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Miniature Sawmills Built To Scale
For the past 30 years, Gary Brooks has built more than 35 scale model sawmills with a level of detail that precisely matches the original structures. His designs are scaled from pictures of portable mills that were used years ago in the Northwest backwoods. Brooks says he selects something in the picture of a known size, like a person or a 7-ft. doorway, then scales up or down on a copy machine.
“I use a Micro-Mark table saw to cut Basswood lumber into tiny pieces that I fabricate into 1:87 scale designs,” Brooks says. “The saw will cut 99 percent of what I need for building dioramas that I put on a 4 by 8-ft. sheet of plywood which I can haul in my Suburban.” He makes bigger models in sections and assembles them on site. Most of his dioramas are at museums in the Pacific Northwest.
Brooks started building sawmill dioramas after he, his wife and daughter moved to the country, where they had a 10,000 sq. ft. barn. There, he set aside a large room to work with model trains, a hobby that he has enjoyed since childhood when he saw actual steam engines working. “I had so much space to fill to surround my trains that I decided making buildings for sawmills was more interesting than working with just the trains,” Brooks says. He’s been at it ever since.
“I want everything to look authentic, so all of my buildings have a weathered look that I get by treating the pieces with a mixture of alcohol and black or brown India ink,” Brooks says. “This concoction produces ‘instant’ weathered boards that are very realistic. Rail cars have the same treatment, with an added wash of chalk powder for special effect.”
His largest project, patterned after a WWI spruce resaw mill in Sheridan, Ore., resides at the Fort Vancouver National Historic site. The mill produced sawn lumber known as cants that were shipped to the eastern U.S. and eventually on to Europe. After further processing, the wood was used for building bi-wing airplanes.
The main building in this super model has 12 saw lines and a dry kiln building, each one 44 in. sq. Brooks says “the mill was run by a staff and camp of 5,000 Army men working 24/7 for 8 mos. until the war ended in 1918. They loaded 60 boxcars a day by hand, one stick of material at a time.”
His full diorama is 8 1/2-ft. wide and 34-ft. long, with more than 300 ft. of non-operating railroad track. It was a two-year volunteer project that required more than 1,200 hrs. to complete.
“Building these has been very rewarding, especially since most of them are on display for museum visitors to see so they can imagine how the real sawmill might have worked,” says Brooks.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Gary Brooks, 15422 SW Rock Creek Rd., Sheridan, Ore. 97378 (ph 503-843-2966; gebdmd@gmail.com).

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2022 - Volume #46, Issue #2