Carving Waterfowl Decoys

Carving Waterfowl Decoy

Scoter Duck Decoy

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If you want to carve a beautiful duck or any waterfowl, you need to start with a good pattern. Many printed patterns show a conventional, inflexible bird with little life. They are meant as starting points to give you anatomically accurate content, but it is up to you to make them your own and to give the bird that extra vitality. With a little effort, you can transform a non-dynamic pattern into an active bird by altering the orientation of those parts of a bird that are movable. Possible alterations include turning and/or lifting or lowering the head, fanning or lifting or lowering the tail, lowering or lifting and spreading the wings, and opening the bill. To start, you will need two copies of the pattern. Mount one on Bristol board or another rigid surface and carefully cut out the mounted pattern as if you were planning to use it as is.

To turn the head, position the mounted pattern over the original and pivot the mounted pattern with a pin. Twist the mounted pattern to the position desired. Carefully trace around the mounted pattern with a different color ink and fair in the lines where the new pattern and old pattern meet. Raising or lowering the head is done in the same way using the side view patterns. Check to make sure that the ends of the bill are still in vertical alignment. Tilting the head can also be done with a little ingenuity.

Fanning or lowering the tail is done in the same way as the pivot point. You can swing an arc with a compass, make sure the overall lengths are correct. To lower and spread the wings, return to the top view and swing arcs from both sides out to the tips of the wing feathers. This moves the wings outward. Return to the side view and draw another arc through the wingtips. Fair in the new wingtips and draw new lines connecting the new tips with the top and bottom of the old wing positions.

Opening the bill is the last alteration. On the side view of the original, swing an arc through the tip of the lower bill. Draw a line from the new tip position back. This line will represent the top of the lower mandible. Fair in the bottom of the lower mandible until it intersects with the body of the bird.

Putting all the new positions together yields a new pattern with the head turned and lowered, the tail fanned and raised, the wings lowered and the bill open. Now the bird is in an animated pose with a lot of life.

Select your wood and draw your sketch on the wood. Your selection of the wood depends on the type of the tools you will use. You can use basswood or cedar for a hunting decoy, Tupelo is prefer if you use more rotary tools. Start by drawing your sketch directly on the wood, draw the side view first, and you'll be ready to make the first rough.

Cut the head directly with the body, you can cut head separately but its not necessary. Take care if you have an angle mount for the head, you'll need more wood in the neck. It is a good idea to always cut outside the sketch line, leave the entire line guide visalbe.

Take care near the bill, head, wing and the tail; leave a quarter inch of wood beyond the line. Draw the top view directly on the wood, taking care to align it with the first view. Finish cutting the head with a saber saw for the angle of the neck and the head.

This is the time to fixture the block to insure that the next cuts are correct.

The body must be perfectly level and be at 90 degree with the table. Use the band saw with a one inch wide blade, make sure at all times the level of the table is in the correct position to the block. The head and the body are the same block of wood, you need to carve the head at 90 degree with the saw. Carve the breast under the bill, where the band saw can not pas All these steps are very important to they will saves many hours later in the process.

Put some line guide on this new carving. You need 4 lines, 2 of each side of the body. The first one is on the top of the body, in the highest point of the body for the top of the wings.The second one is on the side, where the bird is the widest part of the body, normally it is just over the water line.

You need another line under the bird for determining the abdomen. Keep this line free, never cross over it, you will need some of this line all the way to the end.

For the head, you need six lines, three on each side of the head. The first one is for determining the cavity of the cheek. The second one is for the thickest part of the head. The third one, you put on the top of the head is for determining the largest part of the head (top).

Use a Foredom with a rotary burr. Use a mask (respirator) and safety glass with all rotary tools. Make sure to carve symmetrically on each side of the duck, it is very important. Now round off your duck, start on the underside of the duck and work to the top. Start to carve the line on the bottom of the duck to the lateral line on the side. With an angle cut from the line under the duck to the side line, you must have a flat plane on the lateral line side.

Round off the back, scapulars and the approach for the wings. Carve the side lines for the shape of the wings. Just round off, do not carve the side pockets. The shape should be flat for the both of the sidelines of the wings, it looks like an oval, not square or round. Use a rotary tool, take care with the wings (primaries) and the back of the neck, make sure to carve symmetrically on each side of the duck.

This is the time for positioning of the eyes, and finish shaping the head. Begin drawing the lines ay the eyes, use a study bill for a good reference and a skinned bird. Using a Gesswein (Foredom) with a rotary burr for this carving utilizing both a ruby and a carbide. Always work at 90 degree to the table. That is the reference plane, never carve detail on the bill at this step because it is too fragile

Give it a shape between head and the tip of the bill. Then finish the shaping the neck. Take care putting the eye holes in symmetrically on each side of the head.