Models made of toothpicks? For real!

4.2.14

Wayne Kusy began making models out of toothpicks in fifth grade. His hobby led to the creation of a fleet of toothpick ships, including the Queen Mary, the Titanic and the Lusitania. build models of ocean liners out of toothpicks. They range from four feet to 25 feet in length.
Kusy’s 16-foot model of the Lusitania is the centerpiece of “An Influential Journey,” an exhibit about the Seiberlings’ travels on view now at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens.

F.A. Seiberling traveled for business on the Lusitania and the whole family traveled on the ship shortly before it was destroyed in 1915 by German torpedoes. The loss of the Lusitania influenced the United States’ decision to fight in World War I.

Kusy, 53, lives in Chicago where he works as a website developer. In this Q&A, he explains more about the research and patience it takes to make his highly detailed models. Portions of this article were part of an essay Kusy wrote that was published in Voyage magazine, a publication for Titanic aficionados.

How did you get started with this hobby?

Contrary to popular belief, I do not know a thing about engineering or have a degree in the field.
It was an assignment from a fifth grade art project. The overall theme was creating art out of household things, from oatmeal to popsicle sticks. Then, the last day of the project, we made art from toothpicks.

Wayne Kusy began making models out of toothpicks in fifth grade. His hobby led to the creation of a fleet of toothpick ships, including the Queen Mary, the Titanic and the Lusitania. build models of ocean liners out of toothpicks. They range from four feet to 25 feet in length.
Kusy’s 16-foot model of the Lusitania is the centerpiece of “An Influential Journey,” an exhibit about the Seiberlings’ travels on view now at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens.

F.A. Seiberling traveled for business on the Lusitania and the whole family traveled on the ship shortly before it was destroyed in 1915 by German torpedoes. The loss of the Lusitania influenced the United States’ decision to fight in World War I.

Kusy, 53, lives in Chicago where he works as a website developer. In this Q&A, he explains more about the research and patience it takes to make his highly detailed models. Portions of this article were part of an essay Kusy wrote that was published in Voyage magazine, a publication for Titanic aficionados.

Our class assignment was to build three-dimensional objects with those little splinters of wood. Some kids built teepees, others built squares.Mine was a three-dimensional shape that didn’t look like anything recognizable. But, it inspired me to do something bigger.

By sixth grade, I had built my first toothpick ship, a square rigger inspired by the Cutty Sark and USS Constitution. It was two feet long.

How many models have you made?

There are a total of seven models – three clippers and four ocean liners (including Titanic). The largest is the Queen Mary, which is 25 feet long and made of 814,000 toothpicks.

What inspired you to make a toothpick model of the Lusitania?

Before the Internet, I could only build famous ships that had books written about them that I could find at the library. Titanic, Lusitania and Queen Mary had the most written about them, including deck plans crucial for me to reconstruct them.

Lusitania looked cool, and there was a wealth of information that I could find at my local library.

How long did it take you to make Lusitania?

It took about a year and a half, if I added up all of the hours and divided them into four-hour days. It is 16 feet long at 197,000 toothpicks. It has displayed many places, but it has been on permanent display at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore for the past 16 years.

The Lusitania was built to disassemble into two eight-foot sections with removable masts. It made it possible to transport it without tearing down (apartment) walls, taking doors off hinges or removing windows.

I also created a toothpick shaft and interlocking system to connect the two pieces for exhibits. The two sections are fastened so tightly, you cannot see the seam where they separate. (Note: the sections were left slightly apart at Stan Hywet so that visitors could see the model’s internal structure.)

Contrary to popular belief, I do not know a thing about engineering or have a degree in the field. Instead, I developed a methodology of using triangular patterns within the toothpick skeletons to maintain their curvaceous shapes and to withstand the pressures of time itself.

With every ship that I built, I got better at it. I also developed ways of building the smaller intricate features like vents, cranes, lifeboats, ships’ wheels and other small odds and ends you normally would find on the decks of an ocean liner. In fact, this is what my ships have become known for — not just being built fromtoothpicks, but the meticulous attention to detail. My only tools are wire cutters, an Exacto knife and a boatload of patience.

What is your next project?

I am currently working on the SS America. It was one of America’s first transatlantic ocean liner, but it was sold quickly and changed its name several times over a 50-year period. Its last name was the SS American Star, and it ended up beached in the Canary Islands.

Why did you agree to loan the Lusitania to Stan Hwyet?

I think it would look good at the museum, and there is also a Lusitania connection. It needs to sail out of Baltimore every once in a while.

If You Go

“An Influential Journey”

Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens

714 North Portage Path, Akron

Self-guided Tour Ticket Prices

Stan Hywet Members: Free

Non-Member Adult: $14

Non-Member Youth 6-17yrs: $6

http://www.stanhywet.org/‎

Julie E. Washington

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About shipmodelsuperstore

I own a ship model web store and love old wooden ship models. I have been selling quality model airplanes and ship models for years and enjoy building them. My house looks like a hobby shop!
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