alan tani @ alantani.com fishing reel repair rebuild tutorial Penn Fathom LD 2-Speed: Service Tutorial and First Look.
Reel Repair by Alan Tani
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Author Topic: Penn Fathom LD 2-Speed: Service Tutorial and First Look.  (Read 95493 times)
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johndtuttle
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« on: September 05, 2014, 04:31:12 PM »

Well fellas, it's that time again and I couldn't resist getting my hands on Penn's latest offerings, among them the Fathom 15LD 2-speed. Penn kept this new offering well under wraps and just now the first reels are trickling out for our perusal Smiley.

This is a brand new reel and so we will mostly get a look at brand spanking new machinery in little need of service. However I hope to provide some guidance to taking care of your reel over time and also to provide a look at the insides for those who really care about the guts of their reels and just have to know how they tick Smiley.

I think we will find a true game changer in the "value 2-speed" category with all of the key features of the top of the line Torque 2-speeds in a more affordable package.

Meet the Fathom 15 LD 2-speed. Capacity is listed as about 250 yards of 50lb braid or ~200 yards of 20lb mono (~300yds of 15lb) and definitely smaller than a classic 3/0. I believe the best comparison is to a Newell 229 size:









Cute lil' guy!  Grin. The wide angle lense used for close ups makes the Fathom 15 LD2 appear larger and wider than it really is. The spool is just 4cm wide or about 2 thumb widths. As well, the matte black finish has been confusing to some. It has an all metal frame and side plates (cast Aluminum alloy). A few teasers in the back ground Smiley.

Where to begin, where to begin?? Well, for basic service to access the spool bearings we can begin with the Left Side Plate Assembly (27) which is removed via 3 Screws (38):



Revealing the standard Penn plan for the Click Spring (62) held by it's Screw (62C), the Click Tongue (35) held by a small Retainer c-clip (69) that fits on the back of the Click Button (36):



Not much to do here or talk about other than to spread around some of the excess factory grease you see. I do always pull the ClicK Spring once to be sure grease is underneath it as this is a frequent source of corrosion.

To get to the Spindle Complete (71) to service the spool bearings we have to remove the Spool (29) and to do that we must remove the Preset Knob (144) which is threaded to it's end:



The Lever Drag (21) will also come off by unscrewing the Preset Knob (144) finding the Cam Follower (141) inside. It houses the Preset Knob Click Spring (141A) all of which rests over the Drag Cam (19). Gently lifting off the Lever Drag we should be mindful of the Lever Click Pin (161A) as it and it's Spring Dog (14) simply rest in a receptacle. This is the sort of tiny doo-dad that is easily lost inadvertently Smiley.



Then pull off the nylon hat that is the Lever Washer (4) and we have a group like this to set aside:



That's our spool in there that we can very carefully now lift out. We want to be certain that the reel is left resting on it's right side so that the nesting parts of the drag plate, Ratchet and Pinion are undisturbed. The reason why is that they "nest" together and really are now only held in place by the ears of the Ambassadeur style Dogs once the spool is removed from the Drag Preset. When the reel is put together there is no undue pressure on ears of the dogs, but now there is if the reel is overturned:







So, leave the reel propped somewhat upright like so while we work on the spool and drag washers:



Well, Fellers, we have now come to the Holy Grail of Value Lever Drag reels and that is the Thrust Bearing Assembly (55T) Cheesy:



Okuma led the way with the Makaira series that made a huge splash finally incorporating a design that did something other than use the Pinion or LS Bearings for virtual drag washers and Penn followed suit in their new Torques. The basic idea is that standard bearings are only designed for loads in one direction, the direction the fish is pulling towards. But when you dial up your preset and drag you ask them to function in a direction they are not designed for to put pressure on the drag plate, the result is felt as increased handle pressure.

While this may seem trivial you are in fact destroying the bearings and it will lead to early service needs or failure and limits how much drag you can preset. Some companies went the "use cheap bearings and replace them frequently" route, others went the "use oversize bearings and have them last a little longer" path....but the real answer was a thrust bearing to eliminate the side loads and Penn is the first to offer it in a "value" lever drag reel.

What this means to you is that your reel will function as new longer and comfortably fish higher drag. This feature is in both the one speed and two speed Fathoms as well as the Squall lever drags.

Shown removed from the Spindle (71, above) is also the left side Ball Bearing (55L) and brass Sleeve Spindle (13B). Proper care of all of the above can be grease for longevity or your choice of speed oil if you want more speed. For max free spool for fishing a live bait it is best to remove the shields from the bearings and slather it all with oil. Without removing the shields and just adding a little fresh oil to it all from the outside got me nearly one minute of free spool if you hate pulling shields. More than enough and so fast as to make it a casting rocket.

