Thursday, April 5, 2012

Fat Grips With An "S"

...because we use proper grammar and all that.

This isn't the fastest project but it is really cheap. Made from 100% duct tape it's not space age state of the art rubber. But it gets the job done all the same. These have all the versatility of the commercial product at a fraction of the cost.

Cost: less than $10
Project time: 3 hours
Difficulty: A bit tedious, but easy enough.

Tools Needed:
  • Scissors
  • Hack Saw or Serrated Cutting Tool of Some Kind
  • Pliers or Vice Grips
  • Pen, Pencil,  or Marker
Materials Needed:
  • 110 yards (100 meters) of Duct Tape
  • 4 yards of Masking Tape (optional)
  • Paper Towel Roll or 2 Toilet Paper Rolls

I know this video ran a little long. I will try to quickly describe the process below, if you can't watch the whole video. If the following directions are too abridged for you, then watch the video.

Step 1: Making the Core

We're going to use the paper towel roll or toilet paper roll to make the core or mold to form the fat grip around. If you are using toilet paper rolls, Put them end to end and run a strip of duct tape over the seam to make one longer roll. Cut the roll to about 7 inches (18 cm)  in length. Now cut the roll down the length of it.

Take the roll and a pen over to your barbell. Wrap it around your barbell tightly. Mark a line along the length of the roll where the top edge overlaps. Take the roll off the bar, roll it up tightly again to line up the edge with the mark you made, then run a strip of tape across it to hold it in this new new shape. What you have here is a roll that has, more or less, the same diameter as your barbell. 

Step 2: Sticky Side Up

There are two ways to wrap tape on your roll. One is the logical way, rolling it up the way toilet paper works. We'll call that "TP style" for the sake of ease. The other way is to run the length of tape down the length of the roll. We'll call that "length wise".

(left) Lengthwise, (right) TP style)
We start at one edge of paper towel core. Roll the tape TP style with the sticky side up. Wrap the tape straight around back overlapping on itself a few times. Cut the tape and pat the edge down. This can be a bit of a hassle to work with the tape sticky side up. This will only cover a  third or quarter of the roll. Now move over and run another strip of tape the same way, overlap the previous strip by a 1/4 inch or so. Continue doing this until you have covered 5.75 inches of the length of your roll.  If you cover more that's fine, you can trim it down in a little while. This is the size of three widths of duct tape and that is how big we will make our roll. If you want it shorter you can cut it down after you're done constructing the whole grip.

Step 3: Lengthwise for Structural Stability

You have your core now wrapped with duct tape, sticky side out. Now cut strips of tape and wrap them lengthwise sticky side down. Overlap them about a 1/4 inch and work your way around building up a few layers like this. If the strips you cut are longer than the sticky side down section, let them hang off the side which does not have exposed paper towel core. We do not want to stick tape to the core as we have to remove the core repeatedly through the process. Then trim the excess tape from the edge.

Step 4: TP Style is How We Roll

Again starting from the flush edge of your roll, wrap tape TP style sticky side down. Wrap it straight around overlapping itself. This time, do it until you have built up about 1/16 to 1/8 inch thickness (2mm). Wrap the tape evenly and tightly. If you get wrinkles you can peel the tape back and adjust. I used Duck brand duct tape and found it to be forgiving in this area and easy to work with. Once you've built up the thickness, cut the tape.

Move over an entire tape width and wrap that portion in the same fashion. Do not overlap here. We are going to wrap this in three sections, butt up against each other but not overlapping. Once finished, move over again and wrap the last of the three sections.

Step 5: Don't You Know I Will Cut You

We are going to cut a slit down the length of the grip because we need it to open  so we can get it over the bar. We're going to cut periodically through the wrapping process so that it's easier to manage. First we have to pull the paper core out. If you wrapped the tape tightly it might be hard to pull out so use your pliers or vice grips. With that out, use scissors to cut down the length of the grip. This first time you can use scissors because it's not thick yet. If you don't cut this perfectly straight it's not the end of the world, just do your best.

Step 6: Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Put the core back in the center of your duct tape grip. Now you are just going to repeat steps 3, 4, and 5 until the grip is as thick as you want it. Remember to close the grip tight around the paper core as you secure it with your lengthwise tape (step 3) after having just cut the slit down it (step5).

