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Thread: Alaska School Wood Working Decoys

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    Default Alaska School Wood Working Decoys

    Honestly, This is the hardest to use web site and forum I have ever used and I have a lot of experience with sites over the years. Anyway, I tried to post photos of my decoys on the profile page and it seems to not have worked so well, so I will try here. I started making these when I lived and hunted waterfowl on the Tanana and Minto flats back in the mid 70's. You can see them for real in places like the Anchorage Museum.IMG_0345_edited-1.jpgIMG_0453_edited-1.jpg

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    Nice work . . good looking birds . . nice paint job . .


    . . what wood do you use, and are they hollow?

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    Wood decoys are really cool. Too bad they get so heavy cause they sure hold up better than the plastic stuff of today.
    Makin fur fins and feathers fly.

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    Marcus, I have tried many types of wood. Spruce - too brittle and checks like crazy, Basswood - fairly good - expensive, Sitka Spruce - pretty good, but hard to get here and expensive, Cottonwood/Aspen - Ok, but absorb water. Douglas fir - hard to work. Pine and Cedar are universally the best wood for decoys. Lately I am using Western Canada Pine with great results and Western Red Cedar for heads. These decoys are finely crafted, take a long time to make and are completely hollow to within an eighth of an inch of the outer layer and the heads are hollow. They are lighter for their size than many plastic decoys. To my knowledge they are the lightest wood decoys anywhere, ever. The paint is a unique blend I have blended over the years and has a built in texture that you cannot see in the photos. Give a rough, flat, realistic finish that is not typical paint smooth. Thanks for the comments.

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    c6, These decoys are completely hollow. What makes the Alaska school of decoys unique is that they are the worlds lightest wood decoys because in Alaska the distance you go usually to hunt is far and for many, small plane travel. They are big with large heads for visibility at a distance and the hollow design gives them a high riding presence on and in the water for even more visibility. The design with the up-swept tail section is not used on any other design anywhere.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alaska Swamp Man View Post
    . . These decoys are . . hollow to within an eighth of an inch of the outer layer and the heads are hollow. . .

    Impressive, Swamp Man. I've seen a few old decoys hollowed out pretty thin . .


    . . if your heads are hollow, are you making the heads in halves? . . how do you attach the hollow heads to the bodies . . ?

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    Yes, usually in halves. A really good modern epoxy water resistant glue that is so good the wood will break before the bond will. secret. he-he The closest hollowing I have seen is on Delaware river birds to within only a half-inch to the outer layer. I have heard of a few to almost a quarter of an inch, but have never seen any. These are within an eight of an inch to a quarter.

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    Great looking decoys!

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    Thanks, I have been out hunting a lot lately. I have U-tubes on how to hollow them out and more about decoy rigging, calling and etc. If interested look under Alaska Duck Calling, or (Alaska Duck Calls) Alaska Decoys, Chesapeake Decoys, Ward Decoy. There are about 10 U-tubes that cover many basic and advanced skills. My vids usually start with the song, "Just Good ol'boys, never meanin' no harm, beats all you ever saw, been duck huntin' in the fall, since the day they were born". There is a white door that opens to my decoy shack.

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    Lightbulb Techniques . .

    Quote Originally Posted by Alaska Swamp Man View Post
    . . how to hollow them out . .

    I use a Forstner bit for rough-hollowing and finish with a carbide burr in a Foredom.

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    I think the bit I use is a Forstner bit, I'm not big on names. It is round about an inch and a half, with 2 cutting blades. It took me til recently to get a drill press and I used just a regular heavy drill. Not sure what a Foredom is either?. I am in the traditional mode and for years hand chopped with Hudson bay ax all my decoys then just a draw-knife and spokeshave. Where we lived there were no plastic decoys to buy. I learned from old time bush Indians how to do everything in the bush, cabins, snowshoes, canoes, paddles, dogsleds and etc. just with Hudson bay ax and belt knife. Most of those old timers are dead now, but I still carry the traditions and was glad a kid from the Chesapeake bay got a chance to learn them. Tell me more about this carbide burr as I still hand gouge all my blocks.

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    Lightbulb Decoy making . . .

    Quote Originally Posted by Alaska Swamp Man View Post
    . . Tell me more about this carbide burr as I still hand gouge all my blocks.

    Google "Foredom" and "carbide carving burrs" and follow your nose from there. A Foredom is a flexible shaft machine that takes a huge variety of hand-pieces which take an even bigger variety of bits . . from very rough (wear gloves) to exceedingly fine.


    I use 1/4" shaft diameter bits that are impregnated with sharp pieces of carbide. Such bits remove wood the same way as did the old drawknives and rasps but much, much faster.


