Our Business Philosophy

In order to but be successful, we must sell our goods at a reasonable profit margin and still satisfy you.

If we satisfy our customers but fail to make a profit we will soon be out of business.

If we make the profit but fail to satisfy our customers, we also will be out of cusromers.

The secret of doing both lies in the one word, SERVICE.

Service means doing something so valuable for the customer that he or she is glad to pay the price that allows us to make a profit.

We strive to take care of our CUSTOMERS by following up to make sure every one is satisfied.

How to use our video conferencing program.

The use of our easy to use video conferencing classroom will be taught in the first steps of joining a live course or class. You must sign up for a course or class to get this information.

Can I just take regular classes live?

Yes you may.

I am now offering folks who don’t live near my studio the opportunity to take classes with me online LIVE via video conferencing – for beginners to advanced carvers.
Each class period offered will have no more than 3 students per class.

You can choose the waterfowl you want to carve from a list of N. American species –you select a working decoy or full decorative style carving. Cut-outs or full kits, tools & supplies are available from the onsite Decoy Carving Live Store.

No contract is involved – only guidelines for the program you read here.

The fee for the continuing instruction will be the same as I charge for my in-studio weekly classes – $85 per month, regardless of the number of weeks in the month, due in advance the first week of each month. There is a convenient shopping cart to pay fees.

You can make up one missed class per month in a scheduled make-up period the following month. This is possible because I always teach each student at his/her own pace and per project, usually in a group setting. If the class is not made up in the scheduled time frame, you will continue on and renew as usual in the first week of each month.

You can continue instruction month to month by renewing at our store cart.
If you must skip a month or take leave from the instruction for a time, you can reinstate at a later time for a $25 rescheduling fee.

To get started:

Go to WEEKLY LIVE CLASSES Select your options and submit to cart to pay the first month’s fee at checkout via credit card / PayPal. You will also be registering, and as a student, you have available all features of our website such as the classes, blog, chats, archive, reference images and much more.

You will be given instructions on how to connect to our video conferencing program.
Once connected, we will have a person-to-person conversation on-camera to have your questions answered, receive important directions and more details about the class. The whole process is quite simple.

Email me if you have any trouble – Vic Kirkman

How does it work?


Several courses and classes are offered.

Each course has a duration we are calling the “semester”.
You choose and register for the course you want to enroll in for the semester it is offered.
Classes will be grouped as “sessions”.

There will be a setup session before the live course semester starts. This period is needed for shipping supplies and for students to get brief training on how to use our video conferencing classroom.

Some courses are so comprehensive that they are taught in parts or “phases” and usually in the order of the designed instruction.

One can register for each part, in order, separately if they wish or need to. In courses that have more than one part, one must start with Part 1 and take Parts 2,3,4, etc. in the order and semester taught.

The number of students per classroom session is limited from 2 to 4, depending on the type of instruction involved.

Courses are mostly taught weekly in the afternoons EST currently. Other times may be added as needed. Most sessions will run LIVE with the instructor for 1 or2 hours depending upon the course.

1. After you sign up for a course and before you start: you will get a link to get you connected to our video conferencing program.

2. It is best to have a fairly good webcam. You can purchase a good Logitech webcam for under $75. Laptop cams will work but are less mobile.

3. Any set of headphones or blue tooth earpiece is helpful so you can hear me while you are using a loud machine and to prevent feedback.

4. Each registered student will be individually invited to the specific events scheduled for their course or class.

Please email me with any questions you may have. Vic Kirkman

What is Tupelo wood?





Botanical Name

Tupelo is known by many names-black gum, sour gum, water tupelo, pepperidge swamp tupelo, bay poplar, olive tree, swamp gum, tupelo gum, cotton gum, and yellow gum. Historically, lumbermen and foresters have insisted on calling this tree gum; however, a gum fluid has never been associated with the tree. The title of pepperidge seems derived from an old English word for the barberry bush. Tupelo is translated from the Creek Indian language-eto, meaning “tree,” and opelwv, meaning “swamp.”

The botanical names for these two trees are Nyssa sylvatica and Nyssa aquatica. It is derived from the Latin name Nyssa, a water nymph of classical Greek mythology. Sylvatica means of the forest, while aquatica means of the water.

