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Farming and Animal Traction

Rob Collins

Rob Collins is a high school teacher and Tillers volunteer who enjoys working with his oxen on his small farm and with hand tools in his wood shop. He has driven oxen for a decade and has helped instruct classes on oxen and draft animal farming and logging at Tillers since 2008. He regularly writes about oxen training and use for a number of publications (Rural Heritage, Grit magazine, and Early American Life magazine, among others) and is beginning work on an oral history of oxen and drovers to be published as a book sometime in the future. He is also active on the board of the Midwest Ox Drovers Association.

Richard “Dick” Roosenberg

Dick is the founder and former Executive Director of Tillers (35 years). He grew up on a farm in Van Buren county, MI and served in the Peace Corps from 1969-72 where he worked with Animal Traction in Benin (Dahomey). Dick is a pre-eminent expert in the use of oxen as a source of farm power and has traveled extensively offering international trainings in animal traction.

Duane Westrate

Duane has been teaching draft horse classes at Tillers for over 25 years. He grew up on a celery farm in Comstock, MI (a few miles down the road from Tillers) and was farming with draft horses at the age of 12. He has over 68 years of experience as a teamster and currently owns three Suffolks.

Harlan Yoder

Amish instructor Harlan Yoder trains horses for draft and pulling carriages, including all types of harness horses. He also runs a farrier business mainly for riding and carriage horses. Harlan grew up on a farm, using draft horses for power. He trained his first horse in the early nineties, and has been training ever since. Harlan began teaching for Tillers in 2006.

“I love working with horses. By working with horses so long, I’ve learned to understand and respect them. Both of my occupations include working with horses, and I really enjoy doing it.”

Pete Robertson

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Jim Slining

Jim Slining has been teaching blacksmithing at various museums and blacksmith associations for decades. Hand skills (which are commonly considered “traditional” today) have been Jim’s focus for the past thirty years. This interest has been spawned not out of a sense that hand work is foundationally more pure or authentic – although it does necessarily place the craftsman in a close relationship with the material. Instead, a strong compelling factor was the desire to gain some greater degree of insight into the pre-industrial paradigm, which competent and efficient work without power equipment has historically required (a circumstance extant in much of the world yet today). This desire has also spawned a parallel interest in agrarian issues, including the avid partnership with horses to accomplish daily tasks.

After several years of blacksmithing experience, Jim entered Colonial Williamsburg’s apprenticeship program. He continued there as a Journeyman blacksmith until forming his own business in 1997. This entity has been engaged in fashioning reproduction iron and tin ware for public and private restorations and collections as well as for tradespeople. Jim has taught blacksmithing classes at Tillers for many years. He joined the staff full-time in 2014 as Curator of Collections, and continues to teach a number of classes each year.

John Sarge

John is the Shops Coordinator at Tillers and has over 20 years of blacksmithing experience. He is also a Rural Innovation Specialist and travels extensively for Tillers on international projects working with farmers and rural blacksmiths in a number of countries.

Mike Runyon

Michael Runyon started the craft of creating reproduction tinware over twenty years ago.  During this time he has been featured in numerous magazines, including Early American Life, and Country Discoveries among others.  He has also been named as one of the “Top 200 Traditional American Craftsmen” by Early American Life magazine.  Runyon was the Master Tinner at Sauder Village in Archbold, OH for sixteen years. He has taught and demonstrated historical tinning techniques at many different sites and events, and has hosted the National Tinsmith and Coppersmith Convergence four times.  His work can be seen in many museums and private collections throughout the country.  Customers have span the gamete from private collectors and home cooks to the National Park Service, professional chefs, museums and re-enactors.

Larry Cooper

Larry has been a full-time smith since 1986, first specializing in site-specific architectural and interior forged iron. He is the former resident blacksmith at Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark in Birmingham, Alabama. During the last decade, he has focused on a lifestyle of simplicity and self-sufficiency. A believer in the small-scale agricultural revolution in this country, Larry is the designer of the Gulland broadfork, which he produces along with scythe-related tools in his shop in Chatham County, North Carolina.

