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Pennsylvania House chairs: build for the long haul.

PENNSYLVANIA HOUSE CHAIRS: BUILT FOR THE LONG HAUL

Four years ago, Pennsylvania House expanded its operation by converting the old Interstate Trucking warehouse into its new chair manufacturing facility, up river from its Lewisburg, Pa., plant. Nestled in the heart of the Susquehanna River valley trucking community, the 110,000-square-foot White Deer, Pa., plant has been rolling along by producing chairs that have a reputation for long life while accenting the Pennsylvania House line of distinctive dining room and residential furniture lines.

"The plant was abandoned for about ten years when we bought it," said Clint Shurtliffe, plant manager at the 115-employee facility. "Basically, all we had to do was insulate it, seal the doors and bring in the equipment.

"Most of our lumber originates from Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland. We use about 65 percent cherry, with oak, maple and beech making up the rest."

Chassis adjustment

About two years ago, the company decided to switch its chair construction from doweling to mortise and tenon joints. "There were many problems with doweling," said Shurtliffe. "Doweling is a very precise joint that can be difficult to match. With a tenon joint, you have less air space resulting from wood to wood contact for a stronger joint." Dowels also have a tendency to shrink from drying and can loosen and weaken the joint, Shurtliffe added

Depending on the Lewisburg plant for raw blanks of back legs, front legs and rails, White Deer also receives intricately carved pieces from outside contractors. Curved parts are not steam bent, but cut from solid blanks. Upon delivery, the workpieces are sent to areas that shape and sand front legs, back legs, caps and rails.

A Zuckermann multi-spindle carver is used to shape and remove corners on back legs and a Delta miter saw cuts them to length. Back leg mortises are cut on a Bacci horizontal oscillating mortiser. Removal of the knife marks from the carver's cutterhead are performed on band and brush sanders using Norton abrasives. Back legs, backrests and caps are used to assemble the back frame with specially colored Wood-Tek polyvinyl adhesive that blends in with the finish. Held together by four-way pneumatic table clamps, the assembler uses a Duo-Fast pinner in an inconspicuous place to hold the joints together as the adhesive dries. Aro orbital and Dynabrade Dynacushion sanders then smooth out the rough spots.

Front legs are formed on three Bacci T4MO carvers that can each cut four legs, including the popular Queen Anne design, from blanks in about five minutes. Various decorative patterns are cut into the freshly carved front legs according to the chair style. Front rails are formed on a Benco profile planer that can cut up to 20 rails at a time. "It's a real time saver because it would take much longer to bandsaw and sand each of the rails," said Shurtliffe.

A Bacci double-end tenoner is used to cut rail tenons. "Most of our machinery is Italian and German, which is too bad," said Shurtliffe. "We'd like to use more American equipment."

A custom-designed Classic Systems dust collector removes dust. Waste removal costs are reduced because a local business carts sawdust off to be used as animal bedding. Wood scraps are gathered and put into barrels that are given to employees to be used as fuel in the winter or charcoal for summer barbecues.

The finish line

After final frame assembly on pneumatic clamps and being branded with the Pennsylvania House stamp, Inteletec conveyors carry the chairs that have been stamped on the back rail regarding the desired finish and style. Graco finishing systems and air-assisted airless spray guns apply Guardsman body stains, no-wipe stains and wiping stains that are mostly cherry tones of red and light brown. Drying of the finishes is completed in custom-designed gas-fired ovens installed by Classic Systems.

The company has been experimenting with the Union Carbide Unicarb system in its two-coat lacquering process. "The system is a little bit slower, but we get the desired result," said Shurtliffe. "We use nitrocellulose, which is not one of the best for water resistance, but it goes on easy and is a good, middle-of-the-road finish. We've got an engineer that does nothing but experiment with finishes."

The packing operation puts finished chairs in bar coded boxes that will be sent to the Lewisburg plant for slipseat construction. The bar coding helps make inventory control and material identification easier for the upholsterers. A final quality control inspector is not employed at the plant because the plant operates on the total quality concept. "Everyone is an inspector here. If an imperfection is noticed, it gets sent back to be reworked. The cost of our material is too expensive to afford rejects," said Shurtliffe.

MMapping the future

At present capacity, the plant produces 400 chairs a shift and moves at about 6 feet per minute. But the former truck stop-turned-woodshop will be shifting into a higher gear in the future by adding more machinery, mainly to our chair operation," said Shurtliffe. "We've already got a Nash sander and some Mattison lathes in now. We're also looking at profilers with sanding capabilities. Our goal is to become more self-sufficient."

PHOTO : A back leg mortise is crafted using a Bacci horizontal oscillating mortiser.

PHOTO : After the chairs are constructed, Guardsman stains are applied and the chairs are conveyed on Inteletec conveyors to gas fired ovens installed by Classic Systems.

PHOTO : A Bacci double-end tenoner cuts the tenons used for the front chair rails.

PHOTO : A Zuckermann multi-spindle carver shapes eight back legs at once.

PHOTO : After being branded with the Pennsylvania House trademark, these front rails are ready for final frame assembly.

PHOTO : Back leg frame assembly is completed after Aro orbital sanders smooth out rough spots where joints meet.

PHOTO : Blades of the Benco profile planer can cut up to 20 front rail profiles at a time.

PHOTO : Bacci T4MO carvers form these four Queen Anne's legs in about five minutes.

PHOTO : In the final step of frame construction, pneumatic clamps hold the frame together after Wood-Tek adhesives are applied.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Vance Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related article
Author:Derning, Sean
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Jul 1, 1991
Words:1014
Previous Article:Store fixture manufacturers branch out.
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