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Reynolds High students turn metal into magic

From coins to ornaments, teenagers donate efforts to community
by: Contributed photo From right Chris Dahmen, a sophomore at Reynolds High School, and Jonathan Santiago, a senior, display ornaments they helped make for the holiday tree in Troutdale.

Metal fabrication students at Reynolds High School have been making their mark in the wider community over the past several weeks.

Back in November, the students helped to create commemorative coins for more than 100 veterans who attended a living history event at the school.

Then, just this past Christmas season, the students forged ornaments for the Holiday Tree in downtown Troutdale.

'That was a big hit as well for all the community folks who attended the Christmas tree lighting ceremony and throughout the holiday season,' said Bernard Kleiman, the students' teacher.

More than 200 students study metal fabrication in his classes, he added, including Jonathan Santiago, 18, a senior.

Santiago is in his second year of metal fabrication.

'At first I thought it would be an easy grade,' he said. 'But it turned out to be harder than it looked. I've learned a lot of skills doing this.'

Indeed, Kleiman said, machinists and welders, as well as folks who work in computer aided design, are among those who need the kind of skills taught in his classes.

Commemorative coins

Making coins to honor the veterans was a community effort, Kleiman said. The Portland company Versa-Tech donated the metal for the prototype, he added, noting the model used five stars to represent the military's five branches, surrounding a large star in the middle.

Technical Finishing and Plating, another Portland company, donated the chrome plating for the coins, and the Portland jewelry company Simon Golub and Sons donated boxes in which to place the coins.

Santiago said it was a bit of challenge to make the coins.

'It was hard to keep the five stars in line because they were so small,' he said. 'It was hard to keep them in place.'

But the effort was worth it, his teacher said.

'It was wonderful to contribute to our servicemen and women and recognize what they do for our country,' Kleiman said.

Christmas ornaments

As they did in 2010, the Reynolds metal fabrication students created ornaments for the Troutdale tree at the request of the West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce.

Kleiman and the students researched ornament designs on the Internet, including snowflakes, stars, Santa Clauses and Christmas trees. Students then scanned pictures of the designs into a computer, which sends the images to a PlasmaCAM, or cutting torch, which cuts out the designs.

The 200 or so decorations were made of 24-gauge sheet metal, thin and lightweight, and were 8 to 10 inches in diameter.

'Some kids scanned, some cut, some kids were painting or putting wire on the ornaments,' Kleiman says.

'I made a lot of the ornaments,' Santiago said, listing 'giant snowflakes, a giant candy cane, a snowman,' among them.

Kleiman was clearly proud of his metalheads.

'I think it's important for students to put aside their own problems in their daily lives and help out in the community,' he said.