Olney resident Bill Antilla can turn a few square feet of wood into $5,000.

Just give him a handful of tools and about 300 hours.

The?Clatsop Community College instructor is also a world-class duck decoy carver.

His intricate, lifelike duck carvings have taken top prize at the Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition in Ocean City, Md.

This month, a pair of cinnamon teal ducks he carved from blocks of tupelo auctioned for $5,000 at a benefit for the North?Coast Chapter of Ducks Unlimited.

Antilla, 49, has been carving ducks since he was 10.

He's spent a lot of his life working on boats, and for the last 15 years he's taught at the Maritime and Environmental Research and Training Station in Astoria. But he's also an avid duck and goose hunter, and once a year he teaches a decoy carving class at CCC.

To trick ducks into flying toward their hunters, ordinary decoys don't need nearly as much detail as Antilla gives his carvings. (His hunting buddy gasped in horror the one time he threw a 200-hour duck into the slough.)

He starts with a wood block and a hatchet and works his way through knives, chisels, saws and grinders.

Then, he switches to a dentist's drill to add the finest detail to each individual feather. That's when the hours really start to add up.

"If you're going to make it look live, it's all about the details,"?he said.

Antilla clocked his time investment into one of his recent carvings using a DVD box set of the television show "Friends." It took him six whole seasons to finish one piece.

"I get carried away because I?like it," he said. "Once you get into it, you don't give a damn about the time. You blink and four hours have gone by."

Duck carving isn't hard, he said, but doing it well takes patience. He's just begun carving several ducks out of salvaged Port Orford cedar. So far, they look like rough-hewn bathtub toys. He has a long way to go.

"First you start removing everything that doesn't look like a duck," he said. "You start looking at ducks in a different light and noticing how they're really shaped. There's nothing flat on them. Everything should be a curve - nice and soft-looking."

The only finished duck carving Antilla keeps in his house is the one he made for his wife when he proposed: a cracked egg next to the duck once held her engagement ring.

It's better for other people to hold onto the rest of his work, Antilla said. That way he's not tempted to keep tweaking it.

Antilla built his house in Olney and his nearby workshop, where he keeps and uses tools handed down to him from his father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

He has more than a dozen ducks in various stages of development right now. Some are commissioned, he said, and others are gifts for people who let him hunt birds on their land.

Although he won't compete in this year's world carving championship, which will draw around 1,000 competitors, Antilla has several ducks sketched out for next year's event.

Those pieces will take him at least six months to finish.


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