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Chartiers Valley students producing industry-standard rocking chairs

| Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For The Bridgeville Area News
Sophomore Pat Shaak, 16, and freshman Morgan Henderson, 15, stand in front of handmade chairs that will be mass produced by students at Chartiers Valley High School.
Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item
Chartiers Valley High School freshman Morgan Henderson, 15, looks on as sophomore Pat Shaak, 16, and teacher Chuck Barber assemble a handmade chair designed by Shaak during class.
Chartiers Valley High School teacher Chuck Barber and sophomore Pat Shaak, 16, assemble a handmade chair designed by Shaak during class.
Chartiers Valley High School teacher Chuck Barber shows off the CNC router used to make chairs designed by students.

Students in Chartiers Valley High School's mass production class are making rocking chairs, but they aren't the style your grandmother used.

“This is not your typical design,” teacher Charles Barber said. “They are all-portable, and each is customized.”

Students in Barber's computer-aided drafting class designed the plywood chairs, and students in the mass production class used a new piece of equipment in the department to create the wooden pieces.

The students used a CNC router, which is a computer-controlled cutting machine. They enter the dimensions and mathematics of the design, and the machine cuts the plywood pieces.

Barber said the router at Chartiers Valley is a commercial version of the product.

“This is not a toy,” he said. “This is the industry standard.”

Freshman Morgan Henderson designed the rocking chair in her computer-aided drafting class. She said it was part of a larger project – to design a college dorm room with furniture and pieces that were completely collapsible and portable.

“We had to be realistic with ourselves about what we would make,” she said. “We wanted something different and creative, but we had to be realistic.”

She said she and the other students looked at various rocking chair designs before choosing one to adapt. She said they wanted a design more modern than a traditional rocking chair.

Students came up with their own dimensions and designs for the chair. Henderson said there was a lot of trial and error.

“We kind of had to wing the dimensions,” she said. “When we had it on paper, we couldn't see if it would work until we actually tried it.”

She said particle board prototypes allowed them to see where they went wrong and what should be changed.

“It was tedious,” she said. “We knew what we had to know and we knew what we wanted to do – it was just a matter of getting it there.”

Barber said there were parameters for the project – it had to be able to snap together, be recyclable, be collapsible, and it had to use just one sheet of plywood.

Each student will make a rocking chair with a customized design on the chair back.

Barber said he will use the design in classes next year, when he hopes to sell the student-made chairs in the startup school store.

“The kids are running with this, and they're excited,” he said. “We want to get rid of the ‘wood shop' stereotypes and make things as high-tech as we can.”

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or

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