Re-painting L L Bean Coastal Blacks and Mallards

Putting some classic gunning decoys back into shape

Here is how they looked upon arrival - worn from honest work but not beyond repair.

Here is how they looked upon arrival – worn from honest work but not beyond repair.

 

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.

I hang the birds so the varnish will run to one spot - the tail.

I hang the birds so the varnish will run to one spot – the tail.

 

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.

 

 

And here is the Big Ten - ready once again to campaign on Great South Bay.

And here is the Big Ten – ready once again to campaign on Great South Bay.

 

Gallery 3 – Painting the Blacks

 

Painting the Mallards

 

Here is the Foursome.

Here is the Foursome.

 

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.

And here is the completed rig.

And here is the completed rig.

 

Bufflehead logo

 

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