Winding Checks

Assorted nickel silver winding checks.

Sean asked what he defined as a novice question: What is the purpose of the winding check?

Here’s my response:

Hey Sean,

I need to write a book. This is a novice question, but it’s a really good one. There are two answers, which allows me to editorialize a bit.

1) Functional/aesthetic. The purpose of the winding check is to literally “check,” or stop, the windings of thread in front of the grip. The check also provides a nice visual transition from the grip to the blank, often literally stepping down from a larger diameter to a smaller diameter and bridging what would otherwise be a rather huge leap from the face of the grip to the OD of the blank. Most commercial checks are nickel silver, so they tie in materially & visually to the nickel silver of a fine reel seat which caps the other end of the grip (and the slim ring on a seat which butts against the grip is called a cork check…it stops the cork from impinging on the span devoted to the seat). Other makers might opt for aluminum or titanium seats – and matching checks. A few fellows turn their checks from wood to match the reel seat insert. Really the high quality possibilities are endless. Just skip the cheap rubber checks, which will degrade and fall off over time.

2) Masking. The check can be used to mask shoddy workmanship. The very best grips, sometimes built and turned on the blank rather than being turned off-blank and then snugged into place, fit the blank tightly. In other words, the bore of the flexible cork is sized so it is just one hair too small for the blank and the blank thus emerges from the grip with no gap between the blank and the bore of the grip. However, sloppy workmanship exists and some makers use the winding check to mask the gap between the cork and the blank. This is the wrong reason to use a winding check beyond your first rod or two. In other words, almost anything goes with very early rods, but if you’re properly self-critical you’ll note the flaw and work to avoid it on future rods.

There are some makers who skip the check, but they all (?…I think this is true) build their grips on the blank and turn the grips such that the front of the grip flows seamlessly into the blank. The bulk of these makers then wrap up onto the grip making a decorative wrap that might be 1/4″ long on the blank and another 1/2″ long on the cork, then they varnish the whole thing. It’s not my look, but it is a traditional look and looks really nice.

On, say, 50% of rods, the decorative wrap in front of the winding check isn’t itself merely decorative…it’s the wrap the binds down the hook tender, or at least one foot of the tender if it’s got two feet.

Hope that helps.

-Russ

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