Robbie Campbell restores and reproduces period furniture
and details in the Academical Village and elsewhere on Grounds.
builds career crafting raw wood into pieces with Jeffersonian
special announcements are made in the Dome Room of the Rotunda,
they are usually made from behind Robbie Campbells podium.
a carpenter supervisor in the Universitys cabinetmaking
shop, built the podium to specifications designed by J. Murray
Howard, curator and architect
for the Academical Village.
were making some decorative modifications in the Rotunda and we
thought the podium needed to reflect the building, Howard
said. The podium, in the Dome Room of the Rotunda, is used for
design was standard 18th-century church lectern, with elements
that drew from the building. The podium was built from mahogany,
reflecting the wood used in the handrails. The podium panels echo
the windows and the base of the podium matches the rail that runs
around the base of the Dome Room itself.
not as big as some and it rolls, said Howard.
design needed a skilled craftsman and Campbell, 47, was just the
man for the job: he had already built a podium for the music
department in Old Cabell Hall.
podium took Campbell two weeks to build, because, he said, not
only is mahogany a hard wood, but a sound system and amplifier
were built into the structure. He said the top two panels of the
podium are not wood but speaker cloth and the amplifier is connected
to the Dome Rooms sound system. Plus, Howards design
specified intricate moldings, which Campbell had to cut in separate
pieces and then nail together in place.
do all the pavilion restoration, said University cabinetmaker
Robbie Campbell, whose shop has recently built fireplace mantles,
made from 150-year-old, recovered heart pine, for the renovated
rooms on the Lawn. Kenny Graham, a carpenter for Facilities
Management, replaces the doorsill on Lawn Room 44.
knew where it was going, a lot of people would see it, so it had
to be a piece of furniture, not just an ordinary podium,
he said. There was some added pressure, knowing it was going
to be in the Dome Room, it had to be real nice.
he crafted a lot of the detail, Campbell said he did not do everything.
got someone else to sandblast the Rotunda emblem and the Z in
the podium, Campbell said.
said he was very pleased with Campbells execution of his
is wonderful to work with, so attentive to what needs to be done.
His skill level has improved in the over 19 years I have known
him, Howard said.
try to put quality in all my work, Campbell said. I
believe if its done right in the first place, people wont
call you back and say it needs to be fixed.
a true craftsman, Campbell signs his pieces in hidden places.
In addition to the podium, he and his crew have been replacing
some of the mantle pieces in the Lawn rooms. Campbell said he
and others signed the mantle pieces so when they are again replaced,
years from now, those carpenters will be able to see whose work
they are replacing. They used 150-year-old pine for the job.
who has been a cabinetmaker for the University for 22 years, has
been a woodworker throughout his adult life, after getting into
the business as a fluke. He had graduated from Albemarle High
School in 1972 and was having a graduation lunch at JaknJills
restaurant on High Street when Lee Hall, his cousins husband,
approached him and asked him what he was going to do with himself.
When Campbell said he was looking for a job, Hall suggested he
report to Hall Brothers custom cabinetmakers. After a trip to
New Orleans, Campbell took him up on the offer. Campbell spent
six years with Hall Brothers, starting out sanding, then moving
up through cutting, case work, counter tops and installation,
learning the trade from Pete Hall, who learned the trade from
he learned at the hands of an old-fashioned cabinetmaker, Campbell
said the more sophisticated modern tools make the work easier.
He does not long for the old days of woodworking.
intrigued by how long it took them to do things years ago,
Campbell said, noting that he does not want to duplicate their
said he is still excited about his work.
a University cabinetmaker, he has built countertops, windows,
doors and moldings, as well as cabinets.
still learning, he said.
challenge he tackled required making and installing arched cabinets
for the Medical Center in the old hospital, cabinets that extended
into a hall and had a retractable countertop. Campbell said the
designer got the idea from cabinets on his sailboat.
like to take a raw piece of wood and make it into something,