Saturday, 12 May 2012

Handmade Floats - Wire-stemmed Balsa-bodied Avons

A new float making project of mine was to build a couple of balsa-bodied wire-stemmed avon floats for long-trotting. This requires a large bright sight tip for viewing at extreme range, a large bulky body with broad shoulders and a long heavy wire stem to help the float cope with turbulent or fast water.

I decided to go to town, quite literally, with these. Off to a Coventry model shop went I , and there purchased brass wire, some large gauge balsa dowel and some tins of paint, including a fluoro green as a change from the usual fire orange.

I like the brass stems very much. Visually better than alloy, and heavier too, so the shotting required won't be quite so bulky as it would have been otherwise. I also added brass wire eyes at the shoulders and the top of the wire stem too, so large diameter float rubbers won't be necessary with these floats. I don't know if the eyes will catch weed. They might, we'll see. If they do, then of course the eyes will be optional. They make them look like large pole floats, and I suppose they could be used as pole floats too. There's no reason why they shouldn't be useful there...

They were laborious to create first time though. Lots of mistakes were made, as you'd expect. I don't have a lathe (yet!) so the bodies were turned in an electric drill, which was an interesting process! I persisted with it though, and eventually mastered it well enough to turn out this pair.

Painting them was a bit of a faff. The 'Ice' version went really well first time but then I had to paint the tip with a band of black and the orange sight tip too, and that required mounting the float in the drill tip first, because wire first made the float body flail about dangerously. This marked the tip with impressions left by the chuck. Not good.

With the 'Rush' version, all went well until I tried the new tin of black paint out and found it would not behave itself. This finish requires an exact consistency of paint to work properly, get it wrong and the paint simply won't form the surface pattern I want. Eventually I sorted this out and it worked OK, but for a very brief moment, before it all went wrong again. I'll have to go to town and get the original paint in, as it worked better.

Painting the tip was accomplished by holding the wire stem in the chuck after passing it through a foam sanding block. This supported the body and allowed me to turn the float without a problem. However, this marked the stem and they are marks they cannot easily be got rid of once they are there. I then found that the fluoro green paint was really hard to work with, being stringy, transparent and fast drying, all qualities that really punish mistakes, so it took three attempts with stripping and re-sanding required each time, to get it right.

As always with making float types the first time, there is a lot to learn, and a lot of ingenuity is required if good results are what you are after. I'm very pleased with these, and can't wait for the river season to start so I can try them, and their offspring, out.


  1. They look great Jeff, top work

  2. They certainly look very good Jeff.
    All they need now is a nice watery inauguration.

  3. Nice Jeff, I like the ice version, most unusual

  4. Very nice colour effect there - now to catch some fish with them once the rivers open again.

  5. Great stuff Jeff, they look very professional well done!

  6. Oooh... OK how do you do the swirls Jeff? I've had a shot at a 'mottle' which looks like an Airfix Panther tank finish!!!I have a mounted drill at work which makes bodies a damn sight easier, yours are, as ever, to a high aesthetic standard that one would expect....!

  7. Very nice Jeff,

    You might, like me, find it pays not to follow the modern trend of a dab of colour on the tip, but to extend it down the shoulders. Even dotted down, the top of the body's colour does show and helps at long range.

    Even so it vanishes quick enough...

  8. JAA, I have another batch in mind along the lines you suggest. These pair are for the Dorset Stour and shortish long trotting, far bank work, but for the Itchen and the like, when I trot for miles straight downstream (and around corners!) nearly emptying the spooI, I want to produce massive glowing red embers on top!

    Paul, the finish is a closely guarded secret... I'll mail you the technique!

    Glad you all like em'! I made a load of wagglers. They worked, just like, err, wagglers. Bit of a disappointment to find they did nothing else besides !

  9. V creative Jeff: they look great.

    Did anyone else make wagglers with drinking straws way back when? From recollection the key was to get hold of the 'right' straws (the wrong ones being all wrong as it were) - tips manufactured from plastic cotton buds, DIY adaptors (using the wire from bag tags!) and Airfix paints. I can't remember whether they were as good as imagined or whether that's the passage of time from the mid-eighties :)

  10. Very nice indeed Jeff. I think it may be time for another competition.

  11. I never made wagglers out of drinking straws! But I bet its where the crystal waggler idea came from...

    Mark, I do have a pic of a stinky zander that might serve!