Franz Dutzler - The Master Trout Sculptor

Franz Dutzler - The Creative Process
Hand Carving and Hand Painting
Trout Sculptures

Franz Dutzler Master Sculptor Hand Painting a Rainbow Trout Wood Sculpture


Franz has made a detailed study of all trout in their native environment. When he catches a fish, he immediately puts the live fish in a Plexiglas tank full of river water. He takes pictures of the fish through the water, often using filters in the middle of the day, to eliminate the reflection of light off the fish, capturing all the true colors of the fish and its natural movements. He has taken precise measurements from the fish to ensure the proportions are correct. This enables him to produce an end product that looks colorful and alive. His catalog files are so extensive that he now rarely needs to keep a fish for research.

He experimented with several different woods before he found that kiln-dried Alder was the best suited for both the fish body and for the thinness of the fins. He cuts the body form out with a band saw, and carves, files, and sands to create a smooth contour.

Then he carves the details of the head and body and engraves the scales and fins with fine gouges and electric burning tools, with fine tips of which many are hand made by Franz to fit the size and shape needed. The fins and tails are mitered into the body and after painting the glass eyes they are set into the sockets. After doing any finishing details, the wood is sealed with Varathane.

He begins painting the fish with a base coat in two different colors, dark on the top and light on the bottom. Next the undercoat of the scale is painted on using thin coats of oil paint and the next day more colors blended into it. It has to be the color of the fish in between the scales which is just the right amount darker than the scale its self. It is different on each species of fish.

Franz Dutzler - The Trout Carving Creative Process - Initial painting of the fish scales Franz Dutzler - The Trout Carving Creative Process - Final painting the fish scales Franz Dutzler - The Trout Carving Creative Process - Adding the spots to the fish

Then each individual scale is painted on, using several different colors. The spots are painted on next, after which the scales are highlighted. These many layers of thin oil paints called highlighting give the fish a translucent look. Franz takes great care to reproduce the fish's natural setting. He mounts the fish on a unique piece of driftwood, often altering the driftwood to fit the composition of the piece. It is next mounted to a base with realistic rocks, weeds, nymphs, frogs, or small bait fish, all of which are carved and painted with the same care used on the fish. The piece is covered with a Plexiglas vitrine to protect the piece.

Franz's study of the wild trout has given him a heightened appreciation of how beautiful the native fish is compared to the stocked (hatchery) fish. Each aquatic environment affects a fish's color, spots, and body structure, producing native trout unique to each river and lake. Stocking steams and lakes with hatchery fish that compete with wild fish for food and space, over-fishing, and indiscriminate logging all contribute to the dwindling of our wild fish population. He hopes his woodcarvings make people aware of the beauty of native and wild trout and inspire others to save these beautiful fragile fish that God has created for us.

Each of Franz's carvings is a unique masterpiece of color and form, imbued with Austrian perfectionism, and a fisherman's love.

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Franz Dutzler - The Master Trout Sculptor
Ogden, UT
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