As the grip will get thicker it will be too hard to cut step 5 with scissors. This is how I handle it: Look on the inside of the grip to find the seam where you cut the slit last time. Use scissors to snip the very end to mark this seam on the outside ends of the grip. Now with those two marks you can either use a hacksaw to cut through the top of the grip in a straight line, or you can simply use a ruler and mark the line, then cut with something that works a little better, like the serrated knife I show in the video (if you have one).

You literally just repeat these steps over and over again until the grip is as thick as you want it.

Step 7: That's Too Thick, Throw it Out And Start Over

How do you know when it's the right thickness? First you have to decide what you want. Right is whatever you want. The commercial product is 2.25 inches (57mm) thick. To measure this you can do one of two things. If you have a caliper (the tool designed for this task) then use that. I do not, I'm ashamed to say. So the other option, if you want it semi-precise, is to use math. If you know the circumferance of the grip you can figure out the diameter. In order to measure the circumferance you need flexible tape measure, like the kind you use to measure your biceps. So close the grip tightly and measure the circumferance.

All you have to do is take your circumference and divide it by 3.14, which is Pi. So if you are measuring a circumference of 18cm (which is about 7 and 1/16th inches) that will mean the diameter (or thickness) of your grip is 5.7cm (2.25 inches). If you want a different thickness you'll have to run the numbers yourself. Remember it's simple, just take your circumference measurement and divide it by 3.14 to get your diameter (thickness).

Alternatively, if you don't care about precision, you could simply take an Olympic weight and compare your grip to the center hole in the plate, which is 2 inches roughly.

Step 8: It's Too Long Dumbbell, I mean Dumbass

Constructed as I said, with three tape widths across, this will be too long to use on some dumbbells. If you want to use them on said dumbbells you will have to cut them down. Simply measure your dumbbell handle so you know how short it has to be, then use a saw to cut down your fat grip to the proper length. The commercial product is 5 inches long according to their website, just an FYI.

Step 9: From Slip to Grip

I don't necessarily think the duct tape is all that hard to grip. However, if you want to make it more grippy I have found that wrapping the outside in masking tape works well and it's super inexpensive. I had an old pull up bar with no knurling and a painted finish. It was hard to grip so I wrapped it in masking tape and it worked great, especially if you use chalk too. I never had to replace the masking tape so it held up well. You could use a specialty product like grip tape if you wanted but that's no doubt much more expensive. The masking tape works fine for me.

So that's the project. They work just like Fat Gripz and go on and off the bar easily and quickly. I am quite satisfied with them. And at less than $10 that's a great deal. The commercial product is $46 shipped to the U.S. If my, and by "my" I mean "Google's", currency exchange calculations are correct it costs more like $56 shipped to overseas. I don't know how much duct tape costs in Europe but I'm betting it's not $25 a roll.

However, you cannot get your name engraved on these duct tape fat grips. I'm sorry. I know your really wanted that. But I'm no expert so maybe there is a way. I'll leave that for you to figure out.

- Carl


  1. Hey man I just tried this and they came out better than I expected, my only problem is that they are a bit too wide and they slide a bit on the bar, any way I can maybe fix this?

    1. Yes, this happened to my first grip because I made the core too thick. You have to trim them down along the edge of the slit you cut down the length of them. Take off an 1/8 inch or however much you need depending on how loose they are. I did it with scissors but it wasn't easy cutting through all that tape. A serrated blade or saw would probably be easier.

  2. Replies
    1. SWEET! Thanks man, will try this project out this weekend.

  3. Awesome idea and great tutorial. I made 2 of these (took an entire duct tape roll and a half) and I think they came out very well and they really don't compress at all. Long process but if you have the time and don't want to spend $40 for the same thing it's worth it. Definitely want a serrated blade or hacksaw for this. I used a metal pipe about the same diameter as my bars as the core and found I couldn't pull out the the pipe very easily at all each layer so I ended up cutting the slit down the middle while on the pipe on each layer. I guess that's why you used cardboard rolls as the core. Here some pictures of the end result

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