Life to scale

 
  Mike Leszkoven of Winnaleah with the first model boat he made 50 years ago.

Mike Leszkoven of Winnaleah with the first model boat he made 50 years ago.

By Daisy Baker
April 12, 2017

Fifty years ago, as a professional fisherman in Northern Queensland, Mike Leszkoven was looking for a pastime during cyclone season.
Having maintained his own fishing boats for years, Mr Leszkoven had an extensive knowledge of different vessels’ specifications and he decided to use this knowledge to build to-scale boat models.
The first model he built, he says, took around three weeks to make.
“The first one I made was using fibreglass and that took a few weeks because I had to make a mould for it first. That one had a radio control,” he says.
Pulling the top off the model, he shows me the furnishings inside the model, including hot plates and a sink.
The hobby quickly took off and he has made 19 more scale models in recent decades.
“When you’ve seen a lot of boats, you have a good idea of what they look like so a lot of them I made out of my head.
“I made single-slope, catamaran, trimaran, power boats and a tugboat.”
Mr Leszkoven says once he moved to Winnaleah with his wife in 2002, he began using timber sourced from local mills.
“French Pine used to have beautiful timber, oaks and all that which was really easy to work with – I’d use a bandsaw and a cut-off saw,” he says.
Mr Leszkoven’s model making was not confined to boats and he also made a to-scale lighthouse and windmill.
He laughs, telling me he used a rotisserie he bought from Allgoods to make the light spin in the lighthouse model.
The last model Mr Leszkoven made was a to-scale replica of Philadelphia from Australian mini-series All the Rivers Run.
“I made it exactly the same, except it didn’t have a motor – it was the same down to the measurement, I forget now but 30:1 or 50:1,” he says.
“I used to count their steps as they walked beside the boat and worked out how long it was and reduced it, to make it look the same.”
One of Mr Leszkoven’s neighbours approached him last year, asking what he planned to do with his boats and when he said he wasn’t sure, she asked if he would like to donate some boats to be sold to raise money for a Tomahawk community car.