thinking, what is it?
So why write about what was basically a flawed reel?
Had the production reel been made like the beautiful swan-neck alloy prototype or Stanley’s own brass and alloy reel, they would have sold, but when a committee design a racehorse you get a camel.
Stanley was no ordinary guy, having three Patents for fishing tackle including a drum reel brake system. More importantly he was the pioneering a reel that the common man could afford to buy and use. It resulted in some success despite its shortcomings including river pike & salmon to over 20lbs…. on thread!
Note: With thanks to Chris Sandford for the brilliant Stanley threadline spinning reel images from his collection.
Check out our selection of unusual spinning reels for sale which includes some other weird and wonderful designs and makers.
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