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Vintage Mitchell

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By Wallace Carney


After many years of trying to find the “perfect” first version Mitchell, I finally found one several years ago in France. What you see here is a true first version with little if any internal gear wear. This reel has also been confirmed to be the first version by having studied 18 other first versions, over 40 second versions and over 100 third versions. The first two versions have the round anti-reverse but the third version has an angled one. Most of the other precise features of the truest first version set it far apart from the rest including no Made in France on the housing as you will see.


Please understand that the first version did not have any paint primer. For this reason you will not find one in good appearance unless they’ve been repainted. When you find one most of the paint will have fallen off. This is the main point to look for when trying to locate one. The “light” colored Rosewood Handle Knob also helps but many of these have long since deteriorated and replaced with round aluminum knobs. Trying to explain each tidbit of information is easier done by photographs with explanations attached to each.




01 The qualities of all outer aluminum parts are poor with a lot of pits and scratches. None of these parts have been sanded but I did polish them slightly. The Cover Plate Screws are steel on all three versions.
02 The "Mitchell" is not engraved but is a deep cut possibly by a router type tool.


Foundry (Casting) marking ALUVAC 4190 only shows the ALUV 190 due to a reinforcement pin for the Main Gear Drive shaft. This was found on all first versions and very early 2nd versions. These markings went away but came back in the 3rd versions. Reason is currently unknown.
04 The anti-reverse spring and pins are typical on the first three versions. The brass sleeve within the Main Gear Drive shaft is raised eliminating the need for “future” and “optional” Main Drive Gear shims.


05 No “Made in France” and no outer reinforcement on the Axle shaft near the Lube Port. All other versions have the “Made in France” but still no reinforcement.

The reel foot (handle) is square but most important; there’s what appears to be the number “5” stamped on the bottom. You will also see the number “5” on other versions but clearly a lot difference in location and appearance.


I am not showing this for security reasons even though this housing would be near impossible to fake.

07 Foundry (Casting) marking ALUVAC 4189 was found in this location on the first two versions only. This same marking was on the 3rd version but 2mm lower. The axle’s shaft made of steel was pressed in to the aluminum housing and roughly filed/hammered down.
08 No reinforcement on the Lube Port’s inner shaft. Obviously pressed in from the front and tack welded to the housing. This is a very important feature along with all of the others to eliminate fakes or “Frankenstein” reels which I commonly found.



There’s a small rectangular indentation / imperfection to the right of all first versions. Some are more pronounced than others. Why this is here is unknown.


It's important to know that these exact same Rotating Heads are found on very early second (2nd) versions as well! The only difference is that the 2nd versions had paint primer!

10 There’s very little difference in the bail wires but I thought it interesting how this one was parallel to the head. You’ll also see the line guide is a bit larger than those more common on the next two versions.
11 The head’s gear drive is aluminum with a brass sleeve. Notice the two lead welds for the counterweight. There are no foundry markings inside or out but I tend to believe there must be one, maybe under the counterweight?
12 The trip lever is the same on all 3 versions with little differences, too small to note right now. The lead counterweight is smooth on the surface with no weld markings. It’s very hard to see, but it’s also held in place by a very thin lead weld. This head was found on some of all 3 versions but only the first version had no primer.


13 The Handle Shaft is unique and the Rosewood knob is much lighter in color not found on any other version. The Knob Screw is Chrome Plated Brass. All others have a steel screw. You can check these fast with a magnet.


14 The first version Lube Port Screw is Chrome Plated Brass like the knob screw. All others are aluminum but this along with other parts could possibly be found by NOS parts use.
15 This close-up shows just how thin the chrome plating is and could easily be polished off.


16 The same on all three versions but you will see more imperfections on the very early versions at the trip weld.
17 The Baffle Plate Nut is steel with an aluminum washer. The Baffle Plate Shims are the same size as the Head to Housing shims. Both shims are made out of steel. The larger Baffle Plates to Head shims were not found on any versions which came much later.



18 The Drag Adjustment Knob is aluminum with no markings and of course, no primer. The steel Drag Spring fits perfectly in the spool indentation and had no fiber washer. The Spindle does have a fiber washer with a flat aluminum base.
19 The Spool Clicker (Pawl) is steel with steel springs. The spool is pressed aluminum held together with aluminum screws. It also has the Line Clip common for many years. The Spool does not have primer but the original paint is still there which may be the difference between pressed and cast aluminum paint adhesion back then?


20 The Axle is made completely out of steel.


21 Although very hard to tell, the only difference found in the Main Drive Gear is the hole in the center of the small gear that drives the Transfer Gear is smaller than all other versions.
22 Main Drive Gear drive shaft.


23 The Pinion Gears on the first version did not have shims.
24 Pinion Gear bottom view.


25 The Oscillation Guide had to be raised up to keep it level due to the Axle’s steel shaft imperfections. This was done on all early versions by placing very small Washers under each screw hole between the Housing and the guide.
26 The first version washers were silver in color but nonmagnetic making me believe aluminum coated brass without further testing. The Oscillation Guide Screws are steel.


27 The Oscillation Slide is made out of steel with very minor improvements in quality only on all three versions.
28 Bottom View


29 The Pivot Gear is very unique and found on the first and very early second versions.
30 Bottom View.


31 Saving the best for last, this Transfer Gear is only found on first versions without question! This is the top view but more intriguing is the bottom view.

This bottom view shows the use of brass but knowing that friction between two different metals caused wearing problems; a small aluminum plated brass washer was placed between the Main Drive Gear and this Transfer Gear. This washer also helped keep this area lubricated. When you find this gear beware!

almost lost this washer in the cleaning process. It was stuck solid to the gear as pictured and in final cleaning around what I thought was “part” of the gear with a toothpick, this washer fell off. This washer is the exact same size as the other two guide washers but this one show wear (brass) on one side and the aluminum plating still on the side affixed to the Transfer Gear.



34 Although rough looking with all the pits and scratches inside-out, I’m amazed at how well this reel works. With little if any shims and even without re-greasing any of the moving parts; when put back together it just purrs with absolutely no gear noise. No wonder they called it Technical Perfection!



Please understand this is not the Prototype. The term prototype by its own definition confirms this. Although Super Rare with all the original parts, I know of over 15 very much the same as this one. Unfortunately I’ve discovered many had been worked on and lost parts, especially the 3 small washers. Others were found to have been upgraded with new gearing. I’m sure there is an original prototype still out there somewhere! Due to a lot of books, articles and studies; I feel the prototype was first made circa 1937 and for the same reasons; this first version was first manufactured circa 1939.

I’ve also completed studies on the 2nd and 3rd versions which will follow later as time permits including dating each version along with their boxes. Please Contact Us with any questions and I always welcome constructive criticism if you feel I am wrong but respectfully ask you to prove your findings.