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Grips - Shaping - On Blank

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My question today is with regard to gluing cork rings directly on the bamboo rod blank.  Up to this point I have purchased cork grips completed and simply glued onto the rod.  I would like to start shaping my own grips but I had some concerns.  First, if you are gluing and pressing the rings right on the blank, once you remove the press from the grip, does the cork expand beyond the point you had marked for the end of your reel seat?  In other words, do you have to allow for expansion of the cork?  Second, how many out there prefer to glue up on a mandrel then shape on the mandrel as well?  If this is the case how do you remove from the mandrel once the glue has hardened without possibly ruining the ends of the grip?  Also I would think that maybe gluing on the mandrel and removing to  shape on the rod may be the best option.  Your thoughts and opinions would be greatly appreciated.  (Robert Cristant)

    Gluing on the rod has one nice advantage, it doesn’t require any additional steps.  If you are really careful, you can also get a nice, tight fit.  Unfortunately, it is also easy to get loose rings if you are not careful.  If that is the case, gluing them on the rod individually allows you to select really tight fitting cork rings that can sandwich the loose one and stabilize the cork.  Or you can just get rid of the loose cork and try another one.

    Turning on a mandrel is nice because it seems easier than turning right on the rod.  One nice thing about building your grips on a mandrel is that you can glue them up with a good wood glue (like Elmer's) instead of poly glue or epoxy.  That makes turning much easier (you don’t have joints that are harder than the cork to mess up the shape of the grip).  Wood glue also makes it easier to make a cork grip without any noticeable glue lines.  The down side to this is that the chances of making a void under the cork when reaming it to fit the blank is increased, just like a preformed grip.  That means that the chances are better that some space under the grip might come loose some day, making that awful cork squeak.  (Jason Swan)

      The way I combine the two techniques that Jason mentions is to ream the individual rings to fit on the blank and as I'm doing it slide each ring onto the blank. Once I have all the rings in place on the blank, number them (just have to remember the direction you number them in) and then remove the rings and reassemble on a tapered mandrel (scrap cane butt section or scrap fiberglass butt section are two good choices). I use Teflon tape as a release under the rings and use Titebond for glue-up. For a clamp I use a tip I saw a while ago that uses a quick release clamp with a hole drilled in each end of the plastic holds.  Once dry, remove from mandrel, remove Teflon tape, reposition tightly on mandrel and turn to shape. This way you have a preformed grip that is tapered inside and should fit without any detrimental gaps. Hope this helps.  (Bill Walters)

      A nice adhesive for gluing cork is Pliobond.  It's flexible, tan, and soft enough that it doesn't show when sanding the grip.

      Plus you can use it to mount the ferrules.  I got a bottle of the stuff with an integral applicator brush - very handy and relatively inexpensive too.  (Chris Obuchowski)

    I glue up on a 1/4" steel mandrel, using a ring press, pictures of which are on Todd's Tips site.  To release the grip from the mandrel I coat the entire mandrel with a mold release wax, without wiping any off. The resultant film is gradually pulled away by the sliding of the cork rings onto the mandrel, and ultimately the grip will be "stuck" to the mandrel, but only enough to hold it securely for turning. Also, I have two large fender washers that I place on either end of the grip, against which the blocks of the cork press abut. These washers are also coated with the wax. To loosen the grip once finished, I grip one end of the mandrel in smooth aluminum jaws of a vise, then give little snaps along the grip, starting at the far end. It is easy to tell when a section has broken loose, and I just work my way down the grip until the entire grip is loose.  To turn the grip I use a collet in the spindle end of the lathe and affix one end of the mandrel into the collet, and the other end is supported in a steady rest. Use drywall sanding screen to remove the majority of the cork, then progressively finer sandpaper. For an adhesive I use U-40 RodBond. The trick is to apply the mixed RodBond to the cork, then scrap every last bit of adhesive away. There is plenty of residue left to facilitate adhesion. Ralph O'Quinn, who owns Trondak U-40, says that applying the RodBond only to one side of one of the adjoining cork rings is sufficient to promote adhesion. Still, I apply  and scrape both sides of each ring. There is no buildup of adhesive, no glue line, and no hard spots in the grip. If any, ANY, adhesive squeezes out from between the rings, then you have used too much adhesive.  (Martin-Darrell)

    I glue them up on a .250 stainless rod, and a bar and screw type clamp. I glue with PVA, and subsequently turn the grip to shape and size in my drill, using various grade Al2O3 papers.  To steady the free end, I stick it under my armpit.

    When I want to take the thing off, I just twist it and slide it off - the stainless seems not to want to hold on to it too tightly to allow this.

    I have made a series of hexagonal rasps by sticking wet-and-dry in 180 and 400 grits to sections of old bamboo rods with good quality Loctite Cyanoacrylate Gel, and I find that I can fit the grip to the blank in no time at all using these. It looks like they are going to last me about until the day our dead and expanding sun engulfs the planet Mercury!

    The first rod I ever made, I chucked in a friend's BIG metal lathe (about a 15" chuck). This guy is a toolmaker and makes injection molding dies for a living, so is about as obsessive as the average rodmaker - so after the pep talk, which included a detailed description of just exactly how many times the momentum of the chuck would drag what was left of my pulped and bleeding body parts through the tool bed if I got it wrong, I proceeded to make a very underworked grip, and have never done it that way again.  (Peter McKean)


In Howell's "Lovely Reed" there is a photo of a builder forming a grip.  The rod with the cork rings  glued in place is turning in a lathe, and there is a die grinder following a pattern which is shaping the grip.  I thought it was a neat idea.

