This post is in response to some blog searches on cork grips recently – it seems that there is some interest in them ! I use the Cardiff brand grips – they also make grips in wood and leather, according to their packaging. I sourced mine from Cheeky Transport in Newtown (Sydney) which is a great little bicycle commuter oriented shop that stocks many quality accessories. The grips come raw but I like to shellac them to give a warmer colour and some physical protection. The bikes I’ve used them on are my old modified Speedwell and a restored Malvern Star, both 40-50 years old and they are among my favourite grips. They are warm with a very slight “give” and a comfortable curved shape that fits the hand easily. I am not sure whether they could be cut down for twist grip shifters though, or what to use for cutting them, perhaps I would nervously put them on a snug fitting wooden dowel, mark first (wrap around tape ?) and cut slowly and straight with a very sharp stanley knife so the end cuts meet. Good Luck, I haven’t tried it !
The grips are loose fitting on normal bars and need to be secured. As I may need to remove them one day, I use double sided sticky tape rather than glue, by sticking some strips of tape over the bar and peeling away, then simply pushing the grip over the tape and right on down to the bar end, which has kept them on firmly so far. If required, a small amount of shellac could be run into the tiny gap between the grip and bar to lock it on. I haven’t tried removing grips done this way but it should, I hope, be possible.
Remember to check that everything is fitted on the bars and you are happy before doing the final fit as obviously it is a hassle to add or remove accessories unless they have split clamps like the brake levers on my Speedwell. A split clamping handlebar stem would be preferable too, but old bikes don’t seem to have them. I usually give my grips about 8-10 thin coats of shellac with a 3/4 inch brush, sometimes with a couple of drops of maple wood stain added to give a brown rather than yellow tint. The grips will need to be supported, e.g. on an old set of bars while staining, and the shellac can be recoated fairly quickly but make sure it is dry first as you get a blotchy effect if the coating below is still damp and it is partially dragged off – I try coating about every 15 minutes on a dry warm day. Shellac wears off eventually and needs to be recoated after a period of time – any scuff marks back to the cork can be touched up with a few coats on a fine brush.
Clean the brushes in methylated spirit, which you will also need if you have bought the shellac in flake form as it is the solvent. If you find the grips too slippery or too dark in colour they can be sanded back a little with fine sandpaper and lightly recoated. This slipperiness is only a problem for me when wearing Damart gloves, so I use the ones with no fingers to get some skin grip on the shellac – luckily I don’t live in a very cold place.