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Help with swimbait making/carving

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Hello everyone, this is my first post on here, so I hope it goes well. I've started getting more into carving baits, and I have a few questions for those of you with experience. First off, I'd like to say that I truly admire some of the great talent that I've seen on this website! I hope to get better and improve my baits, and hopefully you guys can help me out. I've designed two lures in CAD already, and they have gone well so far. The first bait is a small ~5-6" swimbait. The second is a huge trout swimbait. As a newbie, I don't know how to weight the lures properly (where to place the weights, and what weights to even use), as well as where to place a joint for the most effective swimming action. Any insight on those two would be greatly appreciated. 

My large trout lure has unfortunately gotten damaged, from it dropping onto concrete floor. Part of the tail has broken off, so I epoxied it back on. I am wondering if this will be strong enough. Should I have done something different? Also, how thin do you typically carve the fins? I'm using basswood, and I don't want to make them so thin that they're too weak to stay intact (like the tail). I've left the other fins around 1/4" thick, am I able to make them smaller without issue? 

My other question is about carving the details (gills, fins, scales). I've tried just carving grooves with a knife, but I haven't been able to get the results I'm looking for. I've ordered a Flexcut detail carving kit, and I was wondering if this is the type of tools you guys use for your detailing. 

Below are pics of the trout. Thanks in advance for anyone willing to respond!

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IMG_3658.thumb.JPG.80972533cf593677ea0bb0d61cef4ccb.JPG

 

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This looks like a great start! I've got some experience with big swimbaits but I've got to admit that I mostly go by what feels right vs. the scientific approach.

Are you looking to have this as a 2 piece glide or a multi jointed swimbait? What style joint do you want to use? All have their place but a V-shaped joint with two twisted wires is pretty standard and simple, along with a flat cut joint or a pinned V-shaped joint. Generally it is much easier to cut the joint about 90% of the way when the wood is still flat/square and then you can carve after. Carving and cutting the lure before and then trying to cut a symmetrical and straight joint after is not as easy but can be done. 

Typically what I've found for the 2 piece glides is that you should weight the lure so that it falls slowly and completely level, and you want the hinge to be as free as possible so the back half falls at the same rate as the front half. This will give the least amount of resistance between the joints which will give for a smooth swim. You'll probably have to experiment a bit with the placement to get the perfect glide but a fish tank will help to see how it sits/sinks in the water.

Since the tail won't be bearing any load (the fish won't be pulling on it) epoxying the broken piece and sanding smooth is plenty fine, especially after you clear coat over the top of the paint. Your tail fin looks thin enough for a two piece glide. Below is a 10.5in shiner glide I made which you can see I didn't go very thin on the tail or fins at all.

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If you want a multi jointed swimmer then a hard tail will kill the action. You'll have to cast a soft one and glue/pin it in place.

For carving, I've used the flexcut knives and like them just fine. Just make sure you keep your blades sharp to make carving easy and safe. There are a dozen videos out there on carving so watch some of those for tips. Typically I'll score a line on the detail I want to carve straight down, and then I'll come back on a 45 ish degree angle and cut to the line I just scored to remove the material. 

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Thanks for the great tips! I think I will try to make it a two piece glide bait, and make the joint just in front of the top dorsal fin. The bait is still relatively flat on both sides, so hopefully I won't have a problem with cutting the v-joint. 

I also agree that testing in a fish tank would be helpful for weighting, but unfortunately my fish tank "broke" according to my mom. I'll have to go out and get a new one soon. When you test wood lures in the water while weighting, will it soak up water and will it be an issue? Also, what kind of weights do you use? I ordered some of the cylindrical weights with hook ties from jannsnetcraft, but I also have a lead melting pot and im wondering if I can use that for the weights. 

I'm interested in the soft tails. How do you make them? I assume with a mold and then the soft plastic but is there a simpler/cheaper way of doing that? The main reason is because although I'd like to make them, I would have to get more equipment and I'm really running out of space for all my tools/lures/wood/everything else. 

I was having a very hard time making the fins. Making the centerline was very challenging for me, because I had already cut out the fin profile. Is there an easier way of making a centerline? I tried using a block of wood that was half the height of the width of the bait, but it wasn't working well and the pencil wasn't lining up with it. Eventually I got a rough centerline, and cut down both sides of each fin with a Dremel. I assume it is possible to make the fins with just a carving knife, but I couldn't figure out how to do that.

For the hardware, what size of screw eyes and hooks should I be using? I find it difficult to order sizes because I'm not sure if they will be too big/not big enough. Although I did order an assortment of screw eyes so I should be fine in figuring out what size ill need, but I have no clue what size of treble hooks to get.

