Let us be clear; I am not obsessed with floats. I am just very very interested.
There will be all sorts on this page; notes on the making of, the fiddling with, the rescuing of, and a gallery of favourites. I mostly stick with quill floats, making half a dozen at a go while 'at my desk'. This is something to occupy the hands and as a result I have dozens of unused floats. The more adventurous turn fine floats from balsa and cork, but I am a bit too lazy to organise that and also, I am not much of a river fisher. While I would be the first to admit a good float has an ascetic quality, I could care less about inlaid feathers, materials that do not actually work in useOAOak apples might be a good example. I made a couple of perch floats with oak-apples and they looked fine, but fished like dogs. The near spherical profile caused them to bounce about like a jolly-boat in a light swell. Pity. A much longer stem under the water might have stabilised them, but I've since moved on. I have recently seen some nice little bobbers made with acorns in their cups that I really want to try making as they look terrific...I just hope they 'work'. and gloss finishes that would withstand a blast of no.6 shot from a 12-bore.
If I have guiding principles they are that (1) the float must 'work', a vague property that can result in two floats made apparently 'the same' being rapidly separated into the categories of 'user' and 'spare' and (2) the notion that if I were to 'release a float into the wild', that someone finding it five years later would still be able to use it and (3) not being concerned about a float being 'released into the wild'.
I do not consider floats 'art'. Some float-makers, who are trained artists, incorporate artworks onto their floats and very very fine they look. However, the craft required for making nice usable and effective floats is for the most part, pretty basic if satisfying work. It is worth reading the "Floatmaker's ManualA thorough and thoroughly satisfying book." by Bill Watson, as nearly everything you need to know is in there. Do not be put off by notions of great and mystical skill being required to turn out fine floats. Those of us who can make a decent float have simply done it a lot, made a fair number of iffy ones, but refined our methods as we went along. Just have a go.
Feel free to plagiarise from this page if you do it for fun or for charity, good luck. If you sell the floats on FleaBay or anywhere else for profit, then a plague on your house and the houses of all your descendants and may the fleas of a thousand camels infest your hairy parts for all eternity. gitI concede by providing some free advice I have made it possible for some to profit, but it is really not at my expense... Those who beg or prise help out of others and then proceed to operate a business without so much as an acknowledgement are pretty low types. There is a further line to tread here - if 'some chap' shows his latest home-made floats on a forum as a private individual, I would be the last to be disparaging, as this is just good manners. However, if you are in business selling floats, then one is free to make any justified criticism; this is called 'feedback' and is part of being 'in business'. It is anachronistic that one can be in business selling 'traditional fishing tackle' and expect to be free from any criticism as a matter of courseffsSo for example, I consider varnished feathers in a working float to be quite pointless. Not (quite) as mad as paying someone else £5 for a highly varnished and 'no.6 shot-proof' porcupine quill though..
|Gobio Gobio (and return to the top of the page)||Gonk||Gobby||Gonk||Gobio Gobio||Gobby||Gobio Gobio||Gudgeon||Gudgeon||Gobio Gobio|
What makes a favourite float? This can be hard to pin down, and can be something that just looks right, works right or is associated with some great angling event or memory. All of these things can be mutually exclusive. A favourite float might be rubbish in its primary function (mine are not, naturally), but once fluked an unlikely result. Or vice versa.
Anyhoo. Here is a gallery of mine to date. These are all on my list for no good reason, but I have recorded the reason anyway...
Click on a thumbnail image to display the full size picture with caption.
|medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up...(and return to the top of the page)||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and one more time...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...got it?|
To make a vast collection of (mostly) fine and (occasionally) useful floats I use:
I could probably make more than half of the floats in my collection using just those things. Optional and very useful are:
|The 'Opinel No.7', the small double-sided whetstone with a No.10 (rounded) scalpel blade, 20lb 'alasticum' wire, brass picture wire, yacht varnish, matt white enamel, black permanent marker pens and some green 'A' thread.||Sharp scissors, 'end-cutters', needle-nose pliers, tweezer cutters, a pin-vice with a 0.8mm drill-bit in situ, a set of broaches, knife-edge needle file, rat-tail needle file and emery nail boards.|
I like to keep stuff sharp - I use the stone, not only on the blades, but also to keep the tweezer cutters sharp. The scissors, foundling 'braid scissors', are kept in nick by cutting up pieces of 400 grit wet'n'dry.
A decent wodge of expanded polythene packing foam is handy, there is half a wooden ruler rammed into a slot cut in the edge of my piece, so I can bulldog-clip it to a handy shelf. There are a selection of handy holes punched in the top, floats for the insertion of plus a festoon of coloured paper-clip hooks around the edges for dangling part-painted floats on.
For float-tips, some folk like scarlet, but I am addicted to fluorescent orange, pink, blue and green (in that order) with only very occasional scarlet. Matt colours work better for float-tips while in use - glossed colours reflect all light rather too well, instead of the colour you want to be able to see. Fluorescent paints are designed to absorb and re-emit light, glossed varnish cuts down the absorption - so for optimum effectiveness, do not varnish over the tips.
If you prefer to varnish over the tips, feel free. I opt for better visibility in the water. For me, aesthetics are bound up with fitness for function, so to me, a glossed float-tip looks ugly.
|...and...wait for it...swivel ;-)...(and back to the top of the page)||...and...wait for it...swivel :-)||...and...wait for it...swivel :-)||...and...wait for it...swivel :-)||...and...wait for it...swivel :-)||...and...wait for it...swivel :-)||...and...wait for it...swivel :-)||...and...wait for it...swivel :-)||...and...wait for it...swivel :-)||...and...wait for it...swivel :-)||...and...wait for it...swivel :-)||...and...wait for it...swivel :-)||...and...wait for it...swivel :-)||...and...wait for it...swivel :-)||...and...wait for it...swivel :-)||...and...wait for it...swivel :-)||...and...wait for it...swivel :-)||...and...wait for it...swivel :-)||...and...wait for it...swivel :-)||...and...wait for it...swivel :-)|
Quills are good, from almost any feathers one can find...but have a care. For example it is illegal to own, even by finding, a heron feather. Take a look at Wild Birds and the Law. It seems anachronisitc that is illegal to pick up a naturally shed heron feather bobbing in the waves on one side of some vast lake, while the heron itself could well be on another lake 10 miles way cavorting with a heron of the opposite sex...but it is.
And porcupines' of coursepqThat's porcupines' quills, not actual porcupines. That'd be silly.. Other float making materials are available of course, but if they're not mentioned here it's because I've not yet bothered to either (1) use them or (2) bothered to write it down.
|This space deliberately blank||A swagger of perch (and return to the top of the page)||A swagger of perch||A swagger of perch||A swagger of perch||A swagger of perch||A swagger of perch||A swagger of perch||A swagger of perch||A swagger of perch||A swagger of perch||A swagger of perch||A swagger of perch||A swagger of perch||A swagger of perch||A swagger of perch||A swagger of perch||A swagger of perch||A swagger of perch||This space deliberately blank|
Porcupine Quills. These can be obtained (legally) on internet auction sites and boot-sales and the like. Don't pay more than £1 a quill ever. Anything under 4" is unlikely to be of any real use for making a float and even that's pushing it. Old porcupines quill floats are generally very easy to clean up and repaint.
The shape varies quite a bit and I've got a couple which have 'natural' insert tips as well as a lot of variations on that theme, plus colour banding variations. They are tough and dense. Cutting them needs to be done with a knife-edged jewellers file as using a knife tends to split them. They can be glued with cyanoacrylate glue, which sets like concrete on this kind of material. Even on quills with split ends, blobs of 'super-glue' will, in a few minutes, allow you to saw the top off flush. With care it is possible to remove one end or the other and using a pin-vice and a small drill bit, open a hole up to insert pieces of cane. More on that down the page.
Crow Quills. There is a lot of talk about using crow quills for floats - the only quills that really make useful floats are the true wing primaries from an actual crow... those from a jackdaw or rook look inviting, but once de-barbed and cut down are just too small to be useful. Hint: "One rook is a crow, lots of crows are rooks."
I imagine raven feathers are good, if I get hold of some I will let you know, I see the oddoddThey're all odd. They're ravens. raven on the down.
Raven Quills. Ha! I found one. I picked up a crow quill at the top of the hill and then in the woods, within earshot of a lone raven in a pine tree, was this, 13" from one end to the other, the crow quill, a good one, a mere 11". Now I must make something from it...
|The raven feather is the lower and larger of the two.|
Goose Quills. Another off-touted favourite. They come in a variety of sizes including large, very large and 'could carry a small warhead'. They do make for a nice material but are substantial, often 5-7mm in diameter at the thick (root) end and with a pronounced curve - I do not mind a slight curve. A big primary will make floats you can trot a stream with, but I prefer to cut those down to 4-8" and make margin floats out of them. Quite greasy, need cleaning before varnishing or painting.
