Next step is choosing a stem to match the float. I like to use
quills as well as cane. I have been lucky with my quills as I know
several gamekeepers on local neighboring estates, however, you do
find a lot whilst walking the river bank.
The cane I use is recycled from food products, Most skewers are made
from bamboo, but over the years I've managed to collect a number of
proper cane skewers.
A restaurant supply store is a great place to find bamboo skewers.
Once the appropriate stem is found it is cut to size then glued in
place & allowed to set.
This is where the float really starts to take shape. By adding silk
whipping, a technique that you will have to master. With time
& practice, you will learn to whip neatly and hide all thread tag
ends. By experimenting, you can create very unique visual whippings
on a float.
This technique was originally designed to bind & secure the float
together before the days of glue. Once the whipping is in place I
always paint a white undercoat before applying the top coat of
fluorescent colour, This enhances the final colour's vibrancy, in my
This is probably my least favorite part of creating floats as a
steady hand is required and I'm no artist. I prefer to paint
freehand than use any dipping methods or other ways of applying the
paint. I have tried various methods used in books and recommended by
other makers but always come back to freehand.
I use 3 fluorescent colours for my float tips, red, orange & yellow.
The picture shows the painted float along with others being painted
in my polystyrene drying ring which I procured from my wife's craft
I prefer to use a waterbased lacquer which has a
10% sheen rather than a marine varnish, for a number of reasons:
Water based results in easier brush cleaning, no
lacquers/thinners smell or mess to deal with.
It doesn't cloud the true texture & colour of the float as some
varnishes do even though they are meant to be clear
If a mistake is made, it can be easily wiped off,
unlike varnish which sticks to everything.
It is more durable than varnish and doesn't peel or flake after a
few seasons of continuous use.
The 10% sheen of the lacquer doesn't make the float shiny like
marine varnish does.
All of my floats are given an average of seven coats of
lacquer with 12 - 24 hours drying time between coats, The lacquer is
normally dry in 3 to 4 hours, but I prefer to leave it dry longer
due to building floats in my spare time after work.