I haven't ordered any clear coat, because I have no idea what to buy. What brand do you recommend? All I think ill need is something that will be durable and look good? Im not even sure what to look for when buying them. Anything regarding this would help.

Thank you again for helping me out and responding!

 

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I see what you mean by cutting the joint out before carving/shaping. I have no clue how im going to cut this bait... Not really sure what to do now, because I don't want to have wasted all my time carving and shaping. Also, where I was going to put a joint (directly in front of the dorsal fin), isn't in the center of the bait. It's too far forward. Im not sure how to save this bait now. any tips would help

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Let's try to address one thing at a time here:

1. You can cut the joint to go through the fin. It will look okay and should still work.

2. Since the bait is already carved, I would cut a straight joint like a Bucca Bullshad:

Mike Bucca Bull Shad 2 Knocker Slow Sinking Swimbait – Harpeth ...

You can then either pin the hardware or have a double hook eyes/loops to form the connections.

3. You can use a 5 gallon bucket as well to try to check the sink. It's not as telling but will work.

4. Yes you must seal the wood before you put it in the water.

5. To weight it you can use anything from pre-cut lead weights, to split shot, to pouring your own lead.

6. I'm guessing you can buy soft tails for swimbaits but, yes you'd likely have to make your own by carving one and casting it in silicone.

7. Mark your centerline before you round over the sides. Stack up some wood with a pencil on top about half way and run the lure along it. Then flip the bait and do it again. The center between those two lines is true center. You can only do this while the wood is still flat on the two sides.

8. The size of the hardware is tough to call but I personally think bigger is better. The longer the screw eye the stronger it will be. I personally twist my own wire.

9. picking the right treble hooks will all depend on the lure. I have an assortment of hooks I test to see what looks right. On the 10.5 in glide I used 4/0 hooks.

10. There are dozens of clear coats out there and all have their purpose. I recommend using a 2 part epoxy for maximum durability but that also means you'll need to build a rack to turn your baits so the epoxy doesn't run off. Envirotex lite is a good enough place to start. If you have toothy fish though it won't hold up too well. 

And finally, please PLEASE don't look at anything when it comes to building lures as a "waste of time." I see it all too often with people who just start out and they give up quick because of it. Everything that is a 'failure' is a learning opportunity. Ask anyone here and they'll show you the bins of failed baits they made trying to get 1 good one. No one makes the perfect bait on the first try. Hang it up as a reminder and start on a fresh piece of wood with the new knowledge you've got.

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Thank you for responding to my numerous questions haha. Hope it wasn't too annoying. After thinking about it, I kind of like the idea of it being a desk weight or decoration for my room. I take back saying I felt like I wasted my time, as I've really learned how I can improve when I make a new one. I've tweaked the design for the swimbait, making a joint around where the center of gravity is. I enjoy the learning process and now I know how to improve. Again, thank you very much, I really appreciate it

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I've certainly made my fair share of kindling... Some of my duds are still pretty enough to hang on a Christmas tree as ornaments I suppose.

I'll tack on question of my own...what products are typically used to seal the bait for testing, before painting?  I was using Minwax wood hardener, but it adds density to the wood and makes it sink if I let it soak too long. Unfortunately, I left the lid on my container cracked open, and went to dip a bait only to find a glob of wood hardener goop.

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16 hours ago, Leo's Lures said:

Thank you for responding to my numerous questions haha. Hope it wasn't too annoying. After thinking about it, I kind of like the idea of it being a desk weight or decoration for my room. I take back saying I felt like I wasted my time, as I've really learned how I can improve when I make a new one. I've tweaked the design for the swimbait, making a joint around where the center of gravity is. I enjoy the learning process and now I know how to improve. Again, thank you very much, I really appreciate it

It's all good my man! Asking questions is how we all progress!

If you're up for the challenge, I would still cut the joint and make the connections and go through the process to see if you can get it to work! Everything you do is a great learning experience so trying new things with this bait will make the next one you make that much easier. And if you mess something up it's no big deal because you weren't planning on making this the perfect bait anyway. I know how heartbreaking it can be to spend days/weeks on a lure just to mess one little thing up and end up with a dud. It's why this is the perfect opportunity to just plow through and mess some stuff up through trial and error but still learn how to make the next one great!

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2 hours ago, Big Epp said:

I've certainly made my fair share of kindling... Some of my duds are still pretty enough to hang on a Christmas tree as ornaments I suppose.

