Tasmanian tradition makes miniature replicas of mountain huts at home ‘rather than watching TV’

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Jamie Baldock from northern Tasmania looks out the window of a rustic cabin.

“I spent many cold winter nights in there, with snow all over the roof and two feet deep outside,” he said.

The Hut sits on a table in his shed in Quoiba, near Devonport, and is a detailed miniature replica of Basil Steers Hut 2, which is located in the February Plains in the Tasmanian Highlands.

Mr Baldock has been making models of Tasmanian mountain huts for about three years, working on them in “little bits” around his full-time job as an electrician.

“I’m a bit time crunched, but I like to use my time wisely, so rather than watching TV, I like to build stuff like that,” he said.

“It’s a labor of love…I’m very proud of them.”

The Borradaile Plains Hut is the newest addition to the collection.(ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott)

Chance discovery ignites new passion

Always a keen outdoorsman, Mr Baldock had been visiting Tasmanian mountain huts for years before an unlikely experience in the bush sparked even greater interest in them.

“I was walking up Mount Roland one day and came across a USB flash drive hanging from a tree,” he said.

“I took it home and plugged it in to see if I could find out who it belonged to.”

The drive, which was later returned to its owner, contained hundreds of photos of Tasmanian wilderness and huts, and “more importantly”, Mr Baldock said, it included a series of radio interviews ABC.

The series, Mountain Stories, aired across Tasmania in the 1990s and focused on characters from the state’s Central Highlands.

“A lot of these old guys were hunters and they built these crude old trap huts in the high country to support their business,” Mr Baldock said.

“So my brother and I started visiting a lot of these areas. As I visited them and got to know them, I…decided to build the miniatures.”

Two men in the bush, one sitting, one standing, holding up beers and smiling
Jamie and his brother Noel have always enjoyed spending time in the bush.(Provided: Jamie Baldock)

Containment triggers the start of the project

Despite wanting to build the model huts, it was only after Tasmania’s statewide COVID lockdown that Mr Baldock found the time to make any real progress on them.

The first miniature hut built by Mr Baldock – the Reg Wadley Hut – was the most difficult to build, he said, as it involved “a lot of trial and error”.

But by the time he had finished a few models, Mr Baldock took on the challenge of building the relatively elaborate Borradaile Plains cabin as a present for his brother Noel on his 60th birthday.

However, that plan was quickly scuttled after Mr Baldock realized his brother would turn 60 a year earlier than he thought.

Plan B was to instead build Noel the much simpler Basil Steers Hut 1 miniature, which when built was well received.

“He loved it…it’s one of his most prized possessions, I think,” Mr Baldock said.

Keep it rustic and real

When building a hut, Mr. Baldock works on his memories as well as photographs and measurements he has taken in the field.

But the trick to making a good model hut, he said, was paying attention to detail.

Photograph printed in A4 format of a rustic cabin owned.
The photos of the huts serve as useful references during construction.(ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott)

Getting the detail of the hut roofs turned out to be one of the most laborious aspects of making the model.

Each roof is constructed of rusted iron with 2 millimeter corrugations, which Mr. Baldock makes himself using a homemade die compressed under hydraulic pressure.

“Basically what I do is take rusty iron, flatten it, cut it into strips and reform it with [miniature] ripples,” he said.

Achieving a realistic weathered look on the model’s fence posts is also time consuming.

“I had to cut all of my posts and let them sit in the sun for about 18 months to turn gray so I didn’t get any new edges on them,” Mr Baldock said.

A miniature rustic cabin sitting on a table, a man in the background, in a shed.
Attention to detail means reproducing the imperfect, says Baldock.(ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott)

Overall, Mr Baldock said giving each model a “rough” look was also key.

“You can’t have anything too square, you can’t have anything too straight,” he said.

Mr Baldock said the practical skills he acquired through his professional work came in handy in building the huts.

“Business experience definitely helps when you’re creating things, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.

The collection of mini cabins is growing

Mr Baldock has made six miniature huts so far and he intends to make at least “a few” more.

“I visited the Meston Lake Hut about 12 months ago, and I measured this… [so] I might have a crack at that one next,” he said.

A man using a glue gun to touch up a miniature rustic hut.
Mr. Baldock uses a 1:20 scale for his models.(ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott)

While the growing collection of cabanas has, to date, never been opened to the public, photographs of some of the models have appeared on social media.

Mr Baldock said the huts had received “a lot of admiration” in the form of rave reviews.

If a suitable location for the collection of miniature huts can be found, Mr Baldock said he was ready to display it.

“Maybe one day on the track, when my shelter gets too small,” he said.

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