Last night I cobbled up, in my usual Rube Goldberg fashion, a similar system using my power-drill powered grip-turning "lathe" and a Dremel.  I glued a couple wood blocks to the "lathe bed" and made a pattern of the grip shape on a third piece of wood with the bandsaw.  This gets clamped in position across the first two pieces.  The Dremel has a little ball cutter and a piece of dowel attached to follow the pattern. 

I just got everything spinning and slowly moved the Dremel along the pattern, and in about 1 minute I had 90% of the excess cork removed and ready for sanding.  I'm going to look for a larger diameter cutting burr, which should give a smoother cut.

Besides the speed, what is nice is that there is a lot less stress on the rod than when you use sandpaper (for those who shape the grip right on the rod, not a separate mandrel.)  And the "dust" was a lot courser and didn't fill the air and cover me and everything else.  I think its an idea worth refining.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)


When turning a grip in the lathe, the long end of the rod, if the grip is attached to the rod, hangs out the headstock. Does anyone have any gadgets that hold the rod steady, in case of any wobble? Just thought I would ask BEFORE I chuck it up. Of course as I get more experienced I will realize the value of putting the grip on a mandrel then turning it and then gluing it to the rod... next time.  (Mark Bolan)

    You can make a padded V with a strap across it to keep things from going ballistic, and believe me, they will go ballistic, except at very slow speed. I don’t do cork on the rod, but for turning ferrule and reel seat stations, I just hold the loose end loosely in my hand. I have a vise mounted on the bench, and can rest my elbow on this, and reach over to the section. That might be a little difficult to do, however, if you are turning a grip since both hands are required. You can take a couple of cork rings, open up the holes, turn down the ODs so that the rings will slip fit inside a PVC T-fitting, then glue the rings inside, one at each end, and mount the T to a suitable length section of PVC pipe, with base. You can even make the length adjustable if needed so that you can compensate for height adjustments.  (Martin-Darrell)

    I like to glue the rings and turn the grip on the rod section. I turned a bushing to fit between the rod section and the end of the shaft of the lathe. Then I mounted a spinning rod guide on a stand to support the free end of the rod section. I use masking tape on the rod where it matches the guide. Rod section spins inside of guide without turning into a helicopter. The bushing keeps rod from touching inside of lathe shaft.  (David Dziadosz)

    The cheapest way I know to fashion a steady rest is to put a cardboard box on the side of the lathe that the rod section sticks out of. Punch a hole in the side of the box the height of the rod section, slide the box over the rod section, punch another hole in the other side of the box and slide the rod through, put a brick or other weight in the box and turn your grip. The cardboard is soft enough not to nick up the corners but will stabilize the section. Also check the fit where the section comes out of the back side of the headstock. If the fit is close I'd put some masking tape on the rod, if the section vibrates to much while turning you can nick/bang up the corners of the rod.

    You can also make a couple of rests from some 3/4' plywood scraps. Drill a 1 1/4" hole in the scrap piece the height of the headstock hole and glue a cork ring in. When dry you can file the cork center hole open enough to fit the rod section. I nail a base on (more scrap plywood) and clamp it to the bench.  (Dennis Higham)

    Similar to M-D, I use cork rings to steady my rod.  I took a piece of plywood maybe 3 inches  wide by 6 inches and put a base on it.  Then I bored a hole in the plywood to match the OD of a cork ring.  I then glued a ring in the hole.  (Actually I have two rings each with a different sized hole going through them.)   I mount that holder in the vise at the end of my bench and then make sure the lathe is in line with it.  Being in the vise, I have some adjustment to elevation.  (Tim Wilhelm)

    I know its not pretty but its worked for about 100 rods. I use a cardboard box with a hole cut in it to support the free end the comes through the headstock. The box is about 8" high and has about 1 lb. of lead balls in the bottom to steady it. Cheap too. The cardboard is soft enough not to mark the cane. The box is about 3" wide therefore supporting the cane twice. I don't use anything on the cane to protect it.  (Don Anderson)

    I use a stand made of 1x4x6 long maple for the base & 1x2x4 tall on each end with 1/2" holes lined up in them, then put rod thru holes and line up in straight direction, I take up the slack with a piece of closed cell foam attached on the flat of the hole to keep the wobble down & not mar the cane.  I can slide it back & forth for length, and put extra weight on it if  need be.  I can use it to hold tips too, for ferrule work, just use smaller holes in foam. OR you can use a cardboard box with cardboard uprights.  (Chad Wigham)

    The lathe attachment used for this is called a steady rest.  In order to use it with a hex fishing rod you'll probably want to get an appropriately sized ball bearing and some  masking tape.  (George Bourke)

    I turned the end of a length of heavy wall 1" plastic pipe to fit tight in the spindle end. It fits tight enough that it will not come out in use. The rod is stuck through this pipe and through the chuck. A Styrofoam plug with a hole in it slipped over the blank in the pipe, this keeps the blank centered in the pipe. I only do ferrule ends this way. In your case you would have to go through the vise end first due to the cork grip being larger than the hole in the spindle. Turning ferrule ends, a slow speed is used. Turning grips, a fast speed is used to do the finish sanding. Fast speeds and whippy ends can cause a problem. What I would recommend is turning the grip on a mandrill therefore eliminating the possibility of a disaster. We all have our way of doing things, do what works for you.  (Tony Spezio)

    I made a steady rest of 1/4" oak, has a nylon insert located inline with headstock, that accepts either a 1/16" diameter drill bit (inserted into end of blank) or a machined dowel inserted into ferrule, that is clamped to my bench. Real close alignment is not necessary. Works for cutting ferrules and shaping cork.  (Lee Koeser)


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