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Woodworker Marshall Buch creates incredibly detailed trucks

By on January 24, 2015

Although he has nothing to do with the mechanics of trucks, Marshall Buch is something of an expert on how they work. That’ll happen when you spend your free time building miniaturized versions of everything from cement mixers to 18-wheelers.

“I’ve always been fascinated with tractortrailers and semis,” Buch says. “As a kid I played with trucks by the refrigerator, pretending that the grate under the fridge was a storage facility that I could back the trucks up into. By my 20s, I was collecting die-cast tractor-trailers. My family never had any connection to the trucking industry; I just liked them a lot.”

The Nebraska native trained to be a fireman and began doing interior woodwork on the side as a finish carpenter. One evening, after completing some trim work in an apartment, he began carving a set of back dual wheels — just for fun.

into-the-woods-2“I figured I could make those, and once they were done I figured I needed something to put them on, so I began work on one of my favorite haulers, a cattle hauler,” Buch says. “When I see one of those, I think ‘now, there’s the truck,’ so I wanted to see if I could make a scaled-down version of one.”

That was 20 years ago, and in the following years Buch has worked on conventional trucks, flatbeds, pneumatics —even cabovers. If it’s a truck, he’s likely carved it, or is planning to do so at some point.

Scaling things down

At first he rode around taking photos of trucks and flatbeds, but soon Buch realized that if he wanted authenticity, he’d need to create these big rigs and their accessories to scale. He started getting permission from truck owners to measure their vehicles so he could draw them out on graph paper. He also requested blueprints and schematics from trucking companies and manufacturers of trucks and their various parts.

The goal is to get as close as possible to 1/16 scale. Most of Buch’s trucks are around 52.5 inches in length, 6 inches wide and 10.25 inches tall, and weigh a bit more than 20 pounds. Meticulous as he is about getting it right, Buch also likes to put his own spin on things.

into-the-woods-4“I’ll take some different features and combine them on one truck, so they’re not exact duplicates of what’s out on the road,” he explains. “I also use different types of wood, because wood is a unique creature — it tells you what it wants to do, not the other way around. So I have to find the wood that wants to be a particular part of a truck.”

Often he goes with oak, and then uses inlays of walnut and cherry for the detail work. Sometimes the story behind the wood
he uses is as interesting as how he uses it.

“I found unique hackberry logs in a pond that I rescued and then milled to become lumber for my projects,” Buch says. “I also was able to rescue some World War II army cots while I was with the fire department, and used their oak handles in various parts of my work.”

He works with brass for some elements, such as ladders, solder bars and antennas, because they’d be too difficult for wood, and also because they add a nice contrast to the finished product.

No deadline, no rush

Buch has created approximately 20 trucks in as many years, and each one gets his full attention. As with anything worth doing, Buch’s trucks take some time. He estimates that he spent around 100 hours on the pneumatic trailer — a good ballpark figure for much of his work.

“These things are kind of a one-time deal, where I may spend three hours on a jig for another part that only took 20 minutes to make,” he says. “And parts like pipes have to be steamed and bent, so that takes time.

And then I critique everything along the way and do a lot of tweaking, so that adds into the time as well.”

He’s gotten out of the firefighting business and is currently finishing up his studies to become a licensed mortician in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he now lives. And he’ll keep working to expand his assembly of hand-carved trucks.

It’s not just that he loves the process of creation or takes pride in a completed truck. He feels strongly that hand-made art is too rapidly disappearing from the American landscape.

“I like to show the trucks at motor carrier events and things like that, but for me it’s more about the art,” Buch says. “We’re losing a lot of art to technology. When I’m working on the trucks I get to use my handeye coordination in a way that I would not if I were using a machine, or sitting at a computer. I’d rather spend the time looking at a piece of wood, and figuring out how to make the chute for the cement mixer from that wood in my hand.”

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