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Aiding an artist

Family and friends help model maker rebuild

September 25, 2011
By RODNEY MINOR , The Leader Herald

Tom Loucks kicked up plenty of sawdust Tuesday while cutting pieces of wood for one of his creations.

Loucks, working in his woodshop in Providence, demonstrated how the continuous tracks he was making would fit together and move on a bulldozer.

The ability to craft such models in his woodshop, located in the back section of a simple two-car garage, almost was lost to Loucks.

Article Photos

Tom Loucks points to a model he made, which sits in his rebuilt garage and woodshop, on Tuesday in Providence. A fire destroyed his garage and woodshop late last year. With the help of friends and family, Loucks was able to get both spaces rebuilt.
The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor

However, his friends and family came together to make sure Loucks could keep doing what he loved.

"I couldn't ask for any better friends," he said Tuesday.

Loucks has been making functioning, wooden replicas of vehicles for more than 10 years. After becoming disabled and no longer in construction work, Loucks got busy in his woodshop making replicas of some of the machinery he had worked with in his business.

He had hundreds of wooden models on shelves and any other flat surface in his woodshop. Cars, trains, log-skidders, boom cranes and a host of other vehicles were represented.

Over the years, he had given away just as many as he sold. It was not a pursuit built around financial gain; it was his way of keeping busy and doing something he truly enjoyed.

The fire

However, his work came to a halt on Dec. 20.

Loucks said an electrical fire started around 2 a.m. in the corner of his workshop. Loucks said the fire started in the one corner of his shop where nothing was located. A fire inspector told him it may have been caused by a wild animal chewing on a cord.

Whatever the cause, by the time the electrical fire was over, it had destroyed the woodshop and garage.

"[The fire] took almost everything," he said. "I wasn't sure we'd be able to recover."

For his son, Frank, there was no question they would rebuild.

"He'd have been lost without [his woodshop,]" Frank said. "He wouldn't be happy just sitting in the house."

What surprised Loucks were the neighbors and friends who came offering help, and kept coming back to do work.

The first thing the volunteers did was clean up the site. While it took about a week, one friend dropped off a bucket loader for them to use.

"I just had to put fuel in it," Loucks said.

The ashes and garbage were taken away in a Dumpster, while any tin or usable metal was thrown in another Dumpster and sold for scrap.

The cleanup revealed that the floor in the garage and workshop was good to go, though it smelled of smoke for some time.

Now all they needed was to rebuild everything else.

The work was not easy. Frank noted that given the time of year, battling the snow and cold slowed the work down. Sometimes , they would only be able to work a few hours at a time.

Still, the roughly dozen or so friends and family who helped continued to show up even during bad weather.

Loucks recalled how two friends worked on his new garage every Saturday and Sunday until it was completed. His voice shows some pride when he notes Frank and one of his friends "worked their butts off" to clean and rebuild the structure from the floor up.

All the people showing up to help provided both Loucks with some incentive to keep going as well.

"There were days when we were tired and didn't feel like doing [work]" Tom, who will be 76 in December, said. "But someone would show up, and we felt like we had to get out there and keep going."

Herb Jackson of Ballston?Lake has known Tom for a few years. They met when Jackson's brother in law had Loucks build a model of a tree spade for Jackson, who runs a business that specializes in transplanting large trees.

"I was so impressed by the work," Jackson said. "Tom does a phenomenal job."

After the fire, Jackson went to Loucks' property on the weekends to help in any way he could. Some days that involved working on the new roof; on others, he traveled to help pick up the new equipment for the woodshop.

"It was hard to imagine him not being able to do [woodworking]" Jackson said. "So I went and helped him out the best?I could."

Rebuilt shop

Loucks said by himself, there would have been no way for him to rebuild the structure. There was no way he could have afforded to hire workers to do the job, either.

Insurance money paid for part of the rebuilding costs. Loucks also bought the lumber for the project from a friend who sold him the supplies at cost.

While it took about 3 1/2 months, the work was completed and things got back to normal, Loucks said.

Looking back, Loucks said he is still surprised by how many people helped him and the amount of assistance they offered.

Frank, though, said he was not surprised by the help his dad received.

"Dad's friends with a lot of people," he said.

In the garage and workshop, Loucks has plenty of new creations on display. A small number of them have a darker appearance, having escaped the worst of the fire.

Loucks, busy working on another creation, said any of the people who helped him can have any of his works they want. It is the least he could do, he said, for such good friends.



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