Making your own floats is a great DIY project that will provide you with customized floats you won’t find at your local tackle shop.
Before you start
You’ll need to gather or purchase a few supplies.
For each float you’ll need a chunk of balsa wood or a large cork, thin wooden dowel, tooth pick, or bambooshish kabob skewer. Balsa offers more creativity, as cork sizes are limited. You will also need white paint or primer, coloured acrylic paint, and urethane.
To create expertly crafted floats a lathe is required, but it’s an expensive piece of equipment. A good substitute is a drill locked into the jaws of a vise or strapped down to a workbench.
If you go this route, you will need a metal rod (a long drill bit or BBQ skewer) to act as a spindle.
Before you turn on any power tools, determine which style of float you want. Wider, hefty floats are ideal for big water. Long, slender floats are suited for calm pools, and tear-dropped ones are the most versatile.
Shaping the float
Cut the balsa or cork to 1 inch x 1 inch x desired length. Then mark the centre and drill a small hole through the length of it. Ensure the hole is narrower than the stick/skewer/toothpick you’re planning on using.
Next, slide the block of wood onto the lathe’s spindle and insert the spindle into the lathe.
If using a drill, slide the wood onto a thin metal rod and insert the rod into the drill chuck. Secure the rod at the other end (a block of wood works) to avoid wobbling.
Run the lathe or drill while sculpting the wood with 60-grit sandpaper. Once the float is shaped, move to a finer paper to refine it, and finish with 220-grit paper.
The trick is to mould the wood gradually. A light touch is needed.
Once the body is done, remove it from the lathe and insert a thin dowel, toothpick, or BBQ skewer into the float body. Determine the desired length and trim off any excess. I prefer to have only a centimetre above the body, and a longer shaft below it.
If you enjoy night fishing, keep the top part a tad longer to accommodate the glow stick.
Paint and finish
To finish the float, dip the entire thing into urethane and allow it to drip dry. This waterproofs it and locks the shaft.
Once it’s dry, dip the top into white acrylic paint or primer. This strengthens the float. Once that dries, dip the top portion again into brightly coloured, acrylic paint. If you’re feeling artistic, add a coloured band to truly customize your creation.
The last step is to give the float a series of dunks in urethane to seal and strengthen it – three should be fine.
Attach the float to your line with short pieces of tubing and you’re ready to fish.
Making your own gear has it rewards, especially when a fresh chrome trout yanks it down.
Watch the how-to video now:
This article first appeared in the April 2016 issue of Ontario OUT of DOORS magazine. You can subscribe here.