Cal Deming, Proud Carver

Cal Deming
At 85, Cal Deming is still happily hand-carving fish (Photo: C. Faulknor/BC Gazette)
The life and times of Boyne City's very own Cal Deming

By: Joshua Sampson, Staff Writer
(231) 222-2119

Growing up in Boyne City, Cal Deming has always been interested in carving fish. “People call me up to get fish made, but I stick to freshwater fish,” said Demming. “It could be anything like perch or blue gill.”  Since his retirement from Honeywell 22 years ago, Deming has been taking his art form to new levels, even intriguing people from far away to purchase some of his work.[private]

“A guy found a decoy down in Tennessee and gave me call,” said Deming. “He came up and bought a whole bunch of decoys, and now they’re scattered all over the place.”

At 85, Cal Deming is still happily hand-carving fish (Photo: C. Faulknor/BC Gazette)

Deming said his interest in fish carving was sparked when his grandfather used to go on fishing trips with him; his grandfather always used a decoy to call in fish and then spear them when they were close enough. “I used to do a lot of spearing – when it was legal to spear lake trout – and it was something else fun to do way back in 52′,” he said.  Deming uses basswood to carve with because it is the easiest wood to work with and it is very tough.

“It doesn’t take long to whittle them out, but painting on them and designing the type of fish your working on can take a while,” he said. Surprisingly, Deming said, you don’t need a lot of tools to carve fish, but there are some things you can’t avoid. Using a band saw, for instance, is crucial to cutting the basswood, and you will eventually need a vice and a wood rasp to cut the wood down and scrape it – to get it shaped out correctly. Deming, at one point, used wooden tails but has refrained from using them lately, resorting to metal fins that won’t break easily instead. “I used to use water paint, too, but I don’t use it anymore because the paint will chip, so I switched to oil based paints,” he said.

Deming went on to say that he enjoys creating fish and decoys, and he believes it’s a good thing for him to do after retirement. “I like making spears. I’ve made some big ones, hammering them out,” said Deming. “It takes a lot of time hammering.” According to Deming, he believes he has created hundreds of different fish, and when they begin to run low from people purchasing them, he has no problem making more. “When I get done painting and carving, and if there’s about forty left, I’ll just go and build them back up,” he said.

While he also enjoys using a forge to create spears, Deming does not work on them as often anymore, however, he said he still enjoys making spears when he can. “Sometimes you get a nice day to go outdoors and get going on the forge, but it does take a lot of hammering,” Deming said.

His interest in crafting spears came from when he was a kid and took day trips to visit a local blacksmith to watch him work. “When I was a kid, way back in school between fourth and fifth grade, I used to go downtown and watch Jim Habasco hammer all the time,” Deming said. “He could really hammer them out.” 85 year-old Deming is happy with the positive responses he has received about his work, and it appears he will continue doing what makes me happy – carving decoys and forging spears.[/private]

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