Friday, March 25, 2011

Swimbait building 101 part II

This post will cover mostly cosmetic issues with the bait building process.

First off, let's look at the hardware and its placement. Note the use of two inch screw eyes at critical high stress locations. These are .92 inch stainless, and built to take massive abuse. I was completely unable to forcefully remove one from a scrap piece of stock, and I tried flexing it sideways and pulling on it with Vice Grips. I could support my full weight (195 lbs) and not pull it out. The eye eventually failed, but the shank remained imbedded. These eyes are more than muskie tough. The pin in the back half of the bait is a bicycle spoke, swiss hi-tensile stainless. The hook hangers are open-eye screws, as I will close them over the 200 lb. test three revolution #5 split rings. The weak spots on this bait will be the Owner 3X strong black chrome hooks. On another note, I cut the notches for the screw eyes in the back half of the bait with a cut-off wheel on my Dremel.

Detail of the joint. This joint is designed to accommodate full 90º play at the point of articulation. In testing I found that I could walk this bait with virtually no forward movement. Twice the displacement of a Zara Spook with half the speed! Yowza! This is a real killer bait if my test swims are any indication. It can wake, twitch, walk, AND burn. I am going to light up some fish with this thing. I promise.

So yeah, cut out a tail and a bill from a sheet of Lexan. DO NOT USE PLEXI-GLASS, it will shatter. Use Lexan. Get a piece of cardstock/heavy paper, and draw one half of a tail on it. Herring and shad have a deeply forked tail, so take that into account if you are doing a herring type bait. Fold the paper over at the exact middle of the tail, and cut it out. It is like making paper dolls or a snowflake, it comes out nice and symmetrical. Same thing for the bill. Now you have the template for the parts, lay it on the Lexan and trace it with a marker. Cut it out. Grind details in the tail if you want to be a fancy pants. I do. I found some killer foil tape. It is so much faster and easier than the metal leafing that I will never do a leaf again. Anyway, you need a right side and a left side, basically a mirror image with the tape. Cut it to shape before it goes on the bait, "it am way more betterer" to do it this way. Trust me. I also like to round the corners of the halves so it goes on without creasing. 

Burnish the foil into place with the barrel of your friend, the Sharpie. You can buy a burnishing tool for like $20, and it looks like a Goddamned marker. Just be a clever sort of chap* and use the marker, M'nkay?

For a photofinish, you need, drumroll please... a photo. Use the mystical and godlike computer to retrieve an image of whatever forage fish you seek to replicate. Use whatever computer skills you may possess, and create a mirror image document containing the original and the flipped version of the pic. Do whatever you want to it as far as color and contrast etc., and print the whole silly works out on tracing paper. The tracing paper goes clear when it gets the epoxy, and the foil shows through pretty darn good, giving the image depth and sparkle. An important note: you must use water/soy based ink in this part of the process. A solvent based ink will interact with the topcoat and go all Ken Kesey on you. Might make a far-out looking bait, but it is not what we are after here. Yes, smarty pants, I am well aware that the above herring are printed on regular paper, they were my test prints. Besides, they photograph better than the tracing paper does. So there. 

Foiled baits in repose, awaiting more work...

Tracing paper over the foil. It looks blurry due to the reflection coming through the paper from the foil, it is in fact nice and crisp. The areas where the photofinish does not cover the foil will be blended in with the airbrush. It will kick ass, just you wait sucka.

More to come...


Shaun Solomon

*Because chap you are. Females do not on the whole engage in this sort of tomfoolery, we know it, they know it, and that is how it is. On the other hand, if any females do happen to utilize this silly little vanity exercise, do tell. I actually enjoy having my suppositions called into question. Just don't do a better job than me, or my man-fellings will be hurt. SS

Monday, March 14, 2011

Swimbait building 101

I said I would do this, so here it is. 

1) Trace the outline of a fish (in this case a blueback herring) onto a sheet of Lexan® with a marker. Cut out this shape. It will serve as the template for the creation of body "blanks". Lay the template onto the body material (here a 4"Azek® PVC board) and trace the outline of the body, again with a marker.

2) Rough cut the outline of the body with a scroll saw or band saw. 