On the other side of the spool we have the Drag Washer (117A) retained by the Retaining Ring (110D). Note that this is an "open" drag with no cover like an Avet. This is a small cost saving measure but theoretically exposes the spool to more saltwater if it gets seriously splashed/dunked. Most of the reel nerds I know have found that drag covers are a doubled edged sword. If they are covered, it has to be perfect or any water getting in is never getting out (and it usually eventually gets in). If they are "open" the reel is more able to dry out but you might need to take a look and see what's going on in there more often and religiously rinse your reels. Needless to say a good light greasing of this area is also ideal for protection:



Regardless, the drag is Penn's new "Dura Drag" material and even though they appeared dry at first glance are treated at the factory with "Dura Lube". This can be noticed as the tiny film left on the drag plate.

If you prefer Cal's the washer can be cleaned and re-lubed leaving a *very* thin film but it will be heavier than the factory lube. When you lube your drag washer you are trying to reduce "start up" friction and to also prevent saltwater intrusion which will be trapped in the washer leading to corrosion. Be meticulous in getting the inner and outer edges of the washer so that saltwater cannot enter and delaminate the assembly. Keep it light to not weigh down your spool and reduce free spool.



This image shows some oil being applied to the Spindle (main shaft) but also note the thin coat of grease protecting the spool and the back of the drag washer. This is not an area to overlook when servicing the reel:



I like Cal's Cheesy.





Now that the spool is complete we can turn to the Right Side Plate Assembly (1). To get there and look at the heart of this reel we need to access the Screws (38) but one is blocked by the Drag Lever Ratchet (2A):



This is no trouble. With a small slotted screw driver it's outside Screws (38T) are removed along with the central Screw (32). While we're at it we'll lube the parts of the Drag Ratchet with Corrosion-X. We also need to remove the Cover Plate Screws (46A):





Giving us this group:



And the Right Side Plate can lift off giving us this beautiful image of pure stainless steel:



Remove the Retaining Ring (69D) to remove the Drag Washer Metal (117W):



And we have our first look at the drive plate Ball Bearing (55A) housed in the Drive Plate hub (117) with a good look at the Main Gears (5H and 5L), Ratchet (98) with the Dog Assemblies (15) resting on their studs:



The entire group of which is simply resting together and is only retained at the moment by the ears of the Dogs. The assembly is "sandwiched" when the reel is put together and obviously perfectly stable from side to side movement it's just at this point we have removed one half of the sandwich and we don't want to bend our Dog ears.

Note, the Dogs are "synced" in such a way as only one is mating with the Ratchet at a time to reduce handle back play to a minimum:



With the entire pinion assembly lifted out of the rt. side we can see that there is a pinion bearing that we need to service that is partly covered by the main gears just like in it's big brother the Torques:



To get to it for a complete service (pack with fresh grease) we are going to have to remove the Handle Assembly (24) as the Nut Gear Stud (134A) that keeps the Main Gears on seen above is torqued on so as to be essentially non removable outside the factory. We'll need our Penn Spanner that came with the reel.:



Protection for the Retainer Shift Button to unscrew it (110C):



The Shift Button (172) now lifts straight out letting us remove the Plate Retaining (133) that holds the Holder Catch (173A) that will hold the 2 Catches (173) and 2 Spring Shift Buttons (18C) to form a housing.



With the Holder Catch removed we see the Base Assembled (110A) retained by the small Retaining Ring (67, really a C-Clip):



Lift off the Handle Screw Locking (110A) and we'll see the Handle Nut (23) which we will remove with the Penn wrench:



After you lift off the Shield Guard (50) there is a beefy Retaining Ring (195):





And the whole rest of the Assembly drops right out:



The bronze appearing Gear Stud (134) that you see above is heat treated stainless steel per Penn: "Same stud used in Torque LD2, but made in China instead of Philly.  Material is heat treated 17-4 PH Stainless Steel". Note that the bearing you see on my reel had pressed in shields that could be removed if desired and the bearing hand packed with grease. I have one of Alan's bearing packers and used that Smiley.

Now we can get at the pinion Ball Bearing (26N) which also got the bearing packer treatment.



OMG what have we done Cheesy



Ok, some tips on re-assembly.

