September 3, 199|
man crafts replica of battleship
CARL A. WINTER
Brian Porco, Courier-Post
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.
- In a workshop in the basement of his modest garden apartment,
Fred "Pops" Wilson is laying the keel of the USS New
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 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,"
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."