Putting some classic gunning decoys back into shape
As much as I enjoy developing a new “fancy” carving – and crafting a gunner that looks and works really well – I still thoroughly enjoy re-painting gunning decoys. There is something about transforming a whole herd of venerable but badly worn decoys that is very satisfying. In fact, it is difficult for me to gaze upon some of my “collectible” birds – like some cork Wildfowler Black Ducks – and not pick up the paint brush. So, when I saw a bunch of Bean’s Coastal Black Ducks for sale in nearby Vermont, I took the plunge. Just for fun – and a modest profit – I would rescue some classic decoys and put them in the hands of a gunner who would put them back into use. Best of all, he would put them into use on the “coast” – the tidal salt waters of my native Long Island.
I bought 16 Black Ducks and brought them to the shop in August. I picked out the “best” pair – a high head and a lowhead/swimmer with the most original paint. They will live on a shelf in my shop – unmolested by tools or paint for the foreseeable future. The others would be restored – as 10 Blacks and 4 Mallards.
Gallery 1 – As they were
Dale Dalrymple – of http://www.dalesdecoyden.com – freely provided his thoughts on the vintage – probably late-50s or early 60s. I understand that Dale is writing a book on Bean’s decoys.
Phase I involved some minor repairs and then sealing and priming so they could be painted.
Gallery 2 – Getting them ready for paint
I painted the Black Ducks first. Although I usually topcoat gunners with acrylic latex (house paint), I like to prime my birds with flat oils. In this case, I had a can of Black Duck Body Color – Flat Marine Enamel #3 from Lock, Stock & Barrell. This is an oil paint – and is the perfect base color for this species. So, the “primer” and the topcoat were one-and-the-same on the Black Duck bodies.
Gallery 3 – Painting the Blacks
Painting the Mallards
Although the Mallard is our commonest species – and probably the commonest decoy – it is the most difficult to paint. The Drake requires some blending on its back and flanks to look right – and the Hen needs to look streaked like the grassland-nester that she is.
Now for delivery – and a useful life once again.