The Internet Craftsmanship Museum Presents:

Perry Henderson

Model wooden construction equipment from trucks to giant cranes

Perry Henderson at work in is office at the construction company. Several of his models can be seen on the cabinet in front of the window. (Click on photo to view larger image.) All photos supplied by family unless indicated.

Models for fun and for business

When Perry Henderson passed away in 2007, he left behind a large collection of wood models of construction equipment spread around the world. For years after his retirement from a heavy construction business in Houston, Texas he built models for friends, for businesses and for children through his church group. Many of the ones he built for industry were used in company training programs to illustrate how a crane or complicated piece of equipment was erected, adjusted and used in the field. According to an article in a Houston newspaper he stated, “I started out building model trucks, and then people wanted tractors, bulldozers, cranes and dump trucks.”

One of his largest projects and the 45th different one he had built was a model of a 12,000-ton crane owned by Deep South Crane & Rigging Co. The boom for the crane was 22 feet long, and the model was so tall that a portion of it had to be removed to get it into the Pasadena (Texas) Civic Center for a trade show. “It was twice as tall as my house when I set it up,” he said.

Prolific model builder Perry is seen with models of the big Deep South crane on display in the Pasadena, Texas Civic Center. This is one of Perry's larger projects for industry. The photos are from an article on Perry in the local North Houston newspaper. (Click on either photo to view a larger image.) Photos: Chip Turner

Perry had been interested in building models since childhood when he took woodworking classes in elementary and high school. He noted, “I was always, from the time I was a child, interested in woodworking. I’ve been building in my own shop for 45 years.” When he was actively building he would make about five or six models a year, with each one taking about two months to complete.

Making the models

Perry built his models in scales from 1/18 to 1/6. He used mostly top grade white pine with other woods like oak or plywood where extra strength is required. Some of his models also featured darker mahogany for a contrast in color. The only material he incorporated into the models other than wood is the wire that is used to represent hydraulic lines. The models were left unpainted (with a few small exceptions like red fire extinguishers) because he believed that would take away from the natural beauty of the wood. “It takes from the value of the project when you paint it,” he said. “It makes it look like a plastic model.”

A LeTourneau L-1100 front end loader scoops dirt into a giant Titan dump truck. The first photo shows the real thing and the second shows the same pose with two of Perry's models. The third photo shows Perry standing in the bucket of the LeTorneau loader to give a sense of scale. Much of detail in Perry's models was taken from photos and measurements he made in the field. The model of the front end loader is now on display in the Craftsmanship Museum. (Click on either photo to view a larger image.)

According to his son Phillip, his dad usually did not have plans for a particular piece of equipment to work from. He would take a few photos and some basic dimensions and go from there. Because of his job in heavy construction, he understood the mechanics of these big cranes and vehicles and could make them both look right and work right too.

Perry would spend up to $350 for wood on a large model, noting that with the cost of his time considered he ended up making about $2.00 an hour on the pieces he sold. Although he sold models for from several hundred to several thousand dollars, he didn’t approach building models as a job. “It’s strictly a hobby,” he said.

Perry Henderson's wood shop—Some photos inside Perry's shop show some of his tools and the large workspace he had set aside for building his wooden models. (Click on any photo to view a larger image.)

Although it may be only a hobby, Perry was a perfectionist. If a model or part doesn’t meet his personal high standards it would likely to end up in the scrap heap. “I’ve cut them in two or thrown them away, because I have seen a flaw that no one else can see,” he said. He also noted that he got a great feeling of accomplishment from building the models, and knew he had done a good job when someone at a trade show would identify one of his models by its manufacturer. He also enjoyed the admiration he received, stating, “I get encouragement from my family and friends. “Usually, when I finish a project I mail out about 40 pictures of it.”

The three models on display at the craftsmanship museum in California were donated by Perry’s son Phillip Henderson. Information and quotes for this biography were obtained from an old newspaper article by Mike Warren that was published in a Houston paper. The name of the paper and the date of the article were not available. The photos in the article are by Chip Turner.

Three of Perry Henderson's models are now on display in the Craftsmanship Museum for the public to enjoy. The LeTorneau L-1100 front end loader is like the one seen in the photos at the beginning of this article. The motorcycle is a Daimler "Bonecrusher." It had a wooden frame, metal banded wagon wheels and no suspension that made for a very rough ride, hence the name. This one by Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz is from 1885 and is said to be the first "motorcycle." (The little outrigger wheels were actually part of the original design.) Craig Libuse photos


Here are some examples of Perry Hendersons work:

(Click on any photo to view a larger image.)

Some of Perry Henderson's larger models of construction equipment are seen on display at industry trade shows. Some were used for display, some for training and some were made for the enjoyment of his and other children.
Perry didn't always model the famous equipment. The two trucks seen here are used for scooping up the root ball of a large tree so it can be moved to another location without damage.
  Perry's accurate models of the above unusual pieces of tree moving equipment demonstrate the functions of the originals. He was interested in all kinds of heavy equipment, not just the pieces commonly modeled by others.
Yet another kind of "tree hauler" model gets put to the test moving a small plant. This would have been used for relocating very large trees or heavy objects. The second piece of equipment might have been used to dig up a tree and move it a short distance on the same site or to load it onto a rig like in the first photo.
This complicated tracked crane has several jibs plus a counterweight system on wheels.
A Case 580C backhoe--real and model
Two different styles of tracked crane.
The boom of this giant crane is over two stories tall. It is seen here lifting a red and white tower or mast of some sort. Regardless of what it is, the crane is certainly doing a good job of lifting it.
A McRay boom truck--real and model. Many sections of boom slide inside each other to give this portable crane truck a very long reach. With three axels in front and five in back it looks like it is set up to haul a lot of weight.
Here is another 8-axel crane truck, this one modeled after one by Liebherr. The final photo shows the crane's boom extended.
  A six-axle crane truck with a three and three arrangement.
A six-axle crane truck from TNT called "Red Bull--Pride of the Texas Gulf Coast."
Here is a similar six-axle crane truck, but this one carries a much larger crane. So large, in fact that it has its own 4-axle dolly to support the rear of the crane—10 axles in all.
This 4-axle crane truck with outriggers looks downright simple compared to the ones above, yet it still has a lot of detail and moving parts that had to be built.
This is a simpler model built more as a toy than as a detailed representation of a tractor with ripper sitting atop a lowboy trailer towed by a diesel semi. Even so, it still has a lot of sturdy detail that would not be easily broken and would definitely be the coolest toy in any sandbox.
Not many people model a forklift, but Perry did. He even made a box "load" for it to pick up.
Building big structures like oil refineries requires big cranes. This unusual crane is modeled after the one in the illustration and is complete down to the load it is putting in place.
This huge crane was set up next to Perry's garage to test its functionality and capacity.
2-axle and 4-axle portable cranes. Although he built equipment from tree movers to cement trucks, Perry obviously had a love for equipment that lifted things.
A semi-tractor with lo-boy trailer. The second photo shows it loaded with what might be a load headed for the oil fields. In the third photo, a different semi hauls a trailer built for heavier loads. Instead of three axles, it has seven!
A 2-axle Grove utility crane is shown with its outriggers in place to stabilize the lift.
A cement truck--real and model. The broken rear view mirror on this one has since been repaired but does indicate that the trucks got played with, which was their purpose.

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