It started out as just something to do, but now it almost has a life of its own.
About three years ago, Jack Raveling was helping Mike Horton with construction work in the Kohl’s Ranch-Christopher Creek area and staying at Horton’s cabin. It was referred to as the Haigler Creek Cabin.
The cabin — the original part was built in 1886 — was so intriguing, Raveling decided to construct a model of it. Using photos and his firsthand knowledge, he built a miniature version of Haigler Creek Cabin.
He didn’t use kit materials, he just crafted what he needed from actual building goods — most of them purchased at Home Depot. The project took about 800 hours and included cutting all the shingles by hand and crafting the logs from cedar fencing.
One of the hardest parts of the project was finding a stone that looked like the complete metate that is about five feet up in the center of the cabin’s chimney, Raveling said.
His second project is probably the one closest to his heart — for now — it is a miniature of the farmhouse where he grew up outside Walnut Grove, Minn. The house was built in about 1920, he said, and he and his family moved into it in 1942 and finally left it in 1970 when it became too much for his widowed mother to care for on her own.
Raveling had no pictures of his boyhood home to use for guidance, he made his model all from memory. He even constructed it in such a way as to reveal the inside — in two parts, the main floor and the upstairs where the bedrooms were located. Because of his craftsmanship the pieces are so tightly fitted, it isn’t possible to see that the model comes apart.
Thanks to his sister, there are even some antique-looking metal furnishings in the interior.
Raveling said building the farmhouse took about 1,200 hours.
His current project is the home in which he and his wife Betty raised their family in Farmington, Minn. He started the project in February of this year and so far has put in between 1,200 and 1,300 hours on it — and he’s not finished.
He said he wants it to be as authentic as possible — going so far as to make the garage door work and getting a box of sandpaper that looks like gray, asphalt shingles to finish the roof.
Raveling learned his carpentry skills from his father, working alongside him on the farm 11 miles outside of Walnut Grove, Minn.
“There was always something that needed to be fixed,” he said.
His skills were good enough to get him a construction job right out of high school building grain elevators. He then went into the service and when he was discharged from the Air Force he found a job with the phone company. After 13 years he and his brother-in-law started a painting business. It was from the family company that he retired in 2000.
Awhile before his retirement, his brother-in-law had started coming to Arizona for two to three months every year, and Raveling and his wife came to visit on occasion. They still had the painting business and were doing jobs both in Arizona and Minnesota.
“About 20 years ago we came out for a couple of months and one day went for a drive,” Raveling said.
His brother-in-law lived in Chandler. Raveling headed north and found no place to stop outside of Mesa until he reached Payson. And that is how they found the community.
They liked Payson so much that they bought a lot in the new Stone Creek subdivision in 1998 and started building their home here in 2000, finally closing on it in early 2001.
Since then the couple have been part of Payson and Rim Country. While Raveling keeps busy with his miniature houses and other projects, Betty is active with the Humane Society of Central Arizona.
Once he gets the model of their Farmington, Minn. home completed, she may have to start hunting for miniature furniture with which to decorate it. In the meantime, she is wondering where they will put it once it is done.
Raveling has an idea about that — they have a half wall in their home that would make a perfect display shelf.
But since he is such great hand with construction, they just might add a room to house the houses.