City man recreates famed Titanic in painstaking detail

Dave Finley stands beside an eight-foot replica of the RMS Titanic he built from scratch. The ship took 3,000 hours to complete and is extremely detailed, right down to the 10,000 brass nails and hairpins used as rivets. Troy Shantz

Troy Shantz

A handmade replica of the RMS Titanic is ready to set sail for a new home.

Sarnia’s Dave Finley spent 1,095 days and 3,000 hours creating the eight-foot-long passenger liner from parts he minutely crafted himself.

“It’s completely scratch built,” said Finley, 61. “It’s pretty decked out. There’s a lot of detail.”

From the handrails to the 48 boilers within its hull, the Titanic has been painstakingly remade from wood and metal and wrapped in plastic sheets painted to match the ship that sank in 1912.

Finley used 10,000 brass nails and dressmaker pins for rivets, and tiny chunks of charcoal to fill the coalbunkers within.

The engine room made of brass and copper took two months to complete.

“I can’t put no more on; there’s just nothing left to put on,” he said.

This new and larger ship is actually the second Titanic Finley has built since he began replicating famous ships and machinery at the age of 16. To date, he has completed 71 models, with many of them sold to private collectors or donated to museums and other organizations.

Dave Finley’s recreation of the Titanic took three years to complete and features a clear panel to see the inside workings of the ship.
Troy Shantz

Some of the ships can be found at museums in Mooretown, Sombra and Grand Bend. A nine-foot model of the HMS Repulse warship is displayed at the Sarnia’s Sea Cadet headquarters.

Other models include the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Samuel Risley, often seen berthed at Sarnia Harbour; two versions of the Bluenose; and the Great Eastern, a massive British vessel with sails and paddlewheels.

He even created a 12-foot scale model of Excalibur, the famed boring machine that dug the second rail tunnel between Sarnia and Port Huron under the St. Clair River.

“I’ve always loved history,” said Finley, who enjoys sharing stories about his historic recreations.

At the 2019 Tall Ships Festival in Sarnia he chatted with wide-eyed observers inspecting a display of his ships. A draw for one of them raised more than $600 for Pathways Health Centre for Children.

Finley was a union carpenter until a back injury cut his career short in 1998.

“You’ve got to do something,” he said. “You can’t sit around and watch TV all day or you’ll absolutely go bananas.”

Most days he works in the garage using a well-stocked tool kit. His hobby wouldn’t be possible without the support and patience of wife Debbie, he said.

He plans to enclose the Titanic in a see-through case and is open to suggestions about where it should finally be displayed. Anyone with ideas can call him at 519-336-6234.