Why Handcrafted Quill Fishing Floats?
Several years ago I became interested in handcrafting my own fishing floats, and this somehow became an obsession ; especially when I discovered that my early creations fished well. And after working with cork, balsa and reed, I discovered quill, which was a material I could collect for free from the banks of the Thames where I live on my narrowboat. How handy! Then after reading some old fishing books and articles on making the ultimate quill float, the Naiad, I set about making my own, but first I had to re-interpret the old methods where quantities and times were absent. Having a background in biochemistry helped and after a few failed attempts I soon had a working method. Two years later, and I have now almost perfected the processing of quill suitable for making Naiads. However, even though I am happy with my creations, the urge to experiment with the aesthetics remains and I 'm now investigating the insertion of feathers inside the clear quills as a camouflage effect. Please see my blog for progress reports!
Naiad Quill Fishing Floats
Otherwise known as water nymphs, the phrase was first used for a particular type of quill float called the London Patent double tapered quill that had fine bone tips and was first made in the early Victorian era and last produced commercialy just prior to the first world war. Such was the elegance of these highly crafted floats, H.T Sheringham was inspired to write eloquently about them in his book 'An Open Creel '.
"I used at one time to prodigiously admire a certain slender kind of float, fashioned cunningly out of twin sections of clear quill, amber varnished and silk lapped, and tipped either end with a slim point of bone..............it rode the stream in dainty fashion, peeping slyly out like some modest naiad, and responding even to that bite, perceived by the men of the Lea alone........ out of the water, too, the float was a delight.......
And that's my ultimate objective, to make Fine Fishing floats that are both a delight to fish with and aesethically pleasing.
The great Richard Walker also designed and made Naiad floats, such was their appeal to this fishing geniu! He even wrote an article on how he made them, although the actual details are limited and vague ; just enough avoid being useful. Anyways, below I have included one of Walker's Naiad diagrams concerning their construction. I prefer to use the traditional method shown on the left. As to whether any of his Naiads survived, is a mystery to me, but it would be very interesting to see his versions for real. Once cured, the quills become pretty inert and very tough, so some of his Naiads may well adorn a few float collectors cabinets. Indeed, quite a few Naiads made in the 19 th century have survived and are a delight and well worthy of the praise adorned on them by HT Sheringham and Walker.
Cured Quills v Boiled (Please Beware)
All my quill floats are made from chemically cured quills using chemicals found in regular use in the kitchen. The chemicals used cause the keratin protein fibres to randomly cross link to produce a much tougher protein fibre matrix. This occurs because a certain amino acid, called cysteine, naturally form very stable covalent bonds called disulphide bridges ; the chemicals used break these bonds and when removed the disulphide bridges reform randomly and this produces a matrix of cross linked fibres.
Please lbeware imitation cured quill can be produced just by simply boiling them in water. Simply boiled quill is not actually cured, and the aforementioned disulphide bridges remain unaffected, so the quills do not toughen up fully. Fully cured wet quills also feel like soft kid leather and are stretchable over wooden formers, so when dry fully take on the desired shape; whereas just boiled quills barely soften, don't stretch much, and so don't easily take new shapes. It's akin to boiling pork and calling it bacon. A good example, would be trying to straighten curly hair (keratin) by just washing in hot water, when a chemical hair straightener would do a much better job. Regardless, please be aware of imitations! Finally, please let me reaffirm, my floats are all made from cured quills using a traditional method, albeit part of the secretive dark art of quillology! Actually, the traditional method of curing quills has been published in a variety of books, but the recipes are vague and require evaluating by experimentation to ensure success ; hence the dark art!
My name is Trevor Ward and I've been an avid angler since one Christmas morning in the early seventies when I was an eight year old. Upon unwrapping a very long rectangular box, I discovered a complete fishing set: a six foot solid green fibreglass rod, a centrepin reel, line, etc.etc, and a small selection of fine fishing floats. And luckily my elder brother also received an identical kit! Anyways, that's how it all started with my father taking the pair of us fishing to the local pond for perch. Roll on several decades and I now prefer to fish with a cane rod and a traditional centrepin, with of course, one of my own handcrafted floats, and preferably a quill. Why a quill float? Could it be that there's just something special, almost ethereal and magical, about how they look and fish? It's hard to say really, other than quills just work!
When not fishing you'll still find me by the bankside, because I am privileged to live on a narrowboat on the Thames along with my cat. My narrowboat also doubles up as a Man Cave shed where for several years I have been honing my float making skills and branched into the dark art of alchemy and quillology, turning plain quills into golden amber fine fishing floats, that as well as being elegant and stylish, actually fish exceptionally well. It's not for nothing that this design of quill float, double tapered quills, has been around since early Victorian times, if not earlier!
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Intellectual Property and Copy Rights
The floats shown on this website, finefishingfloats.co.uk, were designed by Trevor Ward, and ownership of the intellectual property rights and design rights reside with him, and him alone; this also includes copyright for the quill curing process and all writing within this website. Please do not copy without written permission from the designer, Trevor Ward. I also ask, that if anyone wishes to reproduce my curing process in print for public consumption that they kindly respect my original authorship and inventor of this process, and cite myself as such! The actual quill curing process I have developed has traditional roots, but the combination of washing soda and potassium alum is, as far as I am aware, completely novel. All I ask is that this is respected!