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Bandsawing Made Simple - Part Two
The basics of choosing wood, transferring a pattern, and bandsawing the blank
by Willy McDonald• Photos by Tom Krum

Part one of this article, published in the Spring 1992 issue of Wildfowl Carving Magazine, was designed to assist the beginning decoy carver in wood and pattern selection, pattern transfer, and bandsawing a decoy blank. Part Two will address how to locate guidelines and transfer measurements from your pattern to your blank. But before we start on that aspect of bandsawing, let's review the four important points of Part One.

First, let me reiterate once again that I believe carving is an acquired skill. Anyone can learn to carve. And following a progression of steps, such as these steps on learning how to bandsaw, is the best way to discover all the ins and outs of carving.

Second, learning to bandsaw begins with choosing a good pattern. A pattern should bring together the basic shape of the duck and the different anatomical features that make up that shape. The pattern should also have matching views. Key points, like the eyes, the start of the breast, the side pocket and the end of the tail, should line up when a carpenter's square is placed on top of the pattern. These points are critical for properly transferring measurements.

Third, transferring the pattern to your block should be done with care. Be sure that the grain is running the length of your decoy and match the centerline of your pattern to the centerline of the block. Key points on the top and side views of the pattern should match up when a squared-off line is dropped from the top to the side of the block.

And finally, locking in reference points (such as the end of the side-pocket and the start of the tail) with your bandsaw will help you to locate these points when transferring pattern measurements to your block. This step is accomplished by bandsawing up to these points, backing up 1/8" inch, and then starting to cut again. The result is a small notch marking the reference points on the blank.

Now that you have a bandsawed block, complete with reference points locked in, it's time to transfer the carving guidelines and measurements to your blank. I find a good way to start is to place the blank next to the pattern and try to visualize where the different feather groups will be located. From this point, a little logic and the use of the saw cuts locked in during bandsawing are all you need. Simply follow the pairs of photos that follow. The photo on the left will show you how to take the measurements from the pattern. The photo on the right will tell you how to mark that measurement on your blank. Both steps rely heavily on the reference points that we "locked in" in Part One.

Using the pattern side view, take a measurement from the bottom of the decoy to the waterline. Transfer the measurement to the blank and draw in the waterline. Also, highlight saw cut reference points #1 and #2 with a pen or pencil.

Draw a centerline on top of the blank. Highlight saw cut reference points #3 and #4 with a pen or pencil. Saw cut #3 marks the end of the upper tail coverts and traverses the top of the tail. Saw cut #4 marks the end of the lower tail coverts on the underside of the tail and traverses the bottom of the tail. Next, locate saw cut reference point #2 on the right and left sides of your blank and connect those two lines across the top of the blank. The result is a line parallel to saw cut #3.

Locate the upper tail coverts (upper rump, outlined with bold line) on your pattern and transfer them to the blank using saw cuts #2 and #3 and the centerline as guidelines. Do the same for the lower tail coverts on the bottom of your blank using saw cuts #2 and #4 as guidelines.

On the pattern, locate the right and left shoulder points. Using a ruler as a guide, draw a line from the shoulder point to the end of the longest tertial feather. (Note that I blocked out the primary feathers on the pattern to allow for easy location of the tertial feather group.) Draw the same line on the blank. If by chance you do not know the location of the tertial group and can not locate the longest tertial feather, you could run this line from the shoulder point to the point of the rump feathers and still be anatomically in the ball park. You can now locate the cape group on the blank by measuring the distance between the end of the tertial group and the point of the cape group on the pattern. Transfer this measurement to the blank and draw in the cape group using the shoulder points and centerline as reference.

Transferring the side view of the tail is easy. Take a measurement from the waterline to the tail on your pattern. Now, transfer this measurement to the blank using the waterline and the vertical line of saw cut #2 as your known reference points. Draw in the tail by first connecting saw cut #3 to saw cut #2 and then connecting saw cut #4 and saw cut #2.

Transfer the side pocket measurements to the blank by using saw cut #1 and the waterline as your starting points. Most often I will draw the side pocket on the blank freehand, but you can also make a template of the top and side view of the side pocket and simply trace around the template.
Once the side pocket has been located, all the guidelines are in place.
The blank is now ready to be roughed out according to the guidelines.
A top view of the blank shows one half of the decoy rounded to the correct shape. Even though there are several methods of carving the basic shape of a decoy, accurately transferring the guidelines to the blank following these steps can make carving a less frustrating and more rewarding experience.

Summer 1992 Wildfowl Carving Magazine

Part One

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