Small ones make terrific 2/3/4 BB floats, are very buoyant and also make reasonable light trotting floats, like sticks. Wing primaries are huge - you can make loafer type floats out of these or even honking honkSee what I did there? great stret-peggers or even dead-bait floats.
Seagull Quills. These are not often considered, but if you live near the sea it's easy to collect copious amounts in a very short time. They can be up to 12" in length, are slender (compared with goose quills) and quite straight. I like them. Mine.
Pheasant Quills. Cock-bird tail feathers can be wonderfully long and straight, I've made a couple of floats 12" long (just because I could). While they make nice floats and are some of my favourites, the tip (root) end is short compared with others - this is not so much of a problem for painting, although it does restrict the coloured area a bit, but the slenderness of the rest of the quill means, that often a pheasant quill which is nicely cocked to the eye with (say) a 'BB', will often support another without quite sinking.
It is said that inverted pheasant quills make really sensitive antennae floats - maybe so - but firstly the thin end is flimsy and any paint will always be cracking off if left rattling about and secondly, I have yet to make an inverted quill which fished well - while conceding that 'might just be me', after a few tries with goose and pheasant quills, I have not made another.
Having said that, I have a few that I really like. I made a couple of semi-cocking quills about 7" long, the weight being added by wrapping a triangle of copper foil around the base and whipping over it, these were perfect for carp-fishing at Wytch farm. I also have a 6" quill made with a rig-ring on the bottom end and a fluorescent pink translucent tip, which has caught me a lot of fish. It just works. I must make another...
|The pheasant quill floats that 'work'|
Pigeon Quills. The wing primaries and longest tail feathers can be used to make a neat and tiny margin float, but that's about it. 6/0 thread only...
Other Quills. I've made the odd float out of buzzard and peacock quills, but there is little to commend the former over (say) seagull and I find the latter the most overrated float making material.
If you want to use peacock quill go right ahead of course - I've found the simplest way to colour the stuff is to rub it down with '000' grade emery and then colour the quill with a 'sharpie' of any colour that suits and then varnish, using thinned varnish first, as described elsewhere. Like other quills, cyanoacrylate glue works very well with this stuff.
Cane. 3mm diameter cane is easy to find, mostly disguised as 'bamboo skewers' in supermarkets. This is good for stems and tips. For finer tips, bamboo cocktail sticks in 2mm diameters and less can also be found in cooking shops and supermarkets and can hardly be got cheaper.
For very fine antennae's 1.2mm cane (obtained via on-line auction sites) is about the right thickness for sensible use. I tried bamboo toothpicks I got from a local Chinese supermarket and while they are cheap, the cross-section was not even or round so they are only used for mixing glue now.
4mm cane is useful for float tips, especially for river floats, when the need for visibility trumps 'super sensitivity'.
Carbon-Fibre and Glass-Fibre Stems. For light floats with a long stem under the water this is hard to beat. Glass-fibre is heavier and will give you better stability if that matters to you. I made some long stemmed lift floats with carbon-fibre stems and loaded them with solder wire - glass-fibre might well have saved me that job. You can buy this stuff on a well know internet auction site.
Balsa Wood. It's floaty and woody.
Reed-Mace Stems. When the reed-mace has gone to seed and most of autumn has passed, the stem of the reed, the 12" or so under the seed-head becomes very hard and tough, with an overall density that is similar to balsa and surface is perfect for keying paint and varnish. This, cut carefully to length and perhaps with a cane insert for the bottom end, makes fine stick floats.
|A selection I cut in spring 2020||A view of the ends - the outer 'case' and inner pith are visible.|
Cork. I've made very few cork floats - I've always used champagne corks for the quality and have done quite well by mounting them on a long Allen key (with the short bit cut off) and then put it in a drill and shape using a 'surform' initially and sandpaper when they're almost done. The hexagonal cross-section of the Allen key stops the cork revolving while it is being shaped.
|Proper Float...(and back to the top of the page)||Another proper float||Another proper float||Another proper float|
How to Make Quill Floats.
Firstly, cut off all the bits of the quill that do not look like a float...
Check the feather for splits and cracks, discard it if it has any. Cut the quill about ½" longer than the final length of the planned float. Generally, once the quill's diameter is around 1½-2mm it will be too thin to work or to have any strength, so factor this into the plan. I use the Opinel to cut the feather to length, cutting the quill by placing it on a board and 'rolling' the knife through the quill in one movement, to get a clean square-cut end.
Then, using very sharp scissors snip off all the barbs as close as possible to the quill body, while holding the feather over a bin in order to reduce the possibility of domestic disputes viz-a-viz vacuum cleaning, float-maker for the performing of.
Using the Opinel, scrape off as much of the remaining barbs as possible, working from the tip to the cut end. It is generally possible to 'shave' 95% of this material off. Rotating the quill a little this way and that helps and there is something of a knack required to do this well. I support the quill in my other hand for this. If using something like the Opinel with its carbon-steel edge, it can help to hone the edge a little over to one side of true. Practise will improve your proficiency.
I recommend not using your 'best ever found quill' for your first attempt.
Then, scrape off the root-end's top layer. This is especially greasy on goose quills, and if required, tidy up the tip, which can be a little ragged. Then using an old or cheap toothbrush, clean the quill with a little warm water and washing-up liquid, to completely degrease it. Rinse well, pat dry with kitchen towel and dry on radiator overnight or leave in the 'contemporary orangerie' for a few hours on a hot day. This may seem a little extreme, but paint is only as good as the key to the surface of the first coat - feather quills are greasy, shiny and hardly absorbent - take care with this stage and everything will turn out fine.
When dry, give the quill the lighest of rubs with the '400' grit wet'n'dry to rough up the shiny outside spine of the quill and remove any remains of the barbs. I would suggest not going too bonkers here - varnishing the remains of any tiny stubs then sanding them off is a good a way as any to get a mirror finish if it matters to youwoaI don't subscribe to the idea of floats being works of art - unless you are a proper artist and have drawn an actual work-of-art on the side - the whole shiny varnish-it-to-within-a-mil-of-its-plimsol-line and 'inlaid feather schtick' leaves me faintly bemused.. I have been known to snip off any really stubborn barbs with the tweezer-cutters.
If the tip is to be painted, give the quill a coat of thinned yacht varnish, about 60/40 using white spirit. Hint: keep a few old milk carton caps, transfer varnish into them with a brush, seal the lid back on the tin and store upside down. Then add white spirit, using a drinking straw, until the mix is about right - this is not critical - the idea is that the thinnned varnish keys to the surface better and get into all the nooks and crannies as well. The reason for using bottle-caps for small amounts is that long term, white spirit in yacht varnish changes the composition somewhat and it eventually sets to a kind of gel, going through a long and expensive 'lumpy stage'.
I feel it should be explained that the use of the plastic drinking straw for transferring solvents, is carried out by putting the straw into the solvent to the required depth, sealing the other end of the straw with one's finger, moving the straw to the other place then taking one's finger off the end. No sucking of solvents is either required or remotely sensible. Do make sure you are in a well ventilated place, avoid naked flames and so on and so forth.
Before storing a tin of varnish up-side down, it is as well to be very very sure the lid is on tight...
Stick the quill(s) in the piece of foam to dry for 24 hours - I stick the thin end in, I do not worry much about the bit stuck in the foam, as I trim this end off before whipping on the eye. If you wish remove any last barbs, wet'n'dry lightly when the varnish is dry. Give the quill a second coat of varnish, but this time up-end it and varnish from the bottom end down, with the root end of the quill stuck in the foam.
I make up my floats' eyes by winding a piece of brass picture wire or, better, 8lb/14lb/20lb AlasticumThis stuff... wire, around a thick needle or drill shank - something about the same diameter of the quill it is destined for. I have an old tapered shank baiting needle sans barb, which is ideal for this, found bobbing on the windward side of Jubilee Lake in 1990. I have only ever used it for making float eyes. See below for some example rings.
Make the ring's legs around 12mm and 15mm in length - this slight difference in length eases the whipping task. Do not be tempted to cut them too short, they will be held on by the friction of the whipping on the wire... With brass wire, squeezing the end of the 'legs' flat, perhaps even using a nail-board to taper this right off is a good idea, with Alasticum, use the cutters to ensure the bevelled cut is parallel to the quill surface and then de-burr a tad with a nail-board. If this seems a bit obsessive, it saves whipping an eye almost on and then seeing the thread cut by the wire. Which is annoying.
|Some float eyes I made earlier|
The next bit is tricky. Hold the ring and the thread onto the end of the float - I use my right hand with the float-tip towards the palm and whip with the left. I wind the thread in a wide spiral to the eyed end, then whip back up the float keeping the turns tight, but not over tight. Keep the float stationary whiel winding the thread around the quill with the left hand.
If the quill is crushed under the whipping then it is too tight. There is a knack to this and practise makes etc....
If you prefer, use cyanoacrylate to glue the eye before whipping.
