Leonard Roberston has been building wooden models of forestry equipment for decades, hand crafting representations of the machines that have allowed many Nicola Valley residents to make a living for themselves and their families.
Growing up, Robertson’s father maintained forestry recreation sites, igniting his passion for the forestry industry. Robertson told the Herald he initially picked up the craft of model-making while attending high school at MSS in the nineties, where former shop teacher Dave Mahoney handed him his first set of plans.
The young Robertson carefully crafted the model high track dozer, which was quickly followed by a Kenworth logging truck, continuing on from there. Not long after he left high school, Robertson attained his Class 1 drivers licence, driving for local logging outfits, and going for ride-alongs with local foresters.
“I got to see the bush part of things and how things worked out there, and just the big iron, logging part of things, and the equipment,” said Robertson.
Since first being published for his work in a Feb. 17, 2002 edition of the Merritt Herald, Robertson has created roughly 70 different models of forestry equipment, including logging trucks, skidders, low beds, and other industrial machines.
The models are made of wood, and feature moving parts, such as spinning wheels and moving equipment. Often, the models Roberston makes are given as gifts for retirement or other sentimental occasions, which often elicit a strong emotional response.
“They turn back into kids, sort of,” explained Roberston with a chuckle.
The models are hand crafted in Robertson’s shop, with each creation being based on reference photos of the original equipment. Many of Robertson’s models take him months to complete, as he balances his hobby with full-time employment in the Alberta oilfields.
While the process can take anywhere from 60 to 150 hours, but it all starts with a single step.
“I select the wood I will use for the project, starting with a basic blueprint, and if it’s a custom build, I will gather as many pictures as I can use to reference off of while I build each model,” said Robertson.
“For most of the models I have done over the years, people ask if I can replicate the the equipment they own, so getting pictures isn’t to hard. Then it’s just a matter of cutting the lumber, sanding it, test fitting, and finally, gluing it together before a clear coat.”
The finished products are then left to cure, before eventually making their way to their intended recipient. While he occasionally accepts custom orders and sells his models for cost, Robertson sees his talent mostly as a hobby.
“I’m not in it for profit, I’m in it to make people happy, and to show my talent or what I can do,” he explained.
“Also, for myself, it’s the challenge of taking pictures from someone and seeing what I can make from it.”