Favourite Floats

The floats page. I'm not obesessed, just very very interested.

There's going to be all sort of floats here, some notes of making, fiddling, rescuing and even a gallery of the favourites. I mostly stick to quill floats, making half a dozen at a go while fiddling at my desk. It's something to occupy the hands and as a result I have dozens which are never used...this page is a 'work in progress', so bits are missing, don't take that personally.

The more adventurous turn up balsa and cork, but I'm a bit too lazy to organise that - I'm not much of a river fisher either. While I'm the first to admit a good float will have an the ascetic quality, I could care about inlaid feathers, materials that don't actually work in use OAOak 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 thme, but I've since moved on...  and gloss finishes will 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 seperated into the categroies of 'use' 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.

I don’t really consider floats "art". Some float-makers, who are trained artists, incorporate artworks onto their floats and very very fine they are. However, the craft required for making nice floats is for the most part, pretty basic work, if satisfying. It's worth reading the "Floatmaker’s Manual" by Bill Watson. Nearly everything you need to know is in there.

Don't be put off by notions of the great and mystical skill required to turn out fine floats. Those of us who can make a decent float have simply done it a lot, then been prepared to make more and refine our methods for the next time. Just have a go.

(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'.)

Feel free to plagiarise from this page, if you do it for fun or for charity, good luck. If you sell the floats on eBay 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've made it possible for some to profit, but it's really not at my expense...  Those who prize 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 (and I'm digressing) - if 'some chap' shows his latest home-made floats on a forum as a private individual, I'd be the last to be disparaging, as that's just good manners. However, if you are in business selling floats, then one is free to make any justified criticism, that's called 'feedback' and is part of being 'in business'. It is anachronistic that one can be in business in "traditional fishing tackle" and expect to be free from any criticism as a matter of course. ffSo for exanple, I consider varished 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.


  • Favourite Floats
  • How to make...
  • Some floats wot I made
  • La Morinais carpa very subtil fish...(and back to the top of the page) La Morinais carpWatch for magpies on your path. Throw salt over your left shoulder. Walk around ladders. La Morinais carpif you will Fish for a Carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience La Morinais carpI am content to wait. I am well used to it. La Morinais carpif you will Fish for a Carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience La Morinais carpI am content to wait. I am well used to it. La Morinais carpI am content to wait. I am well used to it. La Morinais carpa very subtil fish La Morinais carpWatch for magpies on your path. Throw salt over your left shoulder. Walk around ladders. La Morinais carpif you will Fish for a Carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience
  • Favourite Floats
  • What makes a favourite float? It's 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 aren't, 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've recorded the reason anyway...

    HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of...(and back to the top of the page) HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of.
  • How to make...
  • ...pleasing floats is not tricky. Even if one stuffs a few up, it costs very little. This guide is based on some trial and error, and covers basic quill float making – I've got loads now and give them away...

  • Tools
  • Materials
  • How to...
  • Stret-Peggers
  • Crucian Lifters
  • Loading floats
  • Porcupine Quills
  • The JAA Fluted Avon
  • Cork-ball bobbers
  • 'BB' 'AAA' 'BB' 'AAA' 'BB' 'AAA' 'BB' 'AAA' 'BB' 'AAA' 'BB' 'AAA' 'BB' 'AAA' 'BB' 'AAA' 'BB' 'AAA'
  • Tools
  • You'll need; sharp scissors, small wire cutters, some 'alasticum' wire or brass picture wire, a scalpel blade or safety razor blade - or an 'Opinel no. 7' with a small sharpening stone. Yacht varnish, matt white enamel, black enamel, a black sharpie and whatever colour(s) you want for the tip. Optional and very useful are: A pin chuck with 0.8/1.0/1.2mm drills, a set of broaches.

    A decent wedge of expanded polythene packing foam is handy. I keep mine bulldog-clipped to a handy shelf - there's half a wooden ruler rammed through the foam, this is clamped to the shelf. There is a selection of handy holes in the top, floats for the insertion of, simple paper-clip hooks around the edge for dangling part painted floats on.

