Hands-on Lesson in History

John Kunis working on historical metal plant stand

Local family's heirloom sparks creativity, challenge for second-year welding student John Kunis.

ROSEBURG, Oregon – It’s not every day students in UCC’s Welding program get a hands-on lesson in history, but a local family's heirloom has definitely created a unique learning opportunity. A plant stand that is believed to be a few centuries old was recently brought into the shop for repair. It is challenging second-year student John Kunis to work and practice like he’s never done before.

“We don’t know how old this stand really is, but we know it has been around for a long time,” Kunis said. “The more we look into it, the more we learn about it.”

The stand is made of cast iron and it is covered in bronze. It has a number of markings—1778, 1779, 1854—that show its possible age. Kunis believes he can fix it; he is just trying to determine the best way to do it.

Historic plant stand top.

Historic plant stand 1779

“I want to do the best possible job on this repair,” he said. “This is a piece of history. I have the opportunity to save it, fix it, and give it back to the customer. I want to knock it out of the park.”

Kunis has been practicing his welds on a cast iron skillet. His goal is to match his repair welds to the metals on the stand. He will be heavily relying on the techniques he is learning in this advanced welding class.

“Our program has done a variety of community projects over the years,” Ian Fisher, the welding program coordinator at UCC, said. “We direct those projects to our more advanced students. We’ve worked on furniture, automotive trailers, distillery equipment for wineries and breweries… things like that. But we’ve never done anything with historic value like this.”

Kunis is up for the challenge. He says it is going to be tricky but fun.

“I’ve never held something this old before,” Kunis said. “They didn’t even have electricity back then but the craftsmanship is amazing. You can tell they really put their heart and soul into projects like this.”

According to Kunis, he is going to do the same with this rare opportunity.

“We do things like this for the experience and not for the profit,” Fisher said. “Our customers pay for the materials and lab fee, but never the labor.”

About Umpqua Community College

Nestled in the beautiful North Umpqua River Valley, Umpqua Community College is the regional center for higher education in Douglas County, Oregon. UCC provides high quality college degree programs, workforce development, and community learning opportunities.


Ian Fisher - Contact
Coordinator, Associate Professor, Welding
Phone: 541-440-7819


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