Sauder, who recently traveled to Chicago for the A. C. Gilbert Heritage Society annual national convention, was named the 2011 “Best Model Builder” and winner of “The Best Gilbert Display” for his tool shop model, which has about 1,000 continuously moving parts.
The design, which Sauder said he came up with himself, is based on a 1924 tool shop. The model has working tools such as a drill press, wood lathe and steam engine, he said.
Bill Bean, author of “Greenberg’s Guide to Erector Sets,” Volumes 1 and 2, said at the Chicago convention that Sauder’s model “is the best, most amazing model he has ever seen,” Sauder recalled.
Sauder said his father’s death four years ago inspired him to build the model.
“He was born in 1922 and I built that one in his honor,” said Sauder.
Sauder’s love for the vintage toys began early in his life. He remembers in the late 1950s receiving his first erector set from his father.
“It was my father’s boyhood set, and as a child, I played with it for hours on end,” he said.
The set was given away to Sauder’s cousin when he left for college, and Sauder said he didn’t think much about erector sets until 15 years ago when he saw one for sale on EBay
“It brought back so many happy memories that I bought the set,” he said.
Now, Sauder’s award-winning tool shop sits in a private museum in Wisconsin, where he hopes hundreds of children will be able to see it.
Sauder is in the process of working on another model that will be a more complex tool shop than the previous. This model already has more working parts and requires more engineering on his part than the first.
Sauder said he has a goal to show the erector sets to high school students and elderly shut-ins.
“Most engineers in this country first cut their teeth with erector sets and I’d like kids of today to see that the toy was not only fun but educational as well,” he said.
“For elderly folks, most remember them, played with them, and like me, they just get a kick out of seeing them work, “he added.
Sauder hopes more people will get involved in the hobby.
Those interested in learning more can go online to A.C. Gilbert Heritage Society website at www.acghs.org.