Normally, one simply reverses their steps and all goes back together just fine but the "nesting" nature of the Fathom's Pinions, Drive Hub and Ratchet and Dogs are a little different. Reason being is that we have to be careful to get the Dogs on the Ratchet without bending the ears or them coming off. This is complicated by what I call the "Dog Stops" that are molded into the side plate. They are intended to prevent the dogs from ever getting knocked off the Ratchet, but they also prevent you from placing them on their posts, placing the Ratchet in the reel and simply swinging them onto the Ratchet:



The Dogs have to be placed on their studs while attached to the Ratchet.

Put the Dogs on the Ratchet like so:



Place the entire group straight down into the pinion bearing and tap the Dogs over their studs. Do the right one first then slide the other along the Ratchet (it will slide counter clockwise) until it will reach it's own stud. Once it will go on tap them both gently down and be sure to maintain the reel in an upright posture or it will all just drop out potentially bending your ears.

The reel will now look like this. Note the Drag Washer Metal (117W) has been left off. If we try and get the Dogs back on their studs with the Washer on it would make it blind to us or a tool and be impossible:



Now put the washer back on, keeping in mind one of them sides is "cupped". The flat side goes against the Dura Drag:



And put the retaining ring back on:



You can see with the drag plate on now that the Dogs are hidden to you and the "stops" prevent them from swinging wide enough for you to manipulate them any further. It's a little delicate to do but is very simple and reliable once assembled:



Ok, now we want to carefully hold the entire assembly in with a thumb on the hub (Drive Plate) while we get the right side attached back to the frame. It now looks like this:



Remember keep it upright like this or it will drop out.

Drop the Spool Assembly straight down:



And sandwich it together with a finger and thumb while you get the Drag Preset knob back on:







With the knob on the "sandwich" is restored and you can then simply put the left side plate on. The Drag Preset knob can be used to move the Spindle into position so that the cross pin in the end goes into it's receptacle in the Left Side Plate.

The handle is as simple as can be. I won't do a compete tutorial of the reverse steps of the two-speed mechanism, nothing to it other than reversing your previous work. Do not over grease it as the tolerances for the retaining rings are tight and some build up can make it tricky to get the retaining rings on. We do want to well grease the pressed in bushing where the handle exits the side plate:





Plenty of grease on the Shield Guard (50):



Then a spot on the articulating surface of the Knob Handle (25) once the shifting mechanism is back together:



The handle seems plenty long enough given that it has a low gear of 2:8:1 and a high gear of 6:1. A "Versa" handle with adjustable handle lengths would not be a bad thing, but most of the 2-speed reels in this category have comparable handle lengths that at first seem short. The length is actually a good compromise between "easy to turn fast" in high gear (but not much cranking power) but then you have the low gear Smiley that is much more powerful than simply a longer handle would be.

If needed, the handle can be removed via the Screw (23L) but bear in mind that having some blue loctite may be needed to keep it tight again (not shown).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ok, so there was talk above about the advantages of the Thrust Bearing and so elementary testing confirms there is no handle binding (which equals bearing destruction) at any preset I chose that still permitted the Lever Drag to even move. Penn rates the Fathom 15 LD2 at "20lbs" max drag and needless to say this figure is easily met even with a full spool. I easily dialed up the preset at Strike to 18-20lbs on the hand scale and at this number still had 100% free spool and zero handle binding. This meant that pushing to Full let alone "Sunset" was tough and it simply was snapping the basic loop I was tying in 40lb braid so who knows what the ultimate max at lock down is, probably well over 25lbs...more than is necessary for a reel engineered to fish 40-50lb braid with confidence.

The gentle reader will have to forgive me a lack of interest in pursuing over hyped "max drag" numbers and going to the lengths necessary to establish what the "max drag" truly is for the Fathom. I have written at length in other posts how useless I think this top number is in small reels not engineered like true big game reels. The Penn Fathom 15 LD2 will clearly fish 12-15lbs at strike and 20lbs at full to stop a fish short for years with a high margin of safety and have far better bearing longevity than older designs. But, if the fish can pull 20lbs of drag for 400 yards you really need a Penn VSX or other true big game reel to handle the heat and forces over time.

The lightweight frame we want in a reel in this class is not going to sustain that for long. The Fathom's frame is engineered just right for everyday fishing offshore holding a reel in your hands.

And for a 2-speed reel in this size and price range this is probably the toughest out there with a full stainless steel drivetrain, oversize bearings for the handle and pinon and the thrust bearing assembly to protect it all from "axial loads" that destroy other reel's bearings allowing you to confidently push the reel to it's limits, and have it hold up.

Penn has set a new standard at this price.