When the whipping is about halfway down the eye's legs, I pinch the whipping with my left hand, pull the tag end straight then use the scissors to trim it off between the whipping and the end of the eye's legs.
I swap the grips back and continue the whipping about 2-3mm past the end of the longest leg of the eye. Now you have several choices: finish the whipping by the eye, make some decorative spirals or some such, or even work all the way up the float to the 'iffy bit', i.e. where the hard root quill meets the start of the barbs, and whip over this to reinforce it.
(This join between the root part of the quill and the barbed section is traditionally 'weak' although I find it anything but; as a joint between two materials of different construction it is really rather well engineered and I have yet to see a float break at this joint.)
Finish by whipping in a 'pull-through' loop for six turns and pulling the tag end back through the whipping. 'Fireline' fused braid in 6lb b/s is perfect for the 'pull-through' as it has got a flattish cross-section and is hard to break. It is slippery stuff though, so I tie the ends of my 'pull-though' loop in a figure-of-eight knot, then put something like the pliers' handle through the loop and pull it in this way.
Adjust whipping and any spirals to suit, even them up if you like. Ok. Release breath. Thinned varnish from the eye downwards it should soak into the whippings and don't worry too much about varnishing the eye shut, you can soon open it up again. Wait 24 hours, add one more coat of varnish for luck, back on the radiator for 24 hours.
As for colours and patterns, I prefer dark colours on a light quill, dark green, garnet, black. I have put all sort of spirals on quills and again, while this is completely subjective, I prefer to intersperse six-turn blocks with wide or narrow spiralled sections. No reason, but I like the look of them. I never bother with measuring spacing (but feel free if you are inclined) and it is easy to tidy up the lay afterwards using the edge of a plastic card.
There. Already looking nice. Now for the tip.
If you prefer to use your other left hand, swap the instructions over in the above. Alternatively, glue the eye on, let it dry, then whip from the end of the eye's legs to the eye itself, in the usual way, by roatating the float in the right hand and guiding the thread with the left. This can be slightly neater if that is important to you. For my money, finishing a whipping with a loop always generates a little relaxation in the last few turns. I prefer to have the first turns nearest the eye as tight as they can be, as this is the 'weak point' in the construction. As it were.
Decide how long you want the coloured bit to be. When I started out on this 'hobby' I painted much longer tips on the floats than I do now. No idea why. It seems to me that smaller is better-looking and bird-quills are so buoyant that you seldom need more than an inch, if that, out of the water. Perhaps a little more for porcupine quills. I have found floats in boot-sales with 2" tips, but my advice is to go for smaller that you think you need.
Apply a thin coat of matt white to the tip (I use a Humbrol Enamel Matt 34), but any waterproof matt white will do. Ensure you fill the little hollow in the end of the root. Dry the float upside down, ideally hung over a radiator, perhaps put something to catch any drips...if the paint is dripping, remove it using the brush, but this is a sure sign that too much paint has been applied. After 24 hours, repeat the white coat. Radiator, 24 hours.
The key to a straight edge on this white undercoat is to hold the brush still and turn the float. Honest. It can help to make a very fine pencil line as a guide in the same way. It can help even more if you stop worrying about it quite so much.
Now to add the colour and scheme of your choice. A tip for the tip is to have a different brush for each colour - the tiniest amount of black (or any colour) in the white/orange/yellow will spoil it.
I hold the brush steady and rotate the float to put a line where I want it. Then hold the float, tip down, and brush from the line with the tip colour of your choice. Dry the tip upside down. Tip colours are easily contaminated, so you can end up with streaks and blobs of odd colours in the mix - this is why the separate brushes.
To add black bands, with the thinnest brush (a size 2 'Rigger' is very good), run a ring of black around the joint between the orange and white and the start of the white. Steady hand required. Practise is good, but real quills are not very round which doesn't help...the best tip I can give you here, is be quick and keep both hand supported by something solid, like the edge of a desk. I do not do this...being a philistine, I add my black edging to colour bands using a fine point black permanent marker, this does a fine job.
I have been know to add black bands using 6/0 black thread, which looks very fine. The pink-tipped porcupine quill above was done in this way.
If the colour and pattern you have chosen facilitate it, it is easier to dip the tip into a pot of the relevant paint. I use 'Testors' RC83 'Racing Red' when I want fluorescent orange, and Testors little jars lend themselves to dipping the tipjtpThe Geneva Comedy Convention has much to say about the scurrilous use of the word 'tip'. The 2009 'Archer' codicil recommends repeating the phrase "Just the tip?", delivered deadpan..
This is the last stage. I give the whole thing another 48 hours on the radiator, and 48 in the lean-to to get some open-air curing and some UV on them, then I stick them in the box.
Longwinded eh? Each stage in this process is really quite quick. In 20 minutes (at most) an evening, you can turn out a 20 or so nice floats in a week and 'as I am so interested in floats' there are always four or five floats hanging about my desk in various stage of construction. Even with big lily patches, that'll make enough small quills for a season's carp and tench fishing.
|Proper Float...(and back to the top of the page)||Another proper float||Another proper float||Another proper float|
A Note on Tip Colours.
It turns out there is quite a lot of variation in how colours are seen by different folk. I have concluded, after considerable bu**ering about, that there are only a few painted colour schemes that I consider really effective. So in order:
Despite what folk say, I have hardly ever found a black tip of any use (although I carry a black and red permanent marker in my bag). Yellow tips on their own, fluorescent or not, never seem any better than the colours above. Or at all, ever. A couple of times I have used a cork-ball based 'sunken' antennae float painted in fluorescent yellow, so it was visible when just under the water. Other than these, I have not painted a float tip yellow for some years and probably never will.
The much vaunted scarlet/red colour, which looks lovely on the bank and in the box, seldom has any practical benefit. Even so I carry a few floats with red tips and if the light is right, use them as they look pretty. They are quickly changed if the sun goes in. Having said this, I have noticed the slightest tendency for fluorescent tipped floats to spook carp and in those situations the red does not have the same effect - it being about the same colour as a ripe haw berry - but more crucially, is not yet associated with danger.
I have been known to fish whole days with one red and one black 8mm cork ball secured on the line with float-stops. These are quite visible at surprisingly long ranges, although there is a tendency for carp to give the balls an experimental suck.bjOnce again I must refer to the Geneva Comedy Convention. Normally at this point the Convention obliges one to say "Oo-err, Missus", ideally while mimicking Frankie Howard. I leave this as an optional exercise for the reader. No tittering though. "Titter ye not", in fact...
So: For Painted Tips
The overall proportions are shown below:
This black-edged white band makes a float extraordinarily visible even at very long ranges. Although I put some dimensions to it, the scheme came to me via an 8" porcupine quill, sent as part of a 'thank you', that fished perfectly and had such a scheme. I sealed this float (middle picture, top floatJust one of those floats that was 'just right'...) with thinned varnish and used it, otherwise as it came, for some years.
For antennae, I alternate colour and white in 1cm bands, edging the white with a thin black line (permanent marker again) and ensure than the tip-most colour band is 5mm. This ensures that, when set at 1cm showing above the surface, I can see two bands of colour.
The fluorescent pink colour is made using pink 'highligher' pens, applied directly to matt white undercoat. Several coats are applied and then the pink is varnished over as, despite my previous disparaging remarks regarding 'glossed tips', the pink colour is water soluble...
Lastly, a matt white tip can be very useful when the water is dark and the light is falling. Once or twice I realised that the only part of a float that could be seen at dusk was the white strip mentioned above, so I have made a few floats with a pure matt white tip and two black bands spaced as shown above.
For 'Translucent' Tips:
I had the notion that a translucent quill tip would have the advantage of showing up well, even if the light was behind it. Other notes further down this page will show how it took me a while to get to something which was simple to make and easy to see. Such marker ('highlighter') pens are not really intended to keep their colour after exposure to sunlight and after some experimentation it was clear that orange and pink worked and kept their colours. Red worked quite well also.
I have found that, for bird quills, a fluorescent pink tip (translucent) takes a lot of beating, whichever direction the light is coming from. I find this the best all round colour/tip for visibility and use them more and more. It is helped by adding a couple of fine black bands, which I usually implement with 6/0 black thread.
I suspect that a light fluorescent blue would be very good indeed most days, but all attempts to use highlighters in this respect have been disappointing and green highlighters lose their colour faster than any of the others...but I do not make one of every colour of every type. Madness lies that way, although it is perhaps a little late in the day to take this into account.
These are made slightly differently and this is expounded on further down the page.
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Porcupine Quill Antenna and Insert Floats.
These can be a tad awkward to get right. Porcupine quills are strong, although they get brittle with age, but their structural integrity keeps them whole. Once the quill is splintered, it is probably a goner. Even with cyanoacrylate and bicarbonate-of-soda repairs.
N.B. The internet abounds with tips about using cyanoacrylate and bicarbonate-of-soda for really hard filling repairs, even propeller edge-chips. What are not so abounding are stern safety warnings as the fumes given off are really very toxic. Do it outside, keep well away from the join until it has completely set.
