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CLERMONT - The woods near Bernheim Forest aren't always in the form of trees.
Local resident John Beckner uses his imagination, along with his hand and a savvy for engineering and construction, to turn wood into creative wooden models.
Beckner's latest piece is among his all-time favorites, and it earned a Best of Show in the wooden models competition at the 2013 Kentucky State Fair.
The model, based on a Lattice Boom Crane, earned Beckner his fifth Best of Show ribbon since he began competing in 1999.
"I think this year we had the best models at the fair that I've seen, overall," he said.
Beckner's crane was created from initial plans provided by Toys for Joy, a hobby company in Washington state.
"Their plans are excellent," Beckner said. "I worked in the Navy, and I'm used to looking for mistakes, and there's not many."
Beckner will study the plans first, then put his own mind to work with a basic scheme that he adds his own creativity to.
"I'll spend a week just looking at the plans," he said. "Then I figure out where to start/ It took over two months to build this."
Everything is in functioning order on the crane, one of the reasons Beckner's models place so well in competition.
"It's even got latches on its wenches," he said. "It's the best one I've ever done."
Beckner worked on the delicate and intricate model as a personal challenge, trying to outdo the tank he created last year, which placed second overall.
"Last year's tank got beat, and the other guy had more detail," he said. "I knew what the judges were looking for. This year the other guy came in second."
Beckner has earned 21 total ribbons at Kentucky State Fair competitions over the years, with five Best of Shows, six first place blue ribbons in the Wooden Model competition, eight second places and two third-place finishes.
As a way to enhance detail, Beckner implements many types of wood to offer an appearance of color to the models. He rarely paints them. The crane implemented poplar, walnut and pine wood.
"I want it all wood," he said. "I like the contrast of the different woods. The doors (on the crane) are green poplar. I scrounge wood. There's nothing ever stained."
Beckner now has about 40 models displayed in his home woodshop. Earned ribbons are displayed next to each winning model.
These days Beckner competes more for the challenge of creation than to earn the ribbons.
"This year was one of my best," he said. "The boom was the hardest part, it took a whole to figure out the sequence."