Tip #5 - Getting a grip on grips

Tips from The Eclectic Angler's monthly Newsletter.

Tip #5 - Getting a grip on grips

Postby TheEclecticAngler » Sat Feb 26, 2011 9:35 am

From the February, 2011 Newsletter

Tip #5 - Getting a grip on grips
We get a number of emails from reelsmiths asking about using wood for making the grip. Highly figured wood can be very attractive and the brown and red wood tones compliment brass and aluminum reels. But, many other natural and synthetic materials make great grips. Making a custom handle is not particularly difficult but there are a few things to consider.

  1. Metal Grips - if you have a metal lathe, an easy project is turning a custom grip from brass, nickel silver or aluminum. Look at your reels and photos of reels posted on The Reelsmithing Forum for shapes and ideas. This grip was made by reelsmith Wayne Caron and is blackened brass. Note the countersink to recess the retaining screw. I ream my metal grips .002" oversize so they rotate freely on the handle spindle but are not sloppy. So, for instance, for a .1875" diameter aluminum spindle, I would ream the grip to .1895".
  2. Synthetic Grips - there are many types and colors of synthetic materials, many are well suited for grip making. The reel kits we offer use black or white Delrin for the grip. This material has high wear resistance, is naturally lubricated, and compliments brass and aluminum nicely. Similar to making a metal grip, Delrin should be reamed .002" oversize too. There are many other synthetic materials available too; acrylic, micarta, artificial stone to name a few. Pen maker's blanks are also a great source for grip material. Most of these materials can be used as-is. However, if the material is brittle or prone to fracturing or swelling due to water absorption, you should insert a brass sleeve to stabilize and strengthen the grip. Thin wall brass tubing (made by K&S) is available at most hobby shops and many local hardware store. The K&S 7/32" OD brass thin wall tubing has a 3/16" bore sized perfectly for a 3/16" aluminum spindle. I start with a 1/2" x 1/2" x 1" long section of material and bore a 7/32" hole end-to-end. Cut the brass tubing 2" long so you can grip the overhanging end in your lathe chuck. Sand the tubing with 400 grit emery cloth to roughen it, then glue it in the blank with a thin coat of super glue. This will really help prevent splits and breaking and the brass sleeve prevents the grip from binding on the spindle if it swells. When the super glue is cured, chuck the extended end of the tubing in your lathe and turn the grip to shape. Finish by sanding with 600 to 2500 grit emery cloth and polish with a plastic polish (I use Blue Magic for polishing brass, aluminum and plastics). Finally, part or cut off the extra tubing.
  3. Wood Grips - wood is a very popular choice for reel grips. However, wood does swell and can crack if it gets wet. Simply adding a sleeve of brass tubing as described above can eliminate these problems. Some interesting wood options include stabilized reel seat blanks, bamboo rod cut offs, and even thin branches with the bark still intact. Unlike synthetic and metal grips, wood grips should be sealed with a top coat. Spar varnish is the old standby. A hand rubbed oil finish is also attractive and can be quickly renewed with an oil soaked rag. A modern finish that is attractive and holds up well is the "CA Finish". CA is the abbreviation for the chemical name for super glue - cyanoacrylate. The link gives a very detailed overview of the process.

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Brass Grip

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Acrylic Grip

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Bamboo Grip

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Amboyna Burl Grip


If you have a tip you'd like to share in the newsletter, please contact me at mhackney@eclecticangler.com.
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