    Some folk like scarlet, but I'm addicted to fluorescent orange, green, scarlet and pink. Matt colours work better for tips in use – glossed colours reflect all light rather too well, instead of the colour you want to be able to see and fluorescent paints are deigned to absorb and re-emit light, glossed varnish cuts down the absorption - so for best effectiveness, don't varnish over the tips.

    If you prefer to varnish over, feel free - they look nice like that - but for myself I opt for better visibility in the water.

  • Materials
  • You'll need quills, from almost any feathers one can find 5...but have a care, it's illegal to own, even by finding, a heron feather for example... . And porcupines' 1That's porcupines' quills, not actual porcupines. That'd be silly. .

    There are other materials of course, I've even used them, but if they're not mentioned here it's because I've not yet bothered...

  • Porcupine
  • Crow
  • Goose
  • Seagull
  • Pheasant
  • Pigeon
  • Others...
  • Cane
  • Carbon and glass stems
  • Balsa
  • Cork(s)
  • A bunch of hooks found in my pike box A bunch of hooks found in my pike box A bunch of hooks found in my pike box
  • Porcupine
  • Porcupine quills can be obtained (legally) on 'fleabay' and old tackle boxes at boot sales and the like. Don't pay more than £1 a quill ever. Anything under 6" is unlikely to be of any real use for making a float and old floats with paint are generally very easy to clean up and repaint.

    The shape varies quite a bit and I've got a couple which are '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 with a small drill bit, open a hole up to insert pieces of cane. More on that down the page.

  • Crow
  • There's a lot of talk about using crow quills for floats - the only quills that make useful floats are the true wing primaries from a crow - those from a jackdaw or rook look inviting, but once de-barbed and cut down are almost always 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'll let you know.

  • Goose
  • Another off-touted favourite. They come in a lot of different sizes from large to very large and 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 don't 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 2/3/4BB 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 6See what I did there?  great stret-peggers or even dead-bait floats.

  • Seagull
  • 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
  • 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 - it's 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've 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've not made any more.

  • Pigeon
  • 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...

  • Others...
  • I've made the odd float out of buzzard and peacock quills, but theres nothing to really 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 - the simplest way to colour the stuff I've found is to rub 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, cyranoacrylate glues work very well with this stuff.

  • Cane
  • 3mm 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 (got via a well known on-line auction site) 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, where the the need for visiblity trumps 'super sensitivity'.

  • Carbon and glass stems
  • For light floats with a long stem under the water this is hard to beat. Glass is heavier and will give you better stability if that matters to you. I made some long stemmed lift floats with carbon stems and loaded them with solder wire - glass might well have saved me that job. You can buy this stuff on a well know internet auction site.

  • Balsa
  • 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 hex section of the Allen key keeps the cork form revolving on its spindle when being shaped.

    The Lady of the StreamThe Lady of the Stream...(and back to the top of the page) Thymallus ThymallusThymallus Thymallus The Lady of the StreamThe Lady of the Stream Thymallus Thymallusgrayling The Lady of the StreamThe Lady of the Stream Thymallus ThymallusThymallus Thymallus The Lady of the Streamgrayling Thymallus ThymallusThymallus Thymallus
  • Bird Quill floats
  • A note on painting tips
  • A note on tip colours
  • A note on translucent quill tips
  • Looped quill eyes
  • Making eyes to be glued in place
  • How can you not like perch bobbers...? How can you not like perch bobbers...? How can you not like perch bobbers...? How can you not like perch bobbers...? How can you not like perch bobbers...? How can you not like perch bobbers...?
  • How to make...(bird) quill floats
  • Firstly, cut of the bits you don't need, generally once the quill diameter gets to about 1.5-2mm it's too thin to work or have any strength to take an eye. I use the Opinel for this and cut straight through the quill in one go, to get a square end.

