Photo by MURRAY CRAWFORD/Advocate staff

Just crazy about cranes

A long-time passion for model building and scene creation has, for the past four years, been focused on building model cranes and scenes utilizing cranes for one Red Deer man.

A long-time passion for model building and scene creation has, for the past four years, been focused on building model cranes and scenes utilizing cranes for one Red Deer man.

Mike Piebiak has an elaborate set of model cranes he works away at in his free time.

He started with the more conventional planes and trains, and still does a little work with trains, but cranes became his passion.

He now builds some kits or scenes and sells them or donates them to charity silent auctions, but he also builds them for himself.

“It’s only been about three or four years that I really got crazy into it,” said Piebiak.

The hard part of assembling the cranes is the cross reeving, running the cables for the cranes which is done by hand.

Cross reeving puts cables through pulleys as support for both the boom and other parts of the crane, it also helps the crane move.

“You have to know cross reeving. If you just run it in and out it would physically tighten itself up or unravel, by cross reeving it.

“It allows the crane to be exerted so the cable stays constant by itself.”

Cranes also require counter-weights, which he designs and weighs himself to save money on the factory made ones, but also to better suit his scene-creation.

“You kit-bash a lot of stuff because you can make one thing be something different,” said Piebiak, taking a plastic soccer ball he painted and has set up to look like a radar antennae on top of command tower on his barge.

The base of the tower is a wooden vase he bought at Michaels, but made it in tower.

“It’s a matter of innovating. You can always find stuff to tear apart and build.”

Weathering is also an intricate trick of the trade, finely painting the cranes to add a detail of some rust giving it that realistic feeling.

The centrepiece of his current collection is a barge he put together.

On it is a large crane, but there are many more fine details to bring the whole barge together. It floats, it’s radio controlled and he takes it out on the water, but it is the intricate and meticulous work he does to bring the whole scene together that sets it apart.

He takes items available at any store and turns them into pieces that complete the look.

“I take it to three mile bend and I’m going to take it there now that I’ve upgraded a bunch more stuff on it and added some details,” said Piebiak.

“The last time, when I first physically put it out there, I had to take it in my cargo trailer and assemble it.

“By the time I got it assembled and floating there were about 20 people watching, curious about what I was doing.”

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