Ok fellers, that's what I got for now. When you get a reel like this it's a load of fun! Smiley

And always easier when you have curious helpers!






Cheesy Cheesy Cheesy













« Last Edit: July 16, 2017, 01:00:09 PM by johndtuttle » Logged
Tightlines666
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« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2014, 05:04:37 PM »

Well done!

That is one fine looking reel.

I particularly like the cam assembly (metal on metal, w/friction reducing nylon), the thrust bearing/spindle assembly, and the quality gear set. I am a bit curious how aggressive the cam ramp up is, and whether it is more linear or steep in nature (looks to somewhat linear?).  Are the Bellevilles heavy or light and how are they arranged?  I also like the spool design (w/integrated indicator lines, braid ready (nonslip spindle, and lightweight yet strong).

Not sure how I feel about the open drag (properly sealed chamber seems to be an effective tool at keeping stuff outta this critical area), and I'm not a big fan of the ambassador style dogs (can be finicky), though having 2  opposing and alternating dogs w/more teeth on the ratchet seems to be the way to go.  Too bad they didn't utilize a larger offset handle knob as well.

Overall, this looks like a great little reel!

Nice job on the tutorial!

Keep up the good work!
« Last Edit: September 06, 2014, 01:40:46 PM by Tightlines666 » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2014, 04:11:17 AM »

Definately looking forward to the rest of this review! I've been thinking long and hard about "getting modern" with a 25 or 30LD 2spd sized replacement for my ageing (very gracefully mind you  Wink Grin ) 113H's as my day to day reels and have been wondering about these - as to how well they might fit that role.

The 30LD specs state 330yds/30lb mono - yeah I know, I still fish mono  Shocked but maybe if I was to start trying to "learn" these old tired fingers how to tie really good braid knots then the weight of the larger reels might be avoided too.

I really appreciate you taking the time there John to get a write-up up here for us all to see!

Dave.

 
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« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2014, 01:08:20 PM »

Hi John,

Good to see that this tutorial was carried out under "lab" conditions Grin

Rgds

Mark
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« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2014, 06:14:50 PM »

Definately looking forward to the rest of this review! I've been thinking long and hard about "getting modern" with a 25 or 30LD 2spd sized replacement for my ageing (very gracefully mind you  Wink Grin ) 113H's as my day to day reels and have been wondering about these - as to how well they might fit that role.

The 30LD specs state 330yds/30lb mono - yeah I know, I still fish mono  Shocked but maybe if I was to start trying to "learn" these old tired fingers how to tie really good braid knots then the weight of the larger reels might be avoided too.

I really appreciate you taking the time there John to get a write-up up here for us all to see!

Dave.

 


You don't need to know a lot of complicated knots for braid, just know which ones work.  I mainly use a palomar for terminal tackle, and an Albright for braid to mono.  Both are very simple, and hold well with braid.
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« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2014, 10:59:31 AM »

I am sold on these fathom reels. I do not own a 2-speed reel, but this will be the first.

The hardened steel gear shaft, double-dog, and SS internals sold me. I know the frame is not machined, but that seems to be the main difference and the main reason for price difference compared to the torques. Affordable 2-speed in my eyes, soon to be in my hands.

Not a fan of spending $400-$500 on a reel.

Thanks for the tutorial John!
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« Reply #6 on: September 07, 2014, 11:04:33 AM »

It looks like a really nice reel, especially for the price. Thanks for the tutorial.
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« Reply #7 on: September 07, 2014, 06:42:09 PM »

Nice!  I like basic black.  They're priced like a non-MC Avet 2-speed but with features above the Raptor.  Looks like a big win.
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« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2014, 02:53:21 AM »

Thanks John!  Was nice to get a look inside this reel and you did a great job explaining the operation and your pictures were clear as a bell!  Cheesy

josa1
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« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2014, 05:39:49 AM »

I'm patently waiting for the arrival of my FTH25NLD2
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« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2014, 09:33:38 AM »

Very nice job John. I have used the Fathom single speeds and use many of the Penn Torque reels. I don't need one but I will order the new 25N 2 speed just to give it a workout. I love 2 speed reels now.
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« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2014, 10:10:47 AM »

Thanks for all the kind words guys!  Grin

The curious Pup is 9mo Juke Logan...absolute monster nicknamed Osama bin Labbin' for terrorizing the household with a set of chompers Smiley. He reduces a tennis ball to little bits in about 15 minutes Sad.

Very nice job John. I have used the Fathom single speeds and use many of the Penn Torque reels. I don't need one but I will order the new 25N 2 speed just to give it a workout. I love 2 speed reels now.

