Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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WV State News

December 26, 2012

W.Va. man's wooden creations a step back in time

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Not everybody is looking to get rich. Junior Sowards isn't really looking to break even or make a buck with his remarkable wooden creations, though he thinks he needs to do something with them.

They're starting to take up quite a bit of space.

"I looked into trying to sell them at Tamarack a little," the Culloden native said. "But I'll probably just give them away."

In his spare time, and there's been a lot of it since the 75-year-old Sowards retired nearly 15 years ago, Sowards makes wooden models of cars, trucks and heavy equipment. He makes his own designs.

"I just draw them out on a flat piece of paper."

He gets the bulk of his materials from behind a nearby grocery store.

"I use plywood bean crates," he said. "The stuff they put vegetables in, then throw out."

He cuts the wood into whatever shape he needs, then glues it together to form a tractor or bulldozer.

Sowards imparts a lot of detail on his models. They come with many moving parts. Wheels turn, shovels scoop and the beds of some of his trucks raise and lower.

Almost all of it is made from wood, including the bulldozer blade cylinders, which are hollowed out wooden dowels. The bulldozer tracks are individually cut and held together with pin-size nails — a very judicious use of metal.

Everything is painted by hand, and a few of his models are motorized.

"I get DC motors out of junked toys," he said, explaining that secondhand parts sometimes provided a better effect.

"You don't want them to go too fast."

His models look like old-fashioned playthings, like something found at a general store 50 years ago. But though Sowards' models may look like the real thing, they are not meant for the sandbox, like a yellow Tonka dump truck.

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