Reed-Custer High-Tech Industrial Courses Build and Install Cabinets

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BRAIDWOOD, Illinois. – Can you imagine having beautiful custom cabinetry designed, manufactured and installed in your kitchen for just the cost of materials and a small donation for all the work? Or how about a beautifully milled and tinted panel to welcome visitors to your business?

These are among the many projects successfully tackled by carpentry students in Mark Smith’s industrial technology classes at Reed-Custer High School in Braidwood, Illinois.

The program, which uses wood materials for all levels of education and production, covers a wide range of materials and equipment for woodworking, including the latest for programming and CNC operations. Smith is particularly suited to teach the program, having taught advanced woodworking in previous schools after his career in the industry itself.

He has ensured that the program is affiliated with the Woodwork Career Alliance to ensure its students have an in-depth learning experience as well as graduate study opportunities for those entering directly into high-tech manufacturing industries and those who pursue their studies in 2- or 4- year colleges.

“Students entering the program as freshmen or sophomores start with Technology Orientation. They start by using AutoCAD to design a project in the CAD part of CAD / CAM [Computer Assisted Design/Computer Assisted Manufacturing], says Smith.

“Once they’ve drawn their project, usually a custom engraving on a long board to capture their original interest, I have them import the file into Mastercam for the CAM part. They could do both in Mastercam, but I like to expose them to several engineering programs, AutoCAD and Mastercam being the two “big ones” that they’ll find in the industry. “

After importing, they will perform any necessary geometry cleanup and then create their toolpaths for machining their project. The students then create toolpaths wedged on an engraving tool. Once they preview their work on the screen and Smith is satisfied that everything is fine, they write the code and proceed with the machining of the actual engraving operation on the CNC router.

The next course, for students who have completed the orientation course, is the production course. Here they come across a variety of projects.

“It could be a custom sign or plaque, a specially designed piece of furniture, or even full kitchen cabinets,” says Smith, “depending on what a donor client wants us to do. for him. “

A “donor client” is a person or organization in the community with a particular need for a wood product who is confident in the abilities of our students and is willing to pay for the materials needed and donate a relatively small amount for everything. student work.

“Word of the quality of the fruits of their labor has spread and our production class has no shortage of projects to undertake,” said Smith. One of the first production projects this year was a 3 ‘x 8’ sign made to welcome visitors to a community near Morris, Illinois.

“Everything was designed in Mastercam,” says Smith. “Then they programmed the toolpaths with Mastercam and cut out the exterior wood panel on our Thermwood CNC router, with elegantly engraved lettering. The toolpath I am focusing on is primarily for contouring, drilling, and engraving. We also made plaques, one for an administrator and one to raffle off for a senior class fundraiser.

These projects led to a major venture calling on Smith’s students to design and build a huge set of stairs for the school’s musical theater production “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. All of the toolpaths to create these sets were programmed in Mastercam and cut on the CNC router.

“These stairs helped us prepare for an important kitchen cabinet job for a local resident,” says Smith.

Although there was a certain amount of manual labor, such as fixing the hardware, and a variety of measurement and production techniques for a project of this size, the students used the Mastercam toolpaths and the CNC router. to make sure the shelf holes in the opposite sides are correct. A shelf that isn’t perfectly level just won’t do. The faces and decorative elements are also all designed and programmed in Mastercam so that everything looks perfect when the cabinets are installed. A series of checks ensure that the geometries and toolpaths are correct.

“This particular job has varying depths and heights for the upper and lower cabinets,” notes Smith. “There are a total of eighteen cabinets, and a large island completes the set.”

Wood finishing training

Students also learn to apply stains and various finishes using the spray equipment in the Industrial Technology program.

“The cabinets in this job are stained and finished with a solvent-based stain and a pre-cat lacquer finish,” says Smith. “We can also use tints and glazes. Local companies such as Graco Tools and Richelieu Hardware have donated spray and finish guns to our program. We use an industrial style spray booth with zipper filters offered by Paint Pockets. These are just a few of the more than two dozen industry supporters of our program this year who provide us with materials, equipment discounts and technical support.

