Hobbyist shares woodcarving at Constantine Rotary

CONSTANTINE — Folk artist Tom Grile, at a Tuesday, Nov. 22 meeting of Constantine Rotary, talked about his hobby of carving realistic decoys. Grile spends 40-50 hours carving each decoy. He began the hobby 20 years ago, and is a member of the Fruitbelt Woodcarvers Club in Cassopolis.
“It’s more of a hobby, although I have sold a few,” he said. “I have the all over my house. I had to build more shelves,” he said.
Grile said he uses two pieces of Basswood, a soft wood suitable for carving: one for the head and one for the body, and sometimes adds an insert.
“There are hundreds of varieties of ducks. I start with a basic pattern, and change the design as I go. I use a high-quality photograph of a duck to work by,” he said.
He attends, and enters numerous contests, and has won several prizes.
“They have big ones in Maryland and on the West Coast, where they have a lot of flyways, a route between breeding and wintering areas taken by concentrations of migrating birds,” he said.
Native Americans knew that birds attract other birds, and for over 1,000 years they made decoys adorned with feathers, brush and mud for hunting purposes. Early colonists began carving wood duck decoys from pine and white cedar, which are buoyant and durable. By the mid-19th century, around the time of the Civil War, carving duck decoys had evolved into an art form. Hunters were carving them as decorative pieces to be displayed in their homes.
Angie Birdsall is a freelance writer who primarily covers Constantine.

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