Godfrey Reels - Application of Neatsfoot Oil

Neatsfoot oil is a thin oil that is also somewhat water soluble, We use it on reel drag systems particularly cork or leather (vom Hofe reels) drag shoes to to make the drag feel smoother or perhaps to help repell water. Over the past three and a half decades I have avoided Neatsfoot oil for three reasons: First, It is generally not needed as the drag is already pretty smooth. Second, like all oils and greases it tends to attract dirt and generally make a mess of everything. And Third, on my reels and reportedly on some other prominent makes of reels it can make cork and particularly cork adhesives break down over time.

Neatsfoot oil - name derived from old English "Neat" or foot is an organic and the best of it is 100% unadulterated straight from the cow. Additives usually of petroleum base make the oil less smelly, but also less effective as a lubricant and it dries hard much more quickly.

Neatsfoot as mentioned is a "light oil" simply meaning thin. It also oxidizes slowly and only forms a crusty mess after perhaps 3 - 8 years depending on atmosphere or brand. Some reel owners simply scrape off the mess and add more oil; and it works out Ok; well, at least until its repeated once again when the reel may then gunk up to the point of malfunction. As a lubricant for reel drag systems, it is far superior to all other oils that I am aware of. Use of typical reel oils may make the drag run smoother, but when line is initially pulled from the reel there is a "bump" felt. This annoyance may or may not cause a fish to be lost, but certainly seems out of place in a well operating reel. In past decades I noticed that Bogdan salmon reel drag systems were heavily oiled and indeed exhibited this initial "grab" in the drag.

Certainly one advantage to adding this oil to a cork drag is that it makes the cork drag system water repellent; at least for occasional dunking. This might be by a fall in the river or photo shot of that special steelhead. Its certainly tempting to take an in-the-water photo of a grand fish along with rod & reel.

Starting in the Fall of 2021, the Paradigm, Salmon-Steelhead, and Perfection Reels are made with new drag system - new type cork and better adhesive that will withstand long term application of Neatsfoot oil. In the past applying this oil would cause the cork to come lose and crumble after 3 - 8 years whether the reel is fished or not. With the new type drag this problem disappears.

Application: Like all lubricants for a reel, apply it sparingly. I apply only a couple drops right on the cork on a Salmon or Paradigm Reel. Much less than that is all that's needed on the cork pads in a Perfection reel.

Information here is my experience from 35 years reel making and maintenance with cork drag systems, and also from other reel makers, and most importantly from conversations with anglers who fish Godfrey Reels.

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