    Snip off the barbs as close as possible to the quill body using very sharp scissors (holding the feather over a bin to reduce the possibility of domestic strife). Then using the Opinel (or blade of your choice), scrape off as much of the barbs as possible. It is possible to 'shave' 95% off smooth, rotating the quill a little this way and that helps and there is something of a knack to be picked up in doing this fast and well. Practise is the only thing. I recommend not using your 'best ever found quill' for your first go...

    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.

    Then scrape the top layer of the root end away, especially greasy in goose quills, and if required tidy up the tip, which can be a little ragged. Give the quill a polish with the '000' paper to remove the shine on the shiny outside spine of the quill and a quick stroke or two down the remains of the barbs.

    I suggest not going too bonkers here – varnishing the remains of any tiny stubs and sanding them off is a good a way as any to get a mirror finish if it matters to you 2I don't subscribe to the idea of floats being works of art (unless you are a real artist and have drawn an actual work-of-art on the side), the whole shiny varnish-to-within-a-mil-of-its-plimsol-line and inlaid feather schtick leaves me cold and faintly bemused. .

    Then scrub the quill with washing up liquid (an old toothbrush is handy), to degrease. Rinse, pat dry with kitchen towel and dry on radiator overnight. OK, that all seems extreme, but the whole paint thing is only as good as the key on the first coat – feather quills are greasy, shiny and non absorbent – take care over this bit and everything will turn out fine.

    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 put in white spirit using a drinking straw until the mix is about right, it's not critical - the idea is that the thinnned varnish keys to the surface better and get into all the nook and crannies as well. Cellulose thinners can be used to thin this varnish, but it evaporates far too quickly, before the varnish has time to flow. The reason for using bottle top 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 (expensive) lumpy stage.

    It is as well to be very very sure the lid is on tight before storing a tin of varnish up-side down...

    Stick the quill(s) in a piece of foam to dry for 24 hours - I stick the thin end in, I don't worry much about the bit stuck in the foam, as an eye will be whippied onot that bit and thne varinshed over.

    When it's dry, sandpaper lightly to remove any last barbs. Second coat of varnish, but this time up end it and varnish the bottom end down, leaving the root end of the quill stuck in the foam.

    OK. Make an eye by winding a piece of 8lb/14lb/20lb/brass picture wire elasticum wire around a thick needle, about the same diameter of the quill it's going on. I have an old baiting needle which I took the barb off, and as the shank tapers it is ideal for this. I found it bobbing on the windward side of Jubilee Lake in about 1990, and have never used it, except for this purpose. See picture for the rings. For larger eyes I twist 8lb elasticum into a cable (using a battery driven screwdriver) and make the rings out of that.

    Make the ring's legs around 10mm and 15mm – this difference in leg length eases the whipping task. 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, which is steel, use a pair of wire cutters to ensure the bevelled cut is parallel to the quill surface. These last two things seem a bit obsessive, but they save whipping an eye nearly on and then the thread being cut by the wire, especially with 'A' grade thread or finer.

    Next bit is tricky. Hold the ring on the end of the float – I hold in my right hand. I ensure that I grip the end of the thread (Size A Black), as well, and then wind a loose spiral to the eyed end, and then whip back up the float keeping the turns tight, but not over tight. If you crush the quill under the whipping it's ruined really. There's a knack to this and practise makes etc etc...

    Take the left hand around the float, keeping the float still. When I've got about halfway down the eye, I pinch the whipping with my left hand and use the scissors to trim the end near to the whipping. Swap the grip back and continue the whipping about 2-3mm past the end of the longest leg of the eye. Now you have 2 choices – make a nice spiral up the float to the 'iffy bit' 3This join between the quill and the barbs is tradationally 'weak' but I find it anything but, as a joint between two materials of different construction it's really rather well engineered. , where the hard quill meets the start of the barbs and whip over this to reinforce it, or finish the whipping there.