It follows that cutting porcupine quills has to be done with some care. I use two methods for doing this without splintering the quill: the first is to cut around the quill with a knife-edge jeweller's file until the parts start to come away from each other. The second is to use a razor saw, but very very slowly and still cut around the quill until the outer layer is at least scored through. With either method, do not press too hard...
To make an insert porcupine quill - see some down the page - first pick your insert cane. 1.5-2mm is about right for a 'regular' insert tip, although I have used as thin as 0.8mm for some antennae floats. Decide where to cut your porcupine quill. I generally cut where the outer diameter of the quill is about 1.5mm greater than that of the cane.
Once cut through, it is possible to see the internal structure of the quill, which has a sort of intersection of hard membranes in the middle. Using a pin vice and a drill bit of the same diameter of the cane insert, drill into body of the quill. It can be awkward to get the hole exactly centred due to the internal structure of the quill. This is one of those 'practise' things. Once the hole is the right length - I generally aim to drill 1.5cm into the cane for 1mm inserts and below and 2cm for anything wider - I insert the cane fully into the hole and mark where it enters the quill with a pencil. This provides a quick check that the cane is sufficiently embedded (bear with me). It may be necessary to fettle a bit to get it straight and central.
Put water-proof cyanoacrylate on the cane up to the pencil-mark and in one quick movement insert the cane into the porcupine quill up to the pencil mark (this is the other reason for the mark). If there is any hesitation...the glue will key too soon and you will have to figure out what to do next yourself...
At this point if you do not like the angle of the cane you can steam it and bend it. Then, assuming the steamed cane has been well dried on a warm radiator, it is the usual thinned varnish and so on.
I have a number of these, the most useful of which have long thin antennae, and so make very good lift floats for crucian or tench fishing.
I have made a few such floats by putting the insert in the thin end of the porcupine quill, but to date, I have yet to make such one fishes well.
|All tench are good tench...(and back to the top of the page)||There are no bad tench||All tench are good tench||There are no bad tench||Tinca tinca little star...|
Glued-in Wire Float Eyes.
For cane stems, a 0.8mm - 1mm hole bored in the end can be used to set a very neat eye. The trick to this is to use a small boring former, with, e.g. a 3mm hole in one end and a 0.8mm hole bored in the other, both on the same centre line. Here is one such:
|The 3mm end||The 0.8mm end||The 0.8mm end||The 3mm end|
I am afraid that to get one of these, one either needs to know a lathe owner with a pleasant disposition or acquire one's own lathe. Once the tiny hole is bored to the required depth in the cane, use an emery board to gently round off the end of the cane - just a little though, just to remove the square edge, as it were. These kinds of square edges always end up with thinner varnish, which is in turn subjected to greater stress. Long story short, remove points and sharp edges; then the paint or varnish is less likely to chip in the long run.
Like any operation on a piece of raw material, if the operation has the potential to go belly up as a result of the vicissitudes of natural materials, then do it first... i.e. not after you have built a whole float around it.
Anyhow: take some Alasticum wire, wind it twice around the needle/pin/nail of the right thickness and then, holding the ends of the wire in a pair of pliers, twist the needle/pin/nail until you have about 10-12mm of tightly twisted wire and a very neat eye indeed.
Trim the ends of the twisted section with cutters, apply liberal waterproof cyanoacrylate or epoxy resin to both wire and the hole in the cane and insert the eye, so that it is right against the end of the cane. Remove any surplus glue, allow to dry/set and then varnish as ever.
This also works well with brass wire, however, brass 'work hardens' quite quickly compared with Alasticum, so one or two 'bend-and-straighten' operations might snap it off. Personally, I prefer to use stainless steel wire in an appropriate gauge, something that is easily found on 'internet auction sites' at reasonable prices.
|crucian...(and back to the top of the page)||Carassius Carassius||Crucial crucian||Carassius Carassius||crucian||Carassius Carassius||Crucial crucian||crucian||Carassius Carassius||Crucial crucian||Crucial crucian||crucian||Carassius Carassius||Crucial crucian|
Porcupine Quill Floats with Bird Quill Tips.
Why? Why not? This provides a little more buoyancy at the tip, useful in a bit of a chop or current as well as allowing the addition of a translucent tip on a porcupine quill. And they look nice.
Pick out your porcupine quills. Select bird quills that have the length of tip you need and with a diameter that will fit over the porcupine quill. I do this 'by eye' and sort things out later. Cut off a bird quill top using a jeweller's knife file, working around the quill until it is cut through. Using anything harsher or a knife will split the quill as often as not.
Pull out the inner bit of the quill tip, which is best accomplished with an old baiting needle. Offer it up to the porcupine quill and see if it sets down to the right point, more or less. At this time, you might take a look at the alignment of the tip; most quills have a slight curve and rotating the bird-quill tip until it looks 'just right' is worth doing.
Then steam the quill-tip until it is soft and ease it very gently a little further up the porcupine quill. Be careful not to split it, the idea here is to use the softened quill and a little pressure to get an exact fit on the porcupine quill. Once it is formed, put the whole assemblage to one side to cool and harden.
[I find the best way to do this, is to use a saucepan, whose lid has a steam vent hole in it. Once the water is boiling, I use this jet of steam through this hole to warm those things up that I want to warm up...mind your fingers.]
When your float is dry, using a pencil or fine line indelible pen, mark the position and orientation of the tip on its quill. Remove the tip and cut the end off the porcupine, again using a knife-edge jeweller's file, leaving enough porcupine quill for about a 1cm overlap. Put a smear of waterproof cyanoacrylate on the cut tip of the porcupine quill to seal it. This needs to be left until it has completly gone off, otherwise the fumes will 'fog' the inside of the bird-quill tip.
Now using the same waterproof cyanoacrylate, glue the tip to the body - using these materials the glue will set very fast, this is why the postion marks are added earlier. You'll get only one attempt...
Next, when the glue has set, rub down the 'step' where the tip overlaps the body. This will make whipping over it easier and the end result neater. Then finish and colour the float and tip however you prefer.
Below are my first (poorly photographed) attempts at these. I cut tangs on the tips to neaten the whipping, and the idea was that the quill inside the tip was painted white to improve their visibility. This did not work. There were the right size though and I also disliked the slight bulk for the 'join' between the two materials. My next attempt will include a 'step' filed into the porcupine quill to make the join flat. When I get around to it...
|With the tip-caps in place, but not glued or whipped on.||The finished floats|
These floats behave better in undertow or when there is a slight ripple on the water. When casting the light tip tends to 'follow' the heavier body, countering the tendency for porcupines quills to tumble in flight, leading to tangles. Also, they look nice. Have I mentioned that? I made three others 9-10" in length, but they have never been used much as I do not tend to fish waters that require this length and weight of float.
The below are five I made recently (that is, c. June 2020). I have always liked the idea of these; in principle they ought to make a useful float for those conditions which a porcupine quill on its own is not quite buoyant enough, but an eqivalent sized goose-quill would be far too much.
|Top to bottom: tiny porcupine quill, two translucent pink-tipped, one translucent orange tipped, one white-tipped, one orange tipped.|
There is surprisingly little to say about the construction that is not covered elsewhere. Nevertheless, here are the bits that are not: I picked out five porcupine quill of the appropriate size and sorted through some bird quills until I had half a dozen that look as if they might make caps of the right size. They looked like seagull quills to me.
The tips were scraped clean and then cut off with a knife-edge jewelers file, the cut edge was cleaned up and the membrane inside removed. The tips were offered up to the selected porcupine quills and a mix-and-match carried out until there were five 'best fits'.
For one float then: a pencil line was drawn around the porcupine quill where the tip naturally 'rested' and another line drawn around the quill ~8mm further back. Starting at this second pencil line, the porcupine quill was then filed down to the same diameter as the first pencil line, leaving a small 'step' in the porcupine quill, until the bird-quill tip fitted flush. The left-over tip of the porcupine quill (i.e. that piece now inside the new tip) was cut off flush using the same knife edge file. The new tip was replaced and rotated on its inset until any natural curves in the fitting and the tip matched the overall curve of the porcupine quill.
The final position of the tip on the porcupine quill was marked with a pencil stroke across the joint. At this point the two pieces should overlap about 8mm.
Remove the tip, clean the inside with nail-varnish remover and likewise the porcupine quill inset, including the cut end. Apply a good coating of waterproof cyanoacrylate to the cut end and the inset, then push the tip home, using the pencil mark to ensure the orientation is as desired. Wipe surplus glue into the join and clean off any excess.
The tip colour, whippings and eye were added, I used 'A' grade thread for whipping the eyes on. The whipping over the 'join' is red 6/0 thread and the black banding is also 6/0 thread. There. They look useful, which is to say, will get used at all. Also in the picture are two with regular painted tips, one orange and one pure white. The tiny quill is one I have had since 1974, with a facelift.
