Duck Decoy Carving Tools

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    • Duck decoys can be very decoy image by Julianna Olah from

      Duck decoys are model ducks used by hunters. These models cause real ducks to believe a pond is safe, encouraging them to land. They may range from very simple models that look only roughly like ducks to elaborate, very lifelike specimens. Some decoys are collected as folk art. While recent decoys are often made from plastic, the traditional type are constructed out of wood. Hunters and collectors can carve their own decoys at home, but the right tools are essential.


    • Drawknives consist of a straight or slightly bent horizontal blade between two handles. The user pulls the knife toward them, peeling off pieces of wood. This tool is used for rough shaping. According to the book Antique-Style Duck Decoys, a large drawknife removes larger pieces of wood, while a smaller one works better for tight places.

    Rasps and Rifflers

    • Rasps and rifflers are textured metal tools used to remove wood in tighter areas that the spokeshave won't reach. Rifflers are simply smaller rasps for working in very narrow areas. They may have two handles, while a rasp has only one. Carving a decoy may require several different shapes of rasps and rifflers, including flat ones for roughing out broad areas, and rounded-back rasps, which fit more cleanly into the concave spaces around the decoy's neck and tail.


    • Gouges are smaller, chisel-like tools made for efficient removal of wood. They are easy to maintain and relatively cost-effective, making them a good tool for the beginning decoy carver. Gouges come in a number of different sizes and shapes, including flat, rounded and angled. Palm gouges are often favored by decoy carvers because they give more control than a gouge tapped with a hammer.


    • Like a drawknife, a spokeshave is made up of a blade with a handle at either end, but it is much smaller, and removes much less wood. Spokeshaves are useful for smoothing the decoy after it has been roughed out. Using a spokeshave can help reduce the amount of sanding needed in the final stage of making a decoy. Spokeshaves are also useful for getting rid of asymmetry in the model.


    • Carving knives are excellent for detailing duck decoys. It's a good idea to keep several sizes and to maintain a sharp edge on the knife. Sharper knives produce better results, less strain on the hand, and are less labor intensive to use. In a pinch, carvers may use any sharp knife, but a dedicated one meant for the task will produce a better decoy.


    • Even in decoys smoothed with a spokeshave, a little sanding is often needed. A bow sander----a curved tool with a flexible abrasive belt stretched over it----is the ideal tool for this job. Unlike a sanding block or piece of sandpaper, a bow sander conforms easily to the shape of the model, making it easy to produce a smooth finish. It's a good idea to maintain several sanders, each with a different grit, to produce the best finish.

    Power Tools

    • While carving decoys with hand tools is the most traditional method and provides the greatest control, it's also a slow process. Because of this, many carvers prefer to use some power tools. Band saws are used to rough out the decoy, power drills are used to set eyes, and rotary tools may be used for fine carving. These produce a faster, and possibly easier result, but may require the user to wear eye protection and a respirator.

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