    I swap the right hand to the bottom of the float (whipping end) and spiral the thread up to this weak point and then whip over it with close turns and whip finish by whipping in a loop or the same thread (a different colour helps) for 6 turns and pulling the end back through. 2lb mono is very good for this 'pull through', but 'Fireline' in 8lb is better as it's got a flattish cross-section and doesn't break so easily...

    Adjust the 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. 24 hours, and one more coat or varnish for luck. 24 hours back on the radiator.

    As for colours and patterns, personally I find that dark colours look best on a light quill, dark green, garnet, black. I've put all sort of spirals on quills and again, while it's 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 have the time and inclination) and tidy up the lay afterwards with a piece of plastic card.

    There. Already looking nice. Now for the tip. A tip for the tip is to have a different brush for each colour – this keeps thing nice. The tiniest amount of black (or any colour) in the white/orange/yellow will spoil it.

  • Painted Tips
  • Decide how long you want the coloured bit overall (orange plus white). When I started out on this 'hobby' I painted much bigger tips on the floats than now, no idea why. I feel that smaller is better looking and quills are so buoyant that you seldom need over an inch out of the water, except possible porcupine quills. I've got floats out of boot sales with 2" tips, but my advice is to go for smaller that you think you need.

    Apply a coat of white matt to the tip (I use a humbrol modelling matt white, but any would do, tester pots of the latest 'really really white' from local DIY store for example)) and ensure you get the little hollow in the end. Dry upside down on paperclip hooks, stuck in the same foam chunk wedged on the end of a book shelf, newspaper under. The key to a straight edge is to hold the brush still and turn the float. Honest.

    If the paint is dripping off, remove the drips with the brush, but if it's dripping there's too much paint. 24 hours. Repeat the white coat. 24 hours...

    For small quills I leave about 5mm white and for large 10mm. Not that it matters, they're for pleasure after all. I hold the brush steady and rotate the float to put a line where I want it. Then holding the float, tip down, brush a coat of orange over the white. Dry upside down. These 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.

    OK your floats will now look like this (well more or less). Now, with the thinnest brush (a size XX rigger), 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 don't do this...being a philistine, I add my black edging to colour bands using a black 'sharpie', this does a fine job.

    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 saddo that I am 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 seasons' carp fishing.

  • A note on tip colours
  • I've concluded after considerable bu**ering about that there are only a few colour schemes worth bothering with (at least for my eyes).

    1. Flouro orange contrasted with flouro yellow (looks naff, very very visible)
    2. Flouro orange contrasted with matt white
    3. Flouro green contrasted with white.
    4. Flouro pink.
    5. Flouro blue if you can find some

    For "regular" tips;

    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.

    A solid orange tip with a single yellow band of about a quarter of the length of the colour band, about a quarter of the length down from the tip, edged with black.

    A solid green tip with a single white band of about a quarter of the length of the colour band, about a quarter of the length down from the tip, edged with black.

    For antennae, I stripe on about a 1 cm pitch and edge the stripe with a thin black line, which seems to help. Despite what folk say, I've hardly ever found a black tip of any use (but always have a black and red sharpie in my bag). Yellow tips on their own, flouro or not, never seem any better than the colours above. Or at all, ever. Very occasionally, I use a 'sunken' antennae float made with cork balls with a lot of flouro yellow about it, so I can see it when it's just under the water. Other than these two, I've not painted a float tip yellow for years and probably never will.

    The much vaunted scarlet/red colour, which looks lovely on the bank and in the box, seldom is of any use at all. I always have a few about though and if the light is right put them on for the look of them, but they very often come off again if the sun goes in. I have noticed the slightest tendency for fluorescent tipped floats to spook carp and in those situations the red seems to work better - it's about the same colour as a ripe haw berry.

    I've been known to fish whole days with two 8mm cork balls on the line, secured with float stops, and I colour one red and one black with the aforementioned indelible pens. This is 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 mimicing Frankie Howard. I leave this as an optional exercise for the reader. No tittering. "Titter ye not", in fact...

    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...but I don't make one of every colour of every type. Madness lies that way...although it's a little late in the day to notice that.

