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!
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.