last updated on : 11.08.2012 - Select Items Listed Your Satisfaction And Value Guaranteed
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Copyright:  Mike Sillett


1. Intro
2. Equipment
3. Procedure

Title photo: A dowel of Common / Great Mullein pith.
A pith dowel from Common / Great Mullein ( Verbascum thapsus ).

1. Intro

Winter is coming. Soon you will be bored out of your gourd. Time to find an activity.
Try this: do a google search for elder pith float then click on the images tab. You will see a lot of photos of avon style fishing floats, quill floats, wagglers, round bobbers, etc. made by people with the wherewithal, tools and materials.
Some beautiful fishing floats of all kind of styles can be made with the pith of elderberry.
What a lot of people don't know, people that would love to know, is that Common / Great Mullein pith is an excellent substitute.

If elderberry is scarce where you live then consider the pith found in Great / Common Mullein ( Verbascum thapsus ).
Actually, even if elderberry is not scarce, consider Common Mullein.
It is just like elderberry as far as use is concerned.

It is easy to find in just about any part of the country. And it's pith can be thick enough to provide all the necessary material you need for making plenty of fishing floats, lures and popping bugs. Plus it is easy to work with knife, razor blade and sandpaper.
It has the feel of balsa and is very, very lightweight. Plus it is free.
For all intents and purposes you will think you are working with elderberry pith.

2. Equipment

Folding pocket saw / pruning saw.

3. Procedure

Great Mullein is easy to spot - any time of year. If you ever walked along older abandoned railroad tracks or other really lousy looking bare ground you probably have seen it and may not have known what it was.

The leaves are light green and real fuzzy feeling, like felt - hence one of the common names being feltwort. Also Lamb's Ear comes to mind. There are plenty of other common names referencing the hairy / felt-like nature.

photo of a basal rosette of Common / Great Mullein in November.
A basal rosette of Common Mullein November 6

When the plant is mature enough, the second year, it grows a tall stem the upper portion of which is loaded with closely attached, tightly packed yellow flowers.
In the fall the stems can get pretty high. And with the surroundings being bare in late fall those tall, spear-like stems are real easy to spot.

photo of a group of Great Mullein in November.
Easy to spot.
These tall spears of mullein can be seen from a hundred yards away.

Usually the taller the stem is the thicker the pith is inside that stem. Although you will find some 3 to 5 footers and some 7 to 9 footers occasionally some will be really tall.
I have found stems that are 12 1/2 feet high. Below is one that is 12 1/2 feet.

In the photo below, the front part of my hat brim is at the 6 ft 2 inch mark ( my height ). Turns out there is another 6 ft 4 inches above.

photo of an exceedly tall Great Mullein stem in November.
Front tip of the hat brim is right at my height - 6'2". This stem turned out to be 12.5 feet tall.

Anyway, when the plant grows this tall, to protect itself from being blown over in strong winds, it must produce a strong outer bark. Subsequently, the inside is often filled with a nice thick diameter pith, perfect for crafting or primitive bushcraft skills such as fire starting and natural wicks.

Here is the cut from the bottom of that 12.5 footer. Note the thickness of both the pith and the bark wall of the stem.

photo showing the base cut of a large Great Mullein stem.
The tall stem shown above has a base as big around as a half dollar with a pith almost as wide as a quarter. Note the bark thickness.

Even the upper portion of this tall stem provides a nice thick pith, although the bark wall is noticably thinner.

photo showing the cut stem of a Great Mullein.
Even four feet up the stem of that very tall stem the pith is the same diameter as at the base.
The only difference is the bark thickness has decreased substantually.

Go To Part 2



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