The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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February 8, 2013

Handmade history: Replica of Swedish warship Vasa on display at Gustavus library

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ST PETER —

For instance, the boat includes hundreds of hand-carved sculptures affixed to the hull. Just the process of finishing the hull, Johnson said, took four years of working every day. After the hull was completed, he waited nearly a year before beginning the rigging in order to get correct specifications from the Vasa Museum.

 Along the way, Johnson remained steadfastly committed to accuracy. When he discovered his beakhead was too curved, he had to “tear apart” the front end of his hull to_re-do it.

“I didn’t really want to,” Johnson said, “but at the same time, the shape wasn’t right.”

Johnson developed his interest as a young boy, the son and grandson of Navy men. He said there were always nautical books around the Wrenshall farmhouse where he grew up — including one that contained a National Geographic article on the archaeology of the Vasa.

After Johnson started building model ships at age 10, the ship continued to hold his imagination.

“I’ve always liked history,” Johnson said. “Plus, I’m Scandinavian and all my family is from Norway, Sweden and Denmark.”

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