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Carving A Wooden Working Decoy

Learn the woodworking skills and techniques of creating a traditional duck decoy.

Tuition: $825

Materials: $53

Decoy carving photo

Note: This is a five-day course ending Friday evening.

Today’s hand-carved wooden decoy treasures were once no more than simple tools crafted by men from all walks of life for the purpose of enticing waterfowl within gunning range. The earliest examples, some of which date to the 1700s, were undoubtedly primitive in both design and construction. But times changed, and so did the world of the decoy carver. Commercial carving took the craft into a golden era of American decoy making, and decoys became functional works of art. The carving of working and folk-art decoys has evolved over the years, and for quite some time it was all about decorative carving for the shelf. But then, slowly, things have swung back to carvers, like Frank Middleton, making working decoys for duck hunters, along with keepsake decoys.

Decoy carving photo

In this brand-new course, students will have the opportunity to work alongside talented boatbuilder, waterfowl expert, carver, and artist Frank Middleton. Under Frank’s guidance, each student will carve a hollow-bodied working decoy. You will start with patterns and learn how to transfer those patterns on to blocks of basswood of appropriate size. Working at the bandsaw, you’ll cut out the profile and plan views, and begin carving both the head and body. Hollowing out the body comes next. The carved head will be joined to the hollowed-out body and the two parts of the body will be glued together. After the assembly and glue has cured, the finished decoy will then be sanded and prepped for paint.

Decoy carving photo

This course is offered to those with varying woodworking skills, although a familiarity with hand tools and how to use them safely will be beneficial. The flexibility will offer beginners a chance to get traction with carving in three dimensions, and offer advanced carvers more time and resources to advance their craft and learn new skills that may better aid them in their pursuit of carving. It should be mentioned that this is basically sculpture and can be considered a building-block skill set for those who would eventually like to do more with wood sculpture.

If you have an interest in woodworking and wildlife art, carving duck decoys could become a favorite pastime. And one could not ask for a better teacher than Frank Middleton.