Russ Allen

Russ has taught at Tillers since 2004. He specializes in pattern making and casting (since 1996), online patent research (since 2003), and computer programming. With 25 years experience as a professional computer programmer, Russ is a programmer for the Directory of American Tool and Machinery Patents.

Russ is also currently one of the Area E (Illinois) directors of the Midwest Tool Collectors Association.

Visit Russ’s None Such Tools Werks website, and his casting page which features casting references for Tillers’ students.

Tim Carr

Tim Carr has been teaching blacksmithing at Tillers since 2006. As the owner of Black Bear Forge in Muskegon, Michigan, Tim specializes in blacksmithing, welding, and knife making. With over 30 years experience, Tim’s skills include MIG and TIG welding and steel, aluminum, and stainless. Tim has been both a functional and artistic blacksmith for more than 20 years. In the last 10 years, he has also specialized in knife making including straight steel, damascus, kitchen and hunting, and some specialty knives.

Tim is a member of the Michigan Artist Blacksmith Association and the Artist Blacksmith Association of North America.

Joe Rafacz

Joe Rafacz is fascinated by planes, trains, automobiles and anything with gears, engines, levers, and mechanical motion. By occupation a heavy truck tech, Joe likes to design, fabricate, and build with metal and wood, using conceptual drawings to communicate design ideas. He also fosters an interest in renewable energy sources, such as building small wind turbines.

Joe volunteers with the Allegan (MI) County Historical Society, working in their blacksmith shop at the historical village during the county fair and other public events. He is also a member of the Michigan Artist Blacksmith Association (MABA) and volunteers with the Bloomingdale (MI) Village Museum, having helped with train displays at their early events. Joe has taught at Tillers since about 2005.

An avid family man, Joe and his wife have five children of varying ages. Joe’s kids have also volunteered at Tillers, his son being a frequent presence in the Herb Nehring Blacksmith Shop. Joe has gained experience as a teacher both in Tillers’ Nehring Blacksmith Shop during classes and demonstrations and in homeschooling his children.

“I enjoy meeting other people with like-minded ideas and goals. It’s good to bounce problems and issues around to possibly create an answer. My goals are to learn as much as I can, compile the learned wisdom of others (most importantly our elders before they leave us), and use it myself to teach others.”


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Woodworking and Stone Masonry

Chuck Andrews

Chuck has been teaching woodworking, toolmaking, and blacksmithing classes at Tillers for 25 years. He is a master cooper and has developed an entirely unique coopering program at Tillers offering students a thorough knowledge (from toolmaking to production barrel making) of the coopering trade. He is an active member of ABANA and MABA and a former president of the SW Michigan Woodworkers Guild.

Jim Crammond

Jim Crammond began teaching at Tillers in 2008. His specialties include making furniture with hand tools, and making and refurbishing hand tools. He has made a variety of wood objects such as Windsor chairs, high chairs, stools, and rockers, as well as candlestands, desks, end tables, coffee tables, bookshelves, desks, dressers, and bureaus. He has also made a variety of tools including molding planes, infill planes, spoke shaves, travishers, marking gages, and bow saws.

Jim is a member of the Mid-West Tool Collectors, the Southeast Michigan Woodworkers, and the Society of American Period Furniture Makers.

Eric Edgin

Eric’s interests are multifaceted but overlap in the way that they all revolve around food…the plant identification, plant harvesting, hunting, fishing, and trapping; processing tools, fermentation, preservation techniques; and cooking styles, techniques, and implements. He crafts the accoutrements for the above, which includes the blacksmithing of knives and tools; the woodworking of wooden buckets and trays for fermentation; and the woodworking of bowls, spoons, and dishes for serving and eating. These aspects combine for a low-tech but rich life, with a deep connection to and knowledge of the local environment, as well as a specific taste from localized cuisine (i.e. wooden buckets as vessels for fermenting local foods with local bacteria, known as terrior).

