Reproductions: Fishing Floats

November 3, 2015 - Michele Woodburn

Reproductions, Fakes and Fantasies: Fishing Floats

Greetings Royal Friends and Followers,

What is more indicative of a coastal environment than a fishing float? Many of you are aware that we live on the California Coast. Our home reflects our location. One of the items that the entire Royal Family loves are fishing floats and buoys. Glass, wood, cork, Styrofoam…..new and old – we love them and we have collected them. A float collection just screams coastal life! My burly Royal Scotsman remembers a bay on Guam just west of Agana (now Hagatna), where the glass floats collected by the hundreds. He remembers seeing it several times after a storm with three to four hundred floats collected near Adelup Point, like bubbles on the waves. He wishes more of those could have made their way back with him!

water inside

Floats were made all over the world, and of many different materials for use in many kinds of fishing where it is necessary to suspend a net or trap, or to mark that net or trap. We have floats made of glass, cork, wood and plastic foam. I would imagine that before floats were mass produced, any item that kept afloat would have been called into use. I can picture sealing and reusing bottles, cans, wood, even animal intestines.                                      sausage style float          rolling pin floats 

Over time, wood becomes waterlogged and no longer supports the net, metal rusts, and other forms are subject to breakage. Nets tear, rope decays and floats are loosed to wash up on our beaches. 

Float designs are actually different depending on locale and purpose. Wood floats were more common than most people realize.  Floats or buoys for crab pots are usually cylindrical with rounded or domed tops, and a hole through the center to allow them to be strung on a rope and attached to the pot. Lobster floats are traditionally chamfered at the top rather than rounded. Both the rounded and chamfered tops (usually Atlantic coast) are still available to the collector.

other floats corkcolor and texture

Glass fishing floats as we know them today were first produced and used in Norway around 1940. Japanese glass floats have been made from recycled glass for years, many from Saki bottles. When you find air bubbles in a Japanese made glass float, it may be from the rapid recycling process. Glass floats are also made here in the United States. While many are marked, there are more that are not marked, making it difficult to tell just where it may be from. Making floats from recycled glass means great variations in color, but there are more floats in greens, aquas, and ambers than most other colors.

bubbles and flaws  Pie crust mark Double

This is where the reproductions and fantasies come in for the Royal Scotsman Family. Her Shining Majesty has a love of all things purple, and blue. So there is room in my collection for some floats made just for people like me. I have a “witches ball” purchased largely for it’s lovely color. I have knowingly purchased some cobalt blue floats that are reproductions, including a square one, made in Japan, for the tourist trade. They’re blue….Never designed to be used as an actual fishing float, they still look at home in my collection. On a family vacation to Oregon, one of my primary goals was to acquire some of the incredibly beautiful art glass floats made there. We had a ball watching the glassmakers make them, and a terrible time deciding from the spectacular results! A true fantasy! This is where I also learned some really creative ways to display my floats.

real and imagined    fantasies   signature

A true collecting purist would probably shudder at some of the floats in my collection, but by definition, my reproductions and fantasies were never designed to deceive, but to delight and entertain. They certainly do that!

What delights and entertains you? Let us know!

Ta Ta For Now,

Her Shining Majesty, Queen Michele