It occurs to me that this might be a good way to make some 'moon-floats', which is to say, clear tipped floats with a twists of blue/green tinsel inside them to reflect what light is available on a clear moon-lit night, or containing a twist of red tinsel for use with a torch.
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The Diary Entries Specifically Concerned with Floats.
The below entries are the collected regular diary entries that just happen to have something to do with floats, float-making or some other tenuous connection to fishing floats.
1st November 2009. Thirty minutes of removing cobwebs by walking on the sea shore at Hamworthy Lido furnishes me with enough seagull quills to make about 40 floats. With this embarrassment of riches I'm planning on dying the quills and steaming them all straight.
For some of us over a certain age, amongst our first meagre items of tackle there were a few floats, if you were lucky...but how many do you really need? Unencumbered with today's mandatory profusion of wagglers, puddle chuckers, dibbers and duckers, it is a miracle we caught anything.
In the olden days I had three floats. A spectacular 9" black-painted antenna, for proper fishing, the big porcupine quill and the small porcupine quill. For two years that was all. The small one was used for almost everything and took about one soft-lead No.6 shot. The big quill looked very fine, but I did not cast that far, and as for the antennae, well, this was just for looking at and dreaming.
The small quill, battle-scarred, fished with me for years and is one of the many kept around the place. The top was ORANGE. This is much like orange but really loud. Jolly red-tipped quills are the thing for some, but all my early 'porcys' were ORANGE, so I stick with it. Fished 'top-and-bottom', it caught fish, various, serendipitously, from streams and lakes, most of which were small perch. For rudd, because Mr. Crabtree said this was how you caught themProbably the only time Mr. Crabtree caught me anything..., I wrapped solder-wire, liberated from Dad's toolbox, around the small quill's base making it into a passable self-cocker. Using small worms or even a few maggots as bait I would cast 25 yards at rising rudd (the furthest possible using the 7' blue fibre-glass rod and Intrepid Challenger) on 'White HouseCorrectly 'Llyn Treflesg' created in the late 1930's' lake in AngleseyThe Isle of Anglesey. These impossible metallic-green backed jewels, compared with our boxed-standard 2oz perch, were never large, but still felt more of a prize. More worthy, almost proper fishing.
The same float caught my first tench, 1½lbs of stunned tinca, yanked Polaris like from the reedy margin of Carnau LakeAnother lake dug from marsh and old history, (the only tench caught that year by anyone in the club). Also my first perch, roach, rudd, eel, brown trout, sea trout, stickleback and flounder. Very possibly my first gudgeon, ruffe and bleak as well.
This one below in fact, the eye formed with copper wire scrounged from a junction box. The tip was repainted a bit back, but it has retired for now.
|Literally hundreds of small perch, dozens of roach, rudd and eels plus a few flounders, brown trout and sea-trout|
This was my staple float. Then in 1976 I used a home made sliding 'porcy' to catch my second, third and fourth tenchShould have been twice that number...blasted jolly-boat. in 12' of water with a 9' rod. In 1979 I read 'Stillwater AnglingFishing might have changed. The fish are, stubbornly, pretty much the same.' and may be wrong, but the man himself panned them as overrated. So they were put aside in favour of 'proper floats'. But the old habits of youth have a way of embedding life-long and I kept a few, bought a few. And then I thought, well, "Who cares? I like them".
I admit that 'porcys' fished 'top-and-bottom' and flayed at the horizon, do tend to tangle. They are not good river floats - except for gentle gudgeon swims - unless you stick a cork around the middle or make a tip with a goose quill and they are not good shot carriers.
On the upside, they are pleasing to look at and robust and cast well with little shot. And, much, much more to the point, I like them. When I have got fiddling-time, I strip, whip, paint and tinker, no idea why. If you like, you can overcome the downsides with inserts. I have made 'porcys' with toothpick and carbon antennae, carbon stems and a few upside-down ones, as sensitive as any pole float. I have even whipped the tips with bright thread in lieu of paint. OK, I could 'get out more', but really, you can't have too many. Can you?
|Insert procupine quills, mostly tooth-picks and cocktail sticks||The whipped-tipped porcys - an idea, but never fished with||A bunch of unnecessary floats, my favourite is the one at the bottom.|
And while they are not always the best float for the job, unless they are the worst by some margin, I find myself reaching for one when tackling up...
So I give you: the porcupine quill float.
Many fishermens' first float. Many first-time fishermen's only float. The float of day-dreams.
|The Glenmorangie float tube. This was given a coat of thinned yacht varnish inside and out, then two 'full-strength' coats outside and one more in. Then a piece of plastic drainpipe was araldited inside which was EXACTLY the right diameter and a circle of cork sheet glued to the inside of the base. There are two green whippings around the top to stop the cardboard expanding there if it ever springs a leak. The top was made from a 5'' cork jar bung, turned to size using an electric drill in a vice.||New technology, old technology. You can have both. It's not a zero-sum situation.|
|we have the technology|
|The adjustabubble...||...and how to use it|
4th May 2011. Darts. I knocked these up for a pal who's eyesight isn't so good. They're literally dart flights glued into a cross-slot in the top of two porcupine quills and a plastic waggler. You can buy float tops to do this, I find out now...they're displayed, by the way, on 'Going Fishing' by Negley Farson.
|Dart-flight floats for the hard of fishing|
'Star Wars Day' also.
6th October 2011. Translucent Tipped Quills. As mentioned above, an experiment. These, as the name suggests, are quill tips which are coloured and translucent tipThe use of the word 'tip' is not sufficient excuse however, to snigger behind one's hand in open defiance of the Geneva Comedy Convention's strong recommendation to simply raise one eyebrow (either) about a quarter-inch (6.35mm). . Why? The advantage of these is that the tip will 'light' for your disappearing pleasure whether the light is behind you or in front of you POh yes it will... . In short they are more visible in all light conditions. These quills were just cleaned, coloured and varnished then fished using a single rubber on the bottom end.
|The flourescent quills|
So a few notes on the making of such: prepare the quills as above, but before varnishing, apply colour to the tip with a fluorescent marker pen. The technique is to apply colour to a dry quill in even strokes from 'the line' to the tip, turning the quill as you go. Once you've gone right round put it aside to dry. Leave it a day and repeat. It will depend on the pen, but about four coats should do it, each only takes a few seconds. Then put a coat of thinned varnish over the coloured area and allow to dry for 24 hours.
There is some variation on which pen's colours go with which varnish without running. One must figure that out for oneself, for Rustin's yacht varnish, this section is true, but for others it may vary.
|Here are a few fully made. The top four are porcupine quills with a 'bird-quill' tip. I left the porcupine quill tip inside the 'bird-quill' tip but painted it white first, to see if that reflective surface inside would make them any more visible. Nope. On reflection (sorry), the whole idea of the translucent tip was to allow light from any angle to diffuse and re-radiate, so that the tip was 'lit' with any incident light. Obviously anything blocking that through path would make them less effective. Duh.||A selection of half and fully finished quills with translucent tips (with a Cardinal 66x in the middle)|
Give the varnish the faintest of touches with '000' emery. Whip on the eye, any other decorative stuff up the float. My preference is to finished with two closely space 6/0 thread whippings with the last right on the edge of the coloured part, which gives it a nice neat line, then thinned varnish over the whole whipping, especially the eye end (holding by the varnished tip) and hang up to dry. When dry put two-three more coats of colour on, when that's dry one cost of full strength yacht. You can add another if you prefer.
The flourescent pink was most visible on the water, then flourescent blue, then flourescent orange, then green. Yellow and dark blue tied for 'worst'. The green colour reacted with the varnish and went 'some other colour' that probably has a fancy colour-chart name, but wasn't much use otherwise. The yellow just wasn't very visible. The dark blue (a marker pen) didn't transmit enough light to work at all well.
It's interesting to recall that in "Still Water AnglingStill relevant in 2011" Richard Walker suggested that the best all-round colour for float-tips was a shade of vivid salmon-pink he mixed up himself.
12th February 2012. Funny, never really thought about it but...I've suddenly remembered those widgets that used to live on my key-ring before the interminable flight checks changed my habits, the tiny (and very sharp) Opinel, the small black thing that turns into four screwdrivers, a pair of pliers and a wire cutter, a small blue and oddly bright torch plus a handy little 'pen drive', shaped like a lego brick. That and the silver chain, a wedding present from Mrs JAA, which was for those times, around hazardous voltages, it might be prudent to have the wedding band out of harm's way, that and for occasional batting. It did set off the metal detectors...oh, and today's boot sale yielded these five gems for £1.
|Just, well, useful stuff.||£1, come on, a bargain.|
Bargain. (The chain's around my neck, but you knew that, right?)
|The two halves of the float apart...||...and put together|
The two halves, one slding inside the other, perhaps allow adjustment, although it's hard to see how this wouldn't move while in use. Maybe the idea was to use a float rubber to hold it at the 'right' size. Another possiblity is that you could put water in to 'set' the float. Or Both. I've no idea what the truth of the matter is, but it's quite neat anyway.
