Farm Horizons, Aug. 2016

Local man creates working, old-time farm replicas

By Caleb Sebora

Ken Sunderland of Winsted began creating miniature replicas of farm equipment in 1993, a few years before he retired. Over the course of the more than 20 years that he has been building his replicas, mainly threshing machines and tractors, Sunderland has put in thousands of hours of work and has used thousands of different pieces to build them.

Sunderland, however, did not spend his life working on a farm (though he did grow up on one) – he worked on airplanes.

“I worked for Northwest Airlines [now Delta Air Lines] as a mechanic,” recalled Sunderland. “I got my pilot’s license, but never flew commercially.”

With memories of his upbringing on the farm, along with his skills as a mechanic, Sunderland decided to try his hand at building replicas of different farm equipment.

So, over the course of 23 years, Sunderland has been building his collection of farm equipment replicas.

Time and commitment

The pieces that Sunderland makes don’t just happen overnight – they take countless hours of detail-oriented work. Made from either metal or wood, every piece of the replica is hand-made. In fact, one of his replicas (a threshing machine) took 700 hours to build – that’s equivalent to about one month’s time without stopping.

The process starts when Sunderland decides what piece of equipment he wishes to replicate, and then draws up plans to scale.

“Each one of the replicas is scaled down to either 1/8 or 1/16 of the actual size of the machine,” said Sunderland.

After he draws up the plans, Sunderland cuts up and creates the pieces for the model. He constructs one side of the model, then constructs an identical opposite side. After that, he puts the two sides together and adds the front, the back, the top, and the bottom. And, not only does he construct the pieces, he paints each of them, too.

Sunderland doesn’t stop at creating just a standard replica, though – he creates moving ones.

Using small motors, wheels with pullies, and railroad transformers, Sunderland gets his models to move. He’s even made a windmill that shoots out water.

And, when he’s done with one?

“I just move on to the next one, if I have an idea for it,” he said.

While none of his replicas are for sale, Sunderland does display them at approximately 10 threshing shows each year, for people of all ages to see.

“People walk by, and they enjoy seeing them,” Sunderland recalled. “The kids think that they’re neat with all of the moving parts.”

Sunderland currently isnt working on a plan for a machine, stating that he builds them mainly in the winter. “But we’ll see what I come up with,” he said.

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