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Published July 30, 2010, 08:34 AM

Miniature farm equipment

Man makes tiny tractors
Rod Swanson likes to tinker away for hours at a time crafting miniature tractors out of steel.

Rod Swanson likes to tinker away for hours at a time crafting miniature tractors out of steel.

The 70-year-old from Perham, Minn., has been constructing the models for about eight years. He generally collects them for himself but will also build some specifically for friends and relatives who want one.

“I just needed something to do,” said Swanson, who is retired. “I don’t know why I picked tractors. I thought it’d be easy, but I make them pretty detailed, so they take some work.”

Swanson is working on his 77th tractor. He makes them four at a time so he can get the most out of a single pattern and said it can take about two months to finish a set of four.

Swanson crafts each tractor out of steel using a variety of tools, including turning lathes and milling machines, he said.

The miniature tractors are usually about 11 inches long and weigh several pounds each because of the steel, but the dimensions can vary depending on the kind of tractor Swanson builds.

He started out making International and John Deere tractors and branched out from there.

He once made an Allis-Chalmers tractor for a friend in Fargo and then a Bee tractor for that friend’s father, who wanted one after seeing Swanson’s finished product.

“It’s mostly just for my own entertainment, though,” Swanson said. “Usually I just make whatever catches my eye … but I’ll give them to relatives and I make some for different people.”

Swanson typically begins each tractor by starting with the wheels, which are made of solid steel.

“Then, I build the tractor to that so that it looks pretty much in proportion,” he said. “But sometimes you screw up and you gotta start over.”

As Swanson continues expanding his collection, he said the miniature tractors he’s kept for himself will likely be passed down to his three daughters and five grandchildren.

“They all hope to take what they want after I’m gone,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541