8th October 2012. Wareham Quay. Just a trial of some fluted Avons and Berkley Fireline (while the car was fixed), both of which fished nicely but two hours of drowning maggots and soaking bread yielded exactly zero/nil/nada/zip bites, which makes it sound dull, but those two hours sped by...
|Goose-quill floats, nearly traditional...||Goose-quill floats, nearly traditional...||Goose-quill floats, nearly traditional...|
|Goose-quill floats, nearly traditional...||Goose-quill floats, nearly traditional...|
I took these pictures on a whim and then forgot about them until 2017...a variety of quills and two oak-apple perch bobbers. The former, made with swivels in the base, ended up gathering dust, until I clipped the swivels off and replaced them with a rig-rings. I habitually use a link-swivel for attaching floats and it seemed like far too much metal work to clip this to another swivel. The oak-apple perch bobbers looked lovely but fished like dogs. The almost round profile allowed them to heel-about like an unballasted ship, so I threw them out in the end...
|Carp rigs for the orthodox angler||Carp rigs for the orthodox angler||Carp rigs for the orthodox angler|
A few words on the simple carper - I usually set up the rig seen above left:
Put a mini link swivel on the line between cheap latex float stops, generally 2 above the swivel are enough with 3-4 below and a couple of 'sliders' to protect the knot or anchor a shot on the line.
The braid hook-length is combi-knottedThe JAA magic braid knot... to the mono - the one shown is about 14", I planned to bottom fish that morning. There's a tell tale no.4 and a no.8 midway to the hook to stop the braid being stirred up when the fish is about, which avoids liners and foul hooks. Once you are over 3" on the deck it's best to do this.
If I'm planning a "very flexible" day, I tie a 1-2" hook-link, which generally works OK for floater fishing as well.
Two of the float stops are placed against the knot to protect it and if I need any shot for the float I put it between the float stops by the link swivel. I keep short lengths of 14lb and 12lb mono tied to the zip on my coat - I squeeze shot over that to groove it and then can pinch it by hand on my mainline without damaging it.
This rig can be endlessly varied with no effort at all. You can go from tiny floats (shown) virtually sight bobbing, jam on a cork ball for floater fishing, slip a swan shot on the mini swivel and slide the back stop up the line to light ledger and or even bung on a bubble float for small baits 'off the top'.
So with a pocket full of shot, a few floats (shown), a few cork balls, some hooks (in your hat), a reel of braid, a small sharp knife and a loaf of bread you're sorted.
I've been known to skip the mini swivel and put a pair of 8mm cork balls on the line, float stops either side, one red, one black (coloured with indelible markers, red, black and gree, always in the bag), especially if the water I'm planning to fish is shallow.
P.S. At the end of the day, you push all the bits down to the trace (make the line wet first), nip the line of with about 6" of mono, and next time you go out you can thread the whole lot back onto your main line by knotting the old line once over the reel line. The float stops last a good while then...thrifty me. I'll often put the whole lot onto the reel spool and once you've threaded up by the bank you're ready to fish. I keep the braid and use those bits for shorter hook-links, as the cost of it is simply daylight robbery.
Take this drawing (which is my design and my copyright, the 'JAA Fluted Avon'), have the sections laser cut from 3mm balsa sheet. Use 'Google' to find someone who'll do the cutting...
|A brilliant idea by Richard Mace...|
Slot together, glue with PVA, glue in 3mm cane stems and tips...job done. Seal the balsa with cellulose dope before painting. They take a lot of shot compared with the milled beech 'Beglow', so try the smaller two sizes first. The MK II was going to have adjustments to allow for a 4mm tip width, but I've kind of lost interest, as I have score of fluted floats about the place. I'd suggest dipping the tips and making the sight tip 1cm down the fluted body as well. Below are the five sizes I made and a Beglow for comparison plus some before painting shot and some half-made.
|These are the naked assembled flutes, glued together with stems glued in as well.||A whole bunch of them stuck in foam waiting for their base colour to dry.||The five sizes, all finished, with a Beglow for comparison.|
|The eye whipped on one of the floats.||The whipping up the stem, which serves no actual useful purpose...||Not a great photo, but it's here to show the smallest flute with its copper tube covered lower stem, making it mostly self cocking.|
Below is a Beglow stripped to see how it was made. It's clearly machined out of one piece of wood, probably beech or boxwood. Interesting. Having seen that, I coloured the wood with a green permanent marker and varnished over it. This explains why the float shown takes a scant 2BB while my apparently shorter fluted float takes more like 5BB. Below that is the re-coloured and varnished float.
|The stem end||The tip end||The whole thing|
|The stripped, recoloured and varnished Beglow|
If I was doing it again, I'd modify the profile to accept a 4mm tip to improve the visibility and profile the lower body at a shallower angle. I'd also make four sizes only 5mm apart starting with the smallest here and use longer stems to allow for near self-cocking using pieces of copper tubing.
Opinion is divided on the value of fluted Avon floats; I like them myself and find I can do more with them on a shallow river which has constant variation in depth and flow, than with a round bodied float. The physics of them, the maximised cross sectional area for the volume of the float (a tube presents the smallest cross-section for a given volume), means that the river's flow will exert more force on the float than it would a round float with the same volume of wood of the same length. That can be handy for the case mentioned above and possibly for trotting the far bank where the relative forces of the water (pushing the float downstream) and the line (tending to pull the float away from the far bank towards the angler) are improved in the favour of the direction of the river's flow. Having said that, they do resist a strike more, so for some applications, perhaps not ideal.
Below is the progression of a 'payment', some very big stret-pegging quills made as a quid pro quo (...Clarice) for Barry, who made a reel-foot spacer for my 'Harlow' 'pin. Thanks Barry.
The quills (about 10'', goose primaries)...1
Bottom eyes, tacked on with cyranoacrylate...2
Tips in progress - flourecent pink over the bare quill.
You can see pencil marks, but those'll be covered
with black thread....3
One of the side-eyes, glued with waterproof
cyranoacrylate then whipped on....4
One side-eye whipped on...5
The emphemera of float making...7
I can't for the life of me find pictures of the finished articles, although I was sure I took some...
These are all made with 1.5mm cane and 8mm cork-balls. Eyes are variously, very thin wire or old hook-length braid. Any whippings are 6/0 thread and nothing neat. The cork balls are bored with a broach then glued to the stem with water-proof cyanoacrylate and I do no more than round off the end of the cane with a nail-board and colour the stems and cork roughly with permanent markers before a coat of thinned varnish. They get one more coat of undiluted varnish and the tips are matt white paint with colours over the top.
Below is the work in progress, you get the idea...
|The whipped eyes, these were done with 6/0 thread||The whipped eyes, these were done with 6/0 thread||The floats prior to painting|
|White base coat||White base coat||Colour base coat|
I find that for most fishing a 2:1 ratio, stem to tip, gives stability. The smallest of them barely require shot and fished with a 'tell-tale' no. 6 shot are as good for small gudgeon as for margin fishing for carp. The ease with which they can be made allows for experimentation without great commitment or cost, leading to a complete lack of concern for losses.
|The surfeit of riches that are the cork-ball floats in my float tube. The numbers correspond to the list below.|
23rd November 2016. Double quill trotting floats. I decided to make some trotting floats out of two bits of swan quill glued in the middle, as I have some. Here's what I've discovered. The quills fit well together, one inside the other, they are very similar shapes. If you're putting inserts into one end of the other (I used porcupine quill), water-proof cyanoacrylate isn't ideal as it doesn't fill gap well. Araldite would be better. The cyanoacrylate is fine for the two larger sections' joint though. Both of which are whipped over anyway.
The end result is ascetically pleasing. It's tempting to whip up the whole length, but why cover that up? I might consider filling the quill sections with green dye to stain them and making a tip section, either from porcupine quill or cane.
Really not so difficult to make though. Cut the quill off just above the 'joint' with a junior hacksaw, then use a very sharp knife to cut them to a 45° angle. For other joints, use a nail board to rub the edges down by running it sideways in a 'draw-file' fashion up over the step in the joint...and at this point, sans varnish or thread, I hid them away to avoid further distractions from my studies...
