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Feedback shows shops still adapting to change

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Today’s woodworker uses design software, shops online and considers the table saw to be one of their most important tools in the shop. We know this from a recent survey we conducted of our most loyal readers.

Nothing Earth-shattering so far, but interesting. If done 20 years ago, the survey might have listed a sketchbook, hardware store and a cabinet scraper instead. Heck, those might have been the answers 10 years ago.

Computer design isn’t for every shop, but it’s hard to beat as a sales tool. While the old napkin sketch was quaint, providing the customer with 3-D views and a virtual tour of their new kitchen is cutting-edge advancement. If you’re new or confused about CAD software, R.W. Lee offers some pointers in the Cutting Edge column on Page 20. Lee is a new contributor to Woodshop News with a diverse background, which I’ll let him begin to explain in this month’s column. He’s got some interesting views on how to get started with CNC machinery, starting with understanding the software that makes it work.

As for shopping online, the survey respondents also indicated they rely heavily on magazine stories and advertisements (good for us) for their future purchases and turn to the Internet for research.

It’s how I’m approaching tool and machinery purchases as my new shop comes together. I’ve bought a few things online — mostly what can be shipped overnight — but haven’t pulled the trigger (or clicked the mouse) on any machinery purchases yet. With some major trade shows coming up, I have several opportunities for demonstrations and face-to-face conversations with sales reps. I’ve studied the options online to narrow my choices. Manufacturers offer so much information on their sites, it’s good to see that readers are taking advantage of the opportunities.

Besides the table saw, other critical tools include proper lighting, dust collection, routers and compressors. Cordless tools and pneumatic fasteners also scored well, while the shop radio and smartphone made the top 10. I anticipate more shop functions will be controlled by a smartphone or tablet within the next decade. You can already operate design software, bank, monitor production processes and, obviously, communicate with these clever gadgets. There will be an app for sweeping the floor soon enough.

You’re still reaching for a measuring tool every single day. But, besides a tape measurer, your options include lasers, stop/gauge and pusher systems, digitally-controlled machines and high-tech layout solutions. This is another growth category to keep an eye on.

Most of you are building cabinets, casework and millwork, and emphasize your custom capabilities, which we already knew. You’re mostly professionals, have employees, either own or are considering CNC purchases, have a good-sized shop and seem to have a general aversion to debt. A majority of respondents say they won’t finance new purchases, preferring a shorter term solution, and frequent the second-hand market.

And you continue to struggle with marketing, finishing and proper insurance coverage. For immediate help, turn to the Pro Shop column on Page 24, Greg Williams’ explanation of pigment and dye stains on Page 22 and a special report on preparing for disasters on Page 12.

Again, thanks for your feedback.

This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue.

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