Step inside a South Surrey micro-miniaturist’s world

Step inside a South Surrey micro-miniaturist's world

SURREY — Maarten (Max) Meerman lives in a world of microminiaturism, in which a magnifying glass is a must.

The South Surrey resident is known internationally for small-scale wood creations that are nearly invisible to the naked eye.

Some of his works, such as a chair from a 1/144-scale replica of the Pauline Vanier Room at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, are dwarfed by his fingernail.

"The wine goblet I made here, I had to drill a hole in the end to make it a drinking glass," he said, pointing to an item in a display case at his home. "Well, imagine trying to drill a hole in the end of a human hair, by hand. That’s the challenge with that."

In a small shop off his garage, Meerman spends countless hours putting his woodturning skills to use on a custom lathe he made from a Dremel rotary tool.

"I don’t watch the hockey game or whatever, I do this," he said. "And after this, instead of complaining the team lost, I have something nice I’ve made."

By trade, the Dutch-born artist designs satellites for a Richmond-based company.

As a member of Greater Vancouver Woodturners Guild, he began crafting "nano" works of wood four years ago.

"Every month, (club members) are given a challenge to do for the next meeting," he explained. "We were asked to do something for Valentine’s Day and I made a romantic dinner for two, with a table, plates, champagne, glasses and candles, all small-scale. So I thought that was fun, and, at the time, really small. From there, I just went smaller and smaller."

He was recently commissioned to create a 1/288-scale model of the International Space Station for Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.

"I wanted to personalize it for him, so I made a guitar with strings and stuck it on there," Meerman noted.

Turning such small works isn’t exactly lucrative, he insisted.

"I do sell some things," he said, "but when you think about the amount of time that goes into it, it’s just a hobby that pays for itself. Per hour, I’d have to sell that room I made (of Rideau Hall) for around $10,000, just to get a reasonable hourly rate out of it. But really, I don’t want to sell it, either."

To give people an idea of just how small some of his works are, Meerman photographs items on the back of an American penny, with the image of Abe Lincoln poking through the columns of his memorial.

"Some things are so tiny, there is absolutely no point in looking for it if it falls on the floor as I’m making it," he said. "It’s less time-consuming just to make a new one."

Meerman’s works are displayed on his website,