To get it really clean and looking shiny new, I used soap and warm water and thoroughly scrubbed it with a nail brush - rinse and leave to dry.
The only problem with this could be if your rod has a lot of filler - the nail brush may dislodge. I no longer clean cork handles. Personally, I prefer the dirty look, developed over years of fish slime, grime and general usage. It gives the rod some character!!!
Probably a silly question but what would you recommend to use to clean a discoloured cork rod handle? Just soap & water or is there something that can bring them back to almost new?
Not sad at all just proud of your gear, perfect description Mick I also use the Ronseal filler and use a bit of coffee powder to get the colour right.Hi there.
About every 4 years I give my cork handles a spruce up by doing the following:
a) As Steven says use Cif and one of those abrasive sponges to clean the dirt off the rod (not metal abrasive pads or hard bristle brushes just the plastic abrasion face)
b) Use Ronseal wood filler from those little plastic tubes in the smallest sizes to mix up some very light wood colour with some medium wood colour (I forget the exact shade names) to match up to your cleaned cork colour
c) Using a barely damp Wettex sponge rub this filler into all holes and hollows - carefully take the excess off with the cleaned Wettex to minimise sanding - then leave it for an hour to dry properly
d) I use my old Black and Decker Workmate to hold my rod handle safely wrapped in an old towel (it has concave grooves in the inside sides of the gripping plates at the top to help do this
e) Then using cut strips of wet and dry (bought off Ebay) starting with about 400 grit and working down to 1200 grit I sand the whole handle to remove all the surface dried filler above the cork - it's like a shoe shine movement pulling the strips up and down and following the curvature of the handle. I am rotating the rod in the Workmate all the time to facilitate this. If you have a lathe (I don't) you're laughing - but make sure it doesn't run away with you though. Do use a mask and a vacuum with brush attachment to keep cleaning away the dust.
The end result is a rod handle that feels like mirror grade cork and which every time you take it out of the rod sock and use it delights you. Of course, in time all fillers will come away - but this takes years. I have used wood filler based on cellulose but this is murder to sand and it doesn't feel natural to the touch though it will always stay put. The Ronseal filler is better - I believe David Norwich used it. You can also brush over filler with Zap a Gap glue using the brush supplied but it will create lots of glossy bits on your handle but the filler will stay put even when the rod is regularly submerged - but I prefer stopping after e). BTW all of this doesn't take anywhere near as long as you might think. Good to do on a warm sunny day outside.
Am I a sad so and so? You bet!
Hi Speytime - you are quite right. Some anglers love the naturally formed "patina" on rod handles that comes from long term use.I've noticed that a new/newish rod without the handle cleaned it can look grubby in photos, but older well used rods that dirt turns to a light brown patina over time almost varnished like and doesn't seem to look grubby more desirable imo?