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Master Model Maker

Local artist creates functional models at home in Providence

August 3, 2008
By RICHARD NILSEN, The Leader-Herald

Finding Tom Loucks' shop in the town of Providence isn't easy, but it's worth the trip.

After becoming disabled and no longer in construction work, Loucks got busy in his woodshop making functioning wooden replicas of some of the machinery he had worked with in his business.

"I don't watch much TV," he said. "I do read books on the Adirondacks."

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Richard Nilsen
Tom Loucks holds an antique bus he made in his shop in the town of Providence Tuesday.

He said he'd been making a variety of wooden replica models for about 10 years.

"Jim Crannell of Crannell and Sons Plumbing got me started," Loucks said. "He asked me to make him a model of their company 'honey wagon.'"

After that, Loucks said he kept taking on new challenges and designs, sometimes working from only a picture or tiny toy model to make everything from Model T Fords (his favorite) to complete train sets on wooden tracks and even a full-sized wooden carousel rocking horse now adorning a restaurant in Malone.

"Sometimes it gets out of control," he said of the hundreds of wooden models on shelves and any other flat surface around his wood shop.

Loucks said he makes the wooden replicas for his own satisfaction and gives away as many as he sells.

"I'm not in it for the money," he said. "I enjoy doing it. I always liked old stuff."

With experience and experimenting on log skidders, tree harvesters, well-drilling rigs and boom-cranes, his work "got fancier and bigger."

Loucks' construction machinery models have been sold to companies such as Bell and Flynn Construction, N.H. and to places in Maine as well.

"I like butternut wood the best," he said. "It has a nice grain that stands out."

Most models are left unfinished, with just the natural wood showing. The full-sized carousel rocking-horse is unpainted as well, but because of the different woods used it looks as if different colors have been applied.

Loretta Crannell, Jim Crannell's widow, said her husband wanted the first one made of any new design Loucks made.

"He wanted number one of each with [Loucks'] signature," Crannell said. "I think he thought they would become collector's items. He may have been right."

Crannell's daughter Brenda Dwyer, co-owner of Adirondack Stained Glass in Gloversville, said her father liked to be around good people, and Tom Loucks was one of those good people.

"He's great," Dwyer said. "He produces a lot of beautiful pieces."

Loucks said the wood working was calming and therapeutic for him, especially when his "back started to act up."

"I can be in the house all wound up over something and I come out to [the shop] to work on one of these and I forget everything," he said.

Loretta Crannell said Loucks still brought the first of any new design over to add to her husband's collection in his memory.

"I'd say our collection is pretty complete," she said. "And he keeps me in kindling all winter from his wood scraps."

Loucks said he doesn't mind being out in the country, far from city life.

"I have a family of red foxes with two pups I see, deer who eat any apples that fall from my tree and even a moose that came up on my land," he said.

Loucks said he has a camera mounted outside the house and often sees deer come up on his property which he can watch from his television set.

He said he has been told his wooden models would sell well if he would pursue more aggressive marketing, but he isn't really interested in that.

"If I like someone who comes to visit, I might give one away to them," Loucks said. "If I don't like them, I might not even sell them a piece."

Since one person was found buying pieces from him, taking them to Albany and selling them for a profit as if he had made them, Loucks has started branding all his work with his name.

"Jim Crannell got me doing that too," he said.

The wheels on Loucks' models turn, the plows raise up and go side to side and the buckets and truck beds raise and lower just like their full-sized counterparts. He said making the working models keeps him connected to his construction past as well as keeping him busy in retirement.

"I don't go hiking in the woods like I used to," he said. "I pretty much stay around here most of the time."

For more information on Loucks' work called Creations on Wheels or directions to his home-shop in Providence, call 883-5395.

Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at ga@leaderherald.com.

 
 

 

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