Milford’s Platt Tech students preserve pieces of school’s history

MILFORD — The old Platt Technical High School building will soon be razed, but some students are making sure a piece of its history will live on.

With the new Platt Tech building complete, the old building will be demolished this summer. But before that happens, students have taken pieces of a large tree trunk that was in the wodworking shop and transformed them into pieces offering a lasting memory of the old high school school.

“The tree trunk was laying around our building for at least 50 years,” said teacher Lori Grace. “It was a 100-year-old piece of pine, and it was 3 feet by 3 feet when the project was first started.”

The tree trunk was made into a cafe-style table and a live edge mirror.

“This school is coming down this summer, so they’re taking a little bit of the history of the school and making it last,” said Grace.

Grace said past teachers at Platt Tech had used the tree as part of their teaching, and as they started retiring, the tree trunk was sitting in the back room.

“We brought it into our room, and when COVID happened, we needed something, besides the day-to-day challenges of COVID, to uplift us and get us back to where we were before,” she said. “So this project did that.”

When the tree trunk split, it ended up splitting into three pieces.

“After it split, it first went to the architecture department, and they were (designing) what kind of furniture could be made out of the pieces,” said Grace.

The architecture department thought the pieces could yield seven pieces of furniture, but the carpentry department vetoed that plan.

“It has to be cut down, sanded, squared off to the right size, and it’s a big process to work with a piece of wood,” said Dominic Smeraglino, 11th grader at Platt Tech.

When the wood was brought to the carpentry department, 11th grader Tom Allen said they saw the potential of the wood and quickly started to look at what they could do with it. By the time they got them flat and parallel, they weren’t thick enough, and they had to come up with new ideas.

“From there, we made the mold to what the size the tables could be, and we poured the epoxy,” said Smeraglino. “We were able to create those pieces, which are phenomenal pieces.”

Grace said they had to do everything from building the molds to letting the resin cool down, and she said the students learned a valuable lesson when they started to take the mold off.

“We ran into some problems because epoxy sticks, and it really stuck to the material that we made the mold out of,” said Smeraglino. “So it was a lot of prying, sanding off, and it was a rigorous process. So next time we’ll do a little bit more research and use a material that won’t stick as much.”

From start to finish, the entire process took four months, and Grace said they received $500 from the Platt Tech Parent Faculty Organization to be able to have the molds and legs made, and they had the resin donated from Stone Coat Countertops.

“They did 99 percent of the work, and I just supervised,” said Jeff Tyrol, carpentry department head. “They figured out what they needed to do and how they needed to do it.”

Another piece of Platt Tech history the students repurposed was a bench in the woodshop.

“We broke the old bench apart, cut it up, glued it together, sanded it and made sure the edges were flush,” said Dante Duarte, 11th grader at Platt Tech. “We made a cutting board out of it.”

Tyrol said they had an opportunity to make another table out of a donated sawmill made out of cherry wood.

“We took it down to culinary and put it into their oven at a low temperature to dry out the wood,” he said.

Grace said it was a multi-department effort to make the project possible.

“So we had the culinary department jump in, which made four shop departments,” she said. “IT joined in my making our banner.”

“Collision and Repair department showed us how to buff out the tops of the tables,” said Tyrol.

The tables and the mirror will be auctioned off in a raffle. Half of the proceeds are going towards the Class of 2023, with the other 50 percent being split between the departments that helped with the project.