3) Contour the body to the outline left by the template with a sander. A spindle sander would work best for this, but as I do not have a spindle sander (yet) I am using a drum attachment on my drill press. This makes a lot of weird smelling dust, wear a mask. Really, do not breath this crap into your lungs. It is plastic, and will be there the rest of your Godforsaken life. So wear a mask, preferably a HEPA filter. 

4) Radius the edge with a roundover bit on your router. This picture is amazing to me, because I used a timer on my camera. The router was going at like 10,000 rpm, and the edge of the bit is plainly visible. Holy smokes! Anyway, this is tricky stuff. I need to make a zero-clearance router table for this operation. I keep slipping and gouging the blanks with the bit, due to the large gap between the table surface and the bit. Not good! NEVER wear long sleeves when you are doing ANY of this. If the drill press, router, or any saw grabs your shirt, that is a real bad deal. Like a "fingers shot across the room" deal. Or a "bleed to death before you can make it into the house to call for help" sorta deal. Safety first numbnuts...

5) The PVC stock has a tacky faux woodgrain finish that must be sanded out. A planer would make quick work of this task, but I aint got a planer. So palm sander it is. This is very tedious. Do it.

6) I mark the bodies with a pencil when they are aligned. I clamp them together, and cut the groove for the bill in all the baits at once. This helps ensure accurate results. All the baits are cut in the same place, and at the same angle. I like a bit of deviation in the individual baits, the "handmade" element ensures that no two baits are exactly alike. Still, I like them to be as close as I can get them, and this helps. 

7) Mark the baits when they are clamped together nice and straight. This keeps things tidy. Take a deep breath, and saw that sucker in two.

8) Use an abrasive grinding wheel on your a rotary tool to gouge a concave groove into the front half of the bait. It does not have to be perfect, but try to keep it as straight as possible. We will sand it by hand.

9) Use the rotary tool to cut a rounded surface on the back half of the bait. Again, perfection is not required, as we shall soon see. 

10) Lay a piece of sandpaper across the concave surface in the front half of the bait. Use the front half as a guide to shape the back half. Sand a bit, and turn the back half 180º and sand a bit more. You are sanding a smooth contour that mates perfectly with the front half.

11) Turn the sandpaper around, and sand the front half with the perfectly rounded back half. 

This is what you get... a perfect, smooth cut, and white powder everywhere. Dr. Rockso would approve. 

12) Take a break. Have a nice strong Belgian ale. 

More to come...



Saturday, March 5, 2011

Home made device...

Today I was able to complete a project that has been a thorn in my side.

I have for some time been engrossed in the quandary of how I might be able to apply an epoxy topcoat (Enviro-Tex Lite) to multiple air-brushed hardbaits simultaneously. I repurposed a bar-b-que rotisserie motor (low RPM) for use as a bait rotational device, and have used it for single baits for a couple of years. The issue is that it takes at least eight hours for the E-Tex to set, and that is a long time to wait for a single bait to dry. 

The obvious solution is to build a wheel to rotate more than one bait. The difficulty was in designing the device. I had to be able to hang multiple baits. I had to have the ability to keep baits of different sizes and weights firmly attached while the wheel rotated to allow the epoxy to set. I very much desired to keep the cost on the works low. 

I have been able to meet all these objectives. 

Whoopty frackin' doo.

I had to put something up nicer looking than plywood...
I finished this 1/8/2002 Untitled, colored pencil on Bristol Plate.
This is a print.

Full device, left 

Full device, right. On the center brace is a PVC bait blank 
that will eventually become a shad pattern seven inch swimbait.

Front on 

Showing the extension of the spring traction assembly

Rotational axis and bearing assembly hub detail

Slotted and center drilled door stop. Eye hook on bait is 
inserted into the slot and pegged in place with a nail that has 
been cut off to length and secured with a neodymium magnet

This device allows lateral movement in the traction
assembly to accommodate baits of different lengths.

Traction spring detail.

Detail of drive linkage. Cut off nail with magnet, as 
in bait coupling. Collar with set screw keeps tension
and allows alignment with motor and wheels.

Detail of linkage with magnet removed.

Motor and linkage.

Swimbait tutorial to follow.