Seamartin Vintage Fishing Reel Information, History and Technical Guide.
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History of the world famous Seamartin Vintage Surf Casting Fishing Reel, Designed and created by Cliff Martin.
Seamartin fishing reel, is probably the most noteworthy sui generis fishing reel of all existing wooden reels in the world. The reel has captured fascination of many fishermen, who at first were intrigued by Seamartin's peculiar ingenuity of design and function. The home of the Seamartin Surf Reel is of course Lakes Entrance, located along the coast of East Gippsland Victoria Australia. That is where the reel's creator, Cliff Martin, lived; and that is also where Bernard Ladd, a passionate collector and historian of Australian vintage fishing items, has frequented for over 30 years. In 1999, Ladd moved to this popular Victorian fishing location, with a view to sharing his favourite pastime with other enthusiastic anglers living in the area. It is here that he met Cliff Martin's nephew and many other Seamartin owners, who knew Cliff Martin personally. Ladd was in a fortunate position to gain an in-depth insight into this natural coastal milieu, where Cliff Martin lived and where his emergent ideas germinated into the creation of his famous Seamartin Fishing Reel.
Below, Ladd provides an extensive insight into the history of the Seamartin reel, applying biographic lenses to the reel's skilful contriver, Cliff Martin, as well as offering detailed technical analysis of the reel's engineering design spanning across variety of models as they emerged progressively over time. Joseph Pozman, 2018.
Cliff Martin, fishing in the 1960s at Lakes Entrance using his creation the Seamartin surf casting reel.
Seamartin identification aluminium plate fitted to all wood models upon patent approval registration. Reels produced prior to patent approval during the 1950s, were kindly entrusted by Cliff Martin to close friends, without an identification patent plate.
Seamartin first production model.
SEAMARTIN fishing reel was the unique invention of Cliff Martin from Lakes Entrance in Victoria -c.1950s. The design principle of the remarkable SEAMARTIN is between a side cast and a spinning reel. The spool is fixed forward as with a spinning reel, but the spool revolves to retrieve line like a side cast reel. The unique oscillating action of the line retrieve hook lays the line on the spool in a cross-weave pattern eliminating bite-in and coil throwing. It also allows the spool to be filled to capacity with out line slip off, ensuring trouble free casting. A devoted salt water fisherman and self-taught fitter and turner, Cliff Martin successfully patented his reel in 1960, lodged at the registered address of his Solicitor in Scott Street, Bairnsdale, Victoria. Around 1,000 reels were manufactured over the next 10 years. They were all hand made. The early prototypes were made from whatever scrap materials Cliff Martin could lay his hands on. The production model of the surf reel has an Australian Cedar body and spool-drum with Brass bevel gears, and Manganese Bronze bearings, that are so massive that Martin offered a lifetime guarantee against malfunction. By 1970, despite a permanent backlog of three months of orders, and a production rate of of about 3 or 4 reels a week, Martin was barely making wages and agreed to sell the patent rights to Wally Bambit of Oakleigh Agencies in Traralgon. The new owners re-designed the SEAMARTIN, now called the MONARCH, to accommodate the requirements of mass production by producing a die-cast body with a plastic type spool. Subsequent to Wally Bambit's passing, the patent rights were secured by Acmil Mouldings for approximately 12 months, before the patent rights were acquired lastly by Neptune Tackle Bernie Ladd, 2004.
First production: Seamartin Model 1 - c.1960. "Seamartin Patented- No.242,286" on id plate.
The very first production of SEAMARTIN was based on the Brass Ocsillating Bush design, which uniquely comprised single piece Australian red cedar spool drum, with an optional extra line capacity created by permanently fixed Marine Ply side-plates, which made up the front & back of the drum. The design of the single piece drum, at much later stage, was found to be quite problematic. Most fishing enthusiasts who took good care of their reel did not encounter any splitting of the spool drum sides. However, if the real was left wet with the line tightly spooled around it, expansion of the cedar wood would cause splitting of the drum's side-plates. Cliff Martin offered a life time guarantee on his reels, and he repaired damaged spools by replacing them with Marine Ply side-plates, often on the rear, and in worst case scenarios, front and back of the drum.
