February, 2010 - Diver Decoy Flocking Experiment

Three different “glues” are to be tested……Rustoleum flat black, Donjer flocking paint/glue and Aero flocking paint/glue. Aero is water based (easier cleanup & no fumes). I bought flocking from Aero & Donjer….both are nylon.  

I have a dozen GHG OS Coots, 6 GHG OS Goldeneyes, 6 GHG OS Canvasbacks, 6 GHG OS Redheads and 12 OS Cabela’s Real Image Bluebills. I will end up doing the black on all of these decoys and maybe the heads of the “Reds & “Cans”. I have about ten months.

edit: Six old G&H Super Magnum Canvasbacks were added later.

note: The quality and durability of flocked decoys is a function of the initial surface.

To start with, a plastic lined flocking box was constructed from which any flock not sticking can be recovered. All the decoys are new out of the box. Each was given three coats of Krylon clear acrylic
flat matte 1311.

Internet photos of coots reveal many different variations from all black to a very dark grey to purplish section which blends into larger areas of black. The first experiment will be conducted on five coots.  These five will be testing the three paints/glues and two sources of nylon flocking. A grey flock will be used on only one to look at blending colors. I’m going to test for the correct shade of grey using the bottom of an old decoy. Using black “glue” under the grey flock is supposed to make it appear darker.
If the shade (of grey) is not acceptable, I will mix some black flock with grey to darken it.   

    note: While flocking, I'm using a dust mask and glasses. The fine nylon flock floats
               free and far from the target. There is no need to flock your lungs.  

         Step # 1 – make flocking box     finished 
         Step # 2 - check for correct shade of grey using black Rustoleum on the under
                           surface of used mallard decoy, mix black flock with grey (if necessary)
observations & data:
            1) the mallard decoy (section of bottom ) with no preparation except brushing  
                a section of the bottom was coated with Rustoleum (flat back)
            2) this section was immediately flocked with Donjer charcoal grey nylon
            3) two hours later the flocked section and an addition area were painted with
                more Rustoleum (should have knocked off the excess flocking as it rolled
                up in the fresh paint, this soon was displaced by using the paint brush and  
                a smooth 2nd coat cover the original flocking and produced a fresh area to
                flock, this gives a two coat flocking contrasted with a single
            4) 24 hours later the single & double flocking coats could not be scratched
                with a wooden dowel scraped across the surface several times, there’s not
                a trace of any marks…..that’s zero

      left coot (1st) - double coat
    (Rustoleum & Donjer flocking)
                 black & grey 
                 three coots
       (middle=original plastic)
          right coot (2nd) - one coat
      (Donjer glue & Donjer flocking)

              Step #3 -  double coat of Rustoleum with Donjer grey/black flock   1st  decoy
                              single coat Donjer "glue" with Donjer black flock  
  2nd  decoy     
                              single coat Aero "glue" with Aero black flock   
  3rd  decoy
                              double coat Rustoleum with Aero black flock   
 4th decoy
                              double coat Rustoleum with Donjer black flock    
  5th  decoy

                                        plastic lined flocking box (reclaiming unused flock)
                                                        note: two tiered, pedestal stand

              This is the improved model. Cut the card board box so that it is totally flat. Cover the
              inside portion of this single, flat section with plastic. Using two- sided clear plastic tape,
              attach the plastic. Tape the total length of the edges to the box and reassembled. A few
              of the "slots" in the lids have to cut, but it is simple to reseal the edges inside after the
              box is put back together. The top flap can be tilted back with tape to stay tilted. This
              creates a large opening. The flock is kept inside the box and drops to the bottom.  For
              $3.50 (Walmart), an auto dust pan/whisk broom "comb" makes for the ideal flock remover.

                               note: It best to do this in an area where the floor is easy to sweep.
Flocking sticks and looks better when applied perpendicularly with the "hand
                     puffer" (Mini-flocker).  The PVC pedestals slip over nails and are different
                     lengths. The decoy can be rotated and tilted to achieve the best angles.

                    tip from Donjer.......Place a 3" lip in front and vertically (on the bottom edge). This
                                 will prevent flock from being blown out by escaping air currents.
                   The above photo did not have that "lip" installed....yet. It makes a huge difference.

