March 2, 2004
Tift County-- We live in a stressful world that takes it toll on people. Many use drugs and alcohol to cope. Others exercise. Some take their stress out on family members.
But Fred Bryan takes his frustrations out on something most people never would think about.
"The shop was my salvation," says Fred, who started in a one car garage where he rolled his tools out to work with wood.
Now, he has a shop with plenty of space. "It's the best place to come and relieve stress," says Fred as he looks at drawings of his next project. No, he doesn't build a kit; He starts from scratch with a drawing that usually needs a lot of changes. Fred had a high stress job with an electric utility company, managing 200 people, two service centers and too many complaining customers.
Like other people, he often brought the day's stress home. "I could be a bear," says Fred with a nervous laugh, remembering those stressful days. "My stress reliever became my hobby," says Fred. That hobby involves making very intricate, very accurate creations like most people have never seen. And, don't call them toys. "I kind of take offense to them being called toys," says Fred. "A toy is something a kid may play with in the sand. They are an adult model, not a kid's model."
As he moves the ladder on his wooden fire truck up and down. The fire truck, about four feet long, made completely of wood accurately represents the real thing. The ladder goes up and down and swivels back and forth. Hydraulic cylinders, that move the ladder, have a wooden piston inside a slightly larger wooden case. "I think the accuracy is what makes it unique," says Fred. On another table sits an even better example of his accuracy-- a backhoe loaded on an 18-wheeler, low boy trailer.
Everything about the backhoe works like a real one. "You try to keep it as realistic as you can," says Fred. So realistic the tractor's seat swivels from front to back just like a real one, where the operator can work the backhoe controls, then turn and operate the loading bucket on the front or drive it. He didn't paint his backhoe model or any of them. "Paint covers up workmanship," says Fred while illustrating a point. You can see the wood grain on the backhoe's tires, and the treads, too.
A tire painted black held next to his natural tire proved his point. The painted one looked plain and uninteresting. Someone painted one of his creations one time and it bothers him to this day. "I thought they destroyed it, ruined it," remembers Fred. So, he lets nature color his models, selecting wood for its color and grain.
On the backhoe's front bucket, he purposely positioned the wood so the grain pointed inward. "That pattern makes you really want to look at it," says Fred. Fred's models obviously take a lot of time to create. "I build one piece at a time. I don't get in a hurry. That's what makes it enjoyable," says Fred. He estimates it took about 100 hours to build the fire truck with all its fine detail that would make a fireman smile. You would think he had a lot of natural patience, but he didn't when he started wood working about 10 years ago.
"I made the patience," says Fred, along with his creations. The challenge of making a model continues to tempt him to spend hours in his shop. "You might make the same part 10 times before you get one you want, to fit the way you want it," says Fred. "It works your brain a little bit. Each one has a part of me in it."
Interestingly, he doesn't build his models to sell, saying he gets his joy about of building them.
And how much would he charge anyway? Fred says the fun starts to suffer when money gets involved. If someone likes one he has already built, he'll think about selling it, recouping the cost of the wood, but certainly not enough to compensate for his time. Don't even think about asking him to build something special. He politely declines.
Fred Bryan found a place to relieve his daily stress positively in what he calls a stress reduction clinic at home, a place where wood becomes the stress reliever of choice.
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