  • Translucent Tips
  • This, as the name suggests, is a quill tip which is 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 this type of tip 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 it's more visible in all light conditions.

    Prepare the quills as above, but before varnishing, apply colour to the tip with a fluorescent marker pen. Pink is a favourite for my eyes, but any colour can be used, orange, red and blue (in that order) appear to work the best. Green, sadly, not so well. 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.

    Translucent quills These are the first experiment. I just 'tipped' the quills and took them to Barton's Court to try them out with a single float rubber. Translucent quills 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. Translucent quills 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.

    From a practical standpoint, the most visible colours were flouro pink, RWYou might recall that in ''Still Water Angling'' Richard Walker suggested that the best all-round colour for float tips was a kind of salmon pink he mixed up himself.  flouro blue, flouro orange in that order. The green reacted with the varnish and went some other colour that probably has a poncy 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 really well.

  • Quill looped eyes (traditional, mostly)
  • 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 attachment to the line. This looks nice and is oddly satisfying, so this is how you make them.

    Decide where you want the eye and ensure there is an inch of quill past that point. Using a very sharp knife, cut through the quill from the side at an angle of about 45 degrees. 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 SVSK. Cut the end of the 'tang' to a point and then rub the outside down to a flat taper with a nail board. There.

    Decide what kind of metal fixing you'd like to add. Small swivels are nice, but probably too heavy for small floats and rig rings are good. You can buy these cheap on ebay and they are fine for this purpose. Put the 'attachment' over the 'tang' and fold the 'tang' back over the quill, around a piece of cane placed against the cut. This ensures a round bend. If you're happy with the overall position and bend etc., put water proof cyanoacrylate on the rear surface, bend the tang over and clamp it flat unit it's set. If you've used you fingers, peel the skin off later.

    Keratin is tough stuff, but I glue a short pieces of old dyneema braid around the outside of the 'bend' and then whip over the whole thing as for a metal eye and then put thinned varnish over the whipping, ensure I get inside the 'eye' and the reinforcing braid, then hang it up to dry.

  • Glued-in eyes
  • On cane stems, a 1mm hole bored in the end can be used to set a neat eye. Take one's alasticum wire, wind it twice around the needle of the right thickness and then twist the ends with a pair of pliers until you have about 1cm of tightly twisted wire and a very neat eye indeed. Trim the twisted section of with cutters, apply liberal waterproof cyanoacrylate and put in the hole, so the eye is right against the end of the cane. Allow to dry and then varnish as ever...

    This also works well with brass wire.

  • Porcupine antenna and insert floats
  • This can be a tad awkward to get right the first time or two. First pick your insert cane. You then need to decide where to cut your porcy quill. I go for the point where the cross section is about 1-1.5mm greater that of the cane. I then cut the quill at this point. I have two methods for doing this without splintering the quill, the first is to use a knife edge jeweller's file and cut around the quill with it until the tip start to come away, or to roll the quill on the bench with the VSSK pressed onto the top surface, until it cut's through. Don't press too hard...

    I then put a drill bit in a pin-vice, which is the same nominal diameters as the cane, for 1mm cane, a 1mm drill...I run that into the body, it can be awkward to get it exactly centred, however when I've got a cm (for 1mm) to 2cm (for 2mm) into the body, I offer up my cane and mark the cane where it enters the quill with a pencil to ensure its all the way in (bear with me).you may have to fettle a bit to get it straight and central.

    Put water-proof Loctite on the cane to the pencil mark and quickly insert it into the porcy to the pencil mark. If you hesitate the glue will key and you'll have to figure out what to do next yourself. At this point if you don't like the angle of the cane you can steam it and bend it. Then, assuming you've dried your steam cane on a warm radiator, it's the usual thinned varnish and so on.

    I've got a number of these, the most useful of which have long thin antennae, which make very good lift floats for crucian fishing.

