Lodi Resident Richard Wenk Shows Special Models at Toy Show, But He's Not Selling


Richard Wenk hosted the hottest table at the FFA Farm Toy Show at Liberty School on Jan. 27. Like many vendors, Wenk loaded his table with miniature tractors, trucks and cranes.

But there were a few key differences. All of Wenk’s vehicles were carefully crafted and handmade using wood.

Wenk is a retired Lodi Township resident who started showing his creations at the Toy Show last year.

There’s another difference between Wenk and the other vendors. He wasn’t interested in selling his goods.

“How could I put a price on them?” Wenk asked. “How do you put a price on something that takes 140 hours to make? Who would be able to afford it?”

In his working days, Wenk was in charge of production for a medical company that made a pump used during open-heart surgery.

“I was the manufacturing manager,” Wenk said.

So Wenk knows a lot about putting things together - and doing it with precision.

Crafting these wood vehicles is a hobby that began in 2001 or so.

“I needed to do something to keep out of my wife’s hair,” Wenk joked.

So, how does Wenk do it?

The first step is ordering the blueprints. A man needs a plan. Then Wenk uses a full-fledged woodshop to shape his walnut, oak and ash wood to the perfect dimensions. He runs the wood through the planer, a table saw, a couple of sliding compound miter saws, a bandsaw, routers, sanders and a lathe, among other equipment.

And then he pieces them together.

The bigger models can be over a foot long and eight inches tall.

Over the years, Wenk has made about 75 or 80 models. He’s given some of them away. He gave one to former Deputy Fire Chief Charlie Schaible. He’s given a few to the University of Michigan Trauma Burn Center for auction. He figures he has about 60 or so at home. And he’s always building more and adding to his collection.

How long does it take to create the models? Wenk pointed to the model of a 1950 Ford pickup.

“I did two of them at once. It took about 140 hours,” Wenk said. More complex vehicles can take 140 hours each.

At the Toy Show, Wenk told interested buyers he wasn’t selling.

“People here love them. And a lot of people want to buy them, but once I explain how much time I have in them, they understand,” Wenk said. 

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