A Passion for the Past

Recreating a 1936 Ward Brothers Redhead

By: Tom McCollum

Thomas McCollum took up carving after he saw a decoy-carving contest at an outdoors show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in the late 1970s. Since his first attempt at a mallard, he’s carved hundreds of decoys and won many ribbons and best of shows. He lives in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Sandra, their dog, Santana, and cat, Kiwi.

If you’re like me, you have a love for items from the past. I like old furniture and paintings, classic cars and classic rock, old coins and guns, and old books. As someone with an attraction to wildfowl art, I also love vintage decoys.

That’s what this demonstration is all about. I will explain how I made a “contemporary antique decoy.” It’s a new carving, but I use an aging process to make it appear like it was created 80 years ago. It’s a fun project and a means to some easy gratification.

Before you start a contemporary antique, you need to do your homework. Look for pictures of old decoys and study them. If possible, photograph some of the old decoys on display in museums. Use everything you’ve gathered to develop top and side views of your subject.
For this project, I am recreating the look of a 1936 Ward brothers redhead.

When I received a copy of the Ward Museum’s spring 2013 magazine, I immediately fell head-over-heels in love with a photograph of this duck. Not only did I love the carving, the magazine also provided excellent side and top views. I didn’t have a good image of the top of the head, though, so I relied on observations of other Ward decoys. The Ward brothers, of course, used hand tools, but I will use power tools to carve this decoy.


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