I'll tack on question of my own...what products are typically used to seal the bait for testing, before painting?  I was using Minwax wood hardener, but it adds density to the wood and makes it sink if I let it soak too long. Unfortunately, I left the lid on my container cracked open, and went to dip a bait only to find a glob of wood hardener goop.

I seal my baits with epoxy to seal them. I just mix a bit up of envirotex lite (it's very thin compared to 5 min epoxy) in a container, put on some gloves, and dip a rag in there and wipe the epoxy over the bait pressing hard to get it into the pores of the wood. Even better if you thin the epoxy with some denatured alcohol to really let the wood soak it up. It will penetrate a couple millimeters deep so you can sand off the excess on top and still have a sealed bait which is nice. All sealers will add some weight to the lure but I haven't found much difference in my methods. 

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I would love to jump in on this post, but everything I want to say has already been said.

Dave

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For easy soft fins, you can cut them out of a flexible plastic containers (margarine tubs, milk jugs, etc) or cut them out of plastic notebook covers. You can also make them out of paint brush bristles. Because of pure simplicity, my favorite so far is cutting them out of silicone place mats which you can get on Ebay. They come in a bunch of colors and are durable. I still haven't found a way to add detail to the silicone mat fins. You can draw lines/spots on them with some sharpie type markers which last for a while. The ink eventually washes off the fins.

If you are going into carving a lot of detail like scales, you should be thinking about using the carved body without cuts as a master to make a mold. You can them cast multiples of the body to experiment with different joints, joints locations, lips, lip angles, amount of ballast, and ballast location. Just remember to take notes of what you did so you can repeat successful lures.

I agree with the others who have said you should complete it. I have made numerous duds. But, those baits gave me the chance to experiment with attempted fixes.

One of the first lures I made did not come out the way I wanted it. I totally botched it. The lip shifted when the epoxy I put in the lip slot was curing. I didn't drill the eye sockets equally on both sides as the forstner bit walked on the second side. I completed the bungling by painting the lure before the sealer was completely dry and the paint came out mottled. I finished it anyways. I had decent action but ran to one side. I tried tweaking the line tie, hook hangers, slightly shaving the lip on one side to no effect to make it better. I finally drilled a small hole in the side of the head and jammed a piece of nail weight in the hole and  resealed the hole. The lure ran great and has been my most successful self-made lures even though it is embarrassing to look at. I am stubborn and save my duds. Periodically, I go back and try something to make them work.

 

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On 8/22/2020 at 10:35 AM, JD_mudbug said:

For easy soft fins, you can cut them out of a flexible plastic containers (margarine tubs, milk jugs, etc) or cut them out of plastic notebook covers. You can also make them out of paint brush bristles. Because of pure simplicity, my favorite so far is cutting them out of silicone place mats which you can get on Ebay. They come in a bunch of colors and are durable. I still haven't found a way to add detail to the silicone mat fins. You can draw lines/spots on them with some sharpie type markers which last for a while. The ink eventually washes off the fins.

If you are going into carving a lot of detail like scales, you should be thinking about using the carved body without cuts as a master to make a mold. You can them cast multiples of the body to experiment with different joints, joints locations, lips, lip angles, amount of ballast, and ballast location. Just remember to take notes of what you did so you can repeat successful lures.

I agree with the others who have said you should complete it. I have made numerous duds. But, those baits gave me the chance to experiment with attempted fixes.

One of the first lures I made did not come out the way I wanted it. I totally botched it. The lip shifted when the epoxy I put in the lip slot was curing. I didn't drill the eye sockets equally on both sides as the forstner bit walked on the second side. I completed the bungling by painting the lure before the sealer was completely dry and the paint came out mottled. I finished it anyways. I had decent action but ran to one side. I tried tweaking the line tie, hook hangers, slightly shaving the lip on one side to no effect to make it better. I finally drilled a small hole in the side of the head and jammed a piece of nail weight in the hole and  resealed the hole. The lure ran great and has been my most successful self-made lures even though it is embarrassing to look at. I am stubborn and save my duds. Periodically, I go back and try something to make them work.

 

The soft tail tip is absolutely genius! Never thought of that but I have a bunch of cheap flexible cutting boards I use to catch epoxy that I should definitely turn into tails. 

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Thanks.  I like a tail fin that will collapse somewhat for the best shot at a hook up on a tail strike. I have some fins made from a pulley belt off an old piece of machinery. The belt fins only last a couple of years but the belt was a free trash find. Coffee can and nut can type covers are decent too. I try to save any flexible plastic stuff from the packages of the stuff I buy normally. I cut off any flat sections to build up a stash of different colors. My favorite fins so far are the silicone place mats because they cut easy with scissors and last a long time.

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