Franklin Tech student welds ‘artistic’ bench for French King Bridge

Franklin County Technical School senior Laynie Coates with her capstone project of a metal bench, with details resembling the French King Bridge, that was mounted on the Erving side of the bridge on Monday.

Franklin County Technical School senior Laynie Coates with her capstone project of a metal bench, with details resembling the French King Bridge, that was mounted on the Erving side of the bridge on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Franklin County Technical School senior Laynie Coates, center, who made this bench in the welding and metal fabrication lab for her capstone project, is flanked by her instructors John Passiglia and Gabe Stafford.

Franklin County Technical School senior Laynie Coates, center, who made this bench in the welding and metal fabrication lab for her capstone project, is flanked by her instructors John Passiglia and Gabe Stafford. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Franklin County Technical School senior Laynie Coates’ bench is installed on the Erving side of the French King Bridge on Monday.

Franklin County Technical School senior Laynie Coates’ bench is installed on the Erving side of the French King Bridge on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Franklin County Technical School senior Laynie Coates, with welding instructor John Passiglia, stands behind her capstone project of a metal bench, with details resembling the French King Bridge, that was mounted on the Erving side of the bridge on Monday.

Franklin County Technical School senior Laynie Coates, with welding instructor John Passiglia, stands behind her capstone project of a metal bench, with details resembling the French King Bridge, that was mounted on the Erving side of the bridge on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Franklin County Technical School senior Laynie Coates watches as the bench she made in the welding and metal fabrication lab for her capstone project is installed at the French King Bridge in Erving on Monday.

Franklin County Technical School senior Laynie Coates watches as the bench she made in the welding and metal fabrication lab for her capstone project is installed at the French King Bridge in Erving on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By LIESEL NYGARD

For the Recorder

Published: 04-30-2024 1:14 PM

ERVING — Drawing inspiration from the French King Bridge, Franklin County Technical School senior Laynie Coates, 17, put her welding skills to the test.

The result, a green bench with lettering that says “Gateway to the Mohawk Trail” and a bridge-like arch underneath, has now arrived to its home on the French King Bridge’s eastern side, near the French King Restaurant and Motel.

The project began in October 2023, when the town of Erving reached out to Franklin Tech’s welding instructors asking if any of the students would be interested in creating a bench for the bridge. Coates, described by her instructors as a dedicated worker, had the task assigned to her as a capstone project, which allows seniors to demonstrate their proficiency in different skills that they’ve learned over their four years at Franklin Tech.

“I knew the bridge stands out because of all those beams and stuff. That’s how it always sticks out to me. ... [Franklin Tech welding instructor Gabe Stafford] and I drew it out on paper and we were like, ‘We don’t want it to be normal,’” Coates recounted. “But we needed to put some of my touch into it. It’s my capstone. I wanted it to be a little bit artistic, I have a lot of artistic skills. I wanted it to show it a little bit.”

Coates embarked on studying the bridge, counting and analyzing its beams and the structure’s colors. She used her time in class between the months of October and April to design and weld the bench by using metal inert gas (MIG) welding, a skill she’s used since her sophomore year. Coates noted she is in welding shop every other week to balance her academic work.

To efficiently cut out the metal pieces for the bench, Coates used a computer numerical control (CNC) plasma table, which allowed her to digitally design the cutouts for the 6-foot-long installation.

Using the plasma table was a bit of an obstacle for Coates and her instructors since the table can only accommodate 4-foot-by-4-foot designs. This meant they had to design the bench in two parts and then connect the pieces.

“I was a little stressed about the plasma cutting,” Franklin Tech welding instructor John Passiglia said. “You’re taking a whole big sheet and you’re cutting part of it, but then you’re moving it and cutting the other half ... like cutting and pasting two things and putting them together and making sure that they line up. Otherwise, the whole thing is junk and you have to start over.”

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Luckily, Passiglia said they didn’t run into any trouble and the process went smoothly.

“It feels really nice knowing that I can come back and look at it,” Coates said as the bench was placed next to the French King Bridge on Monday. “It’s not just something that’s at home ... the whole town knows about it and it feels really nice. I feel like I got really noticed after this project.”