Sun Fish Decoy

Preparation for your Cub Scout meeting:

  1. Trace the pattern pieces on each piece of wood.
  2. Cut out each piece on the bandsaw. The small fin pieces can be gang cut by using masking tape to secure several layers together per pass.
  3. Drill three to four 1/8″ holes into the Dorsal fin about one half inch from the top to receive the brass wire.
  4. Lightly sand the basswood body piece to remove the bandsaw marks.
  5. We would estimate that this project will take about three den meetings to complete. One meeting to carve the fish body, one to glue and paint the decoy, and a third for the final assembly to the base with accent pieces.

Carving the Sunfish body:

Note: Please check that each knife is properly sharpened. Most accidents in carving are caused by dull knives that have to be forced through the wood to make a cut. The second most common cause of carving accidents are from trying to remove too much wood per stroke. Light strokes carved away from you with a sharp knife creates safe wood carvings.

  1. Position the dorsal fin over the top of the Sunfish body, mark where it will fit with a pencil.
  2. Begin by rounding over all of the edges of the body except where the dorsal fin will fit. This area needs to be flat to receive the fin. Fish decoys where rough carved items, let the carving strokes show as you work. Carve each stroke away from your body or hand.
  3. Pencil mark a line for the upper and lower lips. Use a stop cut to define this line. Gradually carve away a small amount of the body to make the lips prominent.
  4. Pencil mark the circle for the eye. Again, carving toward the eye remove a small amount of wood to make the eye stand away from the body. A v-cut can be made around the eyes for accent work.
  5. Pencil mark the placement for the gills. Stop cut the gill line and carve away a 1/4″ wide groove to highlight the gills.
  6. Lightly sand all of the piece to the Sunfish.
  7. Sand the upper inside edge of the four belly fins to make them lay against the fish body at an angle.
  8. Use a stiff paint brush to remove any carving and sanding dust.

Gluing the Sunfish together:

  1. Hot Glue the dorsal fin to the top of the body.
  2. Hot glue the large belly fins to the body underneath and slightly behind the gill.
  3. Hot glue the small belly fins just in from to the tail on the bottom of the body.

Painting your Fish Decoy:

Note: Typically these decoys where very brightly and boldly colored!

  1. Apply two coats of acrylic white gesso. Let each coat dry until it has lost it’s shine before applying the second coat. A hair dryer can be used to quicken the drying time of both gesso and acrylic or tempera paints.
  2. Follow the decoy image for color placement. Dark green along the body top, face, and tail of the fish. Crimson red along the lower lip and outlining the gill. Bright yellow along the belly area.
  3. Accent the fish with green then red lines through the middle of the body.
  4. Accent the top of the body with first brown then white.
  5. Paint the eye white. When this has dried paint a circle or pupil of black to the eye. A new pencil eraser dipped into the paint makes perfect circles.
  6. Paint a line of red to the inside of the mouth.
  7. Paint all of the fins a light brown tone with a little darker brown where it touches the body of the fish.

Creating the Fish Decoy stand:

  1. Position the finished decoy on your slice of branch that will become the base.
  2. Use river rocks or pea gravel to prop any fin that does not touch the base.
  3. Hot glue the rocks into place. Now hot glue the decoy into position.
  4. Add any accent pieces that you might want, fishing lures, old bobbers, even plastic worms. For our sample we have cut basket reeds into imitation pond grass as our accent work.
  5. Feed a 12″ to 15″ piece of brass wire through one of the dorsal fin holes. Twist the wire over into a loop so that it floats freely. Bend over about one half inch of other end of the wire to create a second loop.
  6. If you want your decoy to have a glossy finish you can spray the work with a clear gloss craft finish.
  7. Sign the carving on the base of the wood slice with both your name and the year that you created this piece.

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