Mel’s pin­ing for the Fords

Trucks a for­tune for a model maker who loves work­ing with wood, writes BRUCEMOUNSTER

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

WHEN Mel Blun­den was told his mod­els were too good for the vil­lage craft shop, it was a turn­ing point for one of Tas­ma­nia’s most tal­ented crafts­men. Even so, the 70-year-old wood­worker still doesn’t think his 1:16th scale-model Jaguars, each cre­ated from huon pine, are any­thing spe­cial. ‘‘The Jags, they’re just the bread and but­ter,’’ Blun­den says, adding he is more in­ter­ested in mak­ing trucks. Blun­den is a for­mer longdis­tance truck driver who only be­came a be­came a se­ri­ous wood­worker af­ter mov­ing to Fin­gal in Tas­ma­nia four years ago. But once his tal­ent was dis­cov­ered by lo­cal car en­thu­si­asts, mostly Jaguar driv­ers, he hasn’t had time for trucks. Blun­den says he isn’t com- plain­ing. Few cars have more body curves than 1950s and ’60s vin­tage XK and E-Type Jaguars. The buy­ers of his Jags aren’t com­plain­ing ei­ther, pay­ing just un­der $700 for a scale replica com­plete with badges, dash­board ra­dio, steer­ing wheel, sun vi­sor, seats, win­dow win­ders and ex­haust pipes. For chrome parts such as badges, bumper bars, wind­screen trim and hub caps, Blun­den uses red­dish-coloured myr­tle tim­ber. He sculpts the car bod­ies from huon pine and turns the wheels and tyres from black­wood. He also uses black­wood for many of the in­te­rior fit­tings and coats the cars with Estapol resin to re­tain the tim­bers’ nat­u­ral colours. Blun­den, whose last job be­fore mov­ing to Tas­ma­nia was driv­ing a gi­ant dump truck at the Leigh Creek coal mine in South Aus­tra- lia, says he had al­ways wanted to work with wood but suit­able wood had been hard to find. He made up for lost time as soon as he moved to Fin­gal, start­ing with furniture and clocks for his home, fol­lowed by com­par­a­tively sim­ple 1931 Model A Ford utes, coupes and vans. When he took them to a craft shop he was told they were too good for them and ad­vised to try Launce­s­ton’s Na­tional Au­to­mo­bile Mu­seum of Tas­ma­nia. The mu­seum pro­vided a shopfront for his prod­ucts and it wasn’t long be­fore Jag own­ers who keep cars at the mu­seum as ex­hibits cot­toned on. Blun­den fi­nally got around to build­ing a truck when Ewan Stephens, a ma­jor honey pro­ducer at Mole Creek, com­mis­sioned him to build a replica of his fam­ily’s 1956 Ford F600 truck and semi-trailer. The semi will be fully laden with bee hives, which Blun­den will make from leather­wood tim­ber. Blun­den starts by de­vel­op­ing a plan, get­ting the di­men­sions from pho­tos or old pro­mo­tional draw­ings. From that he cuts out ply­wood tem­plates, with the profile shapes of all the body pan­els. Once he has re­searched and drawn up plans, a typ­i­cal car takes him about two months to com­plete, work­ing for as long as six hours a day.

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