This small family of three genera and eight species of shrubs and trees is native to eastern North America and China, including Tibet. Only tupelos are native to North America.

The tupelo genus is small as well, with five species-two in eastern Asia and the remaining three in eastern North America. Fossil records of preglacial species indicate that tupelos were at one time more widely distributed across Europe, Asia, and North America.

Characteristics and Use

Although not well known, these large, abundant trees offer tremendous rewards for the manufacturer. The tree reaches a maximum of 125 feet tall and 6 feet in diameter. Average-sized trees are 60-80 feet high and 1-3 feet in diameter. The simple leaves are two to three inches long, shiny, and dark green in color. The fruit is a dark blue fleshy berry, resembling a small plum, while the bark of old trees resembles alligator hide.

The wood of the different tupelos is quite similar in appearance and properties. It has fine, uniform texture and interlocked grain. Tupelo wood is rated as moderately heavy (35 pounds per cubic ft.), moderately strong, hard, stiff, and moderately high in shock resistance.

Tupelo is low-to-moderate in decay resistance. Its color ranges from a very white sapwood to yellowish or brownish-gray streaked heartwood with an indistinct pattern. The lighter colored sapwood is generally several inches wide. Classified as moderately weak when used for beams or posts, the wood is moderately limber, below average in matching properties, and intermediate in nail-holding and resistance to splitting. The submerged portions of trees growing in swamps or flooded areas contain wood that is much lighter in weight than that from upper portions of the same trees.

Tupelo is used for lumber, veneer, pulpwood, and to some extent for railway ties and slack cooperage. Utilized primarily for shipping containers and interior parts of furniture, the lumber is also used for crate and basket veneers, box shooks, rollers, mallets, rough floors, mine timbers, and fuel. It is used extensively in the veneer and panel industry for crossbanding, plywood cores, and backs. The wood can be readily pulped and is used for high-grade book and magazine papers. In the past, the hollow trunks were used for “bee gums” to hold beehives.

It takes a finish, including enamel, very well. Therefore, it is often used for furniture, fixtures, woodworking, cabinets, and novelties. Readily available as lumber and veneer, it is considered an inexpensive wood.

Distribution and Outlook

Water tupelo grows in swamps and in the flood plains of streams, where it might be submerged a few months each winter and spring. Often it grows in pure stands along the Coastal Plain from Virginia to Texas, and along the Mississippi River up to southern Illinois. Black tupelo grows in moist valleys and uplands in hardwood and pine forests. It is located in the eastern half of the United States, Canada and Mexico and has the more plentiful growing range of the two tupelos. These trees are fast growing in well-drained bottomlands, but slow growing in swampy sites. They are long-lived and begin flowering and fruiting when they are about 30 years old. Flowers appear in spring when leaves are nearly grown, while the fruits mature in autumn. The small, greenish flowers are an excellent source of nectar for bees. Black bear and foxes frequently eat the fruit, while deer and beaver browse the twigs and foliage. It is a food source for wood ducks, wild turkey, robins, pileated woodpeckers, mockingbirds, and thrushes. Brilliant, blazing red autumn coloring and abundant blue fruit make these trees excellent for shade and ornamental planting in many subdivisions.

Tupelo wood is important to the lumber and veneer industry. The 1992 survey of net volume of sawtimber covering the eastern United States indicates that there are 33.6 billion board feet of tupelo, representing four percent of the total volume available of all sawtimber in the United States. About two-thirds of the production of tupelo lumber is from the Southern states.


Because of the interlocked grain, drying tupelo lumber requires extra care. The wood is difficult to dry because it shrinks greatly during seasoning and has a tendency to warp because of its grain. It requires special seasoning and drying before it can be successfully glued.


Note: This feature is part of a continuing series on American tree species appearing monthly in Southern Lumberman magazine provided by the Southeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association. For additional information, contact Karl Brohammer with SLMA’s Hardwood Promotion Committee at 404/ 361-1445. For information about the artist, contact Bruce L. Cunningham at 409/ 569-6965

What is the vision and purpose of this website?


There is a vision attached to this website and it is all about serving the wildfowl art community.

As part of that group of artists, I am sure you will appreciate the needs we will be filling here.