Gears - machine cut, heavy duty, brass bevels of 29 and 15 teeth; Shafts - 5/16'' Stainless Steel; Bearings Manganese Bronze; 3 Neoprene shaft seals (standard all models); ratio 2:1; Line pick up Stainless Steel; Spool-drum back cover Stainless Steel; T - drag semi-domed nut; Cast brass type, T - saddle [foot] nickel plated); Crank arm mild steel nickel plated (model's 1&2); later versions 3 & 4 Stainless Steel; Australian cedar housing (body) and spool (Left Hand Wind by Order).
Above 5 images depicting the Seamartin model 1, (First & second images feature the brass oscillating action.
Seamartin Model 2 -c. early 1960s. Teflon Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) guide block.
It appears that Cliff Martin was concerned, in the early days of SEAMARTIN's production, that his unique invention was perhaps somewhat too heavy in its overall weight and too vulnerable to oxidation due to exposure to natural elements. It is apparent that Cliff Martin's further model, which is referenced here as "Model 2" shows his determined attempts to address these issues. The Oscillator Guide which was originally Brass, in "Model 2" is made of Teflon.
Teflon (Polytetraflouroethylene) discovered by DuPont in 1932, became known for its non-friction capabilities, ease of machining; lighter weight; cheaper material cost, and superior corrosion resistance. Cliff Martin's choice of this particular material in the creation of the bottom oscillating guide of cylindrical design and the top section of a block configuration has proven to be a major step towards reducing the material costs and costs associated with the machining down-time, in addition to the teflon's light weight, durability, non-corrosive, and low friction properties.
The Line Retrieve Oscillating Hook remains the same, made of Stainless Steel; crank arm remains nickel plated mild steel; T - drag semi-domed nut; T - saddle (foot) is cast brass type nickel plated as the first production model.
Above 5 images depicting the Seamartin model 2.
Seamartin Model 3 - c. early 1960s
Features cylindrical Teflon oscillating guides that became standard on all Cliff Martin SEAMARTIN reels. This Model 3 pictured here has the non-brass screw oiling option.
One piece Australain Red Cedar spool drum; Cast brass type T-foot (saddle) are nickel plated. Due to the cost of nickel plating mild-steel crank arms, and the extra labour involved, Cliff Martin made the decision to produce a crank arm in stronger, corrosion resistant 316 grade Stainless Steel. All other components remain typical of previous models.
There is evidence that the SEAMARTIN Model 3 was available for purchase as early as 1962. For example, one of those lucky buyers, in 1962, was Harry Hauser of Bairnsdale, Victoria. Eventually Harry's precious possession of SEAMARTIN Model 3 became his gift to a friend John Summervillie in late 1960s.
Above 4 images depicting the Seamartin model 3.
Seamartin Model 4 Last version made -c. late 1960s to 1971.
Cliff Martin performed a complete model revamp on his last version, to further reduce the overall weight of his iconic reel. The modifications included reducing the original Stainless Steel back plate diameter from 4 & 11/16 inches to the new diameter of 4 & 5/8 inches. The reel's reliability was also improved with the edition of a Marine Ply spool-drum back. The earlier models' cast Bronze-type Nickel-plated foot was re-designed, using weight saving cast Aluminium Bronze; after casting the T - foot (saddle) surface was polished (buffed). A new lighter and more ergonomic style plastic handle knob was also incorporated. The original first production, Model 1, weighed 872 grams. The new Model 4's weight was 826 grams. These modifications resulted in an overall weight reduction of 46 grams.
SEAMARTIN Model 4 is the last version Cliff Martin had manufactured. Sometime during 1971, Cliff Martin sold his patent rights to Wally Bambit, a local businessman from Traralgan, Victoria, Australia.
Above 4 images depicting the Seamartin model 4.
Extremely Rare Silky Oak Heavy Duty Seamartin model.
Seamartin manufactured from Australian Silky Oak Grevillea robusta -c. 1960s.
Cliff Martin sometime in early 1960s produced his SEAMARTIN from Australian Silky Oak wood. It is unclear why Cliff decided to produce a very limited number made from Silky Oak, which did add extra weight to his iconic design. The Silky Oak version is weighing 904 grams whereas the Cedar versions weigh an average 804 grams. To date I have sighted only three Silky Oak Seamartin reels, thus I believe this is an extremely rare specimen.
