Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Adventures with Shellac: Cork Grip Yumminess!

If you love the rich butterscotch look of shellacked cork grips, but are worried about the DIY factor, fear no more. We gave it a shot, and it really is quite easy. Here we go:

Rodney the vintage Roadster came with these original Raleigh black grips. Although they look nice and we like to keep original parts, neither of us can stand the feel of plastic grips. So we decided to experiment with cork. Rivendell makes it seem so simple and fun!

Well, here is a "naked" cork grip. So far so good! The Co-Habitant secured the grips with strong double-sided tape, but most recommend to glue the grips. He rode the bike with the unshellacked grips for a while to see what this felt like. The unfinished grips feel good, but they get dirty very easily and are not protected from the elements. We wouldn't want ratty, filthy grips. Plus the colour needs some spicing up.

Here comes the shellac. Amber. This is from the hardware store, nothing fancy. Generic 1" paintbrush.

Here the first coat of shellac is being applied. This stuff is fast drying, so the work should be done fairly quickly.

Second coat of shellac. As you apply 2-3 thin coats, you will see the colour gradually grow darker, richer, and warmer. Uneven patches on the surface get smoothed out. Three thin coats should be enough, and you can always touch it up if you notice some unevenness later.

We decided not to add twine or tape to these grips, but to keep things clean and minimalist on the vintage black Roadster. The first photo in this post is the final result!

17 comments:

  1. The original grips shown in the picture are shiny because they are wrapped with black deluxe electrical tape! The rubber underneath is gray, cracked, decomposing and falling apart.

    I probably put 3-4 coats on the first day and 1 more coat later to smooth things out. It's a deep fire amber now. I am almost considering getting a sprung Brooks seat in the same amber colour, but the B72 rides well... Perhaps if it fails...

    I'll take more pics of the finished product outdoors.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh jeez, I didn't realise that you'd put tape on the original grips! Well, I guess if they were that bad, then the cork conversion is all the more justified. You did a good job with the black tape though; on the photos it looks very natural!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've never actually tried cork grips. But leather ones. They're quite fancy too ;-). DIY is cool, I love to read about it and learn more.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Unlike what I first thought, shellacked cork grips stay soft and have a rather pleasant overall feel to them, even if you ignore the beautiful glowing deep amber... Nothing like holding a rubber grip! Try it.

    I now think that both leather grips (washers, solid, or leather tape wrap) and shellacked cork are the best ways to go.

    I've seen, but have not yet tried wooden grips (bamboo and solid wood). They look beautiful, but I suspect that too much vibration and road bumps will be communicated through the wood and into one's hands.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Looks great! Instructions seem easy enough, but I'm so uncrafty. Not that I have plans to shellac cork anytime soon, but still.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Looks good, I will have to do that to the ones on my Redline R530 when I get home.
    I could see where some types of woods might work for grips, but I think the cork is more comortable in the long run. They have been using them on golf clubs and tennis rackets for how long?


    Aaron

    ReplyDelete
  7. Dottie, those close-ups of the shellacked Portuguese cork grips on your Betty were definitely an inspiration!

    I love both cork and leather-washer grips. But given that the cork option costs only a fraction of leather, I think we'll be going for the cork in any future restoration projects : )

    Wood grips look beautiful in photos, but I just can't believe that they are comfortable -- I get blisters just imagining holding them! Although according to Rivendell, "...the lack of cush makes absolutely no difference. It might even be better." Hmmm...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wood vs Cork, might depend on if you wear gloves or not. Also how well adjusted your bike is.

    Aaron

    ReplyDelete
  9. neat! I'm beginning to pay attention to my hand comfort... good info to know although I'm nowhere near any DIY with the bikes...

    ReplyDelete
  10. If you're afraid of DIY, don't be: shellacking the cork grips is easy. If you can remove the old grips and put on cork (sometimes you'll have to glue it on), shellacking is only a small incremental step in terms of overall difficulty. Premixed amber shellack is available at the hardware store as are inexpensive foam and bristle brushes. I tried both and prefer the foam. They cost a few cents and are a disposable item.

    I put one a light and hopefully even coat, wait an hour, put on another coat and let it sit overnight. The next day I look at it outside in the day light and decide if it needs a third coat. It looks great even if you mess up. Shellack is easy to wipe off metal parts (or scrape off if you let it dry) and it dries quickly. If you can do it outside, you don't even need to put down newspapers on the floor. It doesn't stink nearly as bad as I initially suspected. I suppose if you're very careful and use light coats you can risk doing it indoors by holding a paper towel under the grip while you paint. And it's fun, too.

    If you cannot install your own cork grips, I am sure your bike store will do it for around $15. My cork grips cost around $14 and shellack + brushes were $8.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Did you glue them on?

    ReplyDelete
  12. I want to try this myself. I ordered a pair of cork grips for my Raleigh Superbe. We'll see how it goes after they arrive...

    ReplyDelete
  13. double-sided scotch tape works as well as glue, but there will be less of a mess to scrape off should you ever want to remove the grips.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks for this,I was wondering how to secure the the grips to the bars.I ended up doing 12 coats as the cork grips tore the first time installed them.(Oops)

    ReplyDelete
  15. I use shellacked cork grips and have discovered that for winter riding, you definitely need leather gloves. Plain old wool gloves have absolutely zero grip! It's a very harrowing ride without a doubt.

    ReplyDelete
  16. looks like you used an unusual (to me) form of cork sheeting? I build up fly rods and usually form my own cork grips from 1/2 inch cork rings. Hmmmm, i DO have a bag full of cork rings not good enough for fine fly rod handles... thanks for the blog post, it has offered an idea i wouldn't have otherwise had for my daughter's "new"/old motobecane mixte.

    by the way, cork, like wood, can be stained. our local orchard supply stores sells small tester packets of various colors for 25-50 cents a packet. for anyone wanting to experiment with cork, these packets offer up color options from a golden pecan to cherry red to darker wood colors.

    ReplyDelete
  17. by the way, in my experience with fly rod cork grips, yes they get dirty, but cork cleans up nicely with water and a light scrubbing if you don't want to use shellac. i often use a little Softscrub and a kitchen sponge with a scotchbrite scouring side, very easy.

    ReplyDelete