sambennett

Weighting A Slim Bait

13 posts in this topic

Hi All-

I've been lurking around for a bit, searching and reading. Y'all have put some great resources up here, much appreciated.

I'm having some trouble when drilling weight holes into balsa on a slim bait. I've been carving silent rattle traps (read: traps without the rattles) and when I got to drill the holes for the weights they're busting out on me.

I drill a pilot hole to try and get the drill to run straight, but it still seems to wander. I don't have a drill press, but an clamping the body in and hand-drilling down.

I think the main problem is the size of the hole I'm drilling. In order to get enough weight I have to drill a fairly large diameter hole. I've tried taping the baits and drilling really slowly with litle success. I'm still busting out 50% of the baits I carve.

Is balsa just this difficult to drill or is there something I'm missing? Do you think a hand-drill would give better control? I don't have one and haven't been able to try that out.

Thanks,

Sam

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I'm having some trouble when drilling weight holes into balsa on a slim bait. I've been carving silent rattle traps (read: traps without the rattles) and when I got to drill the holes for the weights they're busting out on me.

I drill a pilot hole to try and get the drill to run straight, but it still seems to wander. I don't have a drill press, but an clamping the body in and hand-drilling down.

I think the main problem is the size of the hole I'm drilling. In order to get enough weight I have to drill a fairly large diameter hole. I've tried taping the baits and drilling really slowly with litle success. I'm still busting out 50% of the baits I carve.

Is balsa just this difficult to drill or is there something I'm missing? Do you think a hand-drill would give better control? I don't have one and haven't been able to try that out.

I suspect that you are using model aircraft standard balsa. This is extremely light and a pig to drill and is prone to tearing. You could do with finding a heavier/denser balsa next time.

Have you tried starting with 3/32" diameter drill bit, then gradually increase the diameter. But even this method is going to tear up the start of the hole and will require some filling. an adendum to this method is to 'burn' the holes in, by deliberately using a very blunt drill at high speed.

Another way is to establish the hole with a miniature router bit in a dremel. I think it was Lapala that put me onto this idea and it at least keeps the start tidy.

If I am hand carving/shaping a body, I always drill the holes as early in the process as possible, even before shaping the profile. The drilling and lip cutting operations are the high risk operations and I like to get them done as soon as possible, so that I can relax and try to enjoy the shaping process without stressing.

Hope these ideas help you out.

Dave

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I've only recently started building a few balsa baits, but I've been using a set of burrs in my Dremel to drill holes and have not experienced the tear out your talking about. The set of burrs I have come in a variety of shapes and sizes and don't have the aggressive cut of a drill bit. I usually start my hole with one of the cone shaped burrs and then switch to either a ball or barrel shaped burr to finish. I've also been sealing the balsa with super glue which makes the surface quite hard and resistant to tear out.

hope this helps,

Ben

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I would say that Dave is spot on on his diagnosis. Soft aircraft balsa is a pain to work with, good for flying things not good for swimming things that will be eaten. A high quality forstener bit of brad point bit will help but will still tear out when the bit gets clogged with debris. Even if you are succesful with getting a bait to finish it will not last as the balsa you are using does not have the strength to last thru the vigors of fishing. Best thing to do is get some medium density balsa and give that a try!

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Thanks to both of you. I have tried starting smaller and working my way up. It's still hit and miss. I think I may start to drill first, shape later. It's a bummer when you get one perfectly shaped only to have it bust out.

I'm using cheap balsa, it's whatever was available at Hobby Lobby. I wanted to make sure I can get a good swimmer before I invest any time hunting down the final materials. I saw a thread last week on molding hard plastic baits from a blank. I think that's where I'll end up, although the weights will be different, etc.

Working on refining my profile in cheap material first. Anyone make molds from balsa? Anything in particular I should watch out for?

-Sam

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Anyone make molds from balsa? Anything in particular I should watch out for?

You are going about learning the craft the right way, learning to make the lure and get it to swim properly before moving on to the next stage.

Something that an experienced TU user often writes is this, "all woods are cheap compared to the time that you invest in a lure". Compared with other woods, balsa is more expensive. It is just convenient in the sizes that you can buy and effort required to work it.

You can mold balsa bodies, or any other material for that matter. You just need to seal the wood and get a nice surface finish. Don't even think about plaster of paris, go straight in with RTV.

Dave

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Thanks All-

I think a move to a more dense wood may be the best course of action. I liked the light balsa because it carves like butter, but unfortunately, it also drills like butter. I may either try some higher grade balsa or pick up some basswood. What do you suggest? I've got another dozen or so lipless blanks and will play around with some of the techniques suggested. Wish I hadn't spent the time meticulously rounding the bottoms of those baits now, but I got a nice lesson out of it. Laying out the order in which you work is more important than I had expected.

