IWF gave a sneak peek of big things to come

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The final day of the International Woodworking Fair falls on a Saturday and it can be a long day for exhibitors. The big crowds have come and gone and thoughts of finally getting home have crept in. They’re exhausted, waiting for the signal to start packing up, while wearing their emotions on their sleeve. As a paid observer, this is where you learn the truth. Thumbs-up or thumbs-down on the show? You’re not fooling anyone.

I talked to one downtrodden person who perked up when discussing an abundance of leads. There was more of everything — exhibitors, attendees, machinery and exhibit space — than at recent shows, making it clear that the industry is in a growth mode.

There was plenty of product innovation, enough to fill the next several issues of Woodshop News, for shops that can finally loosen the purse strings. I noticed shops sending teams of employees to scout new machinery and processes, exhibitors celebrating the day’s sales results and high spirits in the aftershow hours. Stuff I haven’t seen since, oh, before the Great Recession.

IWF management couldn’t be more pleased, as you’ll learn in our show roundup on Page 10.

From my perspective, a number of products stood out. I remain intrigued by Cabinotch, a company that supplies face-framed cabinet boxes ready for assembly. Combine the service with KCD’s Touch tablet software and you can design a cabinet job, order the boxes and get your shop working on the rest of the project before leaving the customer’s home. It’s an interesting business model.

Thermwood’s Cut Ready (August 2014 issue, Page 16) gets my nod as the show-stopper.

SawStop appears to have hit a home run with its sliding crosscut table saw attachment (Page 20). For a company that never wanted to make tables saws and is now the No. 1 seller, the competition must be wary. We heard about one company that’s got a table saw safety device to rival SawStop, but no official announcement was made at IWF.

Steel City Tool Works caught me off guard with its restructuring plans (Page 28). There were a couple of times when I thought the company had gone out of business. But it’s had a steady presence at the trade shows and management seemed really excited about the future.

The Challenger’s Awards always leave me a bit confused. They practically stop the show for an awards ceremony, then the presenters drive away in golf carts, leaving onlookers confused as to what the winning entries actually are. We’ve done our best to explain on Page 12.

If you’re a student, enter the Design Emphasis student woodworking competition in 2016. The IWF does a really nice job of promoting and providing a proper gallery setting for some impressive work. I can’t imagine a better audience for aspiring furniture designers. Check out our coverage on Page 16.

Finally, I want to offer my sincere appreciation to our fan club, the readers who stopped by the Woodshop News’ booth and offered their praise. It means a lot to the entire team.

This article originally appeared in the October 2014 issue.

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