28th February 2018. I started these off in February 2017, but then hid all the fettling stuff to stop me from being distracted by them, a strategy which had only limited success. I recalled these a few days ago and got them out of hiding. I'd got as far as creating the basic float in the following way: I halved a number of goose quills, cutting diagonally with a knife-edged needle file, and then fiddled about until I found three pairs in which, the smaller quill slid perfectly into the larger. I chamfered the outside 'lip' of the larger quill (to tidy the whipping over this join), then carefully cut the bottom end of the smaller and cut pieces of porcupine quill to make the bottom end 'stem', having first matched them for size. The porcy pieces were then glued into their place in the smaller quill section with copious waterproof cyanoacrylate then when it had set overnight, the two goose quill halves were cyanoacrylate'd together.
|The porcupine quill insert stems||The joins in the middles|
In hindsight, I should have cut the smaller quill at an angle where the porcupine quill was inserted, to improve the look and I suspect the whipping over the diagonal cut might add some strength. As it was, chamfering the end of the quill made whipping over it quite easy. When the glue had set, I whipped on a 20lb Alasticum wire eye and continued the whipping up over the bottom half of the float. It's a personal thing, but I prefer only a few dark colours for this, dark green, garnet and black. I find most other colours don't look quite right. One coat of 'fresh tin' yacht-varnish to seal the lower half, then another coat over the tip section and a third coat over the lower half.
|Glued up||Whipped, varnished, painted, marked up for the tips.|
So...three days later I opted for painted tips, one orange, one pink and one blue. These are longish buoyant floats and it seems unlikely they will be fished nearby or in circumstances where a delicate touch is required. So I made the tips over an inch long, with the plan to colour them accord to the JAA magic ratio scheme, thus:
The pink one is highlighter over white paint. The trick is to put one coat of colour on every day for a week. Use even strokes (fnarr fnarr) and when you've got the depth of colour you want, put a coat of varnish carefully over the top of the colour without encroaching no the white band, which is best left matt. The blue (Humbrol Blue Florescent) was sprayed on using cling-film as a mask, but it didn't quite work for the tip, so I sprayed a little into the can's cap and brushed the rest, for the orange I used Testors' 'Racing Red', also brushed on. For all three, I then carefully drew on two fine black bands about 0.5mm apart on the boundary between the white and the colour, and the colour and the bare quill. Once they'd dried, I filled the gap using a black 'Sharpie'. I left them a day and added another 'coat'.
There's one float in the picture that is a 'basic quill'. This was a disposable stret-pegger, one of a pair. I literally cut the quill scraped it, drew on the tip with a red marker-pen and fished them using two float bands. To prove my point I lost one in a sunken tree. The other hung about until I thought it needed little other than varnish and an eye, so I twisted a 20lb Alasticum eye up. You do this by turning the wire twice around a handy 'former', say the shank of a drill bit, then twist the ends of the wire together with pliers until the eye is perfect and the wire is neatly twisted. Cut off the dog ends. You can use any wire for this, brass is OK, but take care not to over-twist and snap it.
I made a hole in the bottom end of the quill with a small broach and inserted the eye with waterproof cyanoacrylate, then whipped over it with enough tension to just compress the quill at that point, then slackened it off a bit as I went up the stem. I left the red marker-pen tip, added some layers of flouro pink and strengthened the black bands using a black sharpie and varnished over the whole lot.
|The finished articles|
Start to finish these took a year to complete. I've no idea when I might use them - they'd make decent trotting floats, but wonder if the joint of the 'double quills' will take a hard strike when fixed top-and-bottom, but if nothing else they're easy on the eye.
I've experimented with quills that were made to take 'star-lights', bulky things, although effective and my old beta-light floats are, well, not very twinkly. I decided to make some new ones, so I did a little research on beta-lights. 'It turns out' that the basic rule is 'bigger is better', simply because the brightness is related to the amount of beta radiation impinging on the fluorescent material on the inside of the glass and larger lights have more gas, are thicker glass, so can be sealed at a higher pressure. It is also the case that the brightest are green, yellow, blue and red in that order. This doesn't tally with my experience of using blue beta-lights, which danced before my eyes like demented alien fire-flies. Annoyingly, this doesn't tally with the hard fact that our eyes adjust from perceiving green as the brightest colour in daylight to blue at night. In any event I bought three 25mm × 3.5mm lights in green, yellow and red, to try them out. My plan was to make quill tubes to carry the beta-lights and then attach them to porcupine quills. I realise this is anachronistic.
I carefully, using a knife-edge needle-file, cut the tips off three quills (a micrometer is a useful thing) pausing only to carefully work a beta-light back out of the tightest...
I considered them for a few days - one can both repent and consider one's options at leisure, the latter having the benefit of no additional work. It dawned on me there were three quills ready-sized and it made sense to use them 'as is'. The plan was to place some kind of bung in the quill, put the beta-light on it and then seal the tip with another 'bung' and fill a few mm of the quill tip with epoxy-resin. I carefully marked a piece of 3mm cane to show the length of the beta-light and its position respective to the open end of the quill. I carefully, using this stick, stuffed the lower portion of the hollow quill with polystyrene beads to about 2mm short of the intended light's position.
|Top-to-Bottom: A slice of cork, the 'measuring stick', three cane 'plugs', the quills, shown with the first cork 'bung' wedged in a bit and the white area under the clear section is where the polystyrene was stuffed in and below them, one of the beta-lights.|
I cut tiny plugs of cork, a little more than 3mm. I cleaned the inside of the quill with 'q-tip' dipped in nail-varnish remover, let it dry and put a smear of epoxy-resin around the bottom inside of the quill using a cocktail stick. I then squished the tiny cork plug into the end of the quill and shoved it down the tube to the mark on said measuring stick. I clean out the epoxy-resin surplus with same 'q-tip' and nail-varnish remover and put a dummy length of 3mm cane in the quill and a piece of tape over the tip to stop trapped air pushing it back up the tube.
Next day I dropped in the beta-light, made another cork-plug, pushed onto the top of the light with the tiniest smear of epoxy resin. When this had set, I filled the open end of the quill to the top with epoxy, then stashed them vertically in a block of foam to 'go off'. Once this was done, I rounded the top off, then spent a little time rubbing down the 'epoxy' tip and also the quill itself. There's no harm in thinning this off as much as is practical, as more light is better and I finished this job with P800, leaving the quill as smooth as a proverbial something. With an indelible pen, I carefully coloured the area of the quill above the beta-light black, and added another black band under. I admit my first thought was to use white paint, but decided that the beta-light was enough 'or not'; the black bands and any contrast with them would be more useful as the light fell. Then all got a coat of varnish.
|Bottom cork plug in situ, beta-lights inserted.||Top cork plug in, epoxy-resin in and 'off'.|
When the varnish was dry, I got the really tall vase out of the pantry, some yellow thread and no.4 shot (a no. 4 is 0.2g, a 'BB is 0.4g and a no.6 is 0.1gSo a no. 4 shot is a handy size for this kind of thing...) and thus equipped played with the watertight quills. I established they would carry 4 × no.4 but with only half the beta-light above the plimsoll line. This is enough for this fishing they're meant for, but at (say) 3 × no.4 they lolled rather. In action they'll have an eye whipped on, another coat of varnish and carry a mini-swivel, so I've added a small cork ball to the lower end, which should give them the little extra they need to cock nicely with the whole beta-light showing. If they need more, I'll modify them again.
|The quills, selaed, black-banded and with their buoyancy aids. You can just make out the top one is green, the middle one is red and the lower one is yellow.|
15th February 2019. Floating job. I'm a collector of discarded floats and I happened upon a bunch awaiting 'something'. Here are five of such - dried out on the radiator - they've all had new tips fitted, bamboo skewers cut to length and glued in using water-proof cyanoacrylate, bodies rubbed down and touched up with indelible pens, tips given the JAA treatment.
|I just have to have something on the go...|
Left-to-right: A peacock waggler cut almost in half as the top section was crushed, new tip added; a slender all balsa waggler, the top half had lost its paint the eye had come adrift so was replaced with a piece of cane; a 3BB antennae with a broken tip, this was cut off and a slender new antennae with sight-bob was added; a self-cocking float which also had a broken tip, the eye is crimped into a piece of brass tubing at the bottom end; lastly, a 'Gazette' bung I found late last year, they're iconic, but the 'peg' attachment is (still) not effective, so I epoxyied a 4mm cane stem though the middle, added an eye on the bottom end, painted the tip, so now it is a fine pike float.
|I just have to have something on the go...|
...with a few exceptions. The porcupine quill is literally 'coloured in', the tip is highlighter-pen, the black bands are indelible pen, whipped on an eye and varnished over. The four small disposable dibbers on the left are made from pieces of peacock quill, dyed green, left on the shelf for four years, then threaded them onto bamboo cocktail sticks and painted up. One of these days I'll work out how to take better pictures...
(I have resolved to clear the mass of bit and bobs, restore all that is salvageable and ditch the terminal cases.)
17th November 2019. Disposable Floats. I wanted to top up my 'disposable' general purpose margin floats with some of the most generally useful pattern. This is; 6" of 1.5mm cane, with two 8mm cork balls centred on a point that is 2" from one end, [RANT]it's annoying to buy 8mm cork balls and discover they're really not...[/RANT]. So; 'how to' then...
