5 Basic Steps for Shaping Fishing Rod Grips

Learn how to turn custom fishing grips to create comfortable handle assemblies with the best boost in performance and appearance to match.

DIY Grip Making to Turn Custom Fishing Grips

In rod building, shaping your own grips is a great way to truly customize each fishing rod.

From turning color EVA and camo EVA, to cork rings, custom grip making is an excellent way to build the perfect fishing grips and handle assembly on your rod.

All it takes to turn custom fishing grips is some instruction, a few tools and supplies, and a little practice to get the job done just right.

Grip Shaping Tools and Supplies:

Now something is obviously missing… The grip material!

Depending on whether you prefer cork or EVA, you can use the list above and the following instructions to create the perfect grips with the material you prefer.

Not only is it one of the easiest ways, turning grips is also one of the most rewarding ways since you decide the grip material, the shape, and even the color!

1. Mount the Grip on the Mandrel

To begin, apply a thin coat of mandrel wax directly onto the mandrel. This helps get the grip off after turning it on the mandrel, so don’t skip this step!

Instructions to Mount EVA on Mandrel

Now for EVA, simply use the steel mandrel with the diameter of the grip or slowly ream the EVA to fit.

Slide the EVA on the mandrel and use some mandrel collars or masking tape to arbor the ends of the grip on mandrel. These will keep the EVA in place while turning, shaping, or cutting the grip.

Some rod builders like to cut the grip down to fit before shaping it, but most beginners should save this step for the end in order to account for any potential mistakes.

Although accidents aren’t common while shaping grips, anything can happen, so leaving some extra wiggle room will help preserve your grip materials and maximize your production output.

TIP: If you are piecing together EVA grip sections of different colors, apply a little epoxy between each piece as you slide them together on the mandrel.

Then, fit the mandrel into a lathe or drill setup to start turning the grip.

Instructions to Mount Cork on Mandrel

For cork rings, this process looks a little different, yet still starts with waxing the mandrel. After the mandrel is waxed, mix up some Two-Part Epoxy to hold the cork rings together.

Next, slide the cork rings onto the mandrel in the order you prefer, but brush a little epoxy on the surface of the each conjoining cork ring as you go.

It should look something like this:

TIP: Only brush on enough epoxy to give the cork surface a slight shine, too much will glue the cork to the mandrel. 

Read more tips like this in our blog on Rod Building Gone Wrong: Custom Cork Fishing Grips

With the cork grip prepared on the mandrel, slide it into the lathe or drill setup to begin shaping the grip.

2. Remove the Bulk of the Grip Material

Next, you will want to remove material to take the width of the grip down to your liking.

Since Sanding Screen takes off more material at a time compared to sand paper, use the sanding screen to save you more time and effort.

Take off a decent amount of EVA foam until you are comfortable with the width and ready to begin fine-tuning the shape of the grip.

With the cork, you shouldn’t have to remove too much material before you’re ready to start shaping and polishing the grips.

3. Fold Sanding Paper to Shape Grip

Once you have the excess material removed from the EVA or cork, fold some Medium (80) Grit Sanding Paper over 4-5 times to get a sturdy corner or edge to use for shaping down the grip.

There are many options for grip shapes, so decide what fits best for you and your style of fishing before you start carving away at the grips.

Whether it’s a full wells or just a fore grip, check the shape as you turn it down to make sure you are happy with the result.

TIP: Be patient while shaping down cork and EVA grips in order to get the size and shape you want. 

4. Sand Grip for Smooth Texture

After you’ve removed a little more material and added the shape to the grip, it’s time to take care of the grip’s rough exterior.

For sanding and polishing the grip, use Fine (120) Grit and Very Fine (320) Grit Sand Paper to smooth out the texture of the grip to your comfort.

TIP: For EVA, we recommend stopping at 320-grit sand paper because EVA will look less appealing with any higher grit sand paper.

5. Get Ready to Mount Fishing Grips

Once you’re satisfied with the EVA grip’s shape and feel, use something with a flat edge like the folded sanding paper from step 3 or even a razor blade to trim the grip’s length to fit your fishing rod.

Since most rod builders have already sized the cork to fit based on the cork rings, cork usually isn’t trimmed on the mandrel. If you need to cut the cork’s length down, it can be done in the same manner as the EVA, but it will take a bit longer.

