Smitty took us through the entire cork grip process at last Sunday's class - from gluing up the cork rings, to shaping the grip on the blank. Don't think he'll mind if I pass along some of his comments and "shop secrets"
· Creating the grip
· Use flex coat rod building epoxy (long cure, not 5 minute);
· Grip "form" consists of a threaded mandrel, w/ wingnuts & washers at either end;
· Smitty's process is straightforward: stack the requisite number of cork rings on the mandrel (e.g. for a typical 7" fly rod grip, 14 rings), gluing up one side of each ring, taking care not to get epoxy on the mandrel. Fasten down the washers & wingnuts & let dry.
· Afixing the grip to the blank
· Good deal of trial & testing involved. Smitty uses a combination of drill & rattail file to ream out the hole. (As Dfix and others have mentioned here, I don't think it much matters if you use a preformed grip or a build your own. Either way you have to ream out the inner hole to get it to fit the blank). Smitty went slowly here & tested the fit repeatedly.
· Once rough fit is established, if necessary use masking tape liberally to build up/even out fit.
· Use flex coat epoxy to glue the unfinished grip to the blank. Smitty did this PRIOR to shaping the grip. (As others have already posted, I imagine that once you've established the grip/blank fit, you could remove the grip, mount in on a threaded mandrel, shape it, then attach it to the blank)
· Shaping the grip
· Smitty has utilitarian set up: a craftsman drill, mounted upside down in a lathe-type adapter, with the power cord running into a foot pedal (as used on a sewing machine). Process is slow and deliberate. Uses 60-80 grit sandpaper to start, & keeps a close eye on how much he's taking off. Once general shape is established, move to higher grits to finish up the cork.
Not surprisingly, Smitty's grips came out beautifully. Very attractive, very solid looking.
For the record, I opted to go with a pre-formed Full Wells grip on my 1st rod. Decided that the primary advantage of building my own (namely, being able to create a 'custom' fit) is more than outweighed by time & dust-savings offered by a pre-formed grip. Maybe next time…