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He Builds Deere Toys
John Janzen has a goal. "I'm trying to build a complete 1/16 scale farm with all the equipment," he says.

And oh, what equipment!

Janzen, of rural Winkler, Manitoba, is one of the elite scratch-builders - perhaps the best in all of farm toydom. His incredibly detailed John Deere farm equipment - grain drill, swather, combine, and grain truck - have turned heads and hearts of everyone who's seen them.

"Ertl makes tractors. But not the equipment that goes with the-tractors. That was my impetus - to make the John Deere equipment to complement the tractors."

He owned a few farm toys as he was growing up. And he can pinpoint when he got involved in scratch-building. "When I was 12 years old, I built a little swather out of wood. It had little wooden wheels and a reel that turned with a small rope. It took me a couple of days to build it and get all the details right so it would run."

Following that, Janzen says, whenever he wanted a toy, he made one. "But I didn't make the metal ones until 1982," he says. A year later he began collecting farm toys.

"I went to a farm toy show in Grand Forks, N. D. I saw a guy there who had built a grain drill. It inspired me. I figured I could do as well." In response, Janzen built his first metal toy. "It turned out pretty good," he says. It also took a lot of time. "That winter I spent at least 300 hours on it."

As with all his toys, Janzen begins with the original full-size model. "First I take measurements. Then I scale the full-size one down, and make blueprints."

In the case of the Deere 9350 grain drill he built, for example, "It took hours just to get the packer press wheels sliced out one by one with a bandsaw."

For rubber, he sliced a bicycle tube and stretched pieces over the wheels. The model is 1/16 scale with an automatic folding hitch. "Because I was learning," he says, "it took me longer to do things then than now."

That doesn't mean it takes him less time to make his one-a-winter metal built-fromscratch gems. "I still spend 200 to 300 hours a winter on the piece I'm building."

After the grain drill, Janzen made a Deere 2360 swather. He welded 18-ga. flat steel, key stock, and 1/8-in. rods together and included handmade pulleys. The result is a reel and black silk cloth canvas that turn.

He spent another winter building a Deere 7721 pull-type combine. "All exterior components turn - pickup header, straw cutter, and auger, which swings in and out of the hopper."

He uses 9-volt batteries to automate his toys. "The batteries raise and lower the header, move the unloading auger in or out, and just plain turn the whole combine."

One recent project was a GMC grain truck. The hoist works and is powered by a 9-volt battery and electric motor.

Janzen has also built a 12-row sugar beet planter, a4440 tractor equipped with a 3-pt. hitch and an adjustable front axle, a 4620 tractor, an air seeder, and rock,pickers.

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1992 - Volume #16, Issue #2