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IWF: Three short letters that make a big impact

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I might as well have IWF tattooed on my forehead. There’s certainly enough room.

For the last six months or so, I’ve just about worn out my keyboard typing those three letters. This month especially, since it’s our IWF preview issue, accompanied by our IWF “Black Book” show planner.

It could be worse. I was contacted by IWF management, asking that we only refer to the IWF by its full name, the International Woodworking Fair. This would put my arm in a sling. The IWF doesn’t need to be spelled out. The IWF is the year’s biggest trade show, it’s happening in August and it’s going to be huge.

The 2014 IWF should easily retain its ranking among the largest trade shows in the world with roughly 900 exhibitors sprawled across the vast Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. The booth of Stiles Machinery alone will occupy more than 20,000 sq. ft. Advanced registration is ahead of the pace set at the 2012 event, according to the IWF.

“We are up across the board, more exhibits, more products and more attendees,” says Rick Hannigan, director of marketing for Weinig/Holz-Her and chairman of IWF 2014. Attendance at IWF and its counterpart, the AWFS in Las Vegas, is a good barometer of the health of the woodworking industry and a strong turnout should signal that we’re in a growth period following the Great Recession.

“The importance of seeing products firsthand and engaging face-to-face with industry experts is key to our industry’s growth,” Hannigan adds.

From my perspective, the amount of new products is a good indication of the health of the industry. When the economy is struggling, manufacturers tighten their belts and spend less on marketing and new-product development. I’m seeing much more product promotion this year. Plus, there were 61 entries for the IWF Challenger Distinguished Achievement Awards, suggesting the green light has been issued for the development of new technologies.

Another clue is offered by the IWF education conference schedule. At recent shows, a common theme was survival as presenters focused on doing-more-with-less strategies. This year’s topics include managing multiple jobs, expanding into new markets and methods to increase production — all pretty much taboo subjects back in 2010.

In July, the IWF announced a discount program for attendees participating in the educational conference. Attendees who sign up for one of the all-day finishing, veneer, countertop, closets and woodworking inventors symposiums on Aug. 19 receive a complimentary pass to another educational seminar. Meanwhile, purchasing a seat at one educational session gets you another at half price.

I’ve circled four seminars of interest at IWF (for the complete schedule, visit

“3-D Printing and the Return of the Cottage Industry,” presented by Ralph Bagnell, who writes on the subject in our Cutting Edge column on Page 23.

• “Lean Manufacturing for the Small- to Mid-Sized Shop,” presented by the Cabinet Makers Association.

• “Combustible Dust: An Explosive Issue” (a free session), presented by Jamison Scott.

• “Selling to Generation Y,” presented by Jon Goldman.

And for those keeping score at home, I’ve typed IWF another 15 times in this column alone. Make that 16.

This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue.

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