observations & data
              1)  Rustoleum double coats are thicker, tougher and provide a chance to cover first coat
                   blemishes….which seem difficult to totally avoid
              2) The Donjer black flock was not as black as the Aero black
                       note: the black Donjer flock reclaimed from the flocking box was placed back in
                                the 3 oz bag & the reclaimed charcoal grey (Donjer) was placed back in the
                                3 oz bag of grey
                       note: later when the "pure" black Donjur coating was applied, it was not as black
                                as the Aero….therefore, I used a different bag of Donjer black flock to see if
                                the very small amount of grey contamination might be the cause.  It was.  
                                The fresh bag of Donjer is blacker than the one that probably has a small
                                amount of charcoal grey in it
                       note: do all black first and “the rest” (grey, red, etc.) later and in clean, freshly
                                relined flocking boxes to avoid contamination
              3) on the first decoy I used a sponge paint brush for larger areas and bristle
the edges,
                  went on easy and flocking box worked great, but the sponge brush doesn't carry as
                  much paint (more work)
                       note: allowed to dry for 24 hrs and completed the other side
                       note: decided waiting that long for second coat is unnecessary  
             4) did not mask anything off, eyes are more difficult, needed finer brush
                       note: will mask off white bill…..too often a splash of black paint 
                       note: with the lid off the paint......it becomes thicker.....this is good  
             5) doing the whole coot with the very thick Donjer or Aero glue takes too much time,
                 the glue in some areas doesn’t gather as much flock because it becomes skimmed
                 (not apparent) and less “tacky”.......plus I felt rushed
             6) Rustoleum is thinner and easier to keep “wet” & the second coat really finishes off
                 the total flock coating look nicely
             7) by the fourth decoy, the amount of time to coat has decreased (skills improving) &
                 the ease of applying Rustoleum (over the other two) makes it a winner (so far), add
                 to that the second coat only takes about 30 minutes max and covers first coat
                 blemishes (which I have not been able to avoid on any decoy yet), the “hand puffer”
                 may be the weak link (air assisted better?)
             8) from what I can gather all three paints/glues are alkyds, two are oil based and one
                 is water based (emulsion)……when dry they are essentially the same “stuff”.
                 However, I think the water based emulsion may need a much longer curing time.
                 All the water needs to migrate out of the mixture…..oil based solvents “leave”
                 quicker. The thicker glues are designed to “grab” more flocking initially.  Donjer
                 and Aero black paint/glues "look" and feel identical when applying. The only
                 difference is the solvent odor of the Donjer. However, the two coated Rustoleum
                 seems to compensate for many issues…..easier painting with a "wetter" coating,
                 when finished (two coats), the decoy has more total flock over a harder, similar
                 undercoat with zero blemishes and no gaps.  
             9) all black flocked coots look fine for a hunting rig (easier, too)
                 This initial conclusion for choosing Rustoleum is supported by other experimenters.
                 Therefore, I will probably use the Rustoleum method with Donjer nylon flock
                 (company is closer), but the final choice will depend on the durability testing of the
                 five decoys.  
                 In two weeks, the five flocked coots (different methods and materials) will be tested
                 in the elements for durability……freezing/thawing, rained on and jammed wet in a
                 6 slot decoy bag  which will be bounced around (a lot).

 Update: 02/16/2010

                 Finished the coots....double coated Rustoleum & black flocking from Donjer.

                      After seeing the single coated Donjer and Aero glue flocked coots, it was
                 obvious the double coat Rustoleum was far better looking. The decoys have
                 no blemishes and required no additional touchups. The one coat method with
                 Rustoleum, Aero or Donjur "glue/paints" is not up to my standards....too many
                 blemishes and impossible to get close to a perfect coating (on the plastics). 
                 The hand held "flock puffer" seems to be the limiting factor. There was one
                 suggestion about using the air assisted flocking device which is apparently
                 very effective (and more expensive & need compressor).

                 Two pieces of information about the best method caused me to rethink taking
                 time to test the durability. An experienced decoy carver states his Rustoleum
                 double coat method is superior and sells many decoys using this method.
                 That was good enough for me. Another double coat Rustoleum user hunts
                 way more than I do every year and has studied the various effects of weather
                 and wear & tear during actual use. That was strike two for me. And lastly, my
                 own work on comparing the three application techniques has the Rustoleum
                 (double coat method) producing a much better looking flocked decoy.
                           Note: this is using the "hand puffer"....Donjer Mini-Flocker. 
                                                                 Rustoleum double flocked coot

Update: 02/19/2010
                 Finished double Rustoleum coats of black flocking the back of eight drake
                 bluebills......heads and breast areas are next. The four bluebill hens will have
                 the same areas covered with brown flocking.

