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October 12, 1995


WOODWORKING: If there's something you need — from shelves to Gothic-style chairs to a refinished conference table — this duo in Facilities Management is up to the task

As an institution of higher learning, Pitt most often shines its spotlight on the academic area and its faculty.

But the University also employs numerous staff who do creative work that benefits Pitt in unexpected ways. Among those individuals are cabinet makers Rocco Longo and Robert Barie in the Office of Facilities Management.

Working in relative obscurity in the carpentry shop near the loading dock in Benedum Hall, Longo and Barie may not be well known but their work can be seen throughout the campus.

Anybody who has walked through the Cathedral of Learning has encountered Longo's work in the form of the Gothic-style chairs scattered around the Commons Room. Likewise, anyone who has gazed up at the organ in Heinz Memorial Chapel has seen Barie's talents on view in portions of the carved wood railing that guards the organ.

"We can do everything here," says Longo, "whether it's shelves or furniture. Between the two of us we can handle any work the University requires." Longo and Barie can make cabinets, shelving, tables, credenzas, filing units, chairs, display cabinets and practically anything else that might be needed for an office or meeting room. The pair also can alter and refinish older pieces of furniture. One recent job involved cutting down and refinishing a large oak table for the office of Interim Chancellor Mark Nordenberg. "A lot of people at the University who buy furniture just order it from a catalog," says Longo. "They don't know that those same items can be made here and the money kept in the University." Both cabinet makers came to Pitt a little over two years ago as replacements for a retiring carpenter. Longo, who learned his trade in Italy before emigrating to the United States in 1972, had been working for a contractor who serviced the airlines at the old Greater International Pittsburgh Airport. Barie had been employed in a cabinet shop that did a lot of custom work for interior designers and decorators in the Pittsburgh area.

"Both of those guys use their own minds when it comes to cabinet work," says Tim Schoeppner, foreman of the carpentry shop. "All I do is go out and hunt up work. Rocco and Bobby do the design and make it. They're experts." Longo and Barie say they can make almost anything found in a catalog, magazine or book. Even better, they can customize pieces to fit particular spaces and make them out of solid hardwoods like oak, cherry, walnut and mahogany instead of particle board, vinyl and veneers. And they can do it at a competitive price. By having Longo, instead of an outside shop, do the work on the chairs in the Commons Room, the University saved $50 to $100 on each chair, according to Schoeppner.

John Hatfield, equipment manager for the football, basketball and volleyball teams, recently called on Longo and Barie to design and furnish his new office in Pitt Stadium with shelving, filing units and a credenza for a computer and television. "We've been looking forward to that job [for Hatfield]," says Barie. "The furniture is going into a place where it is going to be for 20 years or more and a lot of people are going to see it." Members of the University community who might want to utilize the cabinet makers but are concerned about a long wait need not worry. Pitt's cabinet shop is a modern facility equipped with all the latest tools to get a job done quickly.

Barie points to a new $8,500 drum sander that can sand the same material in 15 minutes that it once took an hour and a half to do by hand — and it does a better job. "We've got the sander," says Barie. "We've got a brand new table saw that we can make cuts of up to eight feet on. We also have a new shaper on which we can do custom molding." Faculty and staff in need of furniture can obtain an estimate by calling Schoeppner at 624-9549.

–Mike Sajna

Filed under: Feature,Volume 28 Issue 4

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