  • The need for a resource offering comprehensive, clear, well illustrated and demonstrated instruction in the art of bird carving.

  • The need for contemporary tools and supplies that improve the quality of the work a wildfowl artist produces.

  • The need for live consultation with an artist who has many years of experience teaching, and is available.

Therefore  I make a promise to you the student, I will to do my best to assist you with these needs and help you with your artistic endeavors long into the future with what I have offered here and with personal contact.

Vic Kirkman


How do I contact the instructor(s)?


You can always reach me with any questions about the program I may have not covered here.
My email is  vickirkman@gmail.com

My Skype name is  papaduc22

My Skype number is  919-647-9208

Do I need lots of patience to do this?

Don’t you have to have lots of patience to do this?
This type of carving as well as others helps you develop patience you didn’t think you had. Carving is a great stress reliever. There is something about carving wood with a good sharp knife or fine instrument that is soothing and relaxing. I think learning to relax leads to the growth of patience. After you finish a project, you realize the rewards of that patience and that motivates you to go on and consequently patience develops gradually within you.
Often people say, “I don’t have the patience,” which is just a convenient delay phrase and not ready  to try something new in their life at that point.  I have said it myself.
I find that most people really do have patience when they are determined to do something; you don’t need patience when you are doing something you enjoy.

Do you have good referrals?


Hi Vic,   from Lorne Ruby,MD

“You have been frequently in mind the last 2 weeks as I was carving…..and I thought I owed it to you to share the thoughts and the gratitude bound up in them.

As I carve my various pieces, I often  find myself “listening to your voice” as I work. You taught me a great deal and I am hugely grateful for all that I learned from you. What I find interesting is that I particularly think of you and your instruction when I am doing some very basic fundamentals….which, of course, is all the time. I very clearly learned some “sexy” and complex operations from you, but what serves me well every day are the fundamentals. Things that perhaps would be obvious to most and should, maybe, have been so to me….but that were not: things like removing wood from the area where there is most wood and proceeding outwards from there gradually when rounding over; principles like not going to the mark too quickly. These have been huge in my growth as a carver, and I cannot thank you enough for caring to share the extremely important ‘basics’ that did not come naturally to one who is not congenitally “mechanically-minded”.

I have continued to go to Krausman’s once a year, where I have taken classes with both Pat and Keith; I also hope to do so with Floyd Scholz in the future. While my greatest love remains waterfowl, I have also greatly benefitted from carving a Pileated Woodpecker and a Long-eared Owl under Keith’s tutelage. Most notable and unlikely to me has been my increased confidence and comfort with painting, as well as with carving.

I remember so well being absolutely awestruck when I first saw a picture of a decorative decoy in 1988, and thinking what I wouldn’t give to be able to create something like that. It seemed light years away for one who was cerebral, and had little to no experience using either his hands or working with wood. I had to wait until I retired in 2002 to find the time to begin learning….and count myself very lucky to have happened upon your instruction not too many years later. I wanted passionately not just to carve well……. but to do so with excellence and beauty! I hope I may have a number of more years to continue growing…..but I am absolutely delighted to have reached a point where I can now look at my work and be proud of it.

I can never thank you and Pat and Keith enough! Like getting into Med School and becoming a doctor, this was one of life’s consuming passions for me.

How is your book coming along? I look forward to being one of its first purchasers.

Hoping you are well and happy, Vic, and sending very warm regards along with my thanks”.

What species do you teach?

Do I have to carve the same species of bird used in the instruction program posted?
If it is a course, it is recommended for best results to follow along and carve the species shown in each presentation.  You may, of course, carve parallel projects of differing species, applying the principles you are learning in the program.  The methodology taught here is the same methodology for any species, just varying measurements and details on different ones.  Learn it this way first and then you will see how to apply those new techniques to other wildfowl you wish to carve.

It takes a very long time to prepare a program this thorough.  You can see that we already have a variety of decoys offered.  We have other species for classes under construction and others planned, to offer the bird carver a wider choice of projects.

If you want to carve a different species at your level, then I suggest you sign up for the regular weekly classes where you have numerous choices of waterfowl to carve. See our listing in the store for this offering.

How long do the classes last?