Australian Silky Oak spool drum & housing; Nickel plated cast brass T - saddle (foot); Mild steel T - drag full acorn nut, S/S grip bar; crank arm 316 grade Stainless Steel. All other components remain typical of other models.
Above 4 images depicting the Seamartin Silky Oak heavy duty model.
More Seamartin model information:
First production Seamartin,
fitted with optional extra line capacity marine ply front and back; Australian Red Cedar; with the standard spool-drum.
Left hand wind SEAMARTIN.
Made by order. Mechanical specifications similar to other wood Seamartin models.
Seamartin models 3 and 4, presented in mint condition.
Factual statistic:This mint never fished Cedar Seamartin fishing reel sold for a record price of $3,650.00 on January 4, 2010.The eBay seller id : reelman* A record auction price that still stands today.
Seamartin wood spool-drum types.
Early models: Seamartin solid one piece Australian Red Cedar spool-drum. The early solid wood Cedar spool-drum is prone to side face splitting if not properly cared for.
Silky oak marine ply backed spool-drum that was used for the Silky Oak housing (body) Seamartin.
Marine ply front and back faces; Australian Red Cedar drum centre, to facilitate the fitting of extra line capacity. An option for all wood Seamartins produced.
Model 4 Seamartin marine ply backed Australian Red Cedar spool-drum that became standard on the later models that improved the spool-drums reliability.
A repaired one piece (solid) Red Cedar spool-drum using aluminium bracing on the front face; also commonly repaired by Cliff Martin, using marine ply on front or back faces (plates)
Above four different crank-arm handle knobs produced by Cliff Martin for his wooden Seamartin reels.
Clutch drag nut types used for the wood Seamartin models.
Exposed sealed Seamartin wooden housing.
Initial Seamartin gear housing
Representation of several prototype reels by Cliff Martin. The five images starting from the left, highlight Cliff Martin's passion for experimentation with the ergonomic design of his classic quintessential reel invention. The third image from the left, shows the Seamartin with the line retrieval hook positioned on the same side of the crank handle. This particular reel is unique in its experimental phase as there is no evidence that the ID badge was ever fitted, as can be seen in the two close up images on the right. Clearly, Martin decided that this experimental configuration was not as useful in terms of manual line handling, which ultimately led to the development of his final line guide patented design mechanism, which has the line retrieval hook positioned on the opposite side of the crank handle, as depicted in the last image on the far right hand side.
Cliff Martin photographs and news paper clippings.
SEAMARTIN's review 1974, announcing in a local news paper 'Traralgan News' the new Monarch Seamartin retail availability.
Cliff Martin death tribute 1908 - 1983.
Left: The modified Harley-VW motorised Seamartin Tricycle Beach Buggy; Cliff Martin and his son-in-law Charles, at the 90 Mile Surf Beach, Lakes Entrance. Victoria. Early 1970s.
Seamartin patent application 1959.
Early Seamartin brochure.
Hand written information about Seamartin reel by Cliff Martin.
Monarch Die-cast Housing SEAMARTIN Fishing Reel.
Maker Wally Bambit, Traralgon, Victoria, Australia:
The SEAMARTIN Surf Reel was invented by Cliff Martin during the 1950s, for surf fishing on Victoria's Ninety Mile Beach. Over a period of years, the Seamartin was developed to provide a superior reel for both beach and rock fishing and has since been accepted and used for competition casting in Australia. Wally Bambit of Oakleigh News Agency, Traralgon, Victoria, purchased the patent rights from Cliff Martin in 1971. The reel was re-designed for mass production. The body of the reel was changed to die-cast, and the names "SEAMARTIN and MONARCH" were embedded into a new design nylon spool. The name "MONARCH" was also embedded into the new design die-cast chrome-plated drag knob. The pinion shaft previously Stainless Steel was changed to Brass. The line retrieve hook previously made from 316 grade Stainless Steel was now made from Chrome-Plated Mild Steel. It appears that the initial model was purple, brown or green-purple in colour. During further model improvements, the Monarch reel appeared in those initial colours, as well as other colour options.
Seamartin specification Leaflet.
Seamartin Monarch Decal.
Seamartin Monarch Box.
First production: Seamartin Monarch Model 1.
