Hector “Heck” Whittington

(1907 - 1981) Oglesby, IL

Heck Whittington began carving in 1924 to accommodate his own hunting needs and never delved into the world of collecting. He did carve decoys commercially for a time, but treated carving more as a part-time hobby. For the most part, Whittington carved scaup, mallards, pintails and teal, but he did carve Canada geese, canvasback and trumpeter and mute swans on occasion. He posed these birds in realistic postures employing multiple head positions, making them on the large side for increased visibility. Like most carvers, Whittington used cedar or white pine that he hollowed into two pieces, each being about two inches thick (Sorenson, “Master” 16). Glue and several corrugated fasteners for extra security held the top and bottom together. Though Whittington utilized a band saw and drill press for roughing out the shape of his decoys, he carved the head and most of the body by hand with a drawknife, rasp, wood gouge and sandpaper. Whittington fitted all of his decoys with glass eyes and detailed his mallards right down to the curled tail feathers.

Before he started painting a decoy, Whittington gave it a hot linseed oil bath and allowed the block to dry for at least a week. After applying two coats of white lead, he used artists’ oils to create realistic plumage. Hens and black ducks received scratch painting on their heads. Whittington always painted his decoys in shades lighter than those of the real bird, figuring that a lighter decoy would be easier to spot on the dark waters.