    For rough shaping of the block after the two profiles—side and top—are cut, I freehand the block through the bandsaw, removing wood in the same way as an axe except that instead of my hand powering the cutting edge, the cutting edge (bandsaw blade) is powered by a motor.


    Some of my mallards on the water . . .


    Attachment 73851

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    Those blocks look good Marcus. They are painted for the real late season here or lower 48 though. I use only muted and eclipse colors for Alaska ducks in the early, middle and late season.. Mine are very wide so that little lead weight is needed. Are your blocks hollow then? Machines are fine, but my birds sell Alaska folk art and in the rest of the economy of the 48, especially in hot collecting areas like the Mid-Atlantic region. When the economy was good, I was selling some at high prices. I am at a number of galleries in Anchorage. With many collectors that are into tradition the more hand-chopped, the more hand work and the ageing of the paint gets higher dollar than just regular decoys. I can reproduce exact copies of the most famous Chesapeake bay decoys. I mean copies of 100 year old decoys that the real deals sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. If I can swing it I will post a photo of some of mine on the water so that you can see the high riding nature of the blocks. They dance on the water and move even in the slightest wind.

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    Here they are I hope!PC027812_edited-2.jpgCould not find that image, but here is a pintail copy of a famous Ward brothers decoy. It is a 1936 pinch neck Pintail. 1936 Ward Pintails are the highest form of decoy folk art in America. This is just one type of their 1930's pintails. I used the have the largest wood decoy site out there with tons of info, pictures, articles and etc., It was huge with hundreds of pages, but the economy killed it.

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    Smile Carving decoys . . .

    Quote Originally Posted by Alaska Swamp Man View Post
    Those blocks look good Marcus. They are painted for the real late season here or lower 48 though. I use only muted and eclipse colors for Alaska ducks in the early, middle and late season.. Mine are very wide so that little lead weight is needed. Are your blocks hollow then? . . copies of the most famous Chesapeake bay decoys. I mean copies of 100 year old decoys that the real deals sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. . .

    You're exactly right, Swamp Man, my birds were carved in the lower 48, and their paint job reflects that fact. My birds all come out of full 2" X 6" wood blocks, stacked two to a bird—sugar pine in the lower 48 and locally-sawed spruce here in Alaska—to fit my bandsaw's capacity. They're all hollow, fitted with weighted keels, and are self-righting when tossed on the water.


    I too have done copies of old birds and repair/restoration work for collectors. If you take a look at this site, you'll see some of my birds for sale. You might try contacting Collectors Covey yourself as possible buyers for your work . . very high-class gallery in Dallas. If you contact them, ask for Ron Wages. Nice folks to deal with.


    Some photos below:

    Attachment 73858

    Left to right: Canvasback in the style of Gus Moak, pintail in the style of Elmer Crowell, ruddy in the Carolina style, and a scaup in the Ward brothers "fat jaw" style.




    Attachment 73859

    Wall-hung, life-size, flying woodie

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    I like the flying wood duck, seems to have an Ira Hudson appeal. I have seen that site before, thanks, but my birds sell for a lot higher than that. In 07/08 I was getting a thousand each at least. I was so surprised that I met a man here that had a whole wall collection of mid-west decoys. He had some Moak, was he from Wisconsin? I have had lately due to the economy, lower that prices a lot, but at those prices it is not even worth it to make them, I would rather donate them to DU or someone.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alaska Swamp Man View Post
    1) I have seen that site before, thanks, but my birds sell for a lot higher than that.. .
    2) He had some Moak, was he from Wisconsin? . .

    1) You need to browse Collectors Covey's site more carefully . . they sell wood carvings priced in the thousands . . take a look here: http://www.collectorscovey.com/artists1.html and check the prices.


    2) Yes, I believe Gus Moak was a Wisconsin carver . . I like his style.



    A couple more photos:

    Attachment 73871

    Canvasback . . styled from an old St. Clair Flats decoy . .




    Attachment 73872

    Primitive loon . .



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    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    You folks have some real talent.
    Now left only to be a turd in the forrest and the circle will be complete.Use me as I have used you

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    Do you mean the non-decoy bird and fish carving? Wow, I clicked on the owl and was surprised at the basic nature of the bird and then the price. What am I doing wrong?? LOLP3165396_edited-1.jpg
    Quote Originally Posted by Marcus View Post

    1) You need to browse Collectors Covey's site more carefully . . they sell wood carvings priced in the thousands . . take a look here: http://www.collectorscovey.com/artists1.html and check the prices.


    2) Yes, I believe Gus Moak was a Wisconsin carver . . I like his style.



    A couple more photos:

    Attachment 73871

    Canvasback . . styled from an old St. Clair Flats decoy . .




    Attachment 73872

    Primitive loon . .



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    Thanks for the comments!

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