Wally Bambit, a local businessman from Traralgon, and a proprietor of the local News Agency, performed a complete make-over of Cliff Martin's famous Cedar Surf Casting Reel. It is not clear whether Bambit had an engineering background. It is apparent however, that his make-over of the Monarch is largely esthetic rather than functional in nature. The first Monarch production version, referenced here as Model 1, came with pressure injected die-cast body (housing); a spool made of a Nylon type material; and a line retrieve hook made of drawn chrome-plated mild steel. A die-cast drag knob is also chrome plated. Interestingly the Nylon type spool proved to be problematic as it was prone to distortion under load. Bambit's engineering prowess comes further into question when he appears to treat chrome-plating in the initial model on the same par as 316 Grade Stainless Steel. The 316 Grade Stainless Steel retrieve hook on Cliff Martin's models, was prone to grooving caused by line abrasion. Bambit's efforts to address this anomaly by including chrome-plated rather than 316 Grade Stainless Steel had been even more problematic, because chrome-plating is not suitable for salt water fishing activities. The Cedar Seamartin lighter style Model 4 crank handle remained, so did the bronze type Pinion. The original Cedar Seamartin bronze main gear was changed to die cast. The aesthetic appearance of the new Monarch was appealing, unfortunately as indicated, some technical modifications were not satisfactory. (Ladd,B: 2004)
Die-cast main gear; bronze pinion; bronze (bearing) bushes; brass pinion shaft; spool alarm set; pressure die-cast body; and (housing) multiple clutch; chrome-plated line retrieve hook. Colours: maroon, brown, olive-green, green & maroon, or flat black.
Above 6 images depicting the Seamartin Monarch model 1.
Seamartin Monarch Model 2.
It became clear to Wally Bambit, that his chrome-plated mild steel line retrieve hook, incorporated on the first production models, was a mistake. The choice to use chrome-plated mild steel, instead of the 316 Grade Stainless Steel was indeed a failure. This model 2, referenced here, was produced with a new design 316 Grade Stainless Steel hook retrieve, that was originally used by Cliff Martin on his wooden Seamartin reels. It is well accepted in the metallurgic field that hard-chrome (as opposed to chrome-plating) also known as industrial chrome or engineered chrome, reduces friction, and improves durability through its tolerance to abrasion and general resistance to the elements and use. Bambit should have used this procedure instead of chrome-plating, as an alternative means to protect the line retrieve hook against line abrasion and wear grooving. Whilst this option would be better than chrome-plating, 316 Grade Stainless Steel, as used by Cliff Martin, remains the most suitable material for fishing reel design. The Monarch struggled for general acceptance from the engineering minded fishermen, and Bambit's design, not surprisingly, faced a slim chance of market place survival.
Die-cast main gear, bronze pinion; bronze (bearing) bushes; brass pinion shaft; spool alarm set; pressure die-cast body (housing) multiple clutch; 316 Grade stainless steel line retrieve hook.
Above 5 images depicting the Seamartin Monarch model 2.
Seamartin Monarch Model 3.
Some time during 1975, MONARCH was produced with another further improvement, referenced here as model 3, the pinion shaft previously brass and prone to shearing under load was changed to 316 Grade Stainless Steel, the nylon spool, prone to breakage and distortion under load was again left unmodified! The pinion shaft improvement proved fruitless, as most fishermen rejected the Monarch and with the sudden passing of Wally Bambit, Oakleigh Agencies not able to survive, sold to F & T Mouldings.(1976).
Die-cast main gear, bronze pinion; bronze (bearing) bushes; 316 Grade Stainless Steel pinion shaft; spool alarm set; pressure die-cast body (housing) multiple clutch; 316 Stainless Steel line retrieve hook.
Above 5 images depicting the Seamartin Monarch model 3.
Seamartin Monarch Problematic Design Faults.
Monarch fault. A failed under load sheared pinion shaft!
Typical spool breakages.
Monarch Plastic type spools were prone to load distortion and did not handle heavy spool face impact!
Problematic occurrence with the Seamartin Monarch crank handle made from Brass and nickel plated was the D slot shearing under load defined in the 2 images above.
Seamartin Monarch Box.
Seamartin Monarch Cardboard box made by United Packages Melbourne. Australia. 1974.
