Cork and Grips

Cork Rings, Pre-formed Grips and other cork products.

Here’s further food for thought, my response to a gripping question posed by Gerard, who wanted to know how our cork grasps compared to ‘conventional’ grips:

Good question. Unfortunately, I can’t spec out common grips since we only sell our Arcane branded grips – all are grips that I designed based on historic outlines. In other words, I hardly developed the concept of, say, a Full Wells Grip, but our FW grip is entirely based on my notions of how the basic form of the Full Wells should look and feel. I prefer grips that fill the hand when the hand is relaxed. A grip with too small of a diameter will force the angler to clench the casting hand more than necessary in order to retain control of the rod and this can lead to a cramped hand.

Cork is expensive. It wouldn’t surprise me if certain brands turn many of their grips from cylinders formed with smaller diameter, thus less expensive, rings. We start with rings that are ‘standard’ rings as sold to rodmakers for turning their own custom fly rod grips (1-1/4” OD) but the cork producers offer rings which are cut smaller. For comparison, rings bought at 1-1/8” OD shave approximately 10% from the raw materials bill, so you can see the appeal for the mass producers who are chasing every percent in an effort to earn sales based on price competition rather than ideal designs. Bear in mind, no matter which diameter you start with, there is always a significant reduction (10% or more of the OD) because the cylinders must first be turned level and smooth after glue-up, then shaped with coarse paper (80 grit or thereabouts), then refined through multiple grits so the final grip, at its ideal specs, shows no tear-out from the initial shaping and subsequent smoothing. Mass turned grips (even ours) are made through a slightly different process since they are roughed out against a mirror image sandstone shaping wheel, but then they are still sanded down to a smooth surface.

Even our smallest grips, which I didn’t include in the previous email more because of length, since you described yourself as having long hands, do have relatively substantial girth here or there in the grip design.


The 5-3/4 Reverse Half Wells…at the swell: ~1.130”


The 5-3/4” Half Wells…at the swell: ~1.085”

In the end, the best grip you’ll ever fish with is the one you turn to fit your own hand. Turning grips is pretty straight forward. You’ll destroy some cork getting the knack for it, so start with B grade material to practice your technique, then to design grips. Move up to the good cork when you know you can turn a grip reliably to spec. I’ll gladly sell you some of our pre-formed grips, but speaking as a craftsman I’d rather sell you cork rings and know that you’ve taken the next step toward crafting a more-custom rod.

Kind regards,