For the price seems that they can't be beat. Certainly much more accessible to give them a go than a $500+ 2-speed. Modern 2-speeds are remarkable casters too and terrific for deep jigging of heavy lead.

We'll see how it goes. Every reel takes years to design, field test, then go into production. The last step can be a crapshoot and the early adopters are always "beta testers" of initial production. Hopefully there will be no hiccups!  Grin

I'm patently waiting for the arrival of my FTH25NLD2

Post some pictures when it arrives Lee! Smiley

« Last Edit: September 10, 2014, 12:38:00 PM by johndtuttle » Logged
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« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2014, 10:28:43 AM »

Definately looking forward to the rest of this review! I've been thinking long and hard about "getting modern" with a 25 or 30LD 2spd sized replacement for my ageing (very gracefully mind you  Wink Grin ) 113H's as my day to day reels and have been wondering about these - as to how well they might fit that role.

The 30LD specs state 330yds/30lb mono - yeah I know, I still fish mono  Shocked but maybe if I was to start trying to "learn" these old tired fingers how to tie really good braid knots then the weight of the larger reels might be avoided too.

I really appreciate you taking the time there John to get a write-up up here for us all to see!

Dave.

 

In one of the photos in the background is a Fathom 30LD so I have now handled a 15, 25N, 30, 40N and 40 in all the various models. The 30 and 25N are close, but I am always going to be a fan of the more narrow reel, especially in a 2-speed. Reason being is that the shifting mechanism effectively "widens" the reel making for a little more "wobble" when cranking the reel. This has a major effect on cranking power and energy spent stabilizing the reel. You can only crank as hard as you can stabilize with the other hand.

There is no doubt I need my readers for tying braid but as above, there are some very simple knots that are totally effective. Mono topshots are still very useful for casting lures (or people use very heavy braid) but braid backing at the least lets you go as small as possible and to fish heavier line which really makes a fatigue difference over the day and lets you pull harder.

 Wink

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« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2014, 05:40:40 PM »

Great Tutorial John

Quote
The gentle reader will have to forgive me a lack of interest in pursuing over hyped "max drag" numbers and going to the lengths necessary to establish what the "max drag" truly is for the Fathom. I have written at length in other posts how useless I think this top number is in small reels not engineered like true big game reels. The Penn Fathom 15 LD2 will clearly fish 12-15lbs at strike and 20lbs at full to stop a fish short for years with a high margin of safety and have far better bearing longevity than older designs. But, if the fish can pull 20lbs of drag for 400 yards you really need a Penn VSX or other true big game reel to handle the heat and forces over time.


In New Zealand you need that stopping power if you are into a 30kg Kingfish that is aiming to rub you off on the reef Smiley Smiley
You wont get a 500yard run though they would of bustted you off by then
Nice explanation I learnt alot
I recently replaced a bearing on my Okuma 50w and couldnt get the pinoin gear and shaft back in
Frustrated I had one last look and found half of the inner race of the old bearing still on the shaft
my guess thrust loads?

Thanks Jon
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« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2014, 07:06:21 PM »

Great Tutorial John

In New Zealand you need that stopping power if you are into a 30kg Kingfish that is aiming to rub you off on the reef Smiley Smiley
You wont get a 500yard run though they would of bustted you off by then
Nice explanation I learnt alot
I recently replaced a bearing on my Okuma 50w and couldnt get the pinoin gear and shaft back in
Frustrated I had one last look and found half of the inner race of the old bearing still on the shaft
my guess thrust loads?

Thanks Jon


Thanks for that Jon. I re-posted a long thought I have on the topic that summarizes my thinking that I had written a few months back:

http://alantani.com/index.php?topic=11597.0

Absolutely true these small reels need a lot of drag to stop short Kingies (Yellowtail) and other reef dwellers. I guess I feel that the tuna guys have kinda mis-interpreted these numbers though, as 25lbs of drag for 10 yards to stop a big snapper or jack is not the same as 25lbs for 400, 600, 800 yards to try and stop a big tuna.

The Fathom can make a big number to stop 'em short, but it cannot be used on very long runs, it just doesn't have the frame like a Penn 50VSW or other big game reel has to handle the heat and stress.

That's why I am reluctant to bother finding it's true "max". I think mostly because I know the reel would be amazing for most anything for it's size...but one reel's 25lbs of drag is not the same as another's due to how they are built.

« Last Edit: September 10, 2014, 12:32:05 PM by johndtuttle » Logged
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