Seamartin Monarch exposed gear housing.
The New Improved ACMIL SEAMARTIN Mark 2 -c.1976.
Manufactured by Acmil Mouldings ( F & T ) Huntingdale, Victoria, Australia .
After the closure of the SEAMARTIN MONARCH production factory in Traralgon, Victoria, SEAMARTIN was taken over by F & T Mouldings, an ACMIL Company based at 17 Franklyn Street, Huntingdale, Victoria, Australia. The body of the new improved SEAMARTIN Mark 2 produced in the later 1970s, is beautifully finished in hammertone blue and exyplast enamel baked at 300'C. This improved model came also with the spool that was specifically designed and moulded from an engineering plastic, referred to as a Thermosetting Polyester [Valox 310). The Mark 2 came with an improved oscillator top bearing guide, and interestingly, the retrieve hook for the first time was not only manufactured from 316 Grade Stainless Steel but also hard-chromed.
Most external metal fittings are 316 Grade Stainless Steel ( with exception of the retrieve hook being hard-chromed). The line retrieve hook is guided by a nylon bearing to eliminate wear and the need for lubrication in the Nylon 66 oscillator guide support. The Stainless Steel acorn crank-handle nut now has a lock-plate. The other features also include pressure die-cast body (housing); main gear made from die-cast alloy; bronze type pinion; bronze type bearing bushing; and left or right hand wind operation options.
Above 5 images depicting the F & T Mouldings (Acmil) Seamartin Mk 2, Royal Blue hammertone colour.
Seamartin Mk 2: Made in Australia by F & T Mouldings Decal.
Seamartin Mk 2: Made in Australia by Acmil Mouldings Decal.
Seamartin Mk 2 Surf Reel Box. Manufactured by Visy, Melbourne.
Seamartin Mk 2 Left Hand Wind model.
Seamartin Mk 2 Light Blue hammertone finish.
Seamartin Mk 2 Royal Blue hammer tone finish.
Seamartin Mk 2 new design, Valox 310 Plastic spool by Acmil.
Seamartin Mk 2 Surf fishing reel schematic, specification user guide leaflet.
Neptune Tackle Mark 2 SEAMARTIN Fishing Reel.
Maker C & J Coates Pty. Ltd., Alberton, Adelaide, Australia -c. 1980.
Neptune Tackle Company was founded by John and Carlene Coates on 14 March 1972, in an old building located at 47 Sussex Street, Alberton, Adelaide. In the early 1980's Neptune Tackle took over the production of Seamartin Surf Reel from Acmil Mouldings Pty Ltd. The Seamartin remained identical mechanically; the Acmil decal however was changed to a new name: "Neptune Tackle Made in AUSTRALIA".
In 1986, John and Carlene's two sons Darren and Robin joined the family business. As production increased the Coats progressed with the idea of building an impressive factory, which was to include a sophisticated showroom and a modern office complex, all situated in the Central Port Adelaide. They finished the building of this new manufacturing facility in 1997. The Seamartin production continued until 2006, when the company decided to no longer manufacture the iconic Australian reel design of the famous inventor Cliff Martin.
Plastic type spool-drum width 2 & 1/16''; diameter 4 & 1/2''; pressure die-cast body (housing) die-cast main gear, bronze type pinion; bronze type bearing bushing; 316 Grade Stainless Steel pinion shaft; Stainless Steel crank arm; plastic type handle knob; weight 886 grams. Colour finish Royal Blue; Black; and Hammertone Silver-Black. Produced with the left or right hand model options (other specifications and materials are as the Acmil Seamartin).
Above 5 images depicting the Seamartin Neptune early production Royal Blue colour, and left hand wind model option.
Above 5 images depicting the Seamartin Neptune early production Flat Black colour, and right hand wind model option.
Above 5 images depicting the Seamartin Neptune later production Black-Silver hammertone colour, and left hand wind model option.
4 images depicting the Seamartin Neptune Box made by Amcor packaging South Australia.
Seamartin Neptune Tackle
early and later clicker variation.
Seamartin Neptune Tackle Surf Fishing Reel schematic, specification user guide leaflet.
"Neptune Tackle made in AUSTRALIA" decal fitted to all Seamartin Neptune fishing reel models.
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