Building anything using a minimum of manufactured parts is difficult enough. But imagine duplicating old machinery from scratch at exact-scale toy sizes.
Several craftsmen, scattered around the country, find satisfaction in just that hobby. Their work is routinely exhibited at toy and tractor shows nationwide. And for the pieces they don't feel compelled to keep, they find a ready collector's market.
Frank Miller, a miniature replica builder from Mott, N.D., makes 1/16 scale tractors that look factory-made. Miller welds, solders, slices and cuts to form wheels from exhaust pipe, spokes from wire, and hubs from copper tubing. His daughter, Dianne Mayer, makes canvases out of cotton.
"The only stock item I've used were the wheels on my plows," Miller said. "The drill disks all turn, and they raise and lower, as do the plows. I've built several grain wagons with fifth-wheel steering, bolsters and reaches to 1/16 scale - some with horses on, and some with just eveners and neck yokes on."
Miller sells his small equipment at winter toy shows. He's known for his great variety of handmade products.
Jeff Ceroll, Harrisburg, S.D., has been making 1/16 scale models of Minneapolis-Moline and Cockshutt tractors, plus M-M equipment, for about eight years. Besides farm models, Ceroll - a fulltime modeler - has done race car artwork (including 200 1904 Eldredge race cars for a museum in Belvidere, Ill.) and sculpture.
"I like M-M's because that's what we farmed with when I was a kid," Ceroll said. "I do all the pattern work, mold making, casting, painting and assembly."
His castings are of polyester resin (the same material used to make marble sinks) cast in silicone rubber molds.
"This is a relatively inexpensive way to reproduce fine detail, and requires no special machinery," he said. "The model railroad guys do a lot of this. I use automotive paint, sprayed, then baked on.
"However, it does require some trial-and-error, and it's time consuming," he said. "But the lower cost allows me to make new and different models constantly, and much of my business is for repeat customers. Some of these people say, 'Whatever you make next, I want one.' That's a good feeling!" Ceroll makes about 30 models, not counting show models, which are retired after the corresponding event. Recently, he made show specials for the International Cockshutt Club and a Minneapolis-Moline Expo.
Tracked crawlers, he said, are the hot item now. He models the M-M 2-Star and the M-M Motrac crawlers - both limited to a run of 500.
"I also make scratch-built models, like the G-4 combine," he said. "That's how I got in this business." FC
For more information: Frank Miller, 307 Iowa Ave., Mott, ND 58646; Jeff Ceroll, Box 221, Harrisburg, SD 57032.
Gary Van Hoozer is a Missouri writer specializing in vintage agriculture and farm history.