Floats are a very effective piece of fishing equipment that serve both to suspend the bait at a predetermined depth and to indicate to the angler when a fish strikes the bait. By making your own floats from balsa wood, you can make sure that you will have them in the right size, shape and colour for whatever fishing conditions you encounter.
Decide the size and shape of the float you want to make. Get recommendations on size and shapes from experts in your area and browse fishing tackle catalogues. You may also use a favourite float that you have used in the past as a model.
Select a piece of balsa wood that is slightly larger than the float you will be making. A balsa dowel rod often makes the turning process go a little easier and quicker than when a block of wood is used. Mount the balsa wood in the lathe and turn it, using coarse sandpaper to shape the wood to the approximate planned shape of your float body.
Cut a bamboo skewer to a length of six inches for the stem of the float. Drill a 13mm (1/2") hole in the bottom of the float body. Place some hot melt glue into the hole and insert the skewer. Allow it to dry.
Place the float back into the lathe. Begin turning the float to its final shape by starting at the top, referred to as the tip or antenna, and then working your way down to the bamboo stem. The body in the middle should have a teardrop shape. Start your turning work with coarse sandpaper for shaping, and finish with a fine grit to get a smooth surface.
Paint the tip of the float in the colour of your choice. Many fishermen prefer colours like fluorescent orange or green to give the float the best visibility, and adding a stripe of black or white around the middle may help you detect strikes better. While most float makers feel that painting the tip is necessary, it is up to you whether you want to paint the float body.
Brush on several light coats of polyurethane sealant to the entire float. After each coat dries and before adding another, sand the float a little with some fine grit sandpaper. Allow it to dry and the float is finished.