Revive - A Quarterly Fly Fishing Journal - Page 180

The Build Process – The People

Bozeman Reel is committed to producing our reels in Montana. Sure, there may be ways to make them less expensively, but it is our belief that doing otherwise cheapens the product. We work to employ Bozeman-based designers, engineers, machinists and assemblers in an effort to bring more life to this vibrant community. Our shop and office is just 6 blocks north of main street – tucked far enough away from the day-to-day traffic, but close enough to stay connected to the shops and the community.

The shop starts to hum around 7:30 in the morning as the machines are started. With nearly 20 machined parts per reel, there are a lot of parts to get through. Using aluminum, stainless steel and delrin, the negative space is peeled away bit by bit. Over 95% of the material that is there at the start of production is shaved off to reveal the underlying body of a Bozeman Reel – weighing just around 5 ounces.

Shortly after the start of the day, the tumblers start to run and the energy in the shop increases. Most of the men and women working at the terminals tune out the regular drone of the machines, but will quickly turn their heads as soon as one of the tools makes an out of the ordinary sound. Everything is about the attention to detail – there is constant check, re-check, measure and check again of nearly every part that comes off. That level of consistency is one of the reasons why we make them here. It isn’t just the one step, but through every step along the way.

Of the nineteen machined parts, 9 of them require post-processing. Parts are tumbled to achieve the matte finish, anodized to introduce the colors and finally laser marked to brand them. Then, finally, the parts are ready for assembly. It takes a combined total of over 3 hours of time to get all the parts together for one reel.

If you come for a tour, bring a 6-pack. I used to bug the machinists when a tour came through and while they were always accommodating and welcome, we decided that some form of a ‘fee’ could be put to good use. And so the 6-pack rule was instituted. Now, whenever a tour comes through, I can almost always share the good news of a re-stocked fridge.

In a small space, upstairs, toward the back of the shop is “Bozeman Reel HQ”. It’s a bit of a cramped space for now, but is cozy and holds most of what is needed. There, the work-in-process is shelved awaiting the hands of an assembler. The parts are kitted and kanban’d. The final assembly should go smoothly when everything upstream is in order. But, the careful administering of the process finally yields a finished good.