Peanut Butter and Chocolate…

The Origin of Foam-Core, Carbon-Skinned Fishing Rod Grips

How many of you are old enough to remember the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup advertisement? The one where some guy eating a chocolate bar walks around a corner and bumps into a guy who’s finger scooping peanut butter out of a jar. They look up and as they regain their senses, one shouts “You got peanut butter on my chocolate bar!” The other responds with “You got chocolate in my peanut butter!”  All ends well as they taste the combination and decide that something delicious has just happened.

Back in 2003 I began searching for a good do-it-yourself method for creating  flocked grips.  For those unaware, flocked grips are made from embedding short nylon fibers onto an underlying base, generally of cork.   Such grips had long been available from a couple of commercial sources and were often referred to as “the Cadillac of rod grips.”  But there was no simple, inexpensive do-it-yourself method for rod builders to create their own. If you desired a flocked grip, you paid the price – which often exceeded $30 for a single grip!

Borrowing and then modifying a process used by custom furniture makers for lining drawer bottoms, I developed the method I was looking for. I published an article on the technique in the  Volume 7 #4 issue of RodMaker.

Shortly thereafter, I decided that there was no need to use expensive cork as the core for flocked grips.  I began experimenting with mixing, pouring and shaping my own urethane foam to use as flocking cores.  Hold this thought…

Down in Texas  Andy Dear  had purchased a large quantity of cork grips from the old  All Star Rod Company  operation. In an attempt to salvage some of the lesser quality cork and create something more novel at the same time, Andy had begun experimenting with glass and carbon sleeving as a covering for the cork.  Hold this thought…

In 2006, shortly after researching and publishing an article on  Rod Grip Ergonomics  (Volume 10 #3) I began toying with the idea of fitting a fly rod with a carbon fiber grip. The increased rigidity it would provide over a standard cork grip was bound to increase control and reduce fatigue. Trouble was, any such grip would be limited in size and shape to the commercially available non-tapered carbon tubes often sold for making Tennessee handles. Or so I thought.

One afternoon while conferring with Andy on another matter, we spilled our current projects to each other. In an instant, peanut butter and chocolate collided. A unique idea was borne that day – combining a lightweight, rigid, shaped urethane-foam core with an outer skin of carbon-fiber. Within 72 hours afterwards, the world’s first urethane-core/carbon-fiber skinned fishing rod grip was a reality.  

The world’s first rigid foam, carbon skinned fishing rod grip appeared on the cover of the Volume 10 #5 issue of RodMaker Magazine in October of 2006.

Maybe not exactly delicious, but innovative and important nonetheless, that first grip appeared on the cover of the Volume 10 #5 issue of RodMaker. An article on making your own cores and how to skin them followed in the Volume 10 #6 issue. Scores of rod builders picked up the technique from there and a few are producing them commercially today. Now you know how they came to be.

Tom Kirkman

Additional Photos of foam-core/carbon-skinned grips. Copy and paste each URL into your browser’s address window.

http://www.rodbuilding.org/photopost/showphoto.php/photo/9319/title/some-more/cat/507

http://www.rodbuilding.org/photopost/showphoto.php/photo/9503/title/carbon-fly-rod-grip/cat/507

http://www.rodbuilding.org/photopost/showphoto.php/photo/10147/title/stellablack/cat/507

http://www.rodbuilding.org/photopost/showphoto.php/photo/10913/title/playing-around-with-carbon-sleeving/cat/507

Leave a Reply