Handlebar barwrap/grips - whipping and shellac covering

After posting my Benotto on Velospace I was asked to describe how I did the handlebar wrapping, so here it is.

I've used normal "corky" handlebar tape, medium weight cotton twine and amber shellac on these handlebars. Wrapping over and pulling under the twine (or other string-type substance) as a finishing is called whipping. The shellac works to glue it together and make it look nice.

Note that this isn't a hard process, but it does take some time - and it can't be undone without destroying the materials used. So make sure your brake levers (if applicable) are where you want them and you've got the right stem on if it's a quill like this one, because you're not going to be able to change them later without undoing this and starting over again!

(final result photo updated 7/5/2007)
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Step 1: Things you'll need

Picture of Things you'll need
The bar tape of your choice, I stick to the corky kind but cloth is good, too.

Electrical tape for the initial bar wrap.

Cotton twine. I use plain white medium weight cotton/polyester, it's cheap and looks good. I've tried the hemp-type hairy kind but I didn't like the stray fibers or the feel of it after applying the shellac. I like the cotton because it lets the shellac soak in and color it, as well.

Shellac; I use amber because I like the coloring effect, but clear is available too, of course.

Denatured alcohol to thin the shellac.



Rubber bands (to keep the levers from flopping around) or just tie them out of the way with some twine. I find it insanely easier to do this with the handlebar assembly off the bike.
Alex_dP1 year ago
Looks awesome! I have a question though. Can you use any type of varnish? I live in South Africa and can't find anything called Shellac here :(

Will normal wood varnish do the trick?
michaelk42 (author)  Alex_dP1 year ago
I'm sorry, I just don't know. To the best of my knowledge it's been replaced with synthetic (plastic) types of varnish, you might have to ask a local place that works on furniture or something.
Hunterkey4 years ago
 Very Nice!
I'm totally doing this to the next bike I get!
MKohen6 years ago
If you mess up are the bars themselves salvageable, or are they ruined too?
How do you do the bar ends?
Well, I've done it both with twining at the end (like on the inside there) or simply tucked the tape into the end of the bar and secured it in there with the insert/cap. It's really up to you if you want to add the twine whipping at the end of the bars.
Valche6 years ago
Nice! Question though, concerning the shellac. Being that I'm on my bike rather regularly and have a fairly tight/sweaty grip, do i have to be worried about the shellac chipping, wearing, etc.? It is a hard coat on top of a "soft" base, after all. I'd imagine the shellac doesn't hold up to the flexing too well. Am I wrong? I hope so, because this looks really cool.
michaelk42 (author)  Valche6 years ago
Well, it kind of depends on the tape you're using - extra cushy is going to break a bit, yeah, but also, it soaks in too. This is where many thin coats and patience comes in.

Of course, over time it IS going to wear, and you can re-apply as well - but that's *character* man!
yoyodyne7 years ago
I tried this once and did a couple coats of shellac. When I was done it looked nice, but the cotton tape was very rough to the touch and didn't feel very nice. I ended up taking it off, but am considering trying it again on a restoration project. Did I make a mistake the first time? It always looks so smooth in pictures.
michaelk42 (author)  yoyodyne7 years ago
I think it really depends on the texture of the tape AND how well it absorbs the shellac, and how much the shellac is thinned. I noticed when I tried the hemp twine it was really rough - the shellac strengthened the loose fibers a lot. If what you start off with is coarse to begin with, the shellac is only going to enhance it. The "cork tape" I have here is crazy smooth, though.
canida7 years ago
Looks nice! I'm due to re-wrap my handlebars- maybe I'll do this.
Robotrix7 years ago
Damn, that's nice. Your cat is fun looking too. Very classy!
Hugo.B7 years ago
It looks a lot tidier than many other people's conventional method of taping their bars.