A short time ago I finished a custom 9 foot 8 weight rod for Nick Viau, cohost of the Traditional Outdoors Podcast (which is amazing, you should check it out). Prior to starting his fly rod we were talking about the specifics of his build, he brought up a rod his dad had purchased back in 1979. He sent a few pictures over to me via text and pointed out that the person that made the rod was Ron Spray. As best as I know he is of no direct relation to my family, but with an uncommon last name like Spray and the fact that he lives in the same state as I do there has to be some connection down the family tree.  

The handle was in rough shape, it was a foam handle cut away to make it more spin caster friendly, there was salmon spawn juice all over the length of the rod and just generally 40 years of use and abuse. The guides were in good useable shape, the wraps were ornate and impossible to reproduce to the original state. The area in front of the fore-grip had a decorative wrap that added to the thickness of the rod and also would have been VERY difficult to make it look original.  

All of these things were strikes against me when Nick asked to have the handle replaced with a cork one. What follows is a basic step by step on what I did.  

Materials: Cork rings grade B or A (do not use flor grade), fighting butt, good water proof wood glue, epoxy (Rod Bond and 5 min), razor knife, several grits of sandpaper (80-600), denatured alcohol, cork reamer, zip-ties, 1/4” masking tape, cork filler, several brushes and mixing cups for epoxy and glue.

WARNING: This is not a beginners rod repair. If you do not have a decent background in working with cork and rod building, let an expert tackle this one.

The old foam was stripped from the rod and cleaned down to the blank and the blank was cleaned with denatured alcohol.

1/2” cork sections with a 1/4” ID were reamed to the proper ID.

The cork ring was then snapped in half. This is why you do not want to use premium grade cork, it will be clear of defects and will not allow it to be snapped and glued without a visible line.

Reassemble the snapped rings, matching the seams back together and holding them with 1/4” masking tape. DO NOT GLUE THEM AT THIS POINT.

The last cork ring was left about an 1/8” long so that it would fit VERY snug against the reel seat. This will compress the other rings and leave no gaps in between them.

Once it is all reamed and fit to length number the rings in order so that you can put them back in the correct sequence.  

Carefully remove the split cork rings.

I cleaned up the blank better at this point.

This is when you have to be organized and working with purpose, you are working against cure times. Start at the end farthest away from the reel seat.  

Epoxy (Rod Bond) the blank in about 3/4” sections, do not epoxy the whole handle section of the blank. Wood glue both sides of the broken halves of the cork ring, place them over the blank and zip-tie the two halves together. Wood glue the rear face of the ring you just installed.  

The next cork ring needs to have wood glue on the face that is mating up to the previously installed ring, do this first before you glue both broken faces of the ring, this helps you maintain what direction the pieces go back together.    

Now glue both sides of the broken faces of the ring and mate the pieces back together, Zip-Tie the pieces tightly. Pay attention to the seams and try to keep it a 1/4 turn away from the previous seam.

Repeat the last few steps until you have filled the handle section to where the fighting butt is going to be installed.

Allow the glue to set overnight. 

Snip the Zip-Ties off with side cutters.

Chuck the rod in a drill and sand the cork to the desired shape, being careful not to sand the rear section to small for the fighting butt, or crush the rear portion of the blank. Use cork filler to finish if desired.

5 min epoxy the fighting butt cap firmly against the rear section of cork.  

Sand smooth and use a cork filler if desired.  

It is as simple as that! The lines from breaking the cork are hidden in the natural imperfections of the mid grade cork rings, they are 99% impossible to see. 

Thank you for reading my third blog post. Please comment and share this wherever  you would like to, just link my site and give me credit. Thanks again.