Meeting some of the model horse hobby’s best customizers!
At first glance, it’s difficult to distinguish between a photograph of one of Bill Duncan’s miniature wagons, and a photograph of the real thing. At second glance, it does not get easier! That’s because Bill’s vehicles are defined by their authenticity and craftsmanship. No detail is overlooked: plush seats, tiny metal fittings, hand-carved wood. If it was there in real life, he recreates it in miniature.
Bill began by restoring full scale wagons and carriages. An 1887 Studebaker surrey with the fringe on top that he restored was the subject of a photograph taken by a local newspaper that was circulated all over the world. The vehicle was used for parades, events and even appeared in a movie. After several years of working on the real thing, Bill was ready for a new challenge, and turned to miniatures.
Creating model horse miniature wagons is challenging because parts must be created, which takes some ingenuity and seemingly endless research. Sources include Bill’s personal library, books, magazines and the internet. his customers often send him old family photos.
He says, “Sometimes I copy things directly from movies, like The Quiet Man, The War Wagon, Stagecoach and several English movies set in the 1800’s.”
Each model horse vehicle takes anywhere from two days to six months to complete. Bill especially enjoys replicating vehicles from the 1800’s; of the American west, and foreign countries. Collectors from all over the world own his vehicles. He also creates miniatures for well-known artists to use as models for their paintings including JonPaul Ferrara, who illustrates romance novel covers, and Mike Wimmer, who is a portrait and western artist as well as book illustrator.
For those wanting to try their hand at crafting a miniature cart, Bill says it requires “knowledge, ability, creativity, determination, and patience.” He has recreated everything from a gypsy wagon, to a stagecoach, to a sleigh, to a hearse. he says, “Just about the time I think I’ve made one of everything, a customer comes along with a new one. Like the popcorn wagon I’m currently working on.” When asked what he enjoys most about working on his model horse vehicles, he says, “The process of looking at an image and then creating it authentically in miniature.”