Introduction: Making a Hand-Carved Fishing Lure
With the holidays approaching fast, I kept racking my brain to come up with an idea for a Christmas present for my dad. He's the type of guy that's happy no matter what you get him, so every year it feels like I just get him something cool I find at Target, but this year I wanted to make a point of getting him something special. Since he's an avid fisherman and I'm in grad school for fluid mechanics, I had the idea to design and carve a fishing lure as his Christmas present.
At the time that I was making his present, I was living in a 1-bedroom apartment without access to nice machining equipment like a lathe and without a real workshop, so these instructions should prove to stick to pretty basic equipment and techniques that won't set you back a whole lot. Here's how I did it and hopefully I can also provide some advice on how to improve my process.
Step 1: Rough Carving
In this project I started from a block of basswood, which you should be able to buy at most hobby stores. Since it's one of my first carving projects, I wanted to choose a wood that was easy to carve and wouldn't take forever to whittle down to size. For actual fishing purposes, a hard wood like oak would probably be more resilient to repeated fish strikes (assuming your finished product is good enough to catch fish). The block of wood that I started with was something like 2" x 3" x 12" and turned out to be wayyyyy too big. The closer you start to the final dimensions, the easier the carving will prove to be.
Since the size, shape, and angle of the lip have a big effect on both the dive and the wobble of the lure (making the lure look like a fish swimming), I wanted to make sure to include this part in the carving portion rather than buy a pre-made lip to attach to a carved body. This actually turned out to be one of the bigger challenges in carving the lure.
I bought Flexcut carving knives on Amazon that seemed pretty highly rated and not horribly expensive and I figured that I'll be able to use these for a long time. I began the carving by shaping the head and front side of the lip first so that the rest of the design could follow from there. The back and belly are pretty easy because they're just very gradual, smooth shapes. Around the lip, using a dremel to cut out the sharp corners might turn out to be a quicker and better strategy.
Step 2: Finalize Initial Shape
During carving, I found it useful to use an existing lure from my tackle box for comparison. This helped me decide when it was time to stop carving and just try it out. Once I had the majority of the lure carved out, I just used a sheet of sandpaper to smooth out all of the uneven parts. Starting with a rough grit and then switching to a fine grit for one final pass helps to get a nice smooth finish.
The first thing I did once I had a finalized design was screw in eye screws so that I could hold the lure (either with pliers or hanging from a line) while I primed and painted it. First, I used a spray can primer I bought at Home Depot to coat the whole lure and help seal it. Now, being confident that getting the lure wet wouldn't harm it, I threw it in the sink and the bathtub to see if it floated and moved the way I wanted. On the first try, it turned out that the big lip forced the lure to flip on its side whenever placed in the water. So I carved it down some more and re-primed and I was ready for painting. I also found that it was important to have the hooks attached to tell if the lure would float right-side-up. The weight they provided at the bottom of the lure improved its stability quite a bit.
Step 3: Paint and Seal the Lure
Once the lure is primed, it's ready for painting. I used a set of acrylic paints from Amazon, which gave me a lot more flexibility in painting patterns than using spray paint. First, I laid down a background layer that fades from dark green on top to light green on the bottom. Once that layer dried, I added a black pattern on the side in order to look like a bass and red on the bottom to improve visibility of the lure. I also bought the eyes on amazon because I thought that would look nicer than painting them on.
Once the paint and eyes were attached, I hung the lure from a hook at one end and painted on some epoxy as a clear coat to completely seal the lure from any moisture. I searched around the internet and found that Devcon 2 Ton Epoxy came highly recommended for fishing lure top coats, so I just went with that one. Two coats were enough to create a nice, high-gloss sheen on the lure. Since I was pretty sure the epoxy would ruin whatever brush I used to paint on the epoxy, I just used some cheap acid brushes from Home Depot and threw them away when I was done.
Step 4: Go Fishing!
So after all of that work, the lure was finally ready to give to my dad. He loved it! The only problem that he found with the lure was that it turned out so nice that he's afraid to use it for actual fishing in case his line breaks.