SALEM, Ohio – John Gause has always been fascinated by farm equipment. The way it operates, the way it handles, the way all the pieces and parts work together.
It’s a deeply rooted interest, one that Gause has had since childhood. When Gause was young, his mother worked at a John Deere dealership and she sometimes brought home toy versions of the big equipment that was selling on the lot.
Although he didn’t grow up on a farm, it didn’t take long for Gause to get hooked on farm toys.
Today, he has the best of both worlds. He farms a dairy and grain operation in Salem, Ohio, and he recently made the ultimate addition to his farm toy collection – a one-of-a-kind, 1/16-scale Landoll Tilloll 825.
He built it himself and as far as anyone knows, it’s the only one in the world.
Developing the idea. The piece is only 20 inches long and 10 inches wide, but there’s a lot of work packed into those tiny dimensions.
A longtime subscriber to Toy Farmer magazine, Gause found his inspiration in the pages of the publication’s annual custom and scratch built issue. He’s collected about 50 toy tractors over the past 16 years and thought that building a toy of his own was “just something that looked interesting.”
So, during the winter of 2004, he began his first scratch-built project. The farmer wasn’t willing to settle for a second-class result and it took him “three farm winters and two weeks in August 2007″ to finish.
“I just worked on this at night if there wasn’t anything on TV,” he said.
Building. He invested 150 hours and about $200 in getting it just right. In the end, Gause’s patience paid off.
The Tilloll has 300 separate parts, which includes 96 4-40 bolts and nuts, plus 58 separate welded parts.
It’s just like the real machine Gause uses on the farm, right down to the way it moves. The rolling baskets turn, the chisel points spring back and forth, the turnbuckle on the tongue levels the machine, the springs on the harrows work. It even raises and lowers with cylinders.
The replica was constructed with 3/16-inch, 3/8-inch and 1/2-inch keystock.
Gause started out using a stick welder, but after his wife and daughter bought him a wire welder for Christmas that year, he said the project became a lot easier.
The farmer spent hours hunting down the exact items he needed – ones that not only looked right, but also worked with his design. He shopped around, pawed through specialty drawers in hardware stores and racked his brain at night trying to come up with just the right items.
The biggest challenge was “finding the right pieces to accomplish what you want to do,” Gause said.
As it turned out, Gause found some of what he needed right in his own neighborhood. Part of the Tilloll was built with 18- and 20-gauge steel from a store in Sebring, Ohio. And the painting was done in New Garden.
Other parts were found several states away. Tires and rims came from New York, bolts and nuts from New Jersey and decals from Iowa.
Familiar. A close look at the toy reveals a few cleverly disguised items – hydraulic lines are made from telephone wire; hydraulic cylinders are made from brake line and round stock; and discs are made from washers.
Gause used different sized sockets to bend and shape the curves for his disc hangers and chisel shanks.
Finishing up. At times, the farmer found he was completely stumped by the tiny toy. He stored about 25 photos of his real Tilloll on the computer and used them for reference, but there were still times when he was downright discouraged with the project.
However, as he neared the finish line, he decided it was worth the effort. After the pieces were painted and the farmer started putting them together, “then it really started looking like something,” Gause said.
He finished the Tilloll just in time for the 2007 Farm Science Review, where Landoll displayed it at the company’s booth.
Looking ahead. Gause is already working on an identical second model and said it’s “going faster because I’ve got a pattern now.”
He plans to keep the original, but the second one will go up for sale on eBay. He’s hoping the second project helps pay for the first one.
Someday, the farmer will likely model another piece of equipment. He said he’s got some pedal tractors that are just begging for plows.
It takes a special kind of patience to enjoy this kind of work and Gause has learned there’s a real secret to getting hundreds of minute details exactly right.
“The biggest thing to making it right was to work on it when I wanted to and not if I had to,” Gause said. “You can do nicer work that way.”
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)