A sound business model: machine replicas making a big impression
How a Tipperary man turned a passion for making models into a business.

Ciaran Dunne’s interest in model making comes from his own farming background. The Dunne farm near Thurles, Co Tipperary, consists of both dairy and beef enterprises. Ciaran had the usual assortment of farm models when growing up – toy tractors and machinery that most young children typically would have.

Often the shops wouldn’t have a model Ciaran wanted, so he decided to start building them himself. He further developed these skills as he got older and ultimately deciding on model making as a career.

Ciaran Dunne has turned his childhood hobby into a successful business.

After secondary school, Ciaran went to England to attend the Arts University College Bournemouth (AUCB). There, Ciaran spent three years doing a BA (Hons) model-making course with the ultimate goal of landing a job making architectural models.

In his final year, things took an agricultural turn. After plans to build a model of the Burj Khalifa, (Dubai’s tallest building) for his final year project fell through, Ciaran went back to the drawing board.

Having come across a model of a hedge cutter, he realised could build a much more detailed version. Hedge cutters are not common models due to the complexity of their design, especially if moving functionality is to be achieved. So Ciaran took this opportunity and produced a brass-built McConnell hedgecutter in 1:32 scale for his final-year project. This is where he honed and developed his skills, producing incredibly precise and detailed models.

The McConnell PA6500T. These particular models played a huge part in Ciaran's success.

Ciaran explained what he learned in college: “It showed me how to make pretty much anything out of anything, from plastic, metal, resin and fiberglass. On the computing side, there is 3D modelling, special effects for filming and also prototype building.”

Ciaran enjoys driving occasionally for local contractors in the summer season. This allows him to see machinery from a new perspective, leaving him with a fresh mind when back in the workshop, model building.

The beginning of Perfect 32

Ciaran started off in his family home making models of McHale bale handlers, OCE folding grass forks along with shear grabs. To date, the McHale bale handlers are the top-selling product, and take shy of two hours to build from start to finish.

The McHale bale hander is one of Ciaran's best sellers to date.

When the business, called Perfect 32, started expanding, he moved out to a workshop on the farm which he set up for the job. His tool-filled workshop feels like a man cave for a model or machinery enthusiast. The brass-laden counters catch the eye as almost all the models are made from some shape or form of brass.

The folding OCE grass forks were among Ciaran's first popular models.

Ciaran’s workshop contains all the tools and materials he would ever need. There are shelves stocked with lengths of brass ranging in shape and thickness, band saws, pillar drills, belt sanders, metal bending tools.

All parts are cut and bent individually, then solder is applied using a gas torch.

Moving out the back, he has a ventilated spray booth, where he preps and sprays each individual part with the exact paint of each machine’s manufacturer. They are then hung to dry in the warm workshop on a line.

Ciaran's purpose-built workshop.

The making of the models

Once drawings have been sourced from the manufacturer for a particular product, they are scaled back to 1:32. Ciaran then draws out all the components needed for assembly on the computer. The drawings are then sent to the UK to be laser-cut and acid-etched from sheet brass.

Redrock push off buckrake.

Once returned, Ciaran folds and solders together the intricate parts step by step, building multiple models at once. This idea of batch production speeds up the process. Once assembled, the individual parts are then unassembled and go for painting. Some parts may require 3D printing. This is done by a company in Dublin. Once painted and reassembled, the models are ready for stickers, giving them the finishing touch. All stickers are made locally by a woman who happens to have the right machine for the job.

Ciaran makes most of his models to order or limits production to a set number.

Where the magic happens and endless hours are put in.

McConnell hedge cutter

Upon completing his degree in 2010, Ciaran decided to drop a model of his PA6500T hedge cutter into a local McConnell dealer. McConnell later saw the model and approached him. Ciaran made a few small changes and McConnell then placed an order for 100 models, with models later ending up on show at Agritechnica.

Spread out are most of the components to build 15 hedgecutters

So Ciaran got to work, calling in help of a few friends and started building each individual hedge cutter. Each model requires a total of 15 hours to build.

After viewing a finished model, it’s easy to see where all the production hours went, from the swivel heads to small intricate parts, rotor detail, telescopic arm movement right through to the proper movement of all linkages, just as if it was the real machine. The completed PA6500T fetches a price of €320, which is fair considering the time and effort that goes into the building of the model. This is the model that really got Ciaran better known in the business.

Current projects

When we caught up with Ciaran, he was working on a number of Wilson Super Move 10-bale transporters. These bale transporters took four days to design and 20 hours each to build.

Each transporter contains roughly 28ft of brass and sells for €450.

Wilson Super Move 10 bale trailer

Ciaran produced 20 limited edition Armer Salmon Cheetah single-row beet harvesters, two weathered versions and one prototype model, after one month in the design process. Each take 48 hours to build. Parts are produced from acid etching, CNC laser cutting and 3D printing.

McConnell PA6500T surrounded by all its brass components

Every beet harvester sold comes with a plaque stating its production number. One of these models is rumoured to have recently been sold on an online auction site, fetching double what was paid for it new.

Following this, Ciaran wanted to make 30 limited twin-row Armer Salmon Beaver beet harvesters. This was one of the most detailed models made to date, according to Ciaran, with 20 made so far. Early 2019 sees plans for manufacture of the remaining 10, with all sold already apart from two and priced at €1,300 each.

Model modifications

Another part of Ciaran’s business is model modifications. This is where collectors will leave models with him to be modified, often to make them look more realistic. These modifications include respraying, adding of stickers, lights, number plates and new wheels.

