Decoy Duck Maker

Tom Boozer is a renowned carver of duck decoys, a craft known as one of the oldest American folk arts. Early Native Americans made decoys out of reeds, grasses and natural dyes. Colonists of the 16th century learned the concept and used metal hand tools to craft decoys of wood. Today, Tom carves traditional wooden decoys using only hand tools, a technique that makes him both artisan and historian.

To learn more about Tom Boozer and the art of duck decoy making, click on the videos below.

Type
Spotlight - Tom Boozer | A Natural State
Spotlight - Tom Boozer | A Natural State

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The ability to work with wood was an asset on rural farms where lifestyles required self-sufficiency and living off the land was common. As a boy, Tom carved his toys - small boats that he floated...
Making a Duck Decoy - Step 1 | A Natural State
Making a Duck Decoy - Step 1 | A Natural State

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Tom uses keen eyes and a drawknife to carve the slope of a duck's back from the natural curve along a block of white cedar. The basic forms of a tail and the base of the neck are revealed during body...
Making a Duck Decoy - Step 2 | A Natural State
Making a Duck Decoy - Step 2 | A Natural State

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Ducks use their tails to signal whether they are at rest or in danger. Tom carves the tail so that it feathers slightly upward, a sign that the duck is at ease with its surroundings. The process uses...
Making a Duck Decoy - Step 3 | A Natural State
Making a Duck Decoy - Step 3 | A Natural State

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To float properly, the body of the duck must be hollowed out with a hand drill and chisel. Buoyancy and stability are achieved by combining a hollow interior with lead weights applied to the underside...
Making a Duck Decoy - Step 4 | A Natural State
Making a Duck Decoy - Step 4 | A Natural State

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After the body is hollowed, Tom attaches the carved head of the duck. Tom takes care to attach the head at an angle that appears natural and in keeping with the attitude of the body. After the head is...
Making a Duck Decoy - Step 5 | A Natural State
Making a Duck Decoy - Step 5 | A Natural State

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Decoy makers use field guides, photographs, and duck mounts as references for painting their decoys. Tom mixes ordinary house paints to achieve the unique colors of many species of waterfowl. After...
Tom Boozer's Tool Box | A Natural State
Tom Boozer's Tool Box | A Natural State

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Tom's toolbox is a museum of traditional woodworking implements. It contains a 150-year-old drawknife, a hatchet, his father's wood rasp, his grandfather's brace and bit, a mallet of resilient...
Carving - Sharpening Tools | A Natural State
Carving - Sharpening Tools | A Natural State

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No carving tool keeps an edge without occasional sharpening on a stone. Farmers and woodworkers brought hand-powered grinding wheels to the Americas during the 16th century. Many artisans and farmers...
Eastern White Cedar | A Natural State
Eastern White Cedar | A Natural State

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Decoy wood needs to be light and resistant toward water and waterborne, termite-like insects that bore into wood. Atlantic white cedar is an excellent variety of such wood, but the tree’s population...
The Land - Yonges Island, S.C. | A Natural State
The Land - Yonges Island, S.C. | A Natural State

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The Boozer family's move from the midlands of South Carolina to its coast was a bit of a homecoming. In 1734, Tom's ancestors emigrated from Germany to the Charleston area, where they worked as...