Five hours of spine surgery 28 years ago left Neil Holder in agony.
To ease his aches, he started making model aircraft, creating 824 scale replicas of planes which took part in World War II.
Finding a home for the big collection was a major mission. Mr Holder, of Maunu, said he offered it to Warbirds over Wanaka, the Blenheim aerodrome, the RNZAF bases at Christchurch and Ohakea and no one was interested.
"But then the Whangarei RSA saw the aircraft and now have them on permanent loan," he said.
The planes - made between 1986 and 2009 - are displayed in the city's RSA clubrooms in cabinets provided by Morris and Morris funeral directors.
Mr Holder is happy his creations have landed there.
"They have a strong air force association in the RSA. There's a lot of nostalgia around World War II aircraft," he said.
"Aircraft development made huge advances in the war. They started with planes made of wood and canvas and ended with jets."
Mr Holder suggested school visits to see the aircraft could be educational for students.
The cost of the balsa, cedar, macrocarpa, kauri and other materials used to make the planes came to only about $350, but he spent thousands of hours building the aircraft. Templates for their construction were made to scale using drawings he got from magazines and completed planes were painted with national insignia or camouflage colours used in the war.
"It's interesting, although it's one of those hobbies where you occasionally wonder why you started doing it," Mr Holder said.
The 75-year-old was a mechanic and truck driver in Hawke's Bay and Rotorua until "popped discs" in his back led to his 1986 surgery.
It took him a long time to regain the use of his legs after the operation and he took up model-making while he was immobile.
"It's therapeutic - you forget about your aches and pains and wanting medication."
Mr Holder had no favourites among his hundreds of replica warbirds that he wanted to keep when his collection moved to the RSA. Now the planes have flown out of his Maunu home he is concentrating on his other hobby - painting.
"The house is now full of oil paintings," he said.
Aircraft enthusiasts may view the exhibition by arrangement only with RSA management on 09-438 3792.