Scratch builder enjoys making threshers
Kenny Sunderland remembers old-time threshing
and the hard work, good food and fun everybody seemed to have. But
for him, there was more. "All the gears and pulleys and belts
intrigued me," says the 73-year-old Winsted, Minn., retiree,
recalling a John Deere thresher owned by his father and two uncles.
"They were dangerous old machines, but we survived anyway."
Kenny's farm experience served him well when he started building
models of the old threshers. Originally, he planned to build one
old machine for each of his sons and his son-in-law, but the plan
derailed when one son died of cancer. "Then I had too many models,"
he says, "so I decided to keep making them."
Starting from scratch
Model making was always on Kenny's mind, even as a boy. "When I
was young I didn't know how and didn't have the equipment," he
says, so he put such thoughts aside until 1980, when he saw a real
Minneapolis Junior thresher. The Junior was made of wood and had
fewer pulleys than other threshers. It would be less of a
challenge, he thought, given that he had to build everything by
hand. "I had been going through a lot of books, and I thought the
Junior would be the simplest to build," he recalls, "because here
was one I could take measurements from." But it was harder than it
Planning a model of the circa-1915 Minneapolis required long
days over the course of four months. "I had the parts books with
drawings, and then had to use rulers, straight edges, pencils and a
calculator," he says, "and draw one piece at a time on big sheets
of tag board." He decided on 1/8-scale: Smaller parts were too
difficult to fabricate, and larger ones meant the finished product
couldn't be carried to thresher shows. He went on to make five
Minneapolis Juniors, learning from each one.
A Case built from a Case
Kenny's second model was a thresher made of wood salvaged from a
real 1905 Case Model 44-66. "I'd seen pictures of it," he says,
"and I kind of leaned towards the idea that the older the machines
are, the better I liked it."
By then he had purchased an old military surplus enlarging
machine with a 1,000-watt bulb that projected an enlarged image. "I
put tag board on the wall and drew the plans on there," he says. It
was considerably easier than the time-consuming handwork, but was
still an imperfect process. "To make the thresher 1/8-scale, I had
to know the actual size of the original parts, and divide by
eight," he says. "So if the wheel was 32 inches in diameter, the
model wheel would be 4 inches in diameter."
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