If you are more experienced making grips, this will likely be your first step, but most beginners will want to do this last. Saving this step for the end helps keep any mistakes from ruining the entire grip.

With your custom grip shaped to fit the contours of your hand, just ream it to fit the rod blank and mount it on your handle assembly with ProPaste.

Click here for More Reaming Tips

Finally, hit the water and see how much fun fishing with more feel and comfort can be!

Rod Building’s New Cork and EVA Grip Shaping Kits

Looking for a way to easily find all the tools, supplies, and materials you need to shape custom fishing grips?

Well, we’ve got you covered with these new mandrel kits!

Because the grip is shaped by you—for you—it’s a great way to maximize both your comfort and performance for long days on the water.

Start shaping your own EVA and cork grips with the new CRB Grip Making Kits with Steel Mandrels!

The CRB Grip Making Kit with Steel Mandrels

If you want to shape your own grips, this kit is the best place to start!

It includes four 18″ Oil hardened steel mandrels with 60° taper in each end for live center. These mandrels have been designed for use in turning cork and EVA handles.

These mandrels also include a pair of adjustable, removable collars to secure your handle in place while you shape it. Four outside diameters included are: 1/4″ – 5/16″ – 3/8″ – 7/16″.

This grip making mandrel kit also includes the tools and supplies you will need to get started including the mandrel wax, epoxy, sanding screens and sand paper. It has never been this easy to get everything you need in one convenient kit!

The base unit includes 4 steel mandrels in the most commonly used outer diameters (1/4”, 5/16”, 3/8”, and 7/16”) as well as all the tools and supplies required for the job.





There are also kits available for purchase that feature your choice of colored EVA, Camo EVA, or Cork, so you can customize the material you prefer into your new favorite fishing grips.

The EVA Grip Making Kit with Steel Mandrels

Start building your own color EVA fishing rod grips! EVA comes with 3 ID sizes of 3/8″, 1/2″, and 5/8″ with 5 color options for each size.

Each EVA segment is 18″ in length to start.

EVA Grip Colors:

These colors help create awesome custom fishing grips!

The Mandrel kit included (MANDKIT-1) comes with four 18″ Oil hardened steel mandrels with 60° taper in each end for live center. These mandrels have been designed for use in turning custom EVA handles. These mandrels also come with a pair of adjustable, removable collars to secure your handle in place while you shape it.

The four mandrel outside diameters included are: 1/4″, 5/16″, 3/8″, and 7/16″.

This EVA Grip Making Kit with Steel Mandrels also includes the tools and supplies you will need to get started: mandrel wax, epoxy, sanding screens and sand paper.

Use this kit to build your own color EVA grips now!




The Camo EVA Grip Making Kit with Steel Mandrels

Start building your own Camo EVA fishing rod grips!

The Camo EVA comes in lengths of 18″ and in 3 ID sizes: 3/8″, 1/2″, and 5/8″ as well as 4 color options for each size.

EVA Camo Grip Colors:

These camo colors truly put the “custom” in custom rod building!

Plus, this kit includes the Mandrel kit (MANDKIT-1), which comes with four 18″ Oil hardened steel mandrels with 60° taper in each end for live center. These four mandrels have outside diameters of 1/4″, 5/16″, 3/8″, and 7/16″.

This grip making mandrel kit also includes the tools and supplies you will need to get started including the mandrel wax, epoxy, sanding screens and sand paper.

Get everything you need to shape your own fishing grips in just one convenient kit!




The Cork Grip Making Kit with Steel Mandrels

Start building your own Cork fishing rod grips! Comes with 4 steel mandrels, tools, supplies, and 100 cork rings so you can start building right away.

Cork Rings Include:

These cork rings are just a few turns from becoming stellar custom fishing grips!

The Mandrel kit (MANDKIT-1) includes four 18″ Oil hardened steel mandrels with 60° taper in each end for live center. These mandrels have been designed for use with turning cork grips for custom handles. This grip making mandrel kit also includes the tools and supplies you will need to get started including the mandrel wax, epoxy, sanding screens and sand paper.

It has never been this quick or easy to get everything you need, all-in-one bundle!

The Cork Grip Making Kit with Steel Mandrels includes 4 steel mandrels (1/4”, 5/16”, 3/8”, and 7/16”) as well as all the tools and supplies required for the job.

Start building your own cork handles to make your next custom rod truly unique!