Monday, July 30, 2012


My web site page on making the grip was out of date and did not address some of the innovations which I  am now using. I started to work on it and decided to give those who visit my blog a preview.  

In the early 50's when I was learning to fly fish I started with a 9' bamboo rod with a solid wooden grip and reel seat. Today, I realize what a "beast" it was as far as weight goes for a 9 year old. 

About 5 yrs ago I was inspired by Terry Henson. With his encouragement, I started to use wood inserts in my grips. Most of the time, these were successful but a few times weight became a problem. 

The 2 rods above (Top - Tulipwood w/ Bloodwood, Bottom - Ebony and Ivory) are beautiful but the extra weight tired my arm after a half day of casting. 

The problem I faced was to lower the weight and still be able to have the beauty of the wood and I think I've solved the problem. 

The process begins the same, as always, selecting the most beautiful and unusual woods available to be featured in the grip.

In this case I have choosen Aboyna burl and Redwood burl. The top photo shows the fantastic eyes of the Amboyna and the eyes, swirls and twirls of the Redwood burl. The lower photo shows the sapwood, heartwood interface showing the natural multi color effect on the wood.

With the featured Amboyna, I choose Ivory, Horn and East India Rosewood as accessories. With the Redwood, I choose Ivory, Horn and Canarywood as accessories.

The Amboyna, to be used in a Western style (RHW) grip, had serial sections cut for the fore section, mid section, butt section of the grip and the reel seat. The redwood, to be used in a Full Wells grip with a fighting butt, had serial sections cut ,as above, but with the fighting butt. These sections are clearly marked to insure correct orientation during glue up.

The sections of the featured wood are bored out to reduce the weight. 

With the Western style the mid section (1.5 " in length)  is bored to 3/4" completely through. The butt section (3/4" in length) is bored 3/8" deep with a 3/4" Forstner bit.  It could be bored completely through but the 3/8" of wood at the end helps prevent wobble on the mandrel while turning on the lathe. It will be removed when inletting for the reel seat hardware. The fore section (3/4" in length) is bored with a 5/8" Forstner bit to a depth of 3/8" to accommodate the taper in the fore grip.

The Full Wells pieces are bored completely through and will later be capped with the accessory wood. 

Cork arbors are glued into the openings in the feature wood pieces with Titebond III and allowed to dry over night. The surfaces are sanded flush with 120 grit sandpaper in preparation for glue up

The photo below shows the approximate outside diameter of the finished grip mid sections and fore section of the Western grip and mid section of the Full wells grip.

 As you can see we have eliminated a significant amount of the wood and the weight associated with it.

Natural and burl cork are added, and all the pieces are gathered together and inspected.

21 pieces for the Western grip (RHW) featuring Amboyna burl with canary wood,horn and Ivory.

23 pieces for Fulls Wells grip and fighting butt featuring Redwood burl and E.I. Rosewood

The pieces are arranged to check for correct sequence and orientation one last time.

 Western (RHW) with Amboyna burl, canary wood, horn, and Ivory.

Fulls wells grip and fighting butt with Redwood burl, E.I. rosewood,horn and ivory

The pieces are glued together on all thread using "Titebond III". The grip blank is allowed to dry over night. (Coating the all thread with liberal layer of "Parawax" makes the grip removal easy.) 

 Fulls wells grip and fighting butt with Redwood burl, E.I. rosewood,horn and ivory

The blanks are transferred to turning mandrels and using these as handles excess stock is removed with a disc and belt sander.

 Western (RHW) with Amboyna burl, canary wood, horn, and Ivory. Notice the voids in the eyes of the Amboyna burl, these will be stabilized with CA glue.

Fulls wells grip and fighting butt with Redwood burl, E.I. rosewood,horn and ivory. The redwood has bark inclusions, voids and small drying checks which will be filled and stabilized With CA glue.

The wood portion of the grip will be trued and shaped with wood turning tools to within 1/8" to 1/16 " of the final diameter. (DO NOT try to turn cork with turning tools as they tear large chunks from the cork)   Any eyes,voids or inclusions are stabilized with CA glue at this time. The final shaping of the wood and removal of the cork then starts with 60 grit paper. it then progresses through 80, 100 and 150 grit paper until the final shape and size are reached. Then I start the finish sanding with 220 then 320,400, 600,800 and finally 1200 grit paper. I'm Just removing the scratches left by the paper used previously. This gives a wonderful polish to the horn and ivory.

 Western (RHW) with Amboyna burl, canary wood, horn, and Ivory.

 Fulls wells grip and fighting butt with Redwood burl, E.I. rosewood,horn and ivory

The cork portion of the grip has a single coat of "U-40 cork seal" applied and the wood portion is finished with Tung Oil. (6-8 coats on the grip and 10-12 coats on the reel seat)

 Western (RHW) with Amboyna burl, canary wood, horn, and Ivory.

 Fulls wells grip and fighting butt with Redwood burl, E.I. rosewood,horn and ivory

The inlets for the reel seats and butt cap are done by hand with a Dremel tool fitted with a straight router bit and drum sander with 220 grit paper.

The grip insert and reel seat hardware are dry fit to insure everything is correct.

Finally completed these light weight, beautiful, one of a kind grip - reel seat combinations are now ready to go on that special rod of yours.

Thanks for visiting, and be sure to visit my website.

Please comment.

Posted by Harper Fly Rods - Dennis at 7/30/2012 1:17 PM  

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