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Scaled-down wooden tractors has hobbyist striving for realism

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Mike Rostad's home contains more tractors than the lot of a well-stocked implement dealer.

The West Fargo man doesn't have the real thing, of course. His collection consists of dozens of miniature tractors and other farm implements he's painstakingly made from wood.

"I like getting them as close as possible to the real thing," he said. "You can never get them exactly the same. But that's the challenge, to get them as close as possible."

Rostad, 66, began making miniature tractors 21 years ago when he was a milk delivery man for Cass-Clay Creamery. Not only did he find the hobby relaxing, it also allowed him to stay connected to his roots. He grew up on a farm near Colfax, N.D., and has several relatives who farm.

He has models of farm equipment manufactured 50 and 60 years ago, as well as models of equipment made more recently.

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He starts most new projects by taking measurements of the full-size tractor or implement of which he plans to make a miniature model. Then he sets to work with the saws and other woodworking equipment in his basement workshop.

Half hidden on the wall, behind some hanging tools, is a "Mike's Saw Service" sign. Rostad ran the saw-sharpening business as a sideline for many years.

His models, which include other farm implements such as beet loaders and other farm implements, are made almost entirely with wood and held together with glue. Occasionally he'll use a bit of wire here and there.

"I don't buy any fancy equipment," he said. "I get the cheapest saws I can find and replace them when they wear out."

He doesn't track closely how much time he spends on any one creation, but estimates the more complicated ones require upwards of 100 hours each.

He gives away some of his models and keeps the rest.

Rostad, who works part-time as a bus driver for the West Fargo School District, retired from Cass-Clay four years ago.

Semi-retirement gives him more time for his hobby, and he's making the most of it.

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"I'm down here (in the workshop) a lot," he said. "It's just something I enjoy."

And always there's the challenge of making his next model a little more realistic than the last one.

"Well, you know, there're not perfect reproductions," he said as he looked over several of his creations. "I suppose I'll never get one exactly right, but I keep trying."

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530

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