Making Paper Mache Decoys

Submitted by Joe on 12/29/04 at 4:57 PM. ( )

I purchased an old wood form of a duck decoy that was used to form or mold paper mache decoys. Can anyone help me with info on how the process was done back in the day. I would like to learn how to make them. Joe

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"in the day". How we butcher English

This response submitted by George on 12/29/04 at 6:08 PM. ( )

But back WHEN we made decoys, we used cork and sugar pine. (In the Day must have become "like" and "you know". I hear kids referring to "back in the day" talking about first grade for cripes sake.) Papier mache doesn't have much staying power for floating decoys, so I'm SUPPOSING those who resorted to it must have used a mold like the old paper mannikins were made from.


This response submitted by cur on 12/29/04 at 6:55 PM. ( )

Ever since I got infected with the Duck Hunting Virus, I have been making decoys of one kind or another and out of a host of materials. I have never made paper mache decoys, but I have sure bought dozens and hunted over them often. The first I remember were from Pascagolah (spell?) in the early 1950's. I had three dozen of the old Carrylites that I loved to use on partially frozen creeks because they had flat bottoms to sit on the ice around the edge of holes.

The worst one's I ever owned were Victor Magnums which looked like the devil by design, but weren't too bad on the water - until bits of ice floating on river currents made them look like a beaver's alder project.

The old mache decoys were molded from paper pulp and, I believe Dexitrine glue or some other formula. The best were Carrylites because they were harder and held up better.

We mostly made decoys out of old refrigerator bonded cork or ground cork mixed with waterproof glue and sawdust and pressed into molds. We built hollow pine decoys, cork and balsa and cedar and sometimes yellow popular. I used sugar pine or bass wood for heads, bandsawing them out and carving and then sanding them into shape.

On two occassions I have run production lots of urethane duck decoys, the second of which was in 1978 and consisted of 1000 dozen blocks. I have just finished a new set of carved decoy models which will be molded and cast with urethane foam and coated with a co-polymer material.

I'm with George about cork blocks. They are heavy, ride like battleships and the more you use them, the better they get. Each season, cork blocks soak up water with each use, making them heavier and thus better riding than on opening day. We used to melt laundry tubs full of bee's wax and pariffin and float each decoy on the melt to coat the bases so that ice rings wouldn't form around them in extreme cold.

Now, back to your wooden form. Do you have a model, or a press mold? If a model, then it may be worth far more than a lake full of modern decoys. If a mold, it may be worth more.

Now, to answer your question, there is a fellow up north somewhere in Minnesota or Wisconsin or wherever that has a product called EZDECOYMAKER. I have tried it for another purpose, and it appears to not be too sorry a product. It is a paper mache and other product formula that is press molded into decoy molds. He claims that the mold too can be made from the same product. He sells the glue compound and other materials. I think it was around $25.00 for the basic kit. They may be on the web, I don't know. I got the address from a waterfowler's magazine.

His product is mixed, molded and allowed to dry, then sealed and painted. It will turn out a pretty good product. I suppose you make the mold shells the same way. Try EZ Decoys or EZDecoy Maker or whatever on the browser and see what you come up with. Evidently his formula works, although what we molded with it never saw water.

Not paper mache as we know it now.

This response submitted by duckfeathers on 12/29/04 at 7:18 PM. ( )

I know what you have. The last one of these was made around 1970.
They were called paper mache but try to find a definition of mache in an English dictionary. The mash that was poured into these molds was a concoction of whatever was available that could be mixed with a dextrin or casin binder. Woodchips, styrofoam beads, even hair was mixed in. Anyone remember the old Meyer Fish Mix. It was something like that. Use your imagination and find anything bouyant that can be mixed with a binder. Today your proably better off to use urethane if you prep the mold surface with the right stuff.
You know I have six "paper mache" brant decoys that I brought 30 some years ago. They've been in use on Barneget Bay every year since.
They look as weathered as when they were new along with the pellet holes. If you go with a mash don't forget to waterproof with paint.
Ice just melted. Me and the decoys will be out on the tidewater tomorrow. Duck hunting is in my blood..........Good luck to you and thanks for useing the forum.

