Lots of foamer decoy companies are cropping up which is a good thing. It is important to understand that there are varying levels of foam decoys out there offered by the different companies.
Base level foamers are offered fairly cheaply to ridiculously high priced. These decoys often have great feather detail or are similar to the old Herters decoys. The raw EPS resin is poured into the mold and then steamed or boiled to make a very light weight body with a very soft surface. Most of these types of decoys have airbrushed paint jobs that are fairly simple.
The second level of decoys have bodies made the same way or cast from two part foam in 2 or 4 lb density bodies. They are hand painted with simple paint jobs.
The third level of decoys are cast using EPS in a specific method that provides a very hard surface with a 4 to 6 lb density core. These decoys recieve either a Restle Coating or Burlap / Mastic coatings. This type of decoy is often painted in exterior latex, or acrylics. They normally recieve priming layers, then paint layers, and at times a flat varnish or spray coating of flat Krylon. The base coats and primers are hand painted which provides a thicker and much tougher finish. The fine details can be hand painted or airbrushed.
The fourth level of decoy is carved foam or wood. Foam decoys are often painted with both hand and airbrush techniques, Some companies fully flock them. These type of decoys absolutely require a double layered Restle or Burlap coating as they are very soft after the carving process. Wood Decoys are very time consuming and command the highest prices. They are normally sealed with multiple coats of a variety of finishes, then painted to exquisite detail in oils, and finally overcoated with a clear flat or stain finish. These decoys can be crazy expensive and from the right carvers can be works of art.
My decoys fit in the third level catagory with a hard shell casting, Restle Coat, and hand painted finished. I paint with exterior latex by the way. If it can stay on my house for 25 years without a problem, I figure it is going to be great on a decoy.
Heads can be cast foam, carved foam, cast hard plastic, or carved wood. You can get painted on eyes, plastic eyes, or glass eyes for any of the head types. Costs of course vary according to quality and amount of time it takes to make each part.
Having played with and been buried in the making of several hundred decoys, with a ton left to cast and paint for scoters, geese, and some other species I would never buy anything but third level decoys. If you are going to invest significant money into foamers, I believe you should buy a decoy that will last several lifetimes whem properl cared for.
If you are a smash and bash decoy guy stick with plastics, foamers are going to irritate you no end. You will break them and complain about how they are weak and the bills break, bodys dent, etc....
If you like to take pride in your spread, spend a few extra minutes setting and pulling, and want to spend your hard earned money one time and never again. Foamers are your cup of tea. If you want to toss them into one bag and beat them around first and second level decoys are going to be beat to heck immediately. Third tier decoys will last a while but eventually die an early death as well.
Tier 3's can take a moderate amount of bashing around, but should still be single slotted and taken care of. No walking on the decoys, not just throwing the bag from the front of the boat into the back of the truck. Rough housing the deeks is going to get you broken bills and roughed up paint on what can be very expensive decoys.
Fourth tier decoys deserve very gentle treatement due to the softer nature of the foamers, and the artistic quality of the wood decoys. I have seen some wood gunners go for $150, while artist decoys can go for $500.
Airbrushed base paint is a horrible idea. It often has a weak bond to the foam and is easily rubbed off. It is a very thin coating. It is fine for detail paint over a solid hand painted base coat or two.
Hand painted base coats are your strongest paint type. The work particularly well when placed over a primer base. Fine detail paint is strongest and thicker when hand painted, airbrushing works well and provides a reasonably durable finish.
Overcoats of Krylon or Ronans dead flat varish both help toughen the paint job, but they are going to cost you extra when purchasing foamers from a company. The Ronan's in particular is very expensive.
Restle Coating is very tough and provides a detailed finish with a single coat. A double coat it a fair amount tougher but covers up all body detail and is rather rough in texture. Burplap / mastic is the toughest foamer coating and has a distinct look to the finish with the burlap usually showing in squares. Both finishes provide a flat finish when painted. The Restle coat is my preferred finish and has a look like flocking to it. Restle coating can be complete in a week or so. Burlap and Mastic has crazy long drying times and can take months to properly cure all the layers.
If you guys have any questions on foamer purchases from different companies or just general questions, fire away here or in a pm. I am happy to answer any questions you have. I have become well versed in the various processes and methods. Keeps your eyes on the forum here. I will post up a post with photos of the various decoys I have completed and I am presently in the process of making.
I should be able to get it up by next Tuesday
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