Michigan Heritage Awards
^ MHA Awardees List ^
2006 awardee, St. Clair Shores (Macomb County),
Model Boat Builder
Herman Chapman has been “scratch building” exquisite replica
models of Great Lakes boats since the 1980s. While his knowledge, dedication
to, and artistry of model boat building is recognized throughout the Great
Lakes region, he is perhaps best known for his models of Great Lakes lightships
on display at the Huron Lightship Museum in Port Huron and other models
at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum in Detroit. He hopes to make a complete
collection of all 27 lightships that served on the Great Lakes; to date
he has made 16.
A third-generation wood worker and former industrial electrician, Chapman
learned his skills in woodworking from his father, who worked on a Great
Lakes ore carrier. Chapman works in his St. Clair Shores basement workshop
where he also keeps a wide assortment of materials, tools, a collection
of models he’s made—including the PALMER, DETROIT EDISON, SOUTH
AMERICAN, and the fireboat JOHN KENDALL—and plans for his next project.
“The research is fun,” says Chapman, who talks with people who
served aboard the vessel, takes and collects numerous photographs of every
angle of the boat, and does historical research before he begins making
His first foray into modeling was a kit boat, operated by radio control,
that he made with his son. Every boat since he has made from scratch. Starting
with a block of basswood, Chapman carves out the hull to exact specifications
from blueprints he scales down to a 1/8th inch-to-one-foot scale. Other
parts are meticulously created from wood, wire, metal, plastic, string and
other materials. With a goal of making the boat as true to what it looked
like at a particular point in time, Chapman attends to the smallest of details.
What makes it all worthwhile, according to Chapman, is the reaction the
models draw from people who know the ships. When they view his models they
remember their time spent working aboard the vessel, and discover distinctive
features Chapman carefully included in his models.
Herman Chapman is honored with the Michigan Heritage Award for his mastery
of the traditional art of model boat building, his excellent craftsmanship,
and his dedication to Great Lakes maritime heritage.
--LuAnne Kozma, fieldworker
Back to top of page
© 2006 Michigan State University, all rights reserved