Introduction: Awesome Fishing Float From Elderberry Wood

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Introduction. Why you should make this fishing float and use it:

Fishing for pike in winter with dead baits requires some sort of bite indicator. I like using floats instead of electronic alarms for its visual aspect and the ability to drift along the holding area, fishing over weedbeds , debris and steep slopes. I am convinced that using some type a float will get you more bites and it is old school! There are several more advantages for using floats above other fishing methods but the main downfall of using floats is the reason I chose to make my own. Most fishing floats break easily. Not this one, it's virtually foolproof. Go check it out!

You need:

Dry elderberry wood (dutch: vlier) (latin: Sambucus Nigra). Pine wood or wooden dowels
Small saw, knife, sand paper, pliers
Small eyelets or stainless safety pins
Glue (epoxy), lacquer, brightly coloured spray paint or fluorescent nail polish, correction fluid

Step 1: Collecting the Material

Collecting material for the main body.

Elderberry wood or Sambucus Nigra (love the name) is not really a tree, it's more a type of shrub or bush with some interesting qualities. It can be found almost anywhere and might be best known for its berries it produces in late summer. The wood itself is light, doesn't splinter and is quite resiliant. The younger stalks start out green and watery growing to a woodlen structure leaving a foamy or pulplike hollow interior. These properties make it an ideal float making material for me. I advise you to harvest the dead shoots in winter. There usually is more than enough dead stalks available so you don't need to cut the greens. The dead stalks don't have their bark anymore so it's esay to recognize them. Take home the straightests and strongest you can find. Interesting note:

You're likely to find a type of mushroom on the dead stalks named Jew's ear. (Auricularia auricula-judae) It's worth checking out. It's edible but please be careful to make sure that it's the right kind. That being said: A lot of moulds and fungi leave patterns in the wood called spaulting. It makes it look very interesting but I advice you to be careful while sanding and filing those parts of the wood. Wear a dust mask and you'll be fine.

Step 2: Making the Main Body

Your stalks should allready be bone dry, if not, leave it to dry. The floats I make are between 15 and 30 cm in length, 15 to 25 mm in diameter.
The innercore is a foamy pulp that can be removed but it is not necesarry. The wall thickness may vary so choose one with at least 1,5 mm in thickness.

Step 3: Making Plugs for the Holes

The holes in the top and bottom of the float needs to be plugged. I use some soft pine that I cut to length and right diameter, just eyeballing the right sizes using a sharp knive. Drill a small hole (1,5mm) through the centre for the eyelet used later on.

Step 4: Making Eyelets

The bottom plug needs some sort of an eyelet where your fishing line will be attached to. You can refer to it as an English style of sliding float. Buy the smallest you ones you can find (google: lurebuilding) or make these out of a safety pin. Go for the stainless or brass type.

Making these might take some pratice. Cut of the head first and bend the legs back over the eye, then you reverse the pliers and bend the legs forward sharply over the beak of the pliers forcing it to take a sharp angle. The legs should lie parallel now. Round nose pliers could make this job easier I think.

Step 5: Insert Eyelet and Glue Plugs to Main Body

You need to glue the plugs in place. I like using epoxy glue for this part. As an alternative you could used woodglue thickened with wood dust to make a water tight seal. Put your eyelet through the hole in the plug putting some epoxy on first. Bend the ends of the eyelet around the plug to make a secure fit. Trim of the ends and glue it in its place. Make sure no gaps are left. Leave it to set.

Step 6: Finishing

Round of the top and bottom with a file and sand paper. Sharp edges will damage more easily.
Choose your paint. You can use spray paint if you like. This time I went for a simple but good solution. Correction fluid and nail polish. Choose the brightest (fluorescent) and cheapest brand.

About colors:

The visibility of the colours hugely differ under the fishing circumstances. When faced with very direct sunlight or great distance you're better off painting the top of your float black. In low light conditions yellow is best visible. Orange is the best in most of the fishing circumstances. To greatly enhance this effect it's advisable to paint a few bands of white and black across the float. You can use correction fluid for this and a permanent marker.

In my float I started making the top white, yellow and then orange. The reason is that you make a reflective layer resulting in more vibrant colours thus making it more visible.

Laquer/ varnish:

A good coat of lacquer will help keeping your float sealed from the effects of water. I've used cheap brands that perform really well and expensive brands that would't last a season. Yacht lacquer is a good but expensive choice. PU based varnishes are easy because they dry very fast making it easier to give it several layers. Your float definitly needs at least three good coats. When you use yacht lacquer it's nice to dip the entire float in the lacquer and letting the remaining fluid drip off.


I must admit. These float are slightly heavier than balsa wood floats. When the first layer of lacquer is applied I go and test its buoyancy. I want to know what it needs to carry a weight to stand stable in the water and what it further needs to sink slowly. With a permanent marker I write it down somewhere on the float. In this case it needs 9 gram to stand stable in the water and another 9 grams to make it sink very slowly.

The float in this example has a total weight of 17 grams, measuring 17 cm in length and 16 mm in diameter including paint and laquer. After a short calculation I found out that it has a combined relative density of about 0,5 gram per cubic cm. For comparison, soft pine , being unpainted has a desity of 0,54 gram per cubic cm and balsa an astonishing 0,15! That being said, elderberry wood is harder and much more resiliant.

For my type of fishing I'd say say that buoyancy is not such a big deal. In fact, making the same float out balsa requires more than 3 times the weight in lead to make it stand. Only when you want to carry really large baits or live baits you should choose a type of float with a greater buoyancy. I'll post my dead baiting tactics somewhere in the future.

Hope you have enjoyed this instructable, please leave a comment if it was of any use to you.
Go catch a big one!