Self-taught Lockport woodworker keeps connection to the past
By Denise Baran-Unland For The Herald-News August 31, 2012 12:54PM
Woodworker Robbie Field of Lockport made this cherry wood table in the Shaker style. Field had admired that style during a visit to a Shaker village. All drawers are made and held together using hand cut dovetails. SUBMITTED PHOTO
When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 9
Where: Trantina Farm, 15744 W. 151st St., Homer Township
What: Re-enactments, folk and other music, pie eating contest, artisan crafts, pony rides, petting zoo, hay rides, antique tractors and food, including traditional sarsaparilla.
Etc: Parking, admission and activities are free.
Contact: 708-301-0522. To register for the pie-eating contest, listen to music from the bands or register to volunteer visit www.homerharvestdays.org.
Updated: October 3, 2012 6:09AM
Hey, buddy, got a match?
Come to Homer Harvest Days on Sept. 8 and 9 and make one yourself. With the help of Lockport woodworker Robbie Field and one of his hand planes, children and adults alike can curl a little piece of wood. The colonists, Field said, used them as matches.
“I think it’s very cool for people to connect with the past and its values, even in a small way,” said Field, an applied technology teacher at Tinley Park High School. “Think how many trades are now dead. For people to understand the future, it’s important to understand the past.”
Field also will display a number of his handmade tools.
In past years for Homer Harvest Days, Field demonstrated how to construct a dovetail drawer — a basic skill of cabinetry — and a small table. Now he prefers to deliver an interactive experience.
“Creating and making things with your hands empowers people and gives them a sense of confidence,” Field said. “That’s why I’m a shop teacher. I try to instill those concepts in my students.”
Twenty years ago, one of the first classes Field was asked to teach was a woodworking class, but since he had no real training in that skill, Field educated himself. He talked to retired carpenters and practiced what he learned. To do that, Field created a home machine shop, which he filled with a variety of woodworking machines.
Soon Field was building Arts and Crafts style furniture from white oak.
“I love white oak,” Field said. “It’s indigenous to the area and finishes with a beautiful grain.
Although Field usually buys the wood for his projects, he also enjoys collecting rare and exotic wood — rosewood, ebony, boxwood and pink ivory — from garage and estate sales. Often the wood can’t be repurposed into furniture, but they make excellent small planes.
“The wood I’ve collected over many years cannot be found commercially anywhere,” Field said. “However, I just found a source of Turkish Boxwood from a supplier in Turkey. I cannot believe my luck on that one.”
Field’s interest in making tools began 12 years ago. While vacationing in London, Field met a retired joiner. That man was skilled in constructing traditional hand planes in a style used at the turn of the 20th century.
The advantage of handmade tools, Field said, is the absence of dust and noise, as well as machine marks on the pieces one builds. It took five years of practice, Field added, before he turned out a good handmade tool. Over the years, Field has even sold a few. He hopes to turn his hobby into a cottage industry after he retires.
“Hand tools are very artistically made,” Field said. “The quality of the old tools cannot be matched by any of the tools of today.”
Contact Field at email@example.com.