This Instructable will go over my process for making a cork grip for a fishing rod on a metal lathe. While you do not need a metalworking lathe to make a cork grip, it certainly does the job well and I just happen to have one already. The grip I am making here is for a Tenkara style fishing rod, but the process will work for making cork grips for other types of rods as well.
I have embedded my YouTube video about the process if you would like to watch that.
Let's make that grip...
Step 1: Materials and Tools
I used the following tools and items for making this grip (not all of this is necessary but this is what I used):
1) Small hobby metal turning lathe (with a 3 jaw chuck, live center and a tailstock mounted drill chuck)
2) Sandpaper (60, 100, 150, 240 grits)
3) 600 grit Scotchbrite pad
4) X-ACTO knife
5) Painter's masking tape
6) Toothpicks (for spreading epoxy)
7) Popsicle Stick (for mixing epoxy)
8) Tape measure or ruler (for measuring your grip length)
9) Calipers (for measuring the rod blank diameter)
10) Homemade rod dryer (for slowly turning the rod while the epoxy dries)
11) Aluminum Foil
12) Paper towels
13) Disposable plastic cup for mixing epoxy
14) Homemade furling engine (for furling threads together for a decorative winding)
15) Drill bit (for boring holes in the corks)
I used the following materials:
1) Wine corks (mine were unused corks but used corks will work too)
3) Brass grommet (for making a winding check)
4) Thread (for making a decorative winding at the front of the grip)
Step 2: Measure Your Rod Blank
Measure your rod blank to find what length you want for the grip. You will also need to measure the diameter of the rod blank at the top and bottom of the area where your grip will be so you can determine the size of the hole you will need to bore in the corks.
Step 3: Boring Holes in the Cork
Once I determined what size holes were needed, I bored the holes in my corks. On the rod I am building here, the taper at the handle section is very slow so I was able to bore all my holes the same size. If your rod has a fast taper in the handle area, you may need to bore holes of various sizes to get the best fit for the cork on the rod blank.
To bore the holes on my lathe, I chucked the corks into my 3 jaw chuck and turned the lathe on to make sure they were running pretty true. No need to get the dial indicators out here, just make sure it is spinning pretty straight before boring your holes. I used a spade bit of the appropriate size mounted in my tailstock using a 1/2 drill chuck. Bore your holes slowly to help avoid excess tearout.
After your first hole is bored, check the fit on the rod blank before boring the remaining corks.
Step 4: Removing Beveled Ends of the Corks
My corks had beveled ends. In order to remove the unwanted beveled ends I mounted an X-Acto knife in my tool holder on the compound cross slide of the lathe and slowly advanced the knife into the corks to cut them off at the beveled ends and make any length adjustments I needed to make to the corks. If you take your time aligning the blade and advance into your cuts slowly, the finished cuts will be very smooth and will not require any sanding.
If you do not feel comfortable using this method, you could also sand the beveled ends off. Make sure not to stand in the rotational direction of the lathe in case the blade comes out of the knife while cutting. Use caution here and proper safety equipment/good judgement.
Step 5: Gluing the Corks and the Blank Together
I aligned the corks on the blank and in relation to each other in the way that produced the best looking fit I could get. Next I marked the blank and corks with a pencil to help me get everything lined back up correctly after applying the epoxy for glue up. Make sure to adequately cover the blank and ends of the corks with epoxy so the corks bond with each other and the rod blank. After gluing and getting my pencil marks realigned, I cleaned up any excess epoxy with isopropyl alcohol. I used the lathe to clamp the glued up corks/rod blank together for drying. Leave the jaws on the chuck loose enough so that the rod blank can slide back and forth through the jaws without touching the jaws (taping the blank to prevent scratching would be a good idea, although I didn't do that). You want the blank to be able to move in the jaws while tightening the ram on the tailstock. I used a washer of the appropriate size between the rod/grip and the tailstock ram so that the rod blank would not slide into the ram while applying clamping pressure. Then I tightened the ram to squeeze the the corks together and cleaned up any excess epoxy that squeezed out with isopropyl alcohol and left the grip/rod to dry under clamping pressure. Make sure not to overtighten here, you just want the corks to compress a little as they dry, don't overdo it!
Step 6: Making a Winding Check (Optional)
This step is optional. I made a winding check out of half of a brass grommet that I already had laying around. I had to open the hole up so that it would fit over the rod blank. I then glued the winding check in place. I will use the winding check as a reference for the diameter I will taper the front end of my grip to while turning the grip shape on the lathe.
Step 7: Shaping the Grip on the Lathe
I put tape on the rod blank before tightening it up in the 3 jaw chuck. Do not overtighten! Just snug it up enough so that the blank doesn't turn in the chuck. Make sure to use a live center in the ram tailstock and snug it up into the rod blank on the butt end. Turning the grip shape on the lathe without a live center will probably result in a broken rod!
I started shaping with a 60 grit piece of sandpaper and got the grip into the shape I wanted. When doing tapered areas it helps me to roll the sandpaper up into a tube like shape. Then I worked up in grit from 60 to 100 to 150 to 240. I did a final sanding with a 600 grit Scotchbrite pad.
You could stop there and have a completed grip, but I added a decorative winding in front of the winding check in the next step.
Step 8: Adding a Decorative Winding (Optional)
I did a pretty simple decorative winding in front of the winding check. To do this, I furled together 2 different threads on my homemade furling engine. I wrapped the thread in front of the winding check the same way you would wrap a line guide onto a fishing rod. Then I encapsulated the winding check and winding in epoxy and left it turning in my homemade fishing rod dryer. The dryer turns slowly to keep the epoxy from sagging while it dries.
I spread out my epoxy onto aluminum foil once it is mixed. This increases the amount of time you have to work with the epoxy (increases its pot life) by reducing the amount of heat in the epoxy from the reaction of the two parts being mixed together. I like to mix epoxy with a popsicle stick and apply it with a toothpick when I am doing a small area. I worked the epoxy into a slightly tapered shape over the decorative winding.
Step 9: Done!
I hope you found this Instructable interesting or useful. Thanks for looking and please let me know if you have any comments or questions!