Smith brings a lot of student cabinet know-how to Reed-Custer. He began a similar “donor client” program while an instructor at Shiloh High School in Shilo, Illinois. Before leaving Shiloh, his students had done a dozen cabinet jobs and had a 5-year waiting list.

“Where else can you get custom cabinet work for just the cost of materials and a $ 2,000 donation to the program?” Smith asks.

The monetary donation is used to purchase equipment, tools and supplies that students cannot afford and to fund field trips to manufacturing companies, such as custom yacht builder Burger Boats. , where “students see materials made in floating palaces larger than many homes,” says Smith. “They quickly appreciate the advanced manufacturing capabilities to help create these magnificent yachts, from blueprint to final stage of l ‘Assembly. “

On another such excursion, to Triangle Dies and Supplies in Batavia, Ill., Students see heavy use of AutoCAD, Mastercam, and CNC equipment, while a planned trip to 1220 Exhibits of Nashville, Tennessee will show them all types of exhibition stands using wood, plastic and metal materials.

This year, students also saw their sphere of influence expand by attending Cabinets & Closets Conference & Expo. All of these experiences are made possible by our donor clients and industry supporters. ”

When Smith’s students graduate, they will have their Woodworking Career Alliance (WCA) saw blade certificate attesting to their carpentry skills and many will have their WCA passports, certifying their Level 2 skills in the use of a wide range of equipment. The WCA passport looks like a travel passport, but instead of the countries stamped on the pages, there are skills certification stamps.

“We have written and continue to write skill standards for carpentry operations,” says Smith. “We have covered over a hundred different tools to date. Almost all tools have three skill levels. Take the table saw, for example, where you can make slits, cross cuts, rabbits, etc. We have developed a level one, a level two and a level three.

“A teacher or industry professional will observe the student performing a set of tasks on the tool and assign a pass or fail to the student. We want our students to be qualified at the second level. This means that ‘ they are not only able to operate the table saw, but they know which blade to put on, how to square the tool, set it to sixty-fourth bars and operate it safely. must be no scorch marks.on successful completion of the task, they are given a stamp in their passport indicating that they have a table saw certification, second level.

The goal is to receive as many stamps as possible, all leading to industry recognition of an individual’s abilities as they enter the workforce, request a raise, or apply to college. The WCA also provides teacher training. “I went to Madison (Wisconsin) Area Technical College,” says Smith, “where I learned to administer the tests for the Sawblade and Passport Stamp certifications. Our graduates will know how to use AutoCAD and Mastercam, as well as all traditional carpentry hand tools.

“Next year we will be adding even more learning experiences to our program,” said Smith. “Although we have built acoustic guitars as part of our program, DEPCO Enterprises, LLC has donated fifteen Mastercam Art places to the school that we will use to showcase 3D guitar design and production for the first time. electrics to our STEM II class. “

Smith has had a huge impact on students who decide to pursue a career in the lumber industry. Each year, eighth-graders are invited with their parents to an open house at the high school, where discussions are given about what to expect as freshmen and what opportunities will be available to them. Stands are set up with the many academic and elective programs. Mr. Smith also invites them to the industrial technology workshop and gives them Mastercam and CNC machining demonstrations.

“This year,” he says, “I contacted alumni and invited them to come and talk to the students and their parents. More than a dozen showed up, traveling up to three hours to get here. They brought samples of the products they make to the companies they work for and really wowed kids and parents with discussions about career opportunities. Most of them use Mastercam on a daily basis to program their company’s CNC equipment.

Whether it’s earning certificates while building cabinets for donating clients or achieving skill levels designing guitars for personal enjoyment, Mark Smith’s students seem to be heading for a very fulfilling future. in advanced manufacturing. Learn more about Reed-Custer’s industrial technology training.


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