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Grips - Shaping - Mandrels

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Some of us like to glue up our cork rings on a mandrel and then shape them. After we fit them to the rod. Spinning a blank I just finished in a lathe is bound to bring  out the shop gremlins  for me. A cork clamp is easy enough to use and can be seen all over, but here is something different and easy.

    Take a Quick Grip Clamp (a good size one) and drill holes into the faces and face covers to fit a mandrel. Now you can take you glued up cork on the mandrel and insert it into the Quick Grip Clamp and apply pressure. It is easy to use and has  a lot of applications in the shop for many clamping needs.  Easy and Cheap. One hand operation!  (Adam Vigil)


Since I ruined a butt section, (rebuilt, and finished now I might add!), I would also like to share a neat way to turn cork.

I took a steel rod, slightly large than the holes the cork come with, and glued a nylon spacer on the end, slightly smaller than the hole for your tailstock on your lathe. That end goes into the tailstock for support when turning. A little Vaseline here will help keep that running smoothly.

Next, a light coating of Vaseline on the steel rod, slight your cork rings on, and glue up, and press together in your press.

Next, once the glue has tried, pull the unturned cork rings off the shaft, just to make sure you can get the mess off there. 


Next, slide it back on the shaft, and turn it down. I also glued a nylon spacer on the shaft to allow the cork to butt up against it, so I'll know where to slide the rings each time. This method is fool proof, anyone wanting pics, I'll be happy to do so.


(Jerry Andrews)



I agree that turning on a mandrel is the way to do it. I glue up my rings with Titebond II on a 1/4 inch steel rod, but do not bother with Vaseline. The rod has a small center drilled hole that goes into the tail stock, the other end goes into your three-jaw chuck. I drilled a 5/16 hole in my workbench top. When finished turning, put the steel rod into the hole, hold the cork vertically, and rap the top of the steel rod with a mallet. It will drive right through. This won't work if you use gorilla glue or epoxy, and you need too much force for it to work with inletted cork for an uplocking reel seat. But you can always glue the inletted cork on later after completing the rest of the grip. Slip it back on to the steel rod and it will usually stay in place. My grips get soaked each trip, but I have had no problem with handles degrading. Titebond II is pretty water resistant, and least for grips.  (Jeff Schaeffer)


Just wondering how many of you guys turn your grips on mandrels as opposed to gluing rings to the rod shaft and turning that.  Is there an advantage to one over the other?  (Bill Benham)

    The main advantages to a mandrel are; you don't have 3 feet of rod sticking out of your lathe headstock, don't need a special bored out headstock to accommodate swelled  butts etc., and if you screw up a grip it isn't already glued to the rod.  Also, with a mandrel you can use the tailstock to reduce deflection.  I've used both methods, and am sold on the mandrel.  (Neil Savage)

    I turn mine on the Sherline because I don't use a cork stop on the end of the grip [ALA EC Powell] so on the last piece of cork I ream it out smaller, and get a snug fit to the cane  hex shape. Than when I wrap I'm not trying to cover up any gaps. I support the cane with the live center. A tip, ream all the other rings so they're less than snug on the shaft, then as you compress they'll have some give to seat tight to one another. I turn the grip on the lathe using a tool to keep it true till I get to within approximately 1/16 of diameter size, then work down with sandpaper to shape. Haven't had any blown out cork yet.  (Chad Wigham)

    I turn on the rod when I can. Sometimes in repair work I can't so I use a mandrel. The grip results are the same. You have to have something holding, supporting  the other end of the rod (if on the rod ) and that can be a problem but I think that gluing to the rod is more solid.  (Rich McGaughey)

      I usually turn on the rod, and since I have no lathe, I turn with a drill, held in a drill press. The other end of the rod is then protected with a layer of masking tape and it is held in a tube, a little wider than the rod diameter. As tubes (I have a couple), I use metal tubing or old pieces of hollow fiberglass rods. The tube is held by whoever I can catch for a couple of minutes. Works fine and is very low tech.  (Geert Poorteman)

    The only disadvantage of turning a grip on the rod blank itself is the danger of induced "whipping."  This needn't be  a problem, however, if one straightens the blank first and installs two steady-rests on the lathe bed. The butt goes in the chuck and the first steady-rest mounts right in front of the first cork, the other one being located a little more than 3/4 of the distance toward the ferrule end.  Also, you must take care to turn the blank only fast enough for the file and sandpaper to do their work -- and that's far slower than a dangerous speed.  I even do my 6-foot one-piece rods this way. Not a problem.  (Bill Harms)

    The benefits of the mandrels are that you do not submit the blank to the forces of the lathe and the possible calamities of your hard work spinning at high speeds! Also, you can do many grips ahead of time, and clean up is a breeze as the PVA glues that I use do not stick to the threaded rods.

    The disadvantage of the mandrel is that sometimes the grip is hard to slide down over the ferrule welt and butt section. Using a round file to ream the cork may cause it to seat off center. However, you can turn down the butt and out the grip on from the rear.  It is in some cases 6 of one and a half dozen of the other, but I use the mandrels so that I do not spin the rod unnecessarily. Things can go wrong in the blink of an eye.  (Bob Maulucci)

      I always turn cork at a very low speed and a steady in my context involves taping the blank and putting a vaguely tensioned loop of garden wire connected to anything handy to stop it whipping, it doesn't have to be too tight as long as it limits the whip to about half an inch or so. You can even use a bit of foam to put a slight bend in the blank, just make sure it wont come adrift and practice first on something that doesn't matter.