Hey Cur...

This response submitted by Greg on 12/29/04 at 7:50 PM. ( )

I have read alot of your posts and want to thank you for all the time you spend here. I was recently afflicted with said "duck hunting virus". Do you sell your decoys? If so, where can I get some? Please e-mail me and let me know. Thanks!


This response submitted by cur on 12/29/04 at 8:41 PM. ( )

The old deeks were first made in a production run in 1973-74. I used ten pound density freon blown urethane and they were bullet proof. You could float them on gasoline and blast them at 40 yards with a load of twos and they would keep on floatin. I used to park my Chevy Blazer on top of four, one under each tire, to show them off. They were big blocks for big water. They were each 19 inch bodies and made in mallard and scaup.

The next run was in 1977 with a modified design and were all mallards or black ducks. That decoy had a 17 inch body that was 8 1/4" wide. I still have 200 of those that I hunt over, although some have been modified into pintails for here on the Texas Coast.

The new decoys I will produce will be for sale next year. They are an even smaller, 15 inch body with a 7.5 inch beam. There are seven species in all, gadwall, pintail, mallard, scaup, widgeon, redhead and canvasback. The gadwall, pintail and mallard each have separate bodies and heads but the divers are all the same block with different heads.

I have just recently finished the carvings and will be making molds this Spring. They will be marketed under one of two names, "Lonestar Decoys", or "Second Shore Decoys"....

I designed the blocks to ride out a pretty good chop, and the bills are high enough on the standard heads to prevent building a ball of ice in rough weather. The bottoms are flat and keel-less, since I believe that is the best design for rivers and shallow water areas. Keels make decoys in currents ride like boats at anchor, all facing upstream. In shallow water like the swamps of the south or flooded fields, or rice paddies, keels hang on vegetation and do not move in even moderate winds, much less a slight breeze.

The deeks will be molded in water blown (alas) freon and then coated with a flexible co-polymer material. Base pigments will be in the coating - (gray or mallard drakes, tan for hens, etc.) and they will be painted with a flat co-polymer paint in order to hold up for decades.

Most of the deeks I build in the 1970's still ply the waters of the midwest. They have held up well over the years. At first I had problems with finishes on the softer skinned water-blown urethane foam, but the D-Shore 70 coatings cured that.

I will send you a couple of photos and let you know when they will be available. We don't have a firm selling price yet, but they will be sold direct and not through dealers, so the price won't be as high as it might become.


This response submitted by cur on 12/29/04 at 9:40 PM. ( )

The mache used was nothing at all like Norm Meyer's mix. His mix was a concoction of pearlite and plaster and fiber and some cheap glue and an anti-fungicide.....Watched him mix it more than once.

The mache used in that manufacture was more like the stuff used in Egg Cartons.....lot of fiber and pulp and glue, no pearlite and no plaster. They were made in metal molds, I suspect, and maybe with a mechanical process. I know most had a plug hole like a rotational cast piece, and the bottoms were embossed with logos....I forget where the seaming was located.

how about

This response submitted by Bryan on 12/30/04 at 1:54 AM. ( )

How about using the durhams rock hard water putty {creme color stuff you mix like plaster} for goose shells?. . I was going to experiment soaking some burlap bags in a thin mixture, then lay the burlap over a mold until dry, then peel off and paint with Ext house paint. I did make a small one 1 layer burlap, which I placed outside during a foggy night, the water putty help up fine but the burlap soaked up a little moisture making it flex a little. Any opinion on this? or advice?. Thanks

Too brittle

This response submitted by cur on 12/31/04 at 3:31 PM. ( )

You would have to add rag paper pulp or some other fiber to it for strength and endurance. Besides, that stuff isn't cheap and a decoy would cost a lot of $$$$$ if made with that material.

Burlap rots. You might be better off using cheese cloth. If you are going to bother with lay up, a couple of plies of veil mat in resin will make a strong, light weight shell.

I have a design or a goose shell that is easy to make and works too. I copyrighted it years ago but never did manufacture the darn things..I can send you a scale drawing to use if you would like.

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