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I saw a post over at Lifehacker today touting the old idea of slapping a little heat shrink tubing around a tool and shrinking it down to create a custom “grip,” and that got me thinking about the various ways I know how to accomplish this — and what ways you as Toolmongers might know that I don’t.

My favorite method is PlastiDip. It’s been around forever and works pretty simply: just open up the tub/can and dip the handles of your favorite pliers or whatever in. Pull ’em out and let ’em dry and you get a protective, grippy rubber-like coating.

A few years ago they started offering PlastiDip in a spray can, which lets you literally spray it on like paint. I picked up a can to coat a couple of little plugs for the headlight washers the guy who originally bought my (now gone, thank you) Porsche 944S2 didn’t bother to add to the options list. The plugs shipped from the factory in primer white. I didn’t want to bother painting them to match, and I’d already learned the hard way that it’s damn near impossible to create a decent-looking finish with gloss spray paint from a can — and flat or semi-gloss tends to erode pretty quickly in the weather. So I sprayed them with the black version of PlastiDip and they ended up looking pretty decent. Admittedly, I wonder if it’d really stay attached on a wide, flat surface, but I never found an opportunity to try it (though I think the can’s still out in the shop).

I’ve seen people do all kinds of crazy stuff, though, from wrapping tools in rope to dipping epoxy-molding custom-shaped grips. What’s your favorite custom grip solution, or do you just like bare tools bare?

PS: It looks like PlastiDip comes in a “make your own color” kit [What’s This?] now.

PPS: Think I’m crazy for PlastiDip coating washer plugs? This guy did a whole car.

(Thanks, nrkbeta, for the great CC-licensed photo.)

Create Your Own Tool Grips w/Heat Shrink Tubing [Lifehacker]
PlastiDip [Corporate Site]
Via Amazon¬† [What’s This?]


14 Responses to Creating Custom Tool Grips

  1. Jason Peacock says:

    Well, there is this Instructable about using PlastiDip to make awesome, permanent origami:


  2. Jeff Ballard says:

    Wow I looked up plastidip on youtube and saw people doing their car emblems, rims, whole car with this stuff, and it is just plain awesome! Im going to buy a can just to keep in the garage for different solutions to problems.

    I even think I can use it to waterproof some of the old parts on my 86 three wheeler, that have deteriated in the past 25 years. thanks!

  3. Joshua Herzig-Marx says:

    Great stuff for making your own glue-top pads: http://joshua.herzig-marx.com/2006/04/08/diy-glue-top-pads/

  4. Assen says:

    Used the spray to cover my son’s home-made Batman mask.
    Still holding up after 6 months’ use.

  5. Swedub says:

    Another neat substance for creating custom grips to tools and whatnot is Sugru. I picked some up at the Maker Faire near San Jose last year. Came in handy when I had to create a grip to a valve handle that broke away. It was for a main water valve that I couldn’t easily replace because it was for a unit in a condo building.


    You can make custom hand formed grips for tools and stuff. Plastidip is more of a thin even coating.

  6. metis says:

    it depends on what properties you need in the grip.

    while working as a chef i’ve used kitchen twine, mineral oil and bees wax to make a durable anti-slip grip on certain knives (which was also defacto disposable for cleaning purposes)

    i’ve used rope, twine and lashings for grips on many other tools with finishes from none to superglue depending on what properties i wanted on it.

    i’ve used nail varnish to give me knurling on modeling tools (press a knurled surface into the varnish when you can just deform it with your fingernail before it’s fully set)

    i’ve used sugru and diy sugru (silicone caulk and cornstarch) to build custom “ergonomic” grips for certain tools

    i’ve re-sealed my nitrile coated kevlar gloves with plastidip when the nitrile wore off (it’s noticably more stiff, but seems to wear harder) and re-sealed latex skinned work gloves with liquid latex because i liked the fit of that pair of gloves.

    self adhering silicone tape is wonderful on hammers if you want a hint of cushion, or insulation on metal tools in the cold.

    hockey tape and bicycle handlebar tape (as well as tennis racket handle tape) i’ve variously used for various tools.

    choose the right tool for the job, even if the tool is a maintenance of another tool.

  7. Cameron Watt says:

    When I sharpen milling cutters, I’ve wondered if dipping an oiled cutter in this stuff would make a protective cover that would pull off easily…. much better looking than the layer of dielectric tape I currently use.

  8. Brau says:

    The product may have changed (improved) over the years, but the last time I used Plasti-Dip it deteriorated (got baggy) after contact with oils and eventually peeled or slipped off. That was decades ago though.

    It’s a good way to make custom non-slip feetpads on chair legs, and I’ve always wanted to try using it with a mold to make custom rubber parts.

  9. blore40 says:

    What do you guys recommend as a cheap substitute for table tennis paddle rubber? I need to make a table tennis return board and need something cheap to paint/coat/glue to the return board.

    Returnboards: http://www.teessport.com/table-tennis-coaching-c18/tsp-tsp-table-tennis-return-board-pro-p837

    • blore40 says:

      Is plastidip as grippy as table tennis rubber?

    • metis says:

      thin rubber applied with contact cement? there are a variety of rubber sheet goods available even from a smaller surplus place such as axman surplus in the twin cities. plastidip is going to be more rigid, but may give you the grippy return you seek. adding/sprinkling on talc or another compound may vary that grip level.

      another option that’s ~seasonal is liquid latex. look for it in halloween stores (if you’re in the twin cities i can point you at a few) or when you’re into the out of halloween season, higher quality “adult” stores often carry it. paint it on in a thin layer (4″ mini roller) and reapply once dry for more thickness.

  10. PB says:

    I actually plasti-dipped my car’s hood over the summer. The hood was in really bad shape and my compressor was on the fritz, so actual paint wasnt an option, at the time of roughing the surface. I just decided to rough sand the hood and shoot it with a few cans of plasti-dip, for $18.
    So far, it has held up great.
    It’s a black satin finish, so it looks fine on my older black car.

  11. Shopmonger says:

    PB—–that is awesome can you keep us up to date on the durability…..

    I use plasti-Dip to coat screw drivers and other tools for dash removal and for delicate seals and gaskets….. besides making nice handles…


    • metis says:

      is the dry time worth it? how long does it last? i assume you’re either using it as a disposable tool cover or delegating tools to “delicate” use with it?

      (as a side note, your handle has always confused me, but your comments are always enjoyed… you are a purveyor of storefronts?)

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