      My current lathe has a solid head stock, which is a pest, so I just made up a rotating wheel steady which goes in the toolpost. Usually I can hardly be bothered and just use the rasp and sandpaper routine with the blank jammed in a suitable wall feature and the other end under my arm, although I am acutely aware that this may just be because I have 42 years of experience doing it like this!  (Robin Haywood)

      This may be heretical, but....couldn't you slide the grip on the blank before gluing on the ferrule?  You wouldn't necessarily have to glue the handle in place (though I don't know why you wouldn't do it at this point).  I would think that would solve the problem of getting the grip over the ferrule welt.

      Comments?   (Todd Talsma)

        Sure you could, and that would be almost embarrassing to admit, BUT the reason that I have ever run in to the problem is because I always test cast the rod or blank before adding a grip or varnish. I scrape the blank, cut to length, glue on a tip top and ferrule and test cast it before I do anything else on it.

        Either way, I still do not like reaming the grip to make it fit, but I do.  (Bob Maulucci)

        If you really want heretical, my last grip I drilled out rather than ream it. I built it on a wood dowel and shaped it. I then mounted a long drill bit (the type with an end with the sharp center tip and squared cutting ends of the threads; Forstner bit??, you guys would know better than me), sized appropriately, in the wood lathe chuck. I then mounted the wood dowel with the grip between the live center and the sharp center tip of the bit. Turn on the lathe and slowly slide the grip off the dowel and onto the bit, back end first. Using a conservative back and forth to clear the bit of cork I slowly work the grip off the dowel and onto the bit. This gave me a perfect ream in about 5 minutes. It also kept me from wandering off center when reaming, a problem I had when using a hand reamer/rasp type of contraption. I went all the way through the handle and used a winding check on the rod. My next one I think I will try to go almost but not quite all the way and then hand ream a hex to fit in the front end of the  cork. Obviously, if you do this you should exercise considerable caution so clothing or anything else doesn't snag up in the bit. Maybe some type of handle holder would reduce the risk if the cork were to split so you wouldn't get your hand injured.

        Anyway, it worked great. Most likely it has been done before.  (Jon McAnulty)

    From very long experience I have found that preformed handles are very hard to fit without  voids between the blank and the cork, this leads to premature deterioration of the handle. Since gluing the corks on individually and turning up the handle, with or even without a lathe is hardly a challenging proposition I don't understand the point of doing it any other way.

    On other than fly rods, where one might want a parallel handle about seven eighths of an inch thick, on which are placed sliding rings (English coarse fishing rods) you don't have an option, so I suppose I have just got used to it. Its a good idea to make up a simple press to keep the corks tight on one another whilst they dry. I'm not sure its ideal, but since I always have loads of it around I just use epoxy for this. possibly polyurethane would be better but I have not yet tried it.

    I've used everything in my time, and it seems to make little difference.  (Robin Haywood)

    I turn my grips on mandrels.  I like to use the mandrel because I can support both ends, one with the headstock chuck, and the other with a center in the tailstock.  You can do it on the rod, just make sure that the rod section that sticks out of the back side of the head stock is supported, otherwise, you'll end up being a "statistic", someone who has exploded their rod section.  (Mark Wendt)

    Keep in mind, this is why I took so much razzing over the " Lathe" incident that was famous last year. I'd not spend X number of hours making a rod, and then stick it in the lathe. I know it's done, and God Bless all of you that do it, and are successful. I won't. Too easy to slip the rings on a steel rod, glue & press in a homemade cork press, slide off, and slide on to the rod. Just my thoughts, and some flashbacks from something spinning a  Dickerson Guide  Special at 2300 rpms.  (Jerry Andrews)


Can anyone point me towards a good source of information on the process of making cork handles on mandrels etc.  Hopefully online.  Also, any opinions pro/con would be great to hear.  TIA  (Doug Hall)

    It really isn't any different.  Just glue up the rings on a piece of steel rod, turn the grip, slide it off the mandrel and onto the cane.  (Neil Savage)


Has anybody used any of the reel seat/grip mandrels from Lamar Tools.

I had done a search for the ones by Pentools but saw that they weren't available anymore.  Looking for some but I guess I'll end up making one or modifying a regular pen mandrel.  If anyone knows of another source it would be great.    (Doug Hall)

    I use one of Andy's mandrels you reference.  It works quite well.  (Harry Boyd)

    I threaded a length of 3/8" and 5/16" hardware store metal rods. With a center drill , drilled a tapered center hole on each end for the live center. If interested, I can send you a photo or two. Have made over 50 inserts on these mandrels.  (Tony Spezio)

      That's what I did and they seem to work fine except I only drilled a center hole on one end. I guess I better drill the other end. ;>)

      Also I used the rest of the rods as part of a jig for mortising the reel seats on a router table.  (Dick Steinbach)

        You had better drill the other end or  the Reel Seat police will get you. LOL

        The reason I drilled both ends is I know I would  set it up the lathe and have the non drilled end out.  (Tony Spezio)


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