Ridging on cork?
Cork is tree bark as we all know.
The bark of the cork tree grows in similar fashion to the inner parts of the trees with which we are all familiar. All of us have seen the “growth rings” of a tree when a cross section is exposed from a chain saw cut.
In trees, the dark rings represents “winter growth” or a much slower period of growth, or rather, almost dormancy. The lighter (and softer) parts are always thicker because that growth is fast, occurring during the other three seasons. The darker and harder “winter” rings become “ridges” in your deck after a number of blastings with a pressure washer over the years. The stream of water under pressure eats the softer spring/summer growth areas away and leave ridges just like you see on older cork grips. After pressure washing a deck, you will see thousands of fine wood particles scattered about that have come from those lighter “rings.”
When studying ridging on cork, one will notice that the “high ridges” are harder and slightly darker. You can take a sharp object or possibly fingernail, and sometimes are able to scrape out the softer material between those ridges if the cork has begun to deteriorate (have noticed this in really old rods having questionable care by past owners).
At any rate, the lower, slightly lighter parts between those ridges represent faster growth areas in the rings and the harder, high parts represent the slower growth areas, or at least areas of a more dense cork.
While I do not know this next part to be totally true, it seems to me that a grip shows this ridging more obviously if the rod has not been stored properly over the years or possibly been put up wet a number of times…………….
To present evidence of the last statement, on my own rods, I have seen ridges in grips that have been used hard for many hours over many years (decades) under all weather conditions. These were new rods purchased by myself and the ridges were not severe, almost insignificant. Those same rods have always been wiped down and allowed to dry thoroughly before casing and storing.
However, on older cane rods I have received/seen from other owners, some have ridging so severe that the feel actually took my attention away from fishing and made me aware of the rough grip in my hand. This makes me question about how those rods were stored in the past after use and/or where they were kept. Personally, I believe long term humidity exposure is to blame for most of it. Therefore, do not be concerned with “keeping your cork hydrated.”
On older rods (glass, cane or other) where they were carefully used, stored in tubes, and/or kept in a more controlled humidity, I have seen decades old grips that still appeared new. I have rods here that are pushing 55 years old that have excellent to mint grips.
Hope these thoughts help and would love to hear others’ too.