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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Keith Spriggs is a master in making miniatures

  • If a mouse ever became a coal miner and needed a miner’s pick, Keith Spriggs, Cherokee, would be the man to see.

    He has fashioned a pick just about the right size for a mouse’s tiny paws, along with a garden rake, ice pick, hammer and crowbar if the rodent needed to do other chores. Those are just the beginning of the marvelous miniatures Spriggs has created in his workshop.

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  • If a mouse ever became a coal miner and needed a miner’s pick, Keith Spriggs, Cherokee, would be the man to see.
    He has fashioned a pick just about the right size for a mouse’s tiny paws, along with a garden rake, ice pick, hammer and crowbar if the rodent needed to do other chores. Those are just the beginning of the marvelous miniatures Spriggs has created in his workshop.
    He’s also put together some working model steam engines, one of them built to a 1/20 scale of the original engine.
    “This one has 800 pieces in it, and I made each one individually,” Spriggs said. “The original was made in Kansas City, Kan., in the 1800s and the last place it was used was in a Texas textile plant. One engine like it would power the entire plant.”
    Another of his models is a small-scale copy of an engine used at a Wisconsin saw mill.
    “I had about 25 pictures of that engine and built this model from them,” Spriggs said. “It’s all made from scrap materials, no boughten pieces.”
    He believes that his masterpiece is a Western Wheeled Scraper, which was recently displayed at the Miners Hall Museum, Franklin.
    “It’s the best thing I’ve ever made as far as detail  is concerned,” Spriggs said. “Everybody calls it a road grader, which is what these were used for. The real one is at the Crawford County Historical Museum, and when I was making this, I’d go over there and take maybe 50 pictures of one part and make a sketch or two. When I ended up, I’d done 283 sketches. I  have no idea how many photos I took, but it would be in the hundreds, maybe 1,000.”
    The grader was pulled by a team of horses or mules.
    “It took one man to drive the team and another man in back who operated the controls,” Spriggs said, demonstrating how the grader blade can be raised or lowered and turned from side to side.
    He painted the body of  his road grader red.
    “I was never able to find out what color they were originally, because they would set out and rusted over the years,” he said. “I thought that red would be as good as any color, and the grader in Pittsburg, if you get down and look where there’s still a trace of paint, it has kind of a pink cast to it. Probably it was red or maybe orange.”
    There’s also some uncertainty about the driver’s seat and foot rest.
    “These were made out of wood, and they rotted away over the years,” he said. “I had to speculate what they look like, but anyway it’s pretty close to right.”
    Page 2 of 3 - Spriggs also enjoys building and flying radio-controlled airplanes, and displayed a replica of a 1928 mail plane that flew between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles.
    “I think about the people who flew that plane over the mountains at night, with no radio or navigation equipment,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable what they did.”
    The plane models are also originals, and not built from kits.
    “Everything is scratch built,” Spriggs said.
    On the other hand, he didn’t build his 1955 Sunliner Ford convertible or his 1950 Ford Custom convertible, but might as well have, considering all the work he has done to restore them.
    “I had to learn how to do body work, engine work and upholstery,” Spriggs said.
    His wife, Deane Spriggs, estimates that he’s put six to 10 years in each car
    “When we got married 23 years ago, I asked him what was in the box underneath the bed, and he said, ‘Don’t touch it, it’s the upholstery for my 1950 Ford Custom’,” she said. “There was no floor in either car when he got them. You could stand in them and be standing on the ground.”
    Spriggs takes the cars to occasional area shows or cruise nights, but otherwise doesn’t drive them very much.
    “His real enjoyment came from restoring them ,” Mrs. Spriggs said.
    Her husband agreed that this is so.
    “I get no particular joy out of driving these cars,” Spriggs said. “When I drive somewhere, I want air conditioning, power steering and power brakes.”
    He and his wife, a retired RN who worked 12 years at Sunset Manor in Frontenac, have also enjoyed going to flea markets over the years.
    “I never throw anything away,” Spriggs said. “The oldest thing I have is something I got when I was three days old. A man who worked with my father brought me a small hammer. My father brought home a block of wood and some small nails, and my mother said I nailed so many nails into that block you could hardly pick it up.”
    He said the first thing he built that he can remember was a plane he made when he was 3.
    “I found two scraps of shingles and a nail, nailed the scraps together and it was an airplane,” Spriggs said. “Then I made a whole fleet, fighters to bombers, depending on the size shingles I found. When I was 3, we moved to a farm and there were no other kids within a mile, so I had to entertain myself. This was during the war, when you couldn’t get toys, so I started making my own.”
    He attended Pleasant Hill School, three miles north of West Mineral, and read all the science text books in the school library. He later worked in construction as a carpenter, before becoming a superintendent and estimator.
    Page 3 of 3 - “What I’d like to emphasize is how wonderful it is to create things, to use your hands and your imagination,”  Spriggs said.  “There’s no chance now for imagination, for going outside the lines. I do love the computer. I love the Internet and use it a lot. It’s just nice to know the other part as well.”

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