Model Farm Equipment

Retired farmer revisits vintage equipment through hand-crafted model farm equipment.

| September 2005

At age 87, Hauko Janssen is retired, but still farming. His operation now spans tabletops and counters in his home, where he crafts scale model farm equipment.

Hauko farmed near his home at Trent, S.D., for most of his life. He did custom farming, as well as custom corn shelling, using a John Deere No. 6 truck-mounted sheller. As a boy of 6 or 7, he drove a Fordson tractor for his father. Later he used a Farmall Regular, and later still, he bought several Farmall 400 tractors. "I remember when, in the 1950s, you could shell a crib of corn and trade up to a new tractor and a new Ford car every year," he says. In 1959, when Gulbranson Implement went out of business, Hauko bought the last new Farmall 560 sold in Trent. Each of these tractors and implements has been recreated in miniature by Hauko.

When Hauko moved to town in 1970, he continued to help his son, Bob, on the farm. But he found a bit more time for tinkering. After cutting down some Ash trees, he had Bennet Sawmill, Sioux Falls, S.D., cut lumber. Some of that wood was used in constructing his first small pieces: a pair of scale model wagons. One is a triple box unit, even including a hinged endgate. The detail is microscopic: The pull pin for the evener is really a wrench used to take off axle nuts so that the wheel could be pulled for greasing, just like the real one! His only concession was using plastic wheels. The other wagon is a hayrack, like those used years ago to move loose hay to the barn, as well as to haul bundles from the field for threshing in the fall.

In constructing his John Deere No. 6 sheller, Hauko used common materials in uncommon ways. For example, on the truck engine, ballpoint pen tips became spark plugs, and 22-gauge insulated copper wire became plug wires. Solid wood forms most of the main engine, with exhaust headers formed from solid wire solder. Small rods from wire cooling racks used by bakers were used to make chrome rods, and plastic canvas used by hobbyists was trimmed to form No. 55 and No. 65 steel chain, as well as various elevator aprons, the drag feed apron and the cob stacker apron.

The primary tools Hauko used in crafting the sheller and the disc were a Dremel power tool and a soldering iron. He wore out two Dremel tools in the process.

He has an interesting, if tedious, technique for making V-belt pulleys. The pulleys start out as tin seals in shellac or thinner cans. The seals are ground down to the correct "V" size and the handmade hub is soldered in, making three pieces into one.