    To do the same for regular quills is kind of easier (easier to make the hole) and kind of harder (as the hole opens up past the very tip, so there's not much support for the cane insert. I've done a couple and they work fine, but I'm not completely mad about them. I plan to make some cane tips that are about 3mm diameter for seagull quill floats. I'll post those when I make them.

  • Porcupine quill floats with bird quill tips.
  • Why? Why not - this give a little more buoyancy to the tip, so handy in a bit of a chop of current as well as allowing you to put a translucent tip on a porcy. And they look nice.

    Pick out your pocry's. Select bird quills that have the length of tip you need and with a diameter that will fit over the quill. I do this by eye and sort out later. Cut off the bird quill top, using a jeweller's knife file, working around the quill until you are through. Pull out the inner bit of the quill tip, which is best accomplished with an old baiting needle. Then offer it to the porcy and see if it slips down to the right point, more or less. At this time, you might take a look at the alignment of the tip, most porcy's have a slight curve and rotating the tip until it looks 'just right' is worth doing. Then with the tip of the porcy, steam the quill tip until it's warm and ease it very gentle a little further up the porcy. Be careful not to split it, the idea here is to use the softened quill and a little pressure to get an exactly round fit on the porcy.

    When this is done, the alignment if right, dry it and where the quill tip reaches on the procy and also mark the orientation. a pencil or fine line indelible pen are fine for this. Then you remove the tip and cut the end of the porcy, leaving enough porcy for a 1cm joint. Put a smear of waterproof superglue on the cut tip of the porcy to seal it, then put more glue on the 1cm section and orientating the tip to the right alignment slip it quickly on to the pencil mark. See why we mark the alignment and distance first now?

    There are two more things to do. The first is to rub the edge of the bird quill tip down a tad - the second is to colour the tip as you like, as you would for an quill float.

    These float behave better in undertow or a slight ripple, but also are better for casting, the light tip tends to 'follow' the heavier body on a long cast, so the big problem with porcys, that they go 'end-over-end' on casting and tangle, goes away. And they look nice. Have I mentioned that?

  • The easiest pike float you'll ever make
  • Take one champagne cork popHaving previously taken one bottle champagne (or similar), opened, drunk contents, searched for cork fired impressively into space, found said cork and trousered it. .

    Drill a 2.5mm hole through the middle. Glue, using waterproof cyanoacrylate, a biro refill (cleaned - try nail varnish remover and tiny pieces of kitchen roll shoved through with a thin piece of carbon float stem foxwhich can usually be found at the windward end of any commercial fishery under a slightly foxed pole float ) through the middle. With the VSSK cut the refill off flush with the top and bottom of the cork. Seal the cork with thinned varnish and give it one more coat of 'full strength'. Paint one half some colour you like. Red, fluorescent orange, a stencil of Jessica Rabbit, etc. Ensure any trade marks or logos are left visible especially if it was a very expensive bottle - there's no point in hiding that it's a champagne cork is there? If you like, put a black band around the bottom of the coloured half with a black permanent marker. Catch pike using float. Feel slightly pleased with oneself. All done.

  • Second easiest pike float you'll ever make
  • Take a wine bottle cork. Make a slit with a very sharp knife across one end and cut about halfway down the cork. Do this by putting the cork on a hard surface and cutting towards said surface...blood lubricates the blade wonderfully well making the cork easier to cut, but for myself I prefer a little water on the blade.

    Stick line into the slit through the cork and fish for pike with it...

  • Barry's Stret Peggers
  • Some very big stret-pegging quills made as a quid pro quo (...Clarice) for Barry who made a spacer for my 'Harlow' 'pin.

    Barry's Stret-peggersBarry's Stret-peggers
    The quills (about 10'', goose primaries)...1
    Barry's Stret-peggersBarry's Stret-peggers
    Bottom eyes, tacked on with cyranoacrylate...2
    Barry's Stret-peggersBarry's Stret-peggers
    Tips in progress - flourecent pink over the bare quill. You can see pencil marks, but those'll be covered with black thread....3
    Barry's Stret-peggersBarry's Stret-peggers
    One of the side-eyes, glued with waterproof cyranoacrylate then whipped on....4
    Barry's Stret-peggersBarry's Stret-peggers
    One side-eye whipped on...5
    Barry's Stret-peggersBarry's Stret-peggers
    Almost done...6
    Barry's Stret-peggersBarry's Stret-peggers
    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...