                 Had some issues making the first coat of Rustoleum stick when the flocking
                 was applied. The air seemed to push the flock aside as it absorbed the paint.
                 This left a few small areas not covered (no paint or flock). Touching up these
                 areas worked, but it was a time consuming "cobble job". The second set of
                 four drake bluebills were first given a primer coat of Rustoleum which was
                 allowed to dry. With this "primer coat", the two coat process went extremely
                 well with no blemishes on either the first or second coat. The paint adhered
                 well and the double flocking looks "super". 
                           note: the bluebills are Cabela's Real Image OS bluebills while the coots
                                    and other decoys are Avery (different manufacturer ??), have
                                    decided to give extra prime coat to all decoys before flocking
                                               2 Rustoleum double black flocked bluebills
Update: 02/23/2010
           The four female bluebills have the tail area double coated with brown flock.
               The head and breast areas have the "primer" coat of black Rustoleum applied.
               The black "paint" does not seem to create any issues with the brown flock.
                           note: the simple pedestal setup for flocking is very stable and effective
                           note: Rustoleum has a new product - flat brown (ordered, but not in)

Update: 02/24/2010

                Drove to Donjer and bought more nylon flocking.....black, bright red, cardinal
                red, cream and brown (not as dark as feather brown).

Update: 02/25/2010

                 I finished the Rustoleum primer coat on 6 Avery OS goldeneyes decoys.
                 After they were dry, six were given another coat of Rustoleum on the back
                 area and black flocking was applied immediately. It takes too much time to
                 paint the heads and the back area since the surface starts to skim over. It
                 has to be very "wet" for the proper effect. The heads will be done after all
                 the backs have had their third coat of Rustoleum with the second layer of
                 black flock. It is a good thing it's cold with snow on the ground.....nothing
                 much else to do. 30 decoys almost finished with another 12 left to do.
Update: 03/9/2010

                 The goldeneyes are finished. The redheads and canvasbacks are almost. My
                 very old set of G & H Super Magnum Canvasbacks (out of the shed) became a
                 new project. The flocking makes them really "pop" (3 drakes & 3 hens). 
                                         "blending flocking colors produced this redhead"

Mar 10th made "practice board" to try and learn a way to blend in the black shading on a "can" head 
                     note: put two layers of "can" flocking on a flat piece of plywood and
                              the G & H Super Magnums now have their first coat of flocking  
  (left click on thumbnails)
                                                   "practice board"
   "G&H Super Magnum"

Painting tip: When I first started the Rustoleum process, my painting techniques required some
                        practice and patience. The tight areas on some of the decoys were difficult to "stay
                        in the lines". The decoy eyes and edges were particularly difficult for me. It improved
                        with practice. However, I was kind of dreading the second coat of Rustoleum over the
                        first layer of flock. I was thinking that keeping clean edges (especially around the
                        beak and eyes) was not going to be pleasant. I was wrong.

                        If paint is "loaded" on the brush, not only does the first coat of flock absorb much of
                        the paint, but by layering paint within an eighth-of-an-inch to any edge, flock "wicks"
                        paint right up to the border and "soaks" it.  Done properly (enough paint close to the
                        edge), the flock "pulls paint" and there was hardly any reason to do much trim. I
                        never had to use a fine brush around the eyes and the flock along the edges was
                        always plenty "wet enough" to take on the second coat of flock.  By painting around
                        those areas first (before painting the large areas), there was time for the "fill in" to
                        take place. 

                        On a side note, I found the expensive paint brushes (1") did not work as well as the
                        cheapest $0.89 brushes Menards had (especially when applying the second coat).
                        The course fibered "cheapies" hold more paint and flock can "suck it up" faster. 

Mini-Flocker tip: When using the "Donjer" mini-flocker (cylinder pumping device), the best
                        results were obtained by first of all holding it perpendicular the the immediate
                        surface (during the application. The best practice is to pump fast enough so that
                        all the flocking in the cylinder becomes suspended as if it were a dense cloud of
                        dust. In addition, moisture content and electrostatic factors cause the flocking to
                        clump. Too dry is worse. By rapping the cylinder on the palm of my hands any
                        "clump clogging" of the small holes from which the flocking is release is avoided.
                        With practice, compensating for the above factors makes the process move along
                        much easier. There is a brief learning curve.