Todd Herli

Tod Herrli is the instructor and owner of the Mississinewa Workshop, and has been teaching and lecturing for several years. He has conducted demonstrations for various chapters of the Mid West Tool Collector’s Association, Society of American Furniture Makers, private clubs, museums, and guilds such as the Western Ohio Woodworkers of Dayton, The Wisconsin Woodworkers of Milwaukee and the Tri-State Woodworkers of New Harmony Indiana. Tod was featured in the Indiana State Museum’s “Tools of the Trade” exhibit in Indianapolis during 1997. This exhibit featured him as modern plane maker reproducing 18th century tools as were on display by the museum. He has also collaborated with Roy Underhill of the Woodwright’s shop” to produce an episode about making window sash. Tod has appeared and also made custom planes for Scott Phillips of the American woodshop. He made a plane to strike the molding on a framed mirror and a rule joint plane for making a drop leaf table joint on two episodes (#807 and #811) of the “American Woodshop show” of PBS. ALP productions have produced a plane making video hosted by Tod Herrli. This video provides detailed instructions on building your own pair of hollows and rounds as well as all the jigs and tools you will need to be a successful plane maker. This video is available on ALP’s website: http://www.alpdvdsales.com/home/classic-plane-making or myself todherrli@earthlink.net.

Tod’s second video on custom Ogee planes is available through Popular Woodworking: http://www.shopwoodworking.com/making-a-custom-ogee-moulding-plane-with-tod-herrli-grouped .

Tod has taught plane making in Marc Adams School of Woodworking, is scheduled to teach at Olde Mill Cabinet Shoppe , Tillers International.  He has also assisted Mike Dunbar of Windsor chair fame by making 3 custom planes Mike used in producing a china hutch featured in Fine Wood Working issue #165

Dave Kramer

Dave Kramer specializes in both power and hand tool woodworking, yoke making (Dave was featured in Rural Heritage’s Yoke Making I and II instructional videos), furniture construction, wheelwrighting, cart construction, blacksmithing and tool making, training oxen, drafting, and welding.

Dave has spent 20 years teaching drafting, woodworking, building construction, blacksmithing, and tool making at schools in the United States, East Africa, and the West Indies. He also spent two years operating machinery at a wood milling company. Dave has taught at Tillers since 1995. He is a certified Industrial Arts teacher with vocational authorization in woodworking and construction trades. He is also a licensed builder in the state of Michigan and a member of the National Education Association.

Dave has traveled extensively for Tillers and is an invaluable Rural Innovation Facilitator for international projects.

Thomas E. Nehil, P.E.

Tom Nehil is a Principal and Co-Founder of Nehil-Sivak, P.C. His duties include all phases of management and production for the firm. He directs the analysis and design of concrete, steel, masonry, timber and other structural systems for new facilities. He specializes in the evaluation and renovation of existing facilities in wood, masonry, steel and concrete, addressing the structural frame as well as the building envelope.

Tom began his involvement with older and historic buildings as a carpenter working in New Hampshire and South Carolina. After obtaining his engineering degree from the University of Michigan, he went on to specialize in evaluation and repair of corrosion-damaged parking structures and other reinforced concrete structures. After founding Nehil-Sivak in 1991, he expanded the scope of his evaluation and restoration work to include timber and masonry in new and historic structures and facades.

Tom is a member of the Michigan Barn Preservation Network and the Timber Framers Guild. With the Guild, he currently serves as chair of the Timber Frame Engineering Council, a group dedicated to advancing the technology of timber frame engineering. He is a member of the Association for Preservation Technology and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He has participated in the RESTORE Workshops on conservation of masonry and architectural terra cotta, programs for conservation and preservation maintenance technologies, licensed by the Reagants of the Universityof the State of New York. He has also attended the Lime Mortar Workshop at U.S. Heritage Group in Chicago.

Tom’s other professional affiliations include: the American Concrete Institute (ACI) where he is a member of committees on prestressed concrete, parking structures, and strength evaluation of existing concrete structures; the American Society of Civil Engineers; and the Post-Tensioning Institute.

