To me, there is nothing more
rewarding than catching fish on something you have made yourself. Whether
it be a rod, flies, jigs, or floats, it gives you the ability
make everything to your specifications. You can make the float exactly the
way you want it...size , shape , length , color... etc. Here is a tutorial
that should help
you get started with turning floats.
First, I work with 4"x4"x36" blocks of balsa. I cut them down to
1"x1"x36", then I cut
them down to the length I am going to make my floats. I use 1/8 inch drill
rod for my mandrel. I just push the mandrel thru the center of the Balsa
because it is a very soft wood. Next I chuck it up in my lathe and start
turning it down. I use nothing more than a screw driver that I ground down
on a grinding wheel to a very sharp point.
Once I knock off the edges, I put down the screw driver and use sandpaper
from here on out. I start with 80 grit sandpaper to quickly get it to
form. Then I use 150 grit to smooth it up a bit. Finally, I use 320 grit
to get a real smooth finish. Before I turn off the lathe and unchuck it, I
check it to make sure it is smooth and does not feel out of round. If it
is ok, I turn off the lathe and unchuck it, carefully removing the balsa
float from the mandrel so you don't damage the float.
At this point your float is all turned down and is ready to be glued up.
You can use either a Bamboo stem, Stainless Steel stem, or Carbon Fiber.
The two glue's I use
and have had no problems with are Gorilla Glue and Elmers Ultimate. Both are 100 % waterproof.
Once the glue has dried, it is time to apply the stain. I use Minwax and
have never had a problem. Once it is dry, I hand dip the top of the float
in white primer and let it dry to the touch . The white primer will really
help your Hot orange or what ever color you select to go with really stand
Now it is time to hand dip the float in your paint. I use Createx
Paint (Great Stuff!!!) I created a drying box so I had a place to hang my floats upside down
while they dry. Putting a fan on your floats between each step will really
cut down on the drying time.
Once the paint is dry, it is time to clear coat them. I use Minwax
Helmsman Spar Urethane or Minwax Fast Drying Polyurethane. Both are very
Let the floats hang and drip until they are fully dry before applying the next
At this point, the float is almost done! Your last step is to dip the
bottom of the float (to seal the bamboo) in Minwax Urathane. After you
have dipped the float put it in a vertical holder to let it drip dry.
Minwax really has some great looking stains or you can have your local
paint shop custom tint the stain for you.
Some of the common questions I get asked are: What lathe should I buy and
where should I get it ? I got my Jet Mini Lathe thru Amazon.com. The only
reason I bought a Jet was because it was on sale for under $ 200.00 and it
came with free super saver shipping ( that was worth its weight in gold )
because it weighs 80#. If I had to do it today, I would probably not get a
Jet due to the cost. I think they are close to $400.00 now. Today, I would
probably got with a Penn State Industries Turncrafter Pro.
http://www.pennstateind.com/store/TCLPRO.html I have done business
with PSI and have had no problems with them. They have very good customer
service and fast shipping.
One other Item I would recommend is the dust collection system. Your lungs
will love you for it and so will your wife!! Balsa dust is very fine and
messy! If you are turning in the house, it will keep the dust from
traveling everywhere. Before I bought the dust system, I had the fine
Balsa particles all over everything around my turning bench.
As you can see, the dust collection system has a 5 star rating, believe me
its well worth it!!
The live tail stock I also purchased at PSI
I hope this helps! This is how I (started out) making floats. There are
tips and tricks that you will learn along the way, through trial and
error, that will really help you produce great looking floats!! Happy
turning!! I would like to thank my son Michael, a.k.a Meatball, for
helping me with this project. He enjoys making floats and cannot wait to
use it on the river!!