Some of my bigger baits are ready to be sealed and swim tested. I am really pleased with the results so far, but have to see how they swim. Those are all single wired, because they were big enough for me to figure out how to fit weights, wire, and the bill into the body. I'm working on some F5-ish floaters and having a heck of a time figuring out how to get everything to fit. They're really small! My plan is to cut a little notch in the body end of the bill so the wire can run down the middle of it. Then I'd use sheet lead as ballast down the middle. None of the stores I've checked sell sheet lead - do you guys buy it online?

As for molding - I read an RTV thread the other day and I'm sold. Once I get a good swimmer I'm going to give it a shot.

I've got a handful of plastic bodies coming in the mail so I can practice my painting. Do you seal those before priming? If so is E-tex a good way to go for plastic?

Cheers,

Sam

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Then I'd use sheet lead as ballast down the middle. None of the stores I've checked sell sheet lead - do you guys buy it online?

Check out your local builders yard. The lead sheat is sold in rolls about 6" wide, for roofing jobs.

Dave

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Check out your local builders yard. The lead sheat is sold in rolls about 6" wide, for roofing jobs.

Dave

It was impossible for me to find lead sheet in shops when I needed such material some years ago. So I had to make my own. I just poured the molten lead on a smooth, hard surface, trying to make a line when pouring. The resulting lead was about 2.5 - 3 mm thick. Cut it out with scissors, or tin snips, then with a hammer I reduced the thickness of the small piece of sheet to the needed one. Quite simple, and you have the advantage of being able to make any thickness you want.

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I have seen that video - I based my first attempts at wire construction on his method. The other thing I learned from the video is that he's really good at carving wood and makes it look quite easy. Takes me a tad longer to get my blanks built.

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It's common for guys trying balsa for the first time to buy wood that's intended for model aircraft or other projects where a very light balsa is a plus. I did the same thing and ended up with a box of "competition balsa" a few years ago. Waste not, want not - I've been building crankbaits from the stuff for several years. When it's gone, I'll order some medium or high density balsa. Balsa has a density from 6 to 18 lbs/cu ft. Competition balsa is the very light stuff; you want to be in the 12-18 lb/cu ft density range for crankbaits. It is possible to use low density balsa but you need to take pains to reinforce it more than would be required on most baits. In other words, it's sort of a pain in the butt. But the resulting baits have tons of buoyancy, a definite plus in a bait designed for fishing shallow heavy cover. It's why balsa crankbaits exist!

Here's how I use light balsa and get away with it:

Mark a center line on the top and bottom of the bait before you start shaping and sanding, and don't sand it away! After sanding the blanks, split them along the center line with a razor blade and fit in a through-wire frame for the line tie and hook hangers, then glue the halves of the bait together with 5 minute epoxy. You can also glue in the belly ballast at the same time so it is entirely concealed. The wire frame and epoxy give the bait a solid, durable "backbone". Then apply 2 coats of slow cure (in my case, Devcon Two Ton) epoxy thinned with a little denatured alcohol so that it soaks into the exterior surface for a good bond, sanding smooth between the coats. After painting and a topcoat of Devcon Two Ton, the baits are very fishable. But like all balsa baits, you can break one if you slap the water with it to clear weeds off the trebles. Otherwise, they wear about as well as balsa baits made from higher density balsa.

BTW, I've had best luck drilling ballast holes in balsa with a Dremel steel shaping cylinder bit chucked in a Dremel rotary tool. No surface tear-out at all due to the very high speed. Dremel shaping cylinders have shallow grooves on top that allow them to do double duty as a high speed drill bit in wood. It's not a recommended use by Dremel, so take it for what it's worth and here's one caution: When used as a drill bit, the cylinder will not expel dust like a regular drill bit, so you need to pause and tap the dust out a few times while drilling a ballast hole. It also helps to give the bit a little circular wiggle while it goes down into the wood, to create a little free space for the dust to accumulate safely. If you do neither, the dust can build up in the hole and make the bit stick at 20K rpm, which will pretty much destroy your crankbait, no matter what kind of wood you're using. Like I say, it's not something the shaping cylinders are designed for, but it works.

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All the above is great info. One other possibility is that if the bait is so slim you are having a hard time, you could drill the ballast hole sideways into the bait, so that your hole runs right to left instead of up. This would mean 2 holes to cover, but should help to avoid the tearout.

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