Sightseeing in Northern Michigan: Model Ships

It’s always nice to have an interest, something to keep you busy, something you love.          

Today we meet a Clare County man who found that thing early in life, model ship building, and now his works are almost unbelievable.

Corey Adkins introduces us to the man and shows us how he does it in this week’s Sightseeing in Northern Michigan.

"It’s like a day without sunshine if I don’t have my time with my model ships."

Call it a love, a passion an obsession, but it’s a lot more than a hobby.

Gene Bodnar is a model shipwright.

"I’ve been in it ever since I was a teenager. Back in 1962 or 3, a British guy named Harold Underhill wrote a two volume set called ‘Plank On Frame Models’ and I’ve been hooked ever since," says Gene.

In those years, Gene has built 100 models nearly identical to the originals, just smaller.

It’s not easy.

"You have to make a lot of mistakes before you figure out the correct way of doing things, and it takes a little bit of skill, and it takes a while to develop," explains Gene.

Safe to say, at this point, he’s a master in his craft.

"The Constitution, that’s my masterpiece. That one is in the Constitution Museum in Boston," says Gene.

Gene has several models in museums, others go to collectors or family.

"This is the USS Missouri from WWII called ‘Mighty Mo.’ I actually built this for my daughter for her wedding in Hawaii. They actually toured this ship and wanted a model of it," says Gene.

The intricate details are almost too many to count on each and every ship.

"Everything on here is handmade, built from scratch and the deadeyes are connected to the channels, and the fine lines here are lanyards, they tie them together to give the whole thing strength," explains Gene.

And those details take time.

"A typical ship is about 400-500 hours. Yep, 400-500 hours. I work 3-4 hours every day, so typical ship is about three or four months," says Gene.

The patience key. This is not something for everyone.

"It’s not for the wimps,” says Gene. “Let me say first off, you have to have a lot of patience, you have to be willing to work with a lot of details. It’s tedious, but I love it!”

He also loves to play chess, puzzles in all forms, but it’s his model ships that are his anchor.

"I have no idea, I just love it. It keeps me occupied and I never tire of it, never," says Gene.

You can meet Gene, see his model and watch him work during Old Fashioned Days at the Clare County Historical Museum on September 24. For more information, click here

Categories: Northern Michigan In Focus