Katie Hooven, '16, and Julia Patterson, '17, discuss design possibilities for the President Simon commemorative table at the Wilbur Powerhouse on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. The table is currently planned to have final designs by after pacing break. (Chris Barry/B&W Photo)

Students, faculty team up to design new wood table for President John Simon

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Following the destruction from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Lehigh was left with excess lumber that has been stored on Mountaintop campus. Now, one particular piece of this stored wood has attracted attention.

Brian Slocum, ’97, manager of the Wilbur Powerhouse and Design Labs, said that they found a rare piece of burl wood in one of the fallen trees, and that he wanted to make something special with the expensive piece of wood.

Slocum and his team of three are in the process of designing a new wooden table for President John Simon’s office. However, the wood that is being used isn’t just any ordinary wood.

“Burl happens when the tree is injured, so if a limb falls off or something,” Kathryn Hooven, ’16, said. “It’s a ball that forms on the side of the tree and they’re generally kind of small, but this burl is like 3 feet in diameter. It’s really big and it’s a really valuable piece of wood.”

Brian Slocum, manager of Wilbur Powerhouse and design shops discusses design possibilities for the President Simon commemorative table at the Wilbur Powerhouse on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. The table will be made up of wood from trees that fell during Hurricane Sandy. (Chris Barry/B&W Photo)

Brian Slocum, manager of Wilbur Powerhouse and design shops discusses design possibilities for the President Simon commemorative table at the Wilbur Powerhouse on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. The table will be made up of wood from trees that fell during Hurricane Sandy. (Chris Barry/B&W Photo)

A design team of students met on Friday to discuss individual design ideas that members have for the project. The team, led by Slocum, includes arts and engineering students ranging from juniors to fifth years.

“I have five or seven ideas that I’m playing with and I’m going to build models of them out of either chipboards or random stuff just to visualize it three-dimensionally,” said Julia Patterson, ’17, one of the students working on the table project.

After pacing break, they plan to refine the designs and choose the top two or three. The group will then meet with Simon to present the designs to him and get his approval on a final design.

“It will probably be finished up at the end of the semester and we’re looking to see if there is an event that will be appropriate for us to unveil it or install it in President Simon’s office,” Slocum said. “We don’t know what that date is and I think we’re working with his office to figure out when that might be, but I want to be comfortable with our timeline before we agree to that.”

The idea for this project was proposed this past summer when Brian was walking Simon through Wilbur Powerhouse.

“I explained what we were doing with the Williams Hall table, showed him the wood for that and he was enamored with that,” Slocum said. “So, I said we would really like to build a table for your office and he said, ‘That would be amazing.’”

The group has a few ideas for what kind of table to build but think that a coffee table would be best. There are four chairs in President Simon’s office with an empty space in the middle, and since the burl is round it would be a perfect spot for a coffee table. Patterson explained how they will be using the burl as the tabletop but don’t know if they want to add glass or something else to place over it.

“There’s not much we can do with it because it’s beautiful already, but maybe we will do something interesting with the base of the table — maybe a metal base,” Patterson said.

Aside from the team of four, Slocum said they will probably include students who work for them in the shop when they start to build the table, but he wanted to keep it small because he didn’t want to overwhelm the situation.

Slocum said Patterson and Hooven will be doing most of the design work while he and Michael Moore, assistant manager of the design program, are using the table as a teaching moment.

“We’re not doing this for credit or anything,” Patterson said. “We’re doing it purely because we like making furniture and I’m so honored that I’m working for it.”

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