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Thursday, September 3, 199

Woodbury man crafts replica of battleship

By Brian Porco, Courier-Post

MODEL MAKER: Fred 'Pops' Wilson works on his 7-foot-replica of the USS New Jersey Wednesday in the basement of his Woodbury home. He hopes to complete the ship model in three months, display it at the state Aquarium and then auction it off.

Courier-Post Staff

WOODBURY - In a workshop in the basement of his modest garden apartment, Fred "Pops" Wilson is laying the keel of the USS New Jersey.

In three months, he plans to emerge into the sunlight with a perfect model, seven feet long.

"After I get my keel laid and my front end and back in place, then I'll turn into a maniac," said the genial, 51-year-old Wilson.

Wilson wants to display the vessel in the state Aquarium in Camden. His goal is to auction the model and use some of the proceeds to help persuade the state Battleship Commission to choose Camden as the permanent home for the Navy's most decorated warship.

The retired electrical engineer then wants to devote his model-making skills to a new cause - helping the Homeless No More Foundation. The nascent, tax-exempt organization has a house in Camden and a dream.

It plans to convert the house into a base where homeless workers can turn out duplicates of Wilson's handiwork, taught by the master himself, said founder Wil Dorsey of Paulsboro.

Unlike most ship-model makers, Wilson doesn't use official plans.

"I started out with kits, but then I said, 'I can do just as well by eyeballing a photograph and going from there.' Once I get the proportions down, the rest is easy,'' he said.

He is using pictures of the USS New Jersey in action during the Korean War for his model.

"I have to carve the solid parts - the bow and the stern - and then I use open construction. There will be four bulkheads, and I'll bend plywood around them for the hull," he said.

"I want to install a little electric motor, so the gun turrets will rotate," he added.

In his basement workshop, Wilson has drawn an outline of the battlewagon's deck on a sheet of plywood. On it he constructs a framework from which he will build - "from the keel up."

Wilson, ironically, is a veteran of the Army, not the Navy. He spent most of his 6 1/2 years in uniform as a radar maintenance technician in Germany, where he added to his education at the University of Heidelberg.

He takes breaks from his models by building box-like sheds - everything from a barbecue stand to a fishing shack. They're very popular items at flea markets, he said.

"I just like working with wood," he added.

Wilson is training two foundation officers, Dorsey and Melvin Brown, in his methods.

"We, in turn, will train some homeless volunteers and they will pass on these skills," Brown said. "We want to get people off the streets and off welfare, and into work."

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