Update: 3/16/2010:  The first two heads of the Avery OS and G&H Super Magnum Canvasbacks
                        have been shaded black. I used the cheap brush & "unloaded" it on newspaper.
                        This brush shaded the black areas on the heads. The final decoy was achieved by
                        continually working the shading and spreading in the desired areas with by less
                        color toward the borders. The second decoy seemed to be better than the first.
Avery OS and G&H Super Magnum Canvasbacks

Blending Donjer nylon flock colors to make "redhead" and "can" head colors:
             I bought brown (not the feather brown), bright red and cardinal red nylon flocking. The
             Redhead "color" ended up being a 4:1 mixture of brown to bright red. The Canvasback
             was a 4:1:1 of brown to bright red to cardinal red. If you use 14 grams for each of the
             smaller ratios (1) then 42 grams would be the (3). 454 grams equals 16 ounces (one pound).
             In comparing the decoy Can heads to the "real thing", I would change to a bit more of
             the brown and cardinal red to approach more of a a darker burnt orange color. Some
             refer to this as kind of a burnt umber. However, on the water I like the way the present
             color "pops".

             I did approximate testing using level tablespoons. Mixing tablespoons of various colors
             (and writing it down as I went) produced the right color. Then I scaled it up to the
             volume/weight necessary for the number of decoys to be flocked. Three ounces of flock
             goes a long way on decoy heads if you are doing recovery.

             I had a small platform scale from puppy whelping. Weighing in grams was easier than
             ounces because an ounce of flock is about 28 grams (more divisions). The different colored
             flocks were placed in a very large zip lock food back. When the opposite corners of the bag
             are held and then rotated 180 degrees, the flock mixture tumbles and mixes "real quick"
             plus it's already in the bag for use and storage. Identify the bag with a magic marker and
             record the info somewhere else

             The easiest way to "mix" and blend flocking colors is to place the portions in a large
             zip-lock bag. Rotating the corners while holding the bag vertically tumbles the flocking
             resulting in a very thorough mixing (with no mess). Don't forget to label and keep a
             record of the mixture composition. It was difficult to visually tell the difference when
             these two blends were bagged. 
Update: 3/21/2010 The recent cold weather and snow fall provided some downtime from dog
             training. Therefore, the hen Canvasbacks have been flocked and a picture banner for
             the page was constructed. After providing plenty of time for the decoy flocking to "cure",
             approximately three dozen will be rigged on three permanent long lines and all
             forty-eight will be stored in their slot bags. Four dozen decoys will be all my Carsten
             Bluebill can handle when factoring in the other hunting gear and a dog.   
             The long lines and "anchors" are ready.  In the above photo, a couple of the anchors
             are visible.  Eyebolts ((with two nuts and a washer) were suspended in the center of
             8 oz and 16 oz aluminum soda cans. The tops of the cans were trimmed off with a box
             cutter. Melted lead was poured into the anchor mold.  After cooling, the aluminum was
             "peeled" and each anchor was "painted" with several coats of red liquid rubber (the
             kind used for dipping metal tools). The long line anchors weigh four and seven pounds
             which should be more than enough for the Mississippi.  

                                         March 31, 2010 - the divers are ready to be bagged and stored
   update: 4/1/2010 The first batch of goose decoys are ready to flock. This will be a "touch-up and tail"  
 flocking "exercise". April shower days will provide the time (no dog training in the rain).

         "Touch-up 'n Tails" - Avery Pro-Grade, FFD Lessers, OS Shells plus Dakota field & floaters
                                                    Working Photos 2010 Season
                                                                  (flocked decoys)  
                                                                                      (left click on thumbnails)
      "G&H Super-Mag"
        "G&H Super-Mag"
        "Real Image OS"
         "Real Image OS"
        "Avery OS Can"
           "Avery OS GE"
          "flocked coots"
          (on boat camo)
            "flocked coots" 
     "checking spacing"
          "Can mainline"       
          "waiting Cans"
               "43 decoys"
        "Daisy with Can"
         "Taffey's 1st Can"
         "taxidermy Can"
          "Gunny's 1st Can"

                   I've come to the conclusion that the small Carsten Bluebill will not do as a diver
                  hunting rig. Too many days were lost because of winds "over the limit". Anything
                  in the 16 mph plus range was "too much" for any big water ventures and I had no
                                         desires to test my Mustang Survival float coat.

                     In addition, putting out a good sized diver setup in deeper waters was quite a
                     chore. There is almost zero space to move around and the "dog of the day"
                        has to be repositioned several times during the process.....not good. At
                                                least that is what I'm telling my wife. 


                              updated 01/28/14