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Retired Farmer Turns Toothpicks Into Art
Retired Illinois farmer Reuben Calcutt has glued more than 150,000 toothpicks together since he retired from farming several years ago, creating near-perfect models of buildings and equipment that were part of his life for the more than 30 years he was in farming.
Calcutt got the idea when he saw a magazine advertisement for plans to put together a model of the Eiffel Tower out of tooth-picks. That project went so well he decided to come up with his own designs.
Now, more than 150,000 toothpicks later, he's got an entire room full of toothpick barns, churches, homes and machines.
"I sometimes make a few sketches or pace off the size of a building, but usually I just work by memory," says Calcutt who often includes working parts in his models and sometimes paints, including exact details from the originals.
He's made lots of farm machinery, including a hay rake, manure spreader with working beaters, a hay rack, and a gravity flow box with a working grain chute. He's also made antique cars, planes, buggies and windmills. His buildings include barns (complete with farm animals), elevators, corn cribs, farm homes, and churches.
"One of my biggest projects was a church. It took several months to make. There's more than 10,000 toothpicks in it and it's got a working bell in the bell tower as well as real stained glass windows," he says.
One of Calcutt's other most ambitious projects is a scale model of a historical round barn. The barn took more than five months to complete. To build it he had to figure out how to curve toothpicks. He first tried to soak them in water but couldn't get the Elmer's glue he uses to stick. He finally just glued two toothpicks together end to end and covered them with lots of glue as he laid them into place. He painted the barn red with acrylic paints and put farm animals in and around it.
Calcutt doesn't sell many of his creations but he sometimes makes special projects for friends and relatives. He recently made a replica of an International Harvester semi truck and grain trailer for a friend who was retiring after putting nearly one million miles on his truck. The truck turned out so well Calcutt later made one for himself.
Since word got out about his hobby, Calcutt has appeared on three local television stations and even received a request to appear on NBC's David Letterman Show, which he turned down. He does most of his toothpick work during winter months working on a small table positioned by his easy chair in front of the TV.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Reuben Calcutt, 515 E McClure St., Kewanee, Ill. 61443 (ph 309 853-5103).

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1988 - Volume #12, Issue #5