I have some items I want to add rustic handles to by wrapping them in rope. Imagine a frying pan or feather duster. The items are slippery enough that the rope may loosen or even come off. I would like to coat everything in an adhesive gunk that causes the rope to grip better, without actually gluing it. (Typical glue may not adhere, plus I'd like the chance to remove the handle.)

Sap would be ideal, but I don't have time to go to the forest and hunt for it. 3M 72 spray is supposed to be permanently tacky but its not available in my local stores. I noticed cooking oil forms a sticky mess, so my current thought is to carefully boil some oil and paint that on with the help of rubbing alcohol. Will this work? Should I use a partially drying oil like canola or a more stable oil like olive oil?

Possible solutions:

  • Wrap the item with 3M 300 LSE double sided adhesive. This works, even on exotic plastics like Delrin.
  • Dip the item in spoiled shellac. For example, blonde (bleached) shellac which has been left in the sun/heat for a long time. However, I'm not sure shellac will grip plastics.
  • Sap, dissolved in a solvent like rubbing alcohol, mineral spirits, or orange oil.
  • Chewing gum, boiled to make it soft and sanitary.
  • Latex exercise band, wrapped around then glued to itself with a dab of super glue.
  • Wrap the item with a tack cloth before adding rope. Even tack cloth adds no grip.

How it should look:

wooden handle rod handle

  • 5
    Just a thought: frying pan + rope handle + stove or oven might not be the best idea. – Stephie Aug 29 '19 at 10:42
  • @Stephie That didn't even occur to me! But I use induction, so there's no issue so long as I can remove it when I have the need. – piojo Aug 29 '19 at 12:27
  • It would be helpful if you would show us some picture(s) with the handles. Some idea might pop-up based on those. – virolino Aug 30 '19 at 9:32
  • Are those in the pictures the actual handles?! If not, they are pretty much useless... – virolino Sep 2 '19 at 5:33
  • 1
    That is exactly the point. You keep talking about plastic, and you show us pictures of wood. They are hugely different materials. I highly doubt that the handles are made of teflon. The exact chape of the handle might provide some clues. Even more, if it is removable, it is a safety issue: it might move exactly when it should stick - leading to burns, fires and God knows what else. – virolino Sep 2 '19 at 6:22

Modern spray adhesives are definitely NOT what you want. Instead, dip the rope in boiled linseed oil and hang it up to dry in the sun. It hardens up sort of like lacquer but usually doesn't get fully hard. You can buy this by the gallon in hardware stores, in their paint departments.

The classic material used to make rope extremely "grippy" is roofing tar, but it stains your hands pretty badly.

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  • Thanks! BLO is hard to get where I am. Is the semi-dry BLO also sticky, not just soft? (I thought it developed a skin, but I've never used it.) Are you suggesting it as an adhesive rather than a sticky substance? – piojo Aug 29 '19 at 6:11
  • @piojo semi-dry BLO is slightly sticky- it readily picks up dirt which quickly makes it turn black. Where are you? – niels nielsen Aug 29 '19 at 6:24

I'd recommend hide glue for this.

It's a very effective glue for porous materials like wood, fabric, paper, rope, etc. It also works on non-porous surfaces like metal and glass (it's used in a process for giving plate glass a fractured surface -- it holds well enough to pull chips off the glass plate!). It's been used for furniture building, sizing artists' canvas, and general adhesive applications for centuries. It's applied by heating in a double boiler until melted (adding a small amount of water if needed), then brushing onto the surfaces and assembling while still hot.

One of the great advantages of hide glue, and the reason it's used in museum restoration, is that it's completely reversible: apply moist heat (steam from a kettle works well) and it releases and can be cleaned off most surfaces.

So attach your rope to your handles with hide glue; it won't go anywhere -- until you want it to, and then, with a little steam, the rope will come right off.

You can buy hide glue from art supply sources, or you can find instructions on the Internet for making it, either from actual rabbit skins or beef bones, or from commecially packaged unflavored gelatin (gelatin made as a food product won't work as well as real hide glue, but it will work). You can also buy high-bloom gelatin from photographic chemical suppliers; it will work better than food grade, but (of course) costs more.

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  • Thanks, but I've been searching around, and it seems like hide glue will neither stick to shellac nor plastic, so it won't grip the majority of my surfaces. – piojo Aug 30 '19 at 0:37

I have found that Copydex is a useful adhesive that can be removed later without damaging the surface. It sets to a rubbery texture and never goes completely hard.

You won't get it off the rope afterwards (which you would probably throw away anyway), but it should easily peel away from the handle, which must be grease-free before you apply the adhesive and then wind the rope around.

You might need some sticky tape to wind around once, to secure the end of the rope – whatever means you use to stick the rope to the handle.

If you haven't used this glue before it might be worth practising on something first so you can see how it behaves.

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Not having good details about those handles, I cannot be sure that this fits.

However, I have in mind the wrapping plastic-foil for kitchen use. That should be sticky enough to stick to the handles (especially true if the handles are not perfect cylinders). Then the rope will stick to the plastic foil.

Be sure to apply several layers of plastic-foil, to increase the grip, especially on the rope side.

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  • I've found plastic wrap is very picky about what it will stick to. I only get sufficient strength on glass, and my items are wood, varnished wood, and plastic. – piojo Aug 29 '19 at 6:09
  • You might add a thin layer of sponge - between the handle and the plastic. And cover the sponge carefully, to avoid it getting dirty. – virolino Aug 29 '19 at 6:40

Using something off-the-shelf, Plasti Dip(R) is explicitly made for this. This stuff is designed for making metal handles on tools easier on hands as well as giving them more grip. You can coat the handle first, then wrap it with rope and you should be good to go. You might not even need the rope, but it would probably look more aesthetic with the rope covering the modern material.

With the original Plasti Dip, you can dip the handle in the can or you can brush it on. They also now make spray on versions for easier application.


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  • I have felt what I believe is plasti-dip, and it does not feel at all sticky. Still better than shellac or delrin, but not sticky. And you wouldn't want a tool handle to be sticky. However, wrapping in rope and then dipping in plasti-dip makes quite a nice handle. – piojo Sep 6 '19 at 2:42
  • @piojo, I've had Plasti Dip become sticky. I don't remember if it was in high heat, if it came in contact with a solvent, or what, but there was definitely some extra tacky-ness to it. I considered including dipping the handle after wrapping in my answer, but I wasn't sure how that would look or act. I wouldn't want to use shellac the same way as Plasidip. It's too brittle to withstand the same rough treatment, IME. And delrin is supposed to be low friction, so definitely not what you want. – computercarguy Sep 6 '19 at 16:09
  • I meant delrin and shellac are base materials, hence the need for this question. Rope just slips against them (delrin more so). But I agree with your assertion that the shellac finish can become damaged too easily, and so is not ideal under a rope handle. – piojo Sep 7 '19 at 2:49

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