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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Kingsville artist brings naval history to life

by Adam Gault

The passion for naval history and exceptional attention to detail, which Kingsville artist Mike Laforet has demonstrated through his replica model ships, can now be appreciated in the window of the Essex Pharmasave, located in the Victoria Wellness Plaza.

Featuring three scale replicas of classic tall ships-the HMS Hunter, HMS Surprise, and the Cutty Sark- Laforet’s love of history shines through in the details of the handcrafted, and made from scratch, models. From working lights, rigging, sails, and rudders, the attention to detail is astounding in each of the kit part free models that are crafted over hundreds of painstaking, but thoroughly rewarding, hours.

“I’ve loved history ever since I’ve been in high school,” explained the now retired Laforet. “I was fascinated with the amount of technological change that would take place from the 1600s, to the 1800s, 1900s, even to the present day.”

Before he first began working on the replica ships several years ago, Laforet had spent years painting WWII aircrafts and giving talks on different periods of history across Essex County. Even to this day, he feels the most rewarding part of constructing and displaying the ships is the opportunity to speak to people about the important historical role their real-life counterparts played in the War of 1812, and other engagements throughout the British Empire.

Laforet’s ship-building process is essentially a scaled down version of the real-life procedure. Working from various reference materials, including pictures, paintings, and diagrams, Laforet first starts with the wooden curved frame of the ship, building outwards in his scaled-down process that takes around half a year per ship.

“I make templates out of cardboard first, get the right dimensions, the beam width, the height of the ship, the position of the mast. Everything is done on paper first,” Laforet explained.

Despite the lengthy process that goes into the construction of each ship, Laforet has some big aspirations when it comes to his big ship building project, as he wants to build the HMS Detroit, and it’s entire six ship fleet.

“I read a book about the Battle of Lake Erie, and I decided I’d like to build the whole fleet,” Laforet said. “Basically, I build only two ships a year. So, it will take me three, maybe four, years to build the entire fleet.”

For more information on Laforet’s projects, contact Laforet via email at

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