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Cork Handle Replacement and Restoration Tutorial

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This tutorial will cover cork handle and reel seat replacement (from the rear) as well a cork restoration.

The rear replacement technique will also work for EVA and other similar types of handle material.

Here is a before picture of the rod. The reel seat has become loose and spins around the blank.


Remove the rear handle.

I use a utility knife and take care not to hit the blank, then files and sand paper to remove the epoxy and any leftover material.


Remove the reel seat (RS). This rod has masking tape (MT) arbors and it looks to have been glued with some type of non rod building epoxy. It is critical that you only use epoxys that are meant for rod building. Rod building epoxys remain flexible and bend with the rod during use. Regular epoxy (5 min 2 ton ext...) crack when flexed and this is more than likely the cause of the loose RS.


Now clean up the RS area and prep the butt section with course sand paper. this will give a better bond for our new rear grip and RS.


On this rod we am going to reuse the fore grip but if we leave it as is it will not match the new rear cork grip, so we will restore it the a like new finish. I start by cleaning the cork with denatured alcohol (DA)and a paper towel. Then tape off areas I want to protect from sand paper. I start sanding with a fine grit sanding pad then 400 grit.


The key is to clean and refresh the surface of the cork and remove the least amount of materiel in the process. you will be left with dark pock marks that is where the next step comes in.


Now we fill the pock marks. I use Pit Paste but there are other products you can use. I use a spatula to work the paste into the pocks and than coat the rest with a thin coat.


Then I use a paper towel with light DA to remove the excess. You want to able to see the cork while at the same time have the pocks filled. This takes some time to prefect but saves a ton of time on sanding


Allow to dry and then sand. I use the same sequence as the cork but this time I use the fine sanding pad until the paste has been removed from the cork surface and the move to 400 to finish.


Clean with DE. You can now seal the cork if you desire.


Now back to our RS and rear grip.

I'm reusing the RS so I reamed out any leftover glue and prepped the surface.


MT arbor time. I use a calipers to speed this up. Check the ID


Place the MT arbors and the calipers will tell you when your close.


This is how I like my MT arbors. I try to stick with 1/2" gaps and trim the tape when needed.


Time to glue. I use 20 minuet rod building epoxy for most everything now. It realty helps keeping things moving forward.


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Fill all the gaps as full as you can get them.


Prime the inside of the RS


Install the RS taking care to pack as much epoxy in the gaps as possible. Remove the excess and clean with DE.


Allow to cure.


Now the rear grip. Check the butt OD. This will give you your boar diameter.


I mark my reamer so I know when to stop.


Bore the grip to the butt OD. This is a strait bore meaning the same size front to back.


Then MT arbors again. This time take your Butt OD and copy the size.


Glue with the same process as the RS and install the butt cap after the grip has cured.



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Do you prefer pit paste over mixing cork with glue for filling in? Does this do a better job, easier, or stand up better?

Wish you would have posted this article sooner!! grinI just did a small repair job to one of my rods. Always looking for a better way.

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I have found that pit paste works better for me and I like the way it looks.

I used cork dust and glue for years and played around with many types of glue. What I found for me is the glue, no mater what type I used, is harder than the cork. This made for inconsistent sanding, leaving bumps or high spots that were difficult to smooth out. It dose have a place. I sometimes use it for large (3/16" or bigger) gaps.

Pit paste sands more consistently and give a better finish. With the increasing difficulty to find high grade cork, production rod manufacturers have been using pit paste to pass lower grade cord for years. Take a look on the rod rack at your favorite sports store. You will see it everywhere.

There is a few alternatives to pit paste that are a little more common to find. Elmers and Minwax water base wood filler is close in comparison.

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