Tom is a licensed professional engineer in Michigan, Ohio, New York, Missouri and Colorado.

Brad Smith

In his 20 year career as a professional musician, Brad Smith has performed the oboe with a variety of orchestras and ensembles and can be heard on numerous CD recordings as well as music for film and television. In 1989, upon concluding four years as a music major at the University of Utah, Brad embarked on a journey that would lead to his passion for woodworking and the pursuit of exceptional craftsmanship. Six months after relocating to Kalamazoo, he opened Rosewood Design, a furniture and cabinetry shop, in the Park Trades Center. For about five years, he built fine furniture and cabinetry for a growing list of clientele throughout the region. Given the variety of craftsmen plying their trade in the same building, Brad had the opportunity to collaborate with many artists in a variety of disciplines. One highlight was working with exhibit designer, Jeff Bernstein of Bernstein Exhibition Design, assisting with the construction of museum exhibits, which are part of permanent and traveling collections across the country. He was a master cabinetmaker for Homestead Furniture, a local firm specializing in high-end casework. Since that time, he has continued his woodworking endeavors while maintaining a position as oboist with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. Along the way, he has held adjunct faculty positions at Weber State University and Hope College and has served as a visiting instructor of music at Western Michigan University. In August of 2008, Brad Smith joined the staff of the Frostic School of Art at WMU as woodshop supervisor and building coordinator for South Kohrman Hall.

Jeremy Waara


Blair E. Bates

As the President, Estimator, and General Manager of Building Restoration Inc. since 1991, Blair Bates specializes in historic stone and brick restoration. Blair has been a professional mason since 1979 and has taught at Tillers since 2003.

Publications and Training

Bates, Blair. “A New Look at Old Style Mortars.” Stonexus Magazine. 2008 Vol 8, p. 28-32.
Professional Training in Historic Masonry
RESTORE Conference at Columbia University, NYC, NY, 2 days, 1992
Masonry Restoration at Restoration ’93, Boston, MA, 3 days, 1993
Structural Evaluation of Historic Masonry at Historic Windsor Inc., VT, 4 days, 1994
RESTORE Intensive Workshop on Masonry Conservation, Williamsburg, VA, 5 days, 1995
Historic Plater (Lime Putty) Repair at Historic Windsor Inc., Deerfield, MA, 4 days, 1995
Re-Pointing Historic Masonry at USHG Training Center, Chicago, IL, 2 days, 2001
American Lime Conference at Sweet Briar College, Lynchburg, VA, 2 days, 2002
Conservation and Repair of Historic Stone Walls at USHG Training Center, Chicago, IL, 3 days, 2002
American Lime Conference at Sweet Briar College, Lynchburg, VA, 2 days, 2003
Historic Mortar Analysis, Campbell Center, IL, four days, 2006
Stone Foundation Annual Conference, 2003, 2005, 2006
Advanced Masonry Restoration at USHG Training Center, Chicago, IL, 2 days, 2008
Hanson / Red Vector, Modern Masonry, 5 class internet series, 5 hours, 2008
Historic Masonry Restoration Seminars Presented
Holland Historic Trust, Dry-Laid Stone Masonry, 1991
Plainwell Historic Preservation Society, Stone Masonry Re-Pointing, 1995
Michigan Historic Preservation Network Annual Conference, Brick Masonry Re-Pointing, 1995, 2004
Battle Creek Historical Society, Brick Masonry Restoration, 1998
AIA West Michigan Chapter, Hands on Masonry Presentation, 1999, 2000
City of Allegan Historic Network, Brick Masonry Restoration, 2002
Plainwell Presbyterian Church, Stone Masonry, 2002
Michigan Historic Preservation Network Annual Conference, Paint Stripping from Masonry and Building with Stone Masonry, 2003
Kalamazoo Old House Network, Exterior Stone Masonry Re-Pointing, 2003-2006
Tillers International, the Art of Stone Masonry class, 2003-present
Stone Foundation Conference, Hood River, OR, 2006


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