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Published November 21, 2008, 12:00 AM

An eye for small details

Authenticity Oakes man’s model goal
Some guys like to make models. Some like to make realistic-looking models. Then there’s Jim Buske, who gets right down to one-10,000th of an inch.

By: Helmut Schmidt, The Forum

Oakes, N.D.

Some guys like to make models. Some like to make realistic-looking models. Then there’s Jim Buske, who gets right down to one-10,000th of an inch.

Buske’s philosophy for the 1/16th scale metal farm implements: “Where the real one was welded, I solder. Where the real one was bolted, I bolt.”

Buske, 65, began as a hobbyist in 1991 and started making his living at it in 1993. Now, his home-based Vikingland Farm Models sells to collectors, mostly in the U.S. and Canada, but also in Europe and South Africa.

The brass and zinc models are intricate, with hydraulic lines, and painted and decaled to match the real thing. Some have more than 2,000 parts, Buske said.

They also aren’t cheap.

Implements that attach to small farm and garden tractors, such as dump carts and single-bottom plows, might cost $55, Buske said.

Larger, more complex pieces, get more expensive.

A five-bottom Model 145 Moberg plow sold for $250 in 1995, while a two-bottom plow went for $185; a Wishek Steel 845-N offset disc cost $550; and a set of models featuring a John Deere BWA disc with two PDA grain drills sold for $2,500, he said.

The time involved in making each model is considerable. For a chisel plow, Buske figures it will take him 20 hours apiece for all 35 in the run, roughly 700 hours.

He sells by word of mouth, over the Internet and at trade shows. Most of his buyers want something their neighbor won’t have.

“Most of ’em are toy collectors who are into an advanced stage of toy collecting,” Buske said. The line of thought, he said, is, “If I buy this, the neighbor comes over, I’m the only guy who’s got one.”

He’s made nearly 30 different implements over the years. Each model is a limited run, usually less than 100.

Some machines Buske is commissioned to do by companies such as Wishek Steel.

Others just strike his fancy.

“If it looks like it’s going to be fun to do, that’s how I decide to do it,” Buske said.

His favorite model – they’re not toys, he insists, they’re not built for a kid’s bashing – is an F-10 Farmhand hydraulic hay loader.

Buske starts the process by examining the real machine, taking photos and hundreds of measurements. For example, right now, he’s looking for a Model 245H John Deere plow to copy.

He then creates a prototype, which must then be approved by the original equipment makers. For John Deere, he’ll travel to Moline, Ill., to be quizzed. He’s only been turned down once, he said.

After his prototypes are approved, Buske sends each part to a mold or spin-casting maker to be duplicated. Some delicate parts are made by a photo-etching process.

Nuts, bolts, decals and tires are obtained from other firms, though many parts are hand-milled. For one model, he made 140 axle bearings.

When he’s finished, the models work just like the real thing: grain augers turn, parts swivel and articulate.

But Buske can’t duplicate all of the real world.

He was displaying his models at a farm show, and he asked one boy looking at an auger, “Just like the real thing, huh?”

The boy replied, “Oh, yeah? Where’s the bird’s nest?” Buske said. “You could tell he was from the farm.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

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