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DIY Balsa Poppers #4167921 11/19/09 04:18 PM
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Pogo Offline OP
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Ever since posting these to the TKF fly forum I've received lotsa how-do-you-do-it email on these balsawood poppers. So here's an attempt at an informal pictorial from a challenged photographer. Thing to keep in mind as you look this over is that balsa is exceedingly soft; instead of the usual 14 million saw- or sanding strokes required for, say, walnut or maple, we're talking maybe two or three. Balsa is soft, very soft. Not quite instant gratification, but closest you'll ever get and still be a woodworker.

Hobby Lobby/Michael's/et al and Ace Hardware/et al sometimes carry a small selection of balsa, but it's best to go to a "real" hobby shop that caters to the R/C model enthusiast, where you'll also find appropriate tools and supplies for dealing with it (see below). And so without further ado, here's...

Step 1: Cut a slab off the end of the balsa "board" (mine are 3/8" thick x 4" wide x 36" long, about $5 maybe?) a little longer than your desired pencil popper length. I sand sloping edges to smooth up the end grain and to make cutting the hook channel easier.



Below: behold the Zona razor saw and miter box, they come together in a single combo package from the hobby shop, a fine investment for anyone who habitually fiddles around with silly little stuff like this. Here, I have sawn a groove for the hook shank, then sawed the popper blank off the slab. Note how those sloped edges make judging the depth of the hook groove easier. The miter box makes cutting the hook channel much more accurate than doing 'er freehand.



Next, the excess is sawed off the top to create the rough profile.



Razor saw note: lots of beginners have trouble with these things being so grabby it's almost impossible to get anything done with 'em at all. The answer every daggum time is too much pressure. Lighten up, then lighten up some more. Lighten up so much you're not even sure you're touching the wood and see what happens. Did I mention that balsa is soft?

Below, profile's smoothed up using a small sanding block made up from a piece of thin wood (like a wooden paint stir paddle perhaps), sandpaper of choice, and spray adhesive, glue stick, whatever (mine are actually made with scrap and sticky-back sanding discs). Stick sandpaper to wood backer, trim with box cutter, voila: easy and instant sanding stick or block.



Then the shape as seen from the top is formed with sandpaper. Okay, so this is the bottom view, you get the idea. These are the basic steps in any carving: cut a block to the basic dimensions the finished doo-dad shall occupy, then cut out the side view shape, then the top view shape ... and then start carving the shapy-shape from there. This keeps everything in proportion and just helps guide you in general.



Below, the top corners are knocked off to form chamfers. This is how woodworkers create perfectly consistent round-overs when routers with round-over bits aren't applicable. Chamfers. They're easy to eyeball straight, true, and properly sized. Once you've laid down a good-looking chamfer, knocking off the edges to make a radius is easy. Skip the chamfer step and you'll get wavy, inconsistent round-overs that make you seasick.



The post is continued here: http://www.newtexasflyreport.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=114


"I Get There Eventually" -- The Paddler's General All-Purpose Motto
Re: DIY Balsa Poppers [Re: Pogo] #4167960 11/19/09 04:31 PM
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wow, those are sick i really like the ones with the hackle!

Re: DIY Balsa Poppers [Re: vhs07] #4168010 11/19/09 04:46 PM
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Ooh wee baby that is the good stuff right there!


"have fun with this stuff"
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Re: DIY Balsa Poppers [Re: rrhyne56] #4168274 11/19/09 06:17 PM
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That is really neat, thanks for the post. One question, have you ever used bass wood instead of balsa wood?

Re: DIY Balsa Poppers [Re: 336] #4168443 11/19/09 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted By: kd5gje
That is really neat, thanks for the post. One question, have you ever used bass wood instead of balsa wood?

I have used bass wood for making plugs, it is too heavy for fly casting (unless you make little bitty poppers)

Re: DIY Balsa Poppers [Re: Bass Bug] #4168873 11/19/09 09:12 PM
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Pogo Offline OP
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If you use basswood, then they won't be as 'sick'. eeks

Um, seriously .... I'm a professional woodworker, and will start lecturing on selecting the right wood for the job if you don't watch out. Balsa is best for easiest workability, lightest weight (as mentioned, preferable for casting), and highest bouyancy. I believe western red cedar would be my second choice if balsa weren't available, then basswood.

Last edited by Pogo; 11/19/09 09:13 PM.

"I Get There Eventually" -- The Paddler's General All-Purpose Motto
Re: DIY Balsa Poppers [Re: Pogo] #4168942 11/19/09 09:35 PM
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OK, thanks for the input guys. I thought about trying this before too long but since you had mentioned the softness of balsa I was just trying to get yall's input on something that would be a little more durable.

