Longtime Career Inspires Retiree to Create Art

Don Weisel didn’t adapt to retirement very easily at first. The former heavy equipment operator from Ohio spent his career primarily behind the controls of Caterpillar machines as well as a John Deere tractor, Gradall excavator, Link-Belt crane, and Peterbilt tractor trailer. He retired in 2000, but after two weeks of relaxation decided that leisure time was over and chose to get busy with a new project.

An early start

Don’s experience with heavy equipment began at the age of 15 when he worked as an operator at his father’s gravel pit in Louisville, Ohio. More than four-and-a-half decades in the field concluded with 12 years of work at The Ruhlin Company, a general contractor company based in Sharon Center, Ohio.

A new endeavor

Don combined two things he enjoyed – his vast work experience and a high school shop class – into building replicas of the equipment he operated. His first was a 1/10 scale model of a Caterpillar D9 crawler dozer, constructed of oak and walnut. He said the two materials offer a nice contrast for the finished piece. Without consulting blueprints or patterns, he builds each project by freehand and relies on product brochures and memory. "Knowing firsthand where the levers should go has been extremely helpful," he said.

A simple hobby to occupy himself has become an annual milestone as Don has built one piece of machinery every year for the past 21 years. He spends about seven hours per day at work. Each machine includes maneuverable tracks, functioning hydraulic components, and weighs 30 to 45 pounds when completed.

No plans to slow down

Don has displayed some of his work at shows during the past five years and received first place ribbons. His eight grandsons will each receive two replicas when they reach the age of 25. At age 81, Don has no plans to stop what he’s doing but says he needs another 20 years to build every machine that he’s operated.

Click here to read the story at Construction Equipment Guide’s website. Images above courtesy of ConstructionEquipmentGuide.com.

July 7, 2021

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