Construction Technology Class Builds Rocking Chairs

Caroline Phillips and Jude Ratcliff

Three days left of his one week deadline. He had been given a week to work on the chair, and he was determined to get that ribeye steak from Texas Roadhouse Earlier, he had taken a bet with his construction teacher that he could build a rocking chair in a week, but he started falling short in time and quality. He decided to go double or nothing, and still to no avail the chair was not finished. It was going to take longer than two weeks to finish.

 Coach John Phillips’ construction technology class is currently creating chairs from nothing but pine wood and their own blueprints they previously made. Students must be precise according to the blueprints to ensure the chair’s proportions are correct and can be sold.

“I am super excited to start building these chairs,” freshman Christiana Ussery said. “I really want to make it for my parents.”

The project started about 13 years ago, when Phillips was asked if he could repair a teacher’s rocking chair. The original was used as a reference for the classes.

“The reason I have chosen to build adirondack chairs is because of all the angle cuts [and] the circular cuts,” Phillips said. “To actually build the chairs, it takes use of pretty much most of the tools in our shop.”

Most students assume it would be relatively simple to build, but when you incorporate time getting to and from class they are only left with about 40 minutes every day. It takes the students roughly five weeks to build.

“The first year I did it, I set deadlines,” Phillips said. “So much of the chair had to be built by a certain point in time, and the product I was getting was not that good. So, I did away with the time limits as long as they work steadily and are participating by working on the chairs.”

When building the chair, students do have the option of painting, staining or engraving them. Most students decide to buy two of them and show them off on their front porches.

“Typically, [the students] will paint it the color of the fascia of their house so it kind of matches or blends in,”  Phillips said. “To obtain one of the chairs, they contact me.”

Chairs will be on sale after Christmas break and all funds will be given back into the construction class for wood for the next year.

“It will be fun to work with the kids in my class,” Ussery said. “Plus, this will probably give me a good skill for the future.”

The rocking chairs are also used to give students skills for their resume. Each student receives a National Center for Construction Education and Research certification.

“I get excited when I see the look on a kid’s face when they see that they are capable of actually building something with their own hands.” Phillips said.