I did a half dozen smaller size 6 poppers to start. I cut the balsa blocks to the desired length for the head with a razor blade, mounted a nail through the blocks to act as a mandrel, and turned them on my Dremel tool with sandpaper.
I started with 80 grit sandpaper, which quickly turned the balsa down to cylinders. From there, for shaping and finer sanding, I switched to 120 grit. I definitely could have gone finer for a smoother finish, but I used what I had on hand. Once the bodies were sanded to shape, I used a carving bit on the Dremel to slightly cup the faces, and epoxied them to the size 6 Gamakatsu B10S hooks. I laid a small foundation of dubbing on the shank, applied the epoxy to the dubbing, and slid the heads on.
Painting these is a chore by hand, and my way takes time. I prime the bodies with solid white paint to start. Then coat the body in the primary body color and color the face portion red or orange. Stippling is done after that dries to add some design and contrast to the body, as well as eyes. Once the paint is all dry, I apply a heavy coat of Delta Sparkle Glaze, which both helps seal the body and gives it a glittery finish. I top coated these bodies with Hard as Hull for some added durability. That takes a lot of time...the actual tying part takes 5-6 minutes, tops. The tying portion is simple: Lazer Dub for the tail, some rubber legs, and Ice Chenille or Estaz for the collar.
Once those were done, I started a new-to-me design idea to hybridize a bug with balsa and deer hair. The idea was to make a highly buoyant, weedless frog pattern that could be drug over weeds and pads without hanging up. For this idea, I used larger diameter balsa (3/4"), a size 1 Gamakatsu SP113L3H hook, and a large size Cohen's Creature Frog Leg.
Once the bodies were rounded down to the shape and size I wanted, I mounted them to the hooks with the same epoxy method as mentioned above. I couldn't leave the body completely round, so to free up some hook gap I sanded the belly pretty flat then slightly rounded the edges.
I did the same painting process on these frog patterns, but instead of Hard as Hull as a top coat I used a heavy coat of Liquid Fusion and allowed them to dry for a few hours on my drying wheel. Once dry, I added the twin weed guards, colored Frog Legs, and squeezed in a collar of deer hair. I shaved the deer hair flush with the body. The rubber legs I threaded through the body by punching a hole with a needle, then using a bobbin threader to pull a set of legs through the body. Here's the final result.
It should be a fun pattern to field test when I get time. I'd love to drag it through some lily pads in a few local lakes and see if the bass want to blast the frog. It's an exciting way to fish with pretty explosive takes. It will be interesting to see how the balsa holds up.