Garcia Mitchell 408; what should I expect?

TinBoats.net

Help Support TinBoats.net:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.

Ray Clark

Well-known member
TinBoats Supporter
Joined
Jun 6, 2021
Messages
289
Reaction score
406
Location
Treynor, Iowa
I have a Garcia Mitchell 408; I have cleaned it, lubed it, and it seems to operate smoothly, but it's stiff. The bale mechanism works decently. However, the reel requires moderate strength to operate. It's certainly not as "limber" as the new reels we can buy today. It feels like the grease inside the reel is very cold. There's no hangup or "rough spot" that I can detect in the mechanism. It's just harder to crank than I think it should be.

I inherited the reel from my Grandpa. He received it as a retirement gift about 1967 or so. The reel was one of his treasured possessions in his retirement. Now, 50 years since he passed, I'd like to use that reel in my fishing adventures.

My Grandmother gave the reel to me when I moved to Alaska with the military in 1983. I used the reel a few times while in Alaska, but it never seemed to work right. The reel was put away for safekeeping. Long story short, in 2019, I decided to get the reel out and see if I could put it back into service. I found a series of videos on YouTube that were very detailed in the break down, cleaning, and reassembly of the Mitchell 308. The process is the same for the 408. The videos were produced by the Mitchell Reel Museum and were very helpful.

The old grease (which I'm sure was factory original) was all gummed up. I carefully cleaned all the parts and found a plastic part inside the center portion of the mechanism that was broken. A quick search on eBay located a replacement part for $13 delivered. I put that in and reassembled the reel, using Penn grease for lubrication, just like the video showed. I also used some Penn Reel Oil on certain parts. But, it's still stiff.

Any ideas about how to get the crank mechanism to be easier to turn? I'm not really into collecting stuff for display; I'd really like to use this reel more. However, a day of casting and cranking with the reel would be much more enjoyable if it required less strength to crank.
 
I have a Garcia Mitchell 408; I have cleaned it, lubed it, and it seems to operate smoothly, but it's stiff. The bale mechanism works decently. However, the reel requires moderate strength to operate. It's certainly not as "limber" as the new reels we can buy today. It feels like the grease inside the reel is very cold. There's no hangup or "rough spot" that I can detect in the mechanism. It's just harder to crank than I think it should be.

I inherited the reel from my Grandpa. He received it as a retirement gift about 1967 or so. The reel was one of his treasured possessions in his retirement. Now, 50 years since he passed, I'd like to use that reel in my fishing adventures.

My Grandmother gave the reel to me when I moved to Alaska with the military in 1983. I used the reel a few times while in Alaska, but it never seemed to work right. The reel was put away for safekeeping. Long story short, in 2019, I decided to get the reel out and see if I could put it back into service. I found a series of videos on YouTube that were very detailed in the break down, cleaning, and reassembly of the Mitchell 308. The process is the same for the 408. The videos were produced by the Mitchell Reel Museum and were very helpful.

The old grease (which I'm sure was factory original) was all gummed up. I carefully cleaned all the parts and found a plastic part inside the center portion of the mechanism that was broken. A quick search on eBay located a replacement part for $13 delivered. I put that in and reassembled the reel, using Penn grease for lubrication, just like the video showed. I also used some Penn Reel Oil on certain parts. But, it's still stiff.

Any ideas about how to get the crank mechanism to be easier to turn? I'm not really into collecting stuff for display; I'd really like to use this reel more. However, a day of casting and cranking with the reel would be much more enjoyable if it required less strength to crank.
I watch a YouTube channel called “second chance reel “ and Dennis show maintenance on many different reels and I &think he had done a Mitchell 408 recently. He alway says that if you have a problem with a reel to contact him.
I have a couple Mitchell 300’s from the 60’s.
 
I watch a YouTube channel called “second chance reel “ and Dennis show maintenance on many different reels and I &think he had done a Mitchell 408 recently. He alway says that if you have a problem with a reel to contact him.
I have a couple Mitchell 300’s from the 60’s.
Thanks. I'll take a look.
 
These are superb reels. One of my favorites. Sounds like packed old grease is your issue. The only tricky thing about them is the bearing which is in that section between the body of the reel and the rotating head. I'd not pull that out of impatience before soaking it, in place, with some quality light lubricant like CorrosionX.
 
These are superb reels. One of my favorites. Sounds like packed old grease is your issue. The only tricky thing about them is the bearing which is in that section between the body of the reel and the rotating head. I'd not pull that out of impatience before soaking it, in place, with some quality light lubricant like CorrosionX.
Thanks. Since I did the cleaning a couple years ago, I couldn't remember exactly how far down I had taken this reel. I dug up this picture of the reel disassembled and partially cleaned. I did take that center axle out and clean as much as I could without just dunking the whole setup in a cleaner.

Reel disassembled.jpg

The nylon block that needed to be replaced is in the lower right portion of the picture (in two pieces).

I lubed the reel with Penn Precision Reel Grease. I didn't slather it on, but that's what I did use.
 
