There are many types of duck decoys out there, and there are many ways to make a duck decoy. I’ll show you one way to do it and I’ll guide you through the process step by step. Please read and study this page in its entirety before starting this project. Obtain all reference materials possible.
To make a duck decoy, you’re first going to need some wood. Do you have a piece of wood laying around that’s 5″ x 8″ x 15″? I didn’t think so. Can you go down to your local lumber store and pick up a piece that size? I didn’t think so.
Wood and glue
Here’s what you do. Go to your local lumber store and buy a piece of framing lumber 2″ x 10″ x 8 feet long. It must be straight, not bowed or warped. Most framing lumber is some type of pine, so sight down the length of it and then across the width. Is it bowed? If so pick another one. Find one that is pretty much free of knots and blemishes. While you’re there, pick up 3 tubes of Devcon 2-ton epoxy, and 1 or 2 tubes of Devcon 5-minute epoxy (much more than you’ll need). It has a double barrel syringe that is supposed to dispense equal amounts of glue so you can mix them together in equal parts. Other brands work OK too. Devcon is what I use and I know it does a good job. I have made a lot of decoys this way and have never had any trouble with any of them.
Next, saw off 3 pieces 16 inches long. Pick the best areas of the board to saw from. If you want your decoy to be hollow you need to temporarily glue the boards together as shown below. Use 5 minute epoxy instead of 2 ton for the temporary glueing. You may have to do a little experimenting with the size of the glue spots. If it breaks loose before you want it to, you may have to increase the amount of glue. If you want your decoy to be solid, then completely coat the boards with the 2 ton epoxy then clamp them together in a vise or use C-clamps. The glue has good filling properties so any small voids should be filled.
These are the three 2” x 10” x 16” boards. Just glue two little spots about the size of a penny and about 4 inches apart near the center of the boards. Remember this is temporary. We will have to break them back apart later.
Duck decoy pattern
Below you will see the mallard pattern that we will be using for this project. If you are planning to make a duck decoy for yourself, download the pattern.
The pattern is a pdf file, and it actually contains 3 separate patterns. It has my original decoy duck pattern that I made in 2007 (letter size page), an updated version of that pattern (letter size page), and the updated version scaled to the actual size of the decoy on 11 x 17 pages. Use whichever you prefer. If you do use the letter size pages you may want to print the patterns and then enlarge them on a copy machine until the decoy’s body is 15 1/2 inches long, and increase the head proportionately. Once the pattern is ready, get a piece of carbon paper, and the three pieces of wood you glued together. Using the carbon paper, take the top view and transfer only the outline to the top of the wood block.
Preparing the wood block
This is where we will start to depend upon the temporary glue spots to hold the wood together. If it breaks loose just re-glue it, but glue it a little better this time.
Next, we will saw or cut along line with whatever means you have make the cut. I use a band saw to do this, but the first time I made a decoy duck I used a hand saw. So that will work too. It doesn’t have to be a neat cut, as long as you don’t cut inside the line. We will smooth it up later. Whatever you use, be careful and follow all safety procedures. A trip to the emergency room takes a lot of the fun out of this project.
After you have sawed out this piece you need to be able to hold it in a vise to do the next step. So find a small block of wood. A piece around 2″ x 4″ will do. Drill a couple of holes in it and attach it to the middle of the bottom of your cut out as shown below.
Clamping and carving
After fastening the block to the bottom of the cutout, you are ready to clamp it in your vise and begin to carve away. As they say, cut away anything that is not a duck. You can use the pattern as reference. It might also help to draw an outline on the side of the block to assist in your carving, as you can see above. You can use chisels, knives or whatever you have available to remove this wood. Some use power tools for this. I prefer to use a drawknife. Get the body to a rough shape of what you want.
Now, if you made the decision earlier that you wanted your decoy to be hollow, take a chisel or a screwdriver and separate the three pieces of wood. Some of the wood will tear out where the glue had it fastened in the middle but it doesn’t matter, you will be cutting this area out anyway. The screwdriver or chisel will leave some marks in the side but when you glue it back solid as I said earlier the glue has good filling properties and should fill in any tool marks. Take the middle piece and cut out the center leaving no less than an inch of wood around the sides. When finished you will have a ring of wood sort of like a donut. You will have to unscrew the holding block from the bottom for this part but will reattach it later. Now with the top and bottom layer, scoop out the wood without getting too close to the outside. Leave about a 3/4 inch of wood on the top and bottom. Remember you will be taking more wood off from the outside and you wouldn’t want to cut into the hollow area. On the bottom you need a substantial amount of wood so you can reattach the holding block.
After you get the three pieces hollowed out you are ready to permanently glue them back together. Thoroughly coat all surfaces to be joined with the 2 ton epoxy. Place the pieces back together the way they were and clamp them together in your vise or use a couple of large C-clamps. You don’t need to apply a lot of force, just enough to hold them together tightly. The pieces tend to slide around so check after clamping to make sure they stay where you set them. I encourage you to experiment with the clamping before applying the glue to make sure your clamps are large enough. When you get the pieces clamped together check all around and apply a little extra glue to any tool marks or areas appearing to need filled. Allow the glue to set up.
At this point the glue should be set up and you are ready to do a little more finishing on the decoy body. I use a half round rasp to get closer to the finished product. The area of the neck where we will glue the head should be smooth and flat but do not finish up close to this area until the head is attached. Go ahead and carve the head. You can do that with a knife and then use sand paper if you like to smooth it up. The piece of wood you use should be about 2 1/4 inch thick. This will allow for a little waste on each side. Pencil in a centerline to help you keep things uniform on each side of the head. Hold it out at arms length occasionally to check this. Of course the bottom should be smooth and flat to match up with the neck seat on the body. Refer to the illustration below and accompanying notes for placement of the eyes. I use 8 mm brown eyes for my decoys.
A) Use glass eyes. Drill a hole all the way through the head. Fill the hole with ribbon epoxy and push eyes into the epoxy. Remove any excess epoxy that is squeezed out around eyes. B) Glue the head to the body using 2 ton epoxy, and allow time for glue to set up. The head may be turned slightly in either direction to add realism. C) Blend neck and body by sanding. Try to make it as smooth as possible so line will not show.
After the head has been attached and the glue has set up you are ready to finish your decoy. Complete your rasping, sanding etc. until you feel you no longer need to hold the decoy in the vise. Remove the two screws and block from the bottom. You can now fill the holes in the bottom with a little of the ribbon epoxy you used to set the eyes. After glue sets up sand it smooth.
You now have a good start on your duck decoy. You can leave your decoy smooth or you can carve it to any degree of detail that you desire. If this is your first decoy duck, you might want to paint it now. Don’t forget to sign you name to the bottom. If this is your first attempt to make a duck decoy, don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t turn out just the way you want it. Practice makes perfect.
If you have any comments or questions about making a duck decoy, please leave them in the comments section below. If you like this article please share it using the share buttons on this page. We have plenty of other projects in our Workshop, so take a look.