Livening up your outdoor spaces is easy with iconic summertime themes and decorations. These beautiful and colorful lobster buoys can conjure up the feel of sandy beaches, the refreshing waves and the seashells, and the relaxed feeling of staying at a beach cottage.
What is a Lobster Buoy?
Lobster fishermen use buoys to locate their lobster traps that are underwater. The rope of the buoy gets attached to a long rope that reaches down to the trap. The buoy floats on top of the water, to let the fisherman know where his traps are located. The fishermen paint their buoys with favorite colors, designs, and sometime their number so that they can easily identify their own buoys floating on the water’s surface.
Using lobster buoys has become a creative way to decorate for summer. This project will add colorful accents and a beach/coast feel to your summertime outdoor decor. Colorful lobster buoys hanging from a hook on your porch post or standing in a group at the corner of the patio draped in fishing nets will give a backyard get-together a fun beach cottage theme.
We were inspired by the buoys that we saw online from a well known home goods retailer. The buoys that we made are rustic looking, with sort of a handmade look as if one of those lobster fisherman had made it himself. They are fairly easy to make and perhaps less expensive than buying ready-made.
We made these from leftover 4” x 4” rough-sawn cedar posts that one of us had from a porch renovation. Cedar is naturally insect and rot resistant, and the rough-sawn finish gave the rustic appearance. You could use whatever post you like, and different size posts will give you a nice variation – 3×3, 4×4, 5×5 posts, and even rounded posts, make attractive sizes for the buoys.
We used the 4×4 post for all the buoys, but we varied the lengths. We made three length sizes: 19”, 17”, and 15”. As a rule of thumb, we made the tapered section of each size of buoy around one-third of the length – for example, the tapered section for the 15” length was around 5”. The beauty of it is that you can adjust the dimensions to get the look you’d like. The very top of the taper was always a 2” square. Author’s note: As a side note, after cutting the buoys, we determined the 19″ length was too long for the 4×4 post (aesthetically speaking) – in terms of proportion, a 5×5 post may have been better.
Making the Buoys
Measure the length of a buoy on the post and cut it with a hand saw if the post size you use is too large for a miter saw or a circular saw. Draw a 2″ square for the top, centered on one end of the cut post.
The tapers can be made with a band saw, or planed with an electric planar, maintaining the 2″ square top. We used an electric planar to remove the uneveness from the taper cuts left by the blade marks of the saw . As it turned out, we actually liked that the planar eased the line where the taper meets the straight section of the post. We think it made the buoy look more authentic.
After the buoys are cut out, they will need a hole for the rope. With a 5/8” paddle drill bit, drill the hole for the rope 3” from the top of the taper.
If you are in the lobster business, there are paints made specifically for painting buoys, but since the buoys we made are not going to be attached to any lobster traps, we painted the buoys with an exterior paint with a gloss finish (other finishes work, too). Gloss paint very often takes more time to dry, especially in high humidity.
First, we primed them with an exterior primer. This also helped to brighten the darker bare wood surface for the paint colors. Use an exterior grade paint if your buoys will be used outdoors.