So what seems to be missing in this pic is the roller bearing. It's right there in the body right where it joins the rotating head. IIRC it is held in place by a tiny screw on the right side of the body. If its running really hard, that probably needs to be at least soaked and lubed if not replaced. Most likely the latter. I encourage you to chase this down, as this is a worthy reel and should be out fishing!!!!!
 
Thanks for the pointer.

A quick review of eBay did not turn up any replacement roller bearing assemblies that match the part number shown on the schematic for this reel. Believe it's part number 81322.

I prefer not to take this reel all the way apart again. I've done it before, and had a successful reassembly, but that was on a long winter's night when there was not much else to do. Meaning: It was a Royal Pain to get back together! I think my next step is to get some solvent into that bearing to free up old grease; as you may have noticed, I used Hoppe's #9 and WD-40 to clean it the first time. As for relubrication after that's done, what's best? As mentioned, I have Penn Precision Reel Grease, and I also have the Penn Precision Reel Oil. I'm thinking I need to use oil since I'm not planning to take it apart. I did look online for CorrosionX; quite honestly, I was taken aback by the price for a can of that stuff.
 
Ok, I used Mitchell 301's (these are left hand 300's) from the 1970's into the 2000's
I still have 5 or 6 of them but I don't use them any more.
It was a known issue at the time that a new mitchell reel was stiff, because of the tight tolerances, but after a season or two or three, they (broke in). Problem was by the time the reel got really lose the bail and the rest of the reel was worn out.
I remember reading in field & stream magazine about the problem and how some of the pro fishermen of the day fixed it.
Now I don't recommend doing this, to your grandpa's reel but I did it once to a brand new garcia mitchell 301A and it did work great, the cause of the problem is not berings or a stickin shaft, it is how the gears in the reel mesh. They are too tight to spin freely.
The solution from the F&S article is to open up a brand new mitchell reel, remove all the grease and put tooth paste on the gears, then close up the reel and crank it for about an hour, this makes the gears lap in. Then open it up clean out the toothpaste and regrease it. You then will have a reel that will be smooth as silk, much better than anything you can buy today.
 
Ok, I used Mitchell 301's (these are left hand 300's) from the 1970's into the 2000's
I still have 5 or 6 of them but I don't use them any more.
It was a known issue at the time that a new mitchell reel was stiff, because of the tight tolerances, but after a season or two or three, they (broke in). Problem was by the time the reel got really lose the bail and the rest of the reel was worn out.
I remember reading in field & stream magazine about the problem and how some of the pro fishermen of the day fixed it.
Now I don't recommend doing this, to your grandpa's reel but I did it once to a brand new garcia mitchell 301A and it did work great, the cause of the problem is not berings or a stickin shaft, it is how the gears in the reel mesh. They are too tight to spin freely.
The solution from the F&S article is to open up a brand new mitchell reel, remove all the grease and put tooth paste on the gears, then close up the reel and crank it for about an hour, this makes the gears lap in. Then open it up clean out the toothpaste and regrease it. You then will have a reel that will be smooth as silk, much better than anything you can buy today.
OK, good to know. I'd have never thought of the toothpaste hack, but it makes sense because toothpaste is so ever so slightly abrasive; some more than others.

Here's what I did this afternoon: I pulled the cover, and took off the rotating head. That allowed me access to that bearing. I used WD-40 to remove all old grease from the bearing. The bearing was noticeably easier to spin once I had the grease (mostly) out. I then soaked the bearing with Penn Precision Reel Oil. It spins freeley and with no noticeable "gritty" feeling. After reassembly, the reel is easier to crank, but not as easy as my "modern" Pflueger or Garcia reels.

I'm calling it good.
 
OK, good to know. I'd have never thought of the toothpaste hack, but it makes sense because toothpaste is so ever so slightly abrasive; some more than others.

Here's what I did this afternoon: I pulled the cover, and took off the rotating head. That allowed me access to that bearing. I used WD-40 to remove all old grease from the bearing. The bearing was noticeably easier to spin once I had the grease (mostly) out. I then soaked the bearing with Penn Precision Reel Oil. It spins freeley and with no noticeable "gritty" feeling. After reassembly, the reel is easier to crank, but not as easy as my "modern" Pflueger or Garcia reels.

I'm calling it good.

On that bearing you are describing, did you use the reel oil or reel grease on it before reassembly? I will be doing a similar rehab on a couple of reels. I want to make sure I correctly lubricate the bearing before closing things up.
 
I used Penn Precision Reel Oil to lube the bearing itself. Now, I don't know whether that was the correct thing to do or not, but it seemed to me that the Penn Precision Reel Grease was just too thick to penetrate the bearing very well.

I've never really taken a reel apart as I have this one, but I use 3-in-1 light machine oil in my router bearings out in the woodshop. Those bearings spin at upwards of 12000 rpm, so I'm confident the Penn oil is good for my Mitchell reel bearing.
 
Top