  • Crucian Lifters
  • Jolly pleased was I when made these and stupendously effective they are. Even if all I did was re-invent the 'Stillwater Blue".

  • Loading Floats
  • I have made the odd self and semi-cocker using (1)copper foil, (2)solder wire and (3)brass rod. I'll add some detail when I get a round tuit.

  • Porcupine Quill Floats
  • The Porcupine Quill FloatLiterally hundreds of small perch, dozens of roach, rudd and eels plus a few flounders, brown trout and sea-trout
    The Porcupine Quill Float Insert procupine quills, mostly tooth-picks and cocktail sticks The Porcupine Quill Float The whipped-tipped porcys - an idea, but never fished with The Porcupine Quill Float A bunch of unnecessary floats, my favourite is the one at the bottom.
    The Porcupine Quill Float 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. The Porcupine Quill Float New technology, old technology. You can have both. It's not a zero-sum situation.
  • JAA's fluted Avons
  • 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...

    the JAA Flute 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.

    Fluted Avons These are the naked assembled flutes, glued together with stems glued in as well. Fluted Avons A whole bunch of them stuck in foam waiting for their base colour to dry. Fluted Avons The five sizes, all finished, with a Beglow for comparison.
    Fluted Avons The eye whipped on one of the floats. Fluted Avons The whipping up the stem, which serves no actual useful purpose... Fluted Avons 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.

    Beglow The stem end Beglow The tip end Beglow The whole thing
    BeglowThe 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.

  • Cork-Ball bobbers
  • I'll pop some pictures of 'the making of' later, but 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 of 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 white matt paint with colours over the top.

    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-tail' 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 as well as a complete lack of concern for losses.

    Cork-ball floats The surfeit of riches that are the cork-ball floats in my float tube. The numbers correspond to the list below.
    1. These are the longest pattern I've made with 2 x 8mm cork balls. They're a shade too long for best all round use and need a little weight on the base of the stem, you can see solder wire on some of them. The pink colour is florescent marker-pen over white paint, varnished over.
    2. These with 3 x 8mm cork balls are modelled on the proportions of a roach float made by Richard Walker. They're very effective.
    3. These with 2 x 8mm cork balls are also modelled on the proportions of a roach float made by Richard Walker, also effective stable floats.
    4. These are the most all-round useful size, being just cocked and set with the mini-swivel I use for float attachment. Note the black-edged white bands on the tip, the most useful colour pattern for visibility I've tried.
    5. These short floats have a striped tip and an eye made with a cut-off swivel and a peice of silicone rubber, all waterproof super-glued. They're designed for crucian fishing at close range and are fished with the top 1-1.5cm out of the water to register lift or sink bites.
    6. As for the previous type, but no eye, just top-and-bottom rubber.
    7. Neither of these marked actually worked well. The weight required to 'cock' them at all, sunk them, whereas any weight which 'cocked' them without sinking, left the float at an angle in the water. These will get cut down to make one of the other patterns. Notice the orange and yellow flouro banding, ridiculously visible. If naff.
    I like porcupine quill floats...I like porcupine quill floats...(and back to the top of the page) I like porcupine quill floats...I really like porcupine quill floats... I like porcupine quill floats...I really like porcupine quill floats...
  • Some floats I've made.
  • I'm still building and shaping this page and havn't got here yet. The idea is that I'll post pictures of floats I've made, which are not mentioned above. Seems simple enough.

    I like porcupine quill floats...I like porcupine quill floats...(and back to the top of the page) I like porcupine quill floats...I really like porcupine quill floats... I like porcupine quill floats...I really like porcupine quill floats...
    03:06pm on 2018-01-16 JAA