Re: DIY Balsa Poppers [Re: 336] #4169799 11/20/09 01:34 AM
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those flies are outrageous...I LOVE THEM!!


The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the Constitution." Thomas Jefferson

You Don’t Love Something You Want to ‘Fundamentally Transform’ Mark Levin





Re: DIY Balsa Poppers [Re: kelkay] #4169918 11/20/09 02:06 AM
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Impressive.


FISH ON!!! ummmmm off
Re: DIY Balsa Poppers [Re: Pogo] #4171294 11/20/09 03:26 PM
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So pogo instead of a piece of sandpaper you think a dremel tool would work the wood nicely, or would it take too much off, too fast?




It's more than the catfish would do.
Re: DIY Balsa Poppers [Re: derik d] #4171853 11/20/09 05:43 PM
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derik d, I use the Dremel tool with a HSS 5/16" dia. round-end burr cutter to make the hollows for the popper faces, and that's it. Balsa is so soft you really don't want or need to apply power tools to it. But then, your mileage may vary, never any reason why not try and see for your own self. Well actually, I've found another use for it: I've dug out my old Dremel drill press, stuck an old Dremel tool in it, now using the rig to drill perfect holes for adding legs to the pops. I had been using a pin vise and drilling the holes by hand, but it tended to slip and the holes got sloppy. So....

....Here are a couple more pics of the newest batch coming off the bench. I haven't tied any flies all summer, just settling back in at the bench for the winter season. The first one shows a definite trend towards getting a leg up on the action. Long rubber buggy leggy flies were the ticket on the S. Llano last October. Smallest are on no. 12 hooks, largest on 4's. I mainly cast 3 and 4 wt on freshwater.



And here's a random view of my work area:



For me, the hardest part of making these guys is being creative and conjuring up fresh color and tail ideas. It would probably help a bunch if I'd get out and fish more often.....

By the way, I like having really brightly colored faced on these guys so I can SEE 'em easy as possible. One of the super fun things about fishing poppers is putting the action on 'em, and it really helps to be able to see your bug clearly. Nothing like landing a good popper perfectly, right *on* the bank, and then chugging out to sea as obnoxiously as possible with it. If there's a bass hanging there, he ain't sittin' still for much of that, and you're in for a treat! BOOM!!


"I Get There Eventually" -- The Paddler's General All-Purpose Motto
Re: DIY Balsa Poppers [Re: Pogo] #4171861 11/20/09 05:47 PM
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kelkay Offline
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those two on the white board on the far right are cool looking too...what is the tail made out of in the lighter one? pearl web can make a good tail for poppers, I am going to get some...it is a dollar a package


The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the Constitution." Thomas Jefferson

You Don’t Love Something You Want to ‘Fundamentally Transform’ Mark Levin





Re: DIY Balsa Poppers [Re: kelkay] #4172161 11/20/09 07:08 PM
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kelkay, that's some sorta peacock-y jade/teal/turquoise color flashabou I picked up in a grab bag at some show or another, kind of has a shredded look to it. But basically, just flashabou.

What's pearl web? I'm for anything having to do with pearl. In fact, that fly you're looking at, a menhaden-inspired diver thing, is finshed off in a pearly-clear micro-glitter fingernail polish that's really cool. One coat gives just the faintest hint of a pearly tone, and six or so yields a definite "pearlescence", so you get a lot of control over it.

Fingernail polish is a lot of fun to play around with, except for the fumes. Whew! Also fun to linger over the selection at Sally Beauty Supply and make all the gals in there nervous.... cyclop


"I Get There Eventually" -- The Paddler's General All-Purpose Motto
Re: DIY Balsa Poppers [Re: Pogo] #4172187 11/20/09 07:15 PM
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Oh, and speaking of tails on poppers .... you know those spun deer hair tails on the classic VIP Popper? There's a reason for that. Capt Scott Sparrow, the originator of the fly, says it acts as a drift anchor of sorts. That when a redfish in shallow water approaches a popper with evil intent, the bow wake off his forehead often shove the fly away from him, so that the harder he tries to attack, the more he pushes the fly away from him. So the spun hair tail is there to put lots of fibers in the water to introduce drag.... How 'bout that?



(The big yellow VIP Popper at top of photo is a Capt Sparrow original.)

Last edited by Pogo; 11/21/09 12:21 AM.

"I Get There Eventually" -- The Paddler's General All-Purpose Motto
Re: DIY Balsa Poppers [Re: Pogo] #4172194 11/20/09 07:17 PM
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pearl web is from fly tyer's dungeon...it comes in different colors


The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the Constitution." Thomas Jefferson

You Don’t Love Something You Want to ‘Fundamentally Transform’ Mark Levin





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