Winnipeg, Manitoba — “I make toys for kids and I just give them away to relatives and good friends,” said Corporal Don Schellenberg, a Reserve cook with 17 (Winnipeg) Service Battalion and a welder in the private sector. “Little merry-go-rounds that you spin ... they sort of float as they go up and down, with animals on it. I like seeing the kids’ faces when they see the toys.”
His latest project, a functional oak C7 rifle replica, took 15 months of hard work. The oak rifle is virtually identical to the C7 currently in service with the Canadian Forces. “If it takes off, a lot of people are going to call me to have one made,” said Cpl Schellenberg. “I think this will be a one-shot deal.”
If at first, you don’t succeed …
Cpl Schellenberg was first inspired to try his hand at crafting a working wooden model of the C7 after he heard a similar story about a soldier serving in Afghanistan. This soldier had apparently decided to carve a rifle out of a piece of wood he had found, using nothing but hand tools. The Reservist has a lot of respect for that unnamed soldier. “That takes talent,” he said.
It was very challenging to make a C7 that can be completely broken down like a real one. Even the accessories—like the blank firing attachment and the hand guards—were almost completely hand carved.
“This is the third BFA I made. You can tell it’s very thin,” he said. “Because it’s wood, I don’t really have the tolerances I can work with. Metal is a lot thinner. You can get away with it.”
The time, effort and patience it takes to create this work of art can be linked to Cpl Schellenberg’s life experiences and intensive martial arts background: he has more than 26 years of training in a variety of disciplines, including Tae-Kwon-Do, Jiu-Jitsu, European- and Western-style Karate and has attained a second-level black sash in Kung Fu.
When Cpl Schellenberg made his first rifle, many people were impressed with his work and enjoyed holding and showing off his creation. There will be no show-and-tell with this newer, more exact version.
“If someone takes it and says ‘I’m going to show my friend,’ guaranteed, 100 per cent, it’ll come back broken,” he said. “There’s a way of moving things so they don’t break.”
Cpl Schellenberg is currently working on a large bird feeder for a relative, but he is already planning his next military project: a functioning Medium Logistics Vehicle Wheeled (MLVW) to scale.
Articles and photos by Cpl Bill Gomm
Cpl Gomm is a photojournalist for 38 CBG.