Question:  How long will it be before I can make a carving good enough to put in a competition?
Answer:  How long it takes you will depend on you how hard you work at it.  If you carve the demo example along with the Online Instruction Program, it could take maybe a year to make a good decoy working only six hours a week.

For me it takes about 2-3 months to make a decorative “smoothie” floating decoy or simple-posed small bird, to be competitive in a show.  That is working 10 or more hours a week.  It should take from 6 months to a year for me to finish an award winning full decorative floating decoy unless you learn very fast. Larger, more elaborate poses take longer.

The program is not designed to help you finish a decoy fast.  It helps you learn the art of their creation so that you will have the knowledge and skill down the road to make lots of them on your own.

Can I just get painting instruction?

I have been carving birds and decoys for a while now, so can I just get some help with my weakest point, such as painting?
Yes, but what a lot of wildfowl carvers fail to realize is; the design, feather group layout, and surface texture sets up the good paint job. The better these elements, the easier the paint job gets. I rarely teach anyone to paint a full decorative wildfowl until I have shown those elements of carving that prepare the proper surface for the paint.
Play of light on a good design, planning the presentation of the bird’s best color and features, carving in planned shadows and getting the right surface effects on the wood even before grinding and burning in the texture are all things that should be improved with even experienced carvers in order to benefit from the painting techniques I will be teaching in this program.
I recommend viewing the painting tutorials in the REFERENCE section of our main menu.

Can I download the course and do it when I want to?

Can I download the course and do it when I want to?
The Live Instruction Program is not just a book or canned presentation, but a progressive program involving live interaction between student and teacher and student and other students.

There has to be order and sequential methodology or the program will not be of much use to you. I suggest that you work it in the exact sequence you find it presented. If you just download the program you will not get your moneys worth.

You will have COMPLETE access to the archived class for 30 days past the designated end date to any program you register for. A PDF file of the course will also be sent to you after you are attending the course sessions.

Go ahead and work it as designed and I will be right there LIVE to assist you via our ion site Skype program and chat room. Our chat room is always available to you to consult with other students anytime you wish.

What tools and supplies will I need?

What tools and supplies will I need to get started and where can I get them?
View the class listings and you will see if any special tools are needed to begin with. Once you sign up, you will be able to see a complete list of the tools you will need for that particular instruction. There will be time to acquire these as you go along and they are available for you at a discount right here on decoy-depot.
Our shopping cart provides the tools you will need for all of our classes and has always been provided as a convenient and special priced source for all students of the Vic Kirkman School of Wildfowl Art.
The tools and supplies are indexed in the order in which one would use them when creating a wildfowl carving.
You can order those recommended tools and supplies through the decoy-depot store by check, money order, MasterCard, Visa, Discover or PayPal with our secure server.

What other expenses are involved?

I know what the initial fees are, but what else is it going to cost me in special materials, tools and supplies as I get involved in the program?
It can cost from $300. to $3000. depending on how fully equipped you want to be.To get started enough to determine if this is really what you want to pursue in a serious way, then I would say you can get by with spending the minimum. The very serious novice could spend a lot, if he wants to invest in a band saw, get the super deluxe micro motor power tool, buy a top line Foredom grinder, burning tools, diamond bits, and the works in paints, brushes and painting supplies.
It’s similar to taking up golf. You can get the beginner set of golf clubs, play in tennis shoes, carry your get-by bag and walk on low fee courses, or you can buy a custom set of Pings, a designer brand of golf shoes, have your own cart and ride the country club course in style. It is all up to you how you want to start out. I suggest you start small and buy your supplies and equipment on an as needed basis. Most our live classes furnish basic materials you will need, but tools are up to you. Any other tools or supplies you want can be found in our Decoy-Depot with this website.

What are the qualifications?

If you know absolutely nothing about woodcarving you may want to start out slow with a basic course such as our basic working decoy course or the canvas decoy project or you can just take the regular weekly class offering at the Novice level.

It really depends on the person and his/her level of commitment.
The instruction here is designed for the novice to advanced student but a raw beginner can take the weekly live classes and have Vic get you started out right, like he has for hundreds of beginners. Sometimes a students health or age may not work in the live online setting, but I leave that decision to the interested party.

If I feel like the student, for the reasons of heath or age, cannot use my instruction effectively, I will inform them of my opinion and offer a complete refund on the instruction fees.