Claas Jaguar 860 in for wider tyres, number plates and extra stickers

Recently, Ciaran had a Claas Arion tractor in for modifications which included bonnet and chassis shortening, to suit the dimensions of the real four-cylinder variant. Ciaran had a Claas Jaguar forage harvester in for wider wheels and number plates, while I was there.

From talking to him, you’d know straight away he loves what he does. “I feel I have turned an old hobby into a job that I now love and also incorporates my passion for machinery.”

Ciaran plans to keep building models with the hope to get his models more and more detailed. He will continue to focus on quality and detail rather than on big production numbers. Ciaran’s work will be on show next at the Carrickdale Model Toy Show on 24 February in the Carrickdale Hotel, Dundalk, Co Louth.

WIN a model tractor and two tickets to the FTMTA Farm Machinery Show

Answer the questions below correctly to be in with a chance of winning one of three 1:32 scale model tractors sponsored by Tinney Toys along with two tickets to the FTMTA Farm Machinery Show in Punchestown in February 2019. Entries close 15 January.

Top five picks at Millsteet Spring Farm Machinery Show
Tommy Moyles picked out his top five machines that stood out for him at the recent Spring Farm Machinery Show in Millstreet last week.

There was a solid attendance at the Q8 Oils Spring Farm Machinery Show at the Green Glens Arena in Millstreet, Co Cork, last week.

Describing activity for 2018, exhibitors said that there was a small bit of a lull when the drought hit last summer but activity picked up after that and they experienced a very good run up to Christmas.

Naturally enough, Brexit was in the back of everyone’s minds and while it created a little apprehension among customers, machinery dealers cautioned that it’s a bit early in the year to make a call on its true impact.

Some dealerships said there was a good run on industrial loaders last year.

They also reported a few tractor sales completed before the end of the year, with a number of deals and solid inquiries proving that despite the uncertainty created in Westminster, the show must go on at farm level.

Valtra T174

The T174 starts at 175hp and can boost to over 200hp.

Some specifications include front and cab suspension, 50km/h and air brakes.

This model has a powershift transmission, manual spool valves, load sensing and a hydraulic output going from 160l/minute.

Ballpark figure of €105,000 plus VAT.

Rauch AXIS M EMC 30.2 V8

This twin-disc spreader can give precise control of the application rate without the need for weigh cells fitted on the machine.

The left and right discs are individually monitored for flow rate as it will self-calibrate to ensure the same flow comes out each side.

Working off GPS for forward speed and taking field size into consideration, it will vary its width of spread, self-calibrate and turn on and off at the headlands.

This 3t capacity machine is proving a popular option for contractors and larger farmers through TAMS.

Guide price is €26,000 including VAT.

NC 4800

This high-capacity slurry pump has a 1,000rpm gearbox.

The mixing spout can revolve through a wide arc allowing slurry to be mixed in any direction and the jetting nozzle can be locked in a range of up to 26 positions.

Hydraulic controls mean the pump can be placed easily in the tank and also enable adjustment using the centre ram.

This pump requires a tractor of about 175hp to run it.

Price: €5,750 plus VAT.

Pöttinger seeder

The 1000 series power-harrow is rated at 250hp.

It had a Pöttinger Tegosem electric air seeder fitted on top for broadcasting grass seed.

It uses a GPS sensor for forward speed, a low-level seed sensor in the hopper and it uses a linkage signal worked from the top link for turning on and off the seed when you lift and lower the machine.

This means it’s totally independent from the tractor.

All it needs from the tractor is 12 volts.

It has a 200l hopper and can take up to 6ac worth of grass seed.

Price: €22,000 plus VAT.

Vredo launches monstrous VT7028 Multi-purpose Trac at LAMMA
Dutch-based Vredo launched a monstrous 687hp VT7028 Multi-purpose Trac at LAMMA last week.

Vredo, a Dutch-based company, displayed one of the largest new machines at the show.

Although it is very unlikely there will be many (if any) ever sold in Ireland, we had to cover the machine simply due to its scale.

The new machine is powered by a 16-litre Deutz V8 engine capable of churning out a significant 687hp.

The large machine comes with all round suspension, all-wheel steering and heavy-duty axles with external brake discs.

Although pictured with a slurry tank mounted on the platform to the rear, these machines can be retrofitted with a large number of implements such as spreader boxes (dung, lime etc), sugar beet boxes or even wood chippers.

According to Vredo, there was no suitable CVT transmission on the market for its new machine.

As a result the company opted to design and build its own VVT700 continuously variable transmission.

The transmission has two speed ranges, 0-20km/h and 0-50km/h. The machine is available to order in two- or three-axle configurations.

It’s rumoured that the list price for this fully specced machine is in the region of €850,000.

Armatrac launches higher horsepower tractor at LAMMA
Armatrac launched a new 125hp tractor at the recent LAMMA show.

Armatrac launched its new 1254 Lux tractor at last week’s show.

The 1254 Lux is the largest model in the company’s offering and is capable of churning out up to 125hp.

Armatrac decided to opt for a Deutz engine with the latest offering over the Perkins engine that they have been using in the majority of their other tractors up to now.

The company are sticking with the ZF transmission and rear axle, similar to what it has used in other models.

The 1254 is fitted with a 16x16 gearbox. The new tractor has stuck with what the company has become known for, simplicity and not over done with electrics.

The 1254 Lux can be equipped with air conditioning, cab suspension in addition to front linkage and PTO if desired.