Cut the cane into 6" pieces. This is best done by putting the cane onto a flat bit of wood and pressing a very sharp knife onto the cane and rolling the cane between the fingers of the other hand. This ensures a neat cut with no splitting or crushing. Using a nail-board, round off the edges of both ends, just enough to remove any loose fibres and the sharper edge. Mark the 6" cane piece with a marker-pen at 2 1/8th" from one end. Bore a 1mm hole though the cork balls with a broach, it can help to drill a pilot hole with an 0.8mm drill in a pin-vice. It doesn't matter if it's not exactly dead-centre, as long as it's more-or-less there.
Work two of the bored cork-balls onto the cane until each one is about 5mm either side of the mark made earlier. Put cyanoacrylate onto the cane on one side of the mark and twist the cork-ball down to the mark. Do the same to the other one, so the cork-balls are pushed together. If the glue forms a bead, run a piece of kitchen towel around the gap to smooth it.
Once the glue is dry, take a 'drab' colour permanent marker pen (e.g. dark green or grey) and colour the float. Put a dab on the 'eye' end and then mark up the stem in long strokes (stop it). Total coverage doesn't really matter, the idea is to break up the outline; colour the cork balls in the same way. Using 'A' grade thread, roughly whip on a 'loop-of-braid' eye (15lb cheap fly backing braid or leftover hook-link braid are both good). As long as the eye's covered the job's done; finish the whipping with two half-hitches.
|Balls ready for glueing on...||...and with some marker-pen, paint and varnish. It's possible to see the pencil marks on the tip delineating the white band.|
Varnish the whole thing once, making sure varnish is brushed well into the niche between the corks and their ends, where the cane sticks through. Varnish the 'eye' itself as this makes it easier to use (I don't use wire for the eyes so the link-swivel float attachment doesn't 'clink' on the wire).
When the varnish is quite dry, trim the tag-end of the eye's whipping, then varnish the lower stem and the body again, but no more - these are small floats and four coats of varnish render them almost unusable. Put two thin coats of matt white paint over the tip's cane and the top half of the top cork ball (precision is not required). When the white paint is quite dry (I leave them hanging next to the radiator at this time of the year) apply the sighting colours and scheme of choice.
|They're drying after the tips had black bands added and the second coat of varnish applied to the bodies. The pink-tipped flaots have also had their tips varnished over, the black bands will be added later.|
My choice is a couple of each of the following schemesThis is why they're painted like this...: a fluorescent orange tip with a black-lined white band, a fluorescent orange tip with a black-lined fluorescent yellow band and a fluorescent pink tip with a black-lined white band. These, at least for me, are the three most useful, although fluorescent green is often handy, and critically the black-lined white band; this is extraordinarily visible at even the longest of ranges. Note that the pink variant is done by colouring the white paint with a three-four coats of fluorescent marker-pen of the right colour, then varnished, once, over the top.
I have to fight my own desire for neatness on these - they are literally 'disposable' and if they are made in batches of six or eight, they really take only five minutes each, consisting of half-a-dozen operations spread over several days.
|All done, plus a small pike float I've had lolling about since 2012. Really, 2012.|
The eagle-eyed will have spotted one of the above is not a cork-ball special. It's a pike float picked up at a boot-sale in 2012Took me some five years to restore it.... While I generally eschew this rather pleasing red colour as it's often hard to see, it looks rather fine and will do good job on The Wetland's Pike, a few of which are still squatting, figuratively, in the wrong ponds.
1st February 2020. Darts. So: I found, when the Dabblers were setting fish refuges into the Lower Saxon Pond, the tip of a plastic float. So? It was about 6mm across and moulded into a cross-section of a 'cross' (sorry). This of course gives it high visibility and low resistance, which might be useful for sensitive bites. The piece of plastic was pocketed, but more pertinently, the idea took root.
I once made some very poor 'dart-flight' floats, something I didn't care to re-visit. Then, in part because the Bugangler (21¾) is learning to make violins, I discovered that good quality 'razor saws' can be had for under a tenner. The one shown is 0.35mm across the teeth, 0.25mm across the blade and, crucially, cuts on the draw stroke. Aha. I cut slots in the blunt end of four porcupine quills, long and deep enough so that a pair of plastic dart flights in an offensive pink colour left a few mm of protruding quill quarter-sections at the said blunt end. Hm. I didn't want the whole dart-flight. The idea wasn't to make a float that could be seen at 100 yards, but rather an easy sighter, with no attendant additional buoyancy or, worse, with the CoG CoGCentre of Gravity elevated towards the tip.
|The 'Razor' Saw, plus a spare blade.|
Mrs AA appeared and with that special sarcasm that comes as a free gift with every 25¼ years of marriage, asked if I was making darts. I put flights into the four quills, then threw them at the kitchen cork-board (the pointy ends are really very sharp). It turned out I have made some darts. I briefly considered penning a traditional angling murder-mystery that centred on a 'built-cane crossbow and porcupine-quill quarrel' incident. MM"Are you quite mad Sergeant? A true Traditionalist would never use plastic flights..."
Carefully, using a pair of braid scissors found some years ago, I cut one vane to a shallow curve. I folded it onto the next vane and cut around it. Repeated this twice and 'ta-daa', they all matched. So...I trimmed two pink sets, one orange and one translucent orange. I pared off the porcy-swarf, cleaned each slot with a piece of P150 sandpaper, coloured the cut quarters black with permanent pen, cyanoacrylate'd the flights in, then carefully ensured each 'quarter' was glued to its niche in the flights, then glued and compressed the protruding ends, using a few turns of thread.
I could have painted the 'quarters' but they'd probably not have kept their paint on, but I varnished over them and made sure the joints were sealed. A black stripe in the middle of the flights works well and a small colour band under the flights finishes the job. I expect the flights' colours to fade, but it'll be interesting to see how they fare on the water. It occurs to me, assuming they fish well at all, that iridescent dart flights in red or perhaps green will do very well for picking up torchlight or, for the latter, moon-light. Which is an idea.
They do look like darts though. At least they'll cast well.
|Orange||The floats - my camera is near the end of its natural life and its focussing is increasingly a bit 'off'||Pink|
I suspect that the 'flights' will end up being trimmed, so that the float has a 'sighter' only at the top half of the tip, something about 'half a set of dart-flights' size.
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Many of us have seen those old quills where the end of the quill is shaved to a sliver and bent back over to make an eye for the line's attachment. This looks nice and is oddly satisfying, so this is how I make them.
Decide how long you want the finished float to be, then cut the quill one incher longer than that. Take the trouble to clean up the quill, scrape the surface down, remove all the barbs etc, at least to an extent that verifies the quill is sound and has no splits and so on. Then, using a very very sharp knife, cut through the quill from the side at an angle of about 45 degrees. This is hard to do without crushing the quill and knife-edge needle-file is good for this, although the best tool for this is a 'saw' made from a safety razor-blade (by making a series of tiny nicks in the blade's edge[while wearing safety glasses], rather in the same way razor blades were made into hacksaws in POW camps). Inspiration for this came from handling a tiny micro-lith saw-blade a colleague found while field-walking.
Then cut along the spine of the quill to remove the excess, which should leave a long 'tang' of quill. Tidy this up by scraping along the inner flat with the SVSKSmall Very Sharp Knife. Cut the end of the 'tang' to a point and then rub the outside down to a flat taper with a nail board. There. The pointing and bevelling of the top surface make for an easier and neater whipping later on.
|Looped Quill Eyes||Looped Quill Eyes|
Decide on what kind of metal fixing you'd like to add (if any). Small swivels are nice, but probably too heavy for small floats and rig-rings are also good. You can buy these cheaply on a well known internet auction site and they are fine for this purpose. Bear in mind that I use a link-swivel to attach floats to the main line, so I generally use large rig-rigs and if planning to fish such floats 'bottom end only', in the usual way, then this might affect the choice of fitting.
Put the (e.g.) rig-ring over the 'tang', place a cocktail stick (or anything round of the right diameter) against the base of the quill and fold the tang back over the quill, around said cane. This ensures a nice round bend. It might work to 'set' this shape by using a little steam, but I don't bother. If you're happy with the overall position and bend etc., put water-proof cyanoacrylate on the quill and a little on the inside of the tang, bend the tang over and (gently) clamp it flat until it's set. If you've used your fingers to clamp it, peel the skin off later.
Keratin is tough stuff but, engineer-like, I then cyanoacrylate a short piece of old dyneema braid to the side of the quill, run it around the outside of the 'bend' and then cyanoacrylate it on the other side of the quill, then whip over the whole thing, as one would for a wire eye. Then put thinned varnish over the whipping, ensuring a good brush-full is worked inside the 'eye' and into the reinforcing braid, then hang it up to dry.
|Looped Quill Eyes||Looped Quill Eyes|
There. Now add the tip colouring and decorative whipping of your choice. The perspicacious among you might recognise the pink-tipped one in some of the subsequent entries. I find these little 3-4" quills terribly useful.
|Gobio Gobio (and return to the top of the page)||Gonk||Gobby||Gonk||Gobio Gobio||Gobby||Gobio Gobio||Gudgeon||Gudgeon||Gobio Gobio|