Material List: Click on links
for product descriptions and pricing
Duck Blind Decoy Cork,
Duck Blind Work Station, Large Rasp, Draw Knife
Bow Sander, Calipers,
Saburr Tooth Cutter,
Foredom 44T Handpiece,
Apoxie Sculpt, &
Traditions Cork Sealer
Decoy and Wood Decoy Carving Kits are also available in
Start guidelines by
drawing in a centerline. Be sure to include the breast
and underneath the tail. Also note that I have
highlighted a reference saw-cut.
locate the waterline on the pattern and transfer that
measurement to the blank. Again two saw-cut reference
lines are also noted.
saw-cut reference lines and matching pattern, locate and
draw in the upper and lower rump. Make note of the curve
to the rump lines.
Next step is to draw in the top of the wing line by
locating the saw cut on the head platform area. Divide
this line into four equal parts and make a two marks.
Then draw a line from those marks to the center line at
the end of the tail, (see photos below).
With the guide lines complete for this phase in the
process it is now time to make the first cuts and lock
in the tail and rump section. This will be done by
making right angle (90 degree) cuts and removing the
material marked in red in the photos. Start with the top
and then progress to the bottom. Once complete you will
have locked in the tail and the upper and lower rump.
The tail area finished top and bottom.
Now the body rounding process can begin. Round from the
top of wing line down to the
water line, (see red arrows in pictures below).
Note that the side pockets have been drawn in to give
you a reference to the area and saw cuts, and will be
removed with the rounding process. I like to use a
push-pull knife and rasp for this process and finish
with a bow sander. Proceed slowly making sure that you
are rounding and not making a flat cut. Work on both
sides at the same time to bring in symmetrically. Also
notice the red rounding line that extends from the tail,
past the side pocket to the water line.
The rounding finished
Tools used for rounding
Side pocket high point
Using a knife, rasp, or cylinder shaped rotary cutter
cut in the side pockets using a right angle cut.
Make sure you cut outside the side pocket guide line to
keep the side pocket shape. The depth of the cut is
approximately 3/8 of an inch deep but it does taper off
to nothing at the back and front of the side pocket,
(see the illustrations below).
Next increase the size of the head platform by removing
the area with the red X's
this step I create an indentation down the middle of the
back approximately ¼ inch deep. Several tools can be
used for this step. A hand or rotary rasp work great,
but this cut can be made with a knife making a “V” cut
and then final sanding to round out the cut. Make
special note that the indent does not go all the way to
the tail and tapers up to nothing as you approach the
upper rump area. Note the stop line in example below.
Now it is time to round. Start by rounding from the
center line up to the top of the wing line. Remember
that you are rounding and not making a flat spot and
above all round from one guideline to another. I like to
use a rotary rasp but you certainly can use a hand rasp
also. We will final sand later so this step is just to
establish the roundness.
Next round from the top of the wing line down to the
side pocket line.
The side pockets are next. Round to the waterline and
make sure you round from the top of the side pocket down
to the waterline. Don't just round over the edges.
You can see a slight ridge in this photo that will
disappear with final sanding. The body is really taking
shape at this time. Now it is time to focus on the
bottom of the decoy.
Follow the illustration and draw a guideline that is
about 3/8 inch in from the outside edge. I'm giving you
two views to help locate this guideline properly. Once
finished you can round from the waterline to the line on
the bottom. Make sure this is round.
Now the focus is on the rump and tail section. The red
lines show the directions for rounding. Round from the
center line to the edge.
The tail will appear thin but it will be sturdy and
durable Refer to the picture below for final look..
Now it's time for final sanding. In this process you
will knock off any high spots and ridges. I will usually
will start with 80 grit and finish with 150 grit. Take
your time and you will end up with a very smooth finish
that will have very few voids.
Next it's time to attach the head and shape the breast
area to the neck. First I drill a pilot hole from the
neck platform to the bottom of the decoy.
The pilot hole on the bottom will allow for long deck
screw to be driven into the neck area and anchor the
With the pilot hole drilled it's time to glue on the
head. I personally like to use hot glue for head
attachments as it has a quick set time and I have found
it to be very strong. Use a good glue stick that is
rated for wood use. Once the glue sets I drive the screw
up into the neck. Go slow and don't try and drive the
screw to far into the neck as you could split the head.
Just anchor the head. If you would prefer to not to
use hot glue then any good carpenter glue can be used.
You can clamp the head onto the body until dry or you
can use the screw to tighten the head down and clamp in
place. Some carvers like to use a fender washer for the
screw backing for maximum strength.
like to do an additional step when anchoring the head to
the body to prevent twisting of the head. Even though
you have glued the head the screw up into the neck
creates an swivel point if the glue joint should weaken
slightly and will eventually lead to failure. To guard
against this possibility I use a Brad Air Nail Gun and
drive a couple of nails into the side of the neck to
prevent twisting. Another take on this process would be
to drill a couple of small holes and drive finish nails
into the holes. This is an ounce of prevention which
With the head secured it's time to shape the breast area
to the neck. Look at reference pictures to help get a
natural look to the neck/breast transition
Once you are finished then you can fill any cracks and
cover up the neck joint with Plastic Wood or Apoxie
Sculpt. Let it dry thoroughly and then sand to blend the
this point I final sand the entire decoy and get ready
for sealing and painting.
Reflecting a bit, the most important part of the carving
process is starting with a good pattern and a good
accurate bandsawed cutout, based on that pattern. Just
as important are clean and accurate guidelines that are
located properly on the decoy blank. Carving is truly
the easiest part of the process. Rounding is also
crucial and takes a little practice. Use your hands and
not your eyes to search for flat spots and keep your
rounding between your guidelines. Once you have it close
then you can soften the entire decoy and blend each area
of anatomy for softness and a nice flow. My goal with
this tutorial is to give you a logical and easy to
understand progression of steps to follow each time you
carve. Although this tutorial deals with a drake mallard
the steps will apply to any waterfowl species that you
would like to carve. Follow the same steps each time and
carve, carve, carve. AND never be afraid to make a
mistake.......that's how we learn.
here to continue to...
Mallard Painting Tutorial