Success at ODCCA the Canvasback hen wins!!
A fully detailed canvasback hen with vermiculations..
Textured canvasback ready for paint
What about the Ducks?
My work begins with a piece of Tupelo or basswood. These are relatively soft and almost grain and knot free varieties.
After cutting out the pattern on a bandsaw, the basic body shape is carved using Dremel type grinders. First, the major feather groups are defined and then they are sanded. Then individual feathers are drawn on and outlined using a variety of grinding bits. Some birds have inlays that replicate the "primary" or wing tips. These feathers, stick out from the bird and add realism.
At this point, a carver might jump right into painting the bird and that is what is known as a smoothie, or untextured bird. Some carvers have created incredible results with just base carving and painting. Smoothies are usually actual floating decoys. Sometimes called "gunners"
I take the next step with my birds and texture and/or wood burn all the feathers. This is accomplished with small grinding bits and a Detail Master wood burner. It's a tedious process, but one that creates softness and a very realistic looking duck. Every feather barb is raised from the surface.
Last but certainly not least comes painting. I use acrylic paints. Layer upon layer is applied to the feathers. The more thin layers and tiny flicks of color one applies the more depth you see in the feathers.
The question everyone asks is, "How long does it take to bring a wooden bird to life? I usually spend 50-80 hours from start to finish, depending on the size and complexity of the bird. An example of a more time-consuming duck is one with vermiculations. Thousands of tiny dots must be applied to some or all of the bird.
Types of carvings
Check out the gallery to see examples of some of my birds.
Each bird indicates whether it is a full detailed, partial, or smoothie.
1981 - Received my first decoy blank and a book by Bruce Burk on duck carving. I was afraid to destroy the gift so I glued some two by fours together and created a canvasback half duck. It worked out ok so my adventure began. For the next 5 years I worked on my craft and carved about 25 ducks. I also had the pleasure of taking classes with Richard LeMaster. In 1987 I began building a new home in the woods of Barrington, IL. The carving was put on hold.
First carving Half Duck #1
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2015 - Nearly 30 years later, I retired from a sales automation (computer aided selling) company I founded in 1995, Tech.Sell. The world was very different in 2015 than when I put my tools away in 1986. I had spent thousands of hours looking at a computer screen, training and doing tech support. What a joy to dig into the back room and find all my tools and some unfinished duck bodies. Couldn't wait to smell the sawdust!
I'm happy to say I've kept learning and growing. To date, we have been honored with over 37 awards at competitions including the Ward World Championships in Ocean City Maryland. Much of my work is by the commission but I do try to have some birds that are available on an immediate basis. Check them out at the Duck Shop.
Crazy success at Wisconsin Waterfowl Assoc. Show 2019.
14 ribbons including best of show, 3 best of category 2 second-best of category, and 1 third best.
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The Wooden Bird © 2022
My canvasback hen being judged at the Ohio Decoy Carver and Collector show in Ohio
it's great to be recognized!!