Leg­endary float maker Richard Lat­timer re­veals his se­crets

Crafts­man Richard Lat­timer’s hand-made pole floats are used by many top an­glers – and it’s no won­der!

Angling Times (UK) - - WELCOME -

IN an age when it seems ev­ery an­gler is a float­maker, one man’s work has stood the test of time bet­ter than most.

Since the 1980s, Richard Lat­timer from Mil­ton Keynes has lov­ingly cre­ated more than 100,000 floats, sup­ply­ing them to some of the sport’s big­gest names and ac­quir­ing a rep­u­ta­tion for qual­ity and ac­cu­racy that few oth­ers can match.

And he’s still go­ing strong. An­gling Times caught up with the qui­etly-spo­ken mas­ter crafts­man to find out more…

Q: How long have you been mak­ing floats? A: I’ve been de­sign­ing and craft­ing floats since the late 1980s. Around that time the canal fish­ing scene was re­ally big, and most of the pat­terns I made were pro­duced to fish them.

Q: What was your in­spi­ra­tion for start­ing? A: When I first started there were very few tackle shops in Mil­ton Keynes, so pole floats were quite hard to come by and the ones we did use were too tiny or not right for what I wanted. I used to buy the old Ital­ian Bazzerla floats and mod­ify them, but be­ing an en­gi­neer I re­alised I could just make my own.

Q: Who have you made floats for in the past? A: I started mak­ing them for the Mil­ton Keynes team in the early 1990s. We were a suc­cess­ful team back then with the likes of cur­rent Eng­land Feeder In­ter­na­tional Michael Buch­walder. Slowly shops and an­glers asked me to make them and since then I have made them for plenty of big names in­clud­ing Will Rai­son, who even had his own float I cre­ated for him called the WR Di­a­mond.

Q: How many floats have you made? A: In the early days I was mak­ing as many as 500 floats a week but now it is more like 100. In to­tal I have prob­a­bly made more than 100,000 over the years but I’ve never counted!

Q: How do you come up with an idea for a pat­tern or shape? A: Ev­ery venue and sce­nario is dif­fer­ent so you just think of a shape to suit the species of fish you’re af­ter and then de­velop it to suit the depths, tow and so on. Usu­ally if an an­gler asks me to make some I know what kind of venue they fish and this helps. If the float isn’t right to look at it gen­er­ally won’t work. Sometimes it’s a re­make of a dis­con­tin­ued pat­tern from a tackle man­u­fac­turer.

Q: How are your floats dif­fer­ent to those of the big man­u­fac­tur­ers? A: Those who cre­ate floats in bulk usu­ally use big ma­chin­ery to churn out mul­ti­ple float bod­ies while mine are all done by hand us­ing a lathe. Nor­mally shop­bought floats are coated/painted and then the bris­tles and stems are in­serted after­wards, but mine are all put to­gether and then coated so the tips can’t be re­moved and the float is to­tally sealed.

Q: Do you make them for your­self? A: Of course. I have done quite well on the match scene too. I once made some floats for fish­ing matches on the Stain­forth and Keadby Canal. These were rugby ball-shaped for com­bat­ing the ex­tra depth and tow of the venue but still sen­si­tive enough to fish small baits. I won my sec­tion a cou­ple of times us­ing them.

Q: What is your most pop­u­lar pat­tern of float? A: Be­lieve it or not it’s still the Squatt pat­tern I de­signed some years ago. I don’t do much com­mer­cial fish­ery float mak­ing as they re­quire strong ma­te­ri­als

and dif­fer­ent de­signs which re­quire more ma­chin­ery to cre­ate them.

Q: Typ­i­cally, how long does it take you to make a float? A: I can make one in a mat­ter of hours but to make a set it’s bet­ter to take more care and use all the cor­rect pro­ce­dures, in­clud­ing set­ting the fi­nal coat­ing. I have de­vel­oped a spe­cial sys­tem of my own for coat­ing floats in­volv­ing a car jack and a heavy weight. The weight causes the tin of coat­ing to very slowly de­scend so that the floats get coated at just the right pace to cover them with the ideal amount. Each in­di­vid­ual float is then weighttested in wa­ter.

Q: How easy is it to get ma­te­ri­als? A: It has be­come harder over the years. I used to make my own eyes from sol­der­ing wire but now I get some of the ma­te­ri­als from fel­low float maker Mick Wilkin­son who lives nearby. I ac­tu­ally visit a balsa wood sup­plier and se­lect the best bits for my float bod­ies, as some balsa wood cuts are not right for float mak­ing.

Q: Have you ever thought about ex­pand­ing or sell­ing the busi­ness? A: I do it as more of a hobby than a busi­ness, re­ly­ing on word of mouth to get cus­tom. I have and would never want it to go too com­mer­cialised as you I have to buy more ma­chines and I pre­fer do­ing it by hand. I get a great

feel­ing when I sup­ply some­one and they do well us­ing them or or­der more after­wards.

Q: Do you ever get bored of mak­ing floats? A: Never! I have my own area in the garage which gives me my own peace and quiet, and I can even make them in front of the tele­vi­sion on cold win­ter nights.

Richard has prob­a­bly made 100,000 floats over the years. A float body be­ing shaped on a lathe. Coat­ing is a slow, pre­cise process.

For Richard, floats are a labour of love. As­sem­bled floats are hand-painted. Ev­ery sin­gle float is weight-tested. He makes floats from de­funct styles.

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