How Do I Make Balsa Fishing Floats?

How Do I Make Balsa Fishing Floats?
Balsa is a tropical tree that has exceptionally soft and lightweight wood. Since balsa is buoyant and easy to work with, it's often used for fishing floats. According to, floats are the most popular way to fish, since they present your bait at the proper depth and make it easy to see a bite.

Skilled float makers consider the water movement and depth, fish behavior, wind patterns, bait used and casting distance before shaping their floats. Although float designs can vary based on these parameters, most balsa floats have a cigar or pacemaker shape. Pacemaker patterns are cigar-shaped with a narrow neck at one end.


Difficulty: Moderate

Shaping Balsa Floats

Things You’ll Need:
  • 4-inch-wide by 4-inch-high by 36-inch-long balsa wood block
  • Ruler
  • Fine-tip marker
  • Utility knife
  • 1/8-inch drill rod
  • Lathe
  • Wood chisel
  • 80-, 150- and 320-grit sandpaper
  • Bamboo stems
  • Waterproof glue
  • Wood stain
  • White primer
  • Fluorescent paint
  • Urethane or polyurethane clear coat
Step 1
Size the block. Layout and cut the block into 1-inch-square by 36-inch-long sections with your ruler, marker and utility knife. Layout and cut the 1-inch-square sections into the lengths you want your floats.
Step 2
Turn the block. Carefully push your 1/8-inch drill rod through the center (lengthwise) of one of your sized blocks and insert the ends into the chucks of your lathe. Turn on the lathe and use your chisel to round off the edges of your block.
Step 3
Sand the block. As your block continues to rotate, switch to 80-grit sandpaper and use it to trim the block down to your desired shape. Switch to 150-grit sandpaper to reduce the roughness and smooth it out with 320-grit sandpaper. Turn off the lathe and remove your shaped block.
Step 4
Glue the Block. Carefully pull the 1/8-inch drill rod out of your shaped block and squeeze some waterproof glue into the hole it left. Insert a bamboo stem into the hole and push it through the other side. Set your float aside to dry.
Step 5
Paint the block. Hold your float by the stem and dip it into your wood stain, and then hang it upside down to dry. Dip the top of the float into your primer and re-hang it until it's dry. When it's ready, dip the top again in your fluorescent paint and hang it up to dry.

Finish by dipping the bottom of your float in a urethane or polyurethane clear coat to seal the bamboo. Hang it up one more time until it drip dries.

Tips & Warnings

Stick the bamboo stem of your floats into a Styrofoam sheet that's suspended over a box to hang these up for drying.
Get a dust collection system to keep fine balsa particles from entering your lungs and spreading around the house.

Article Written By Dan Eash

Dan Eash began writing professionally in 1989, with articles in LaHabra's "Daily Star Progress" and the "Fullerton College Magazine." Since then, he's created scripts for doctor and dentist offices and published manuals, help files and a training video. His freelance efforts also include a book. Eash has a Fullerton College Associate of Arts in music/recording production and a Nova Institute multimedia production certificate.

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