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Buyer interest remained high at 2008 IWF

Show officials from IWF 2008, held Aug. 20-23 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, say that although attendance decreased compared to the prior show in 2006, the numbers did not reflect a significant drop in serious show patrons. The consensus was that attendee buyer interest surpassed what would be expected in a tough economic environment.

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“We didn’t know what to expect coming in with the economy, the gas prices, all of the factors that everyone is aware of right now. Our advanced registration numbers were down compared to 2006 — we weren’t happy to see that, but we weren’t surprised to see that either,” says show president and CEO Patrick LaFramboise.

The overall attendance in 2008, including both exhibitors and attendee buyers, was 39,893, a drop of 7 percent from the overall attendance of 43,192 in 2006. Attendee buyer attendance in 2008 was 18,992 compared to 24,886 in 2006, a 23 percent drop. LaFramboise says the 2008 figures are preliminary numbers and he expects, judging from past shows, they will increase slightly when the registration data base audit has been completed.

LaFramboise says the number of exhibitor badges purchased on-site were higher this year.

When the IWF Board saw a slow momentum with early show registration, they implemented several promotions, including a complimentary advance registration program for exhibitors and complimentary invitations to people in the Southeast region. LaFramboise says that although exact results of how these incentives fared were not available at press time, the early indications reveal they were reasonably effective. The Board also added several other incentives such as monetary prize voucher awards for purchasing machinery as well as $100 gas cards to eligible attendees and company representatives.

“I think the people that came to this show are serious buyers and made the time and investment to come,” says LaFramboise. “I think this show has given people reason to believe that there’s hope out there.”

There were 16 woodworking educational and technical seminars this year, expanding on the 12 the show hosted in 2006. LaFramboise says the high attendance in the seminars, which included topics such as CNC software and finishing, indicated there’s a real thirst for information among attendees.

“With modern technology, I think people are embracing the cold-hard fact that to stay competitive, they have to keep up with all that is out there to help you survive. It’s a matter of survivability right now, let alone competitiveness … How to create a winning factory was one of our leading seminars.”

Showstopping saws
The new Unisaw from Delta Machinery was featured front and center on the show floor of the main hall. Delta introduced the 10" industrial cabinet saw with the Unisaw name in the 1930s, and has since re-engineered and redesigned its flagship table saw from the ground up.

SawStop unveiled a prototype of its new 10" Professional Cabinet Saw that will be available in spring 2009. SawStop’s marketing manager Eric Gewiss says the new machine features a 27" wide table, slightly smaller than the 30" wide table on SawStop’s larger Industrial Cabinet Saw, but still features the same safety technology that stops the blade within 5 milliseconds of detecting contact with skin.

Powermatic introduced its PWBS-14CS band saw with an extra large, two-piece cast iron table, which features a 15" x 15" tilting section and a fixed 15" x 5" extension.

Machinery introductions
Most of the major machine manufacturers used IWF to showcase their newest offerings and, in many cases, display machines that are in production and will be introduced before the end of the year.

General International surprised many with its entrance into the CNC market in partnership with Guerilla CNC, which will provide all of the software packages for General’s five CNC machines. Two Junior models (20" x 20" and 20" x 36") will be available by the end of the year, followed shortly by three Pro Series machines with capacities ranging up to 48" x 96". For a closer look, please see the story on page 23.

Grizzly International’s German-made 25" combination planer/sander caught the eye of many professionals. The three-phase 15-hp machine features digital table positioning and a micro-adjustable cutterhead. The company also unveiled 10" and 16" jointer/planer combination machines, which can change over from a jointer to a planer in less than a minute. The 16" model features a Leitz cutterhead. Grizzly’s Ultimate 8" jointer with digital-height readout was another new offering.

Weinig introduced its Variomat molder to the U.S. market, which is capable of four-sided planing and profiling, including end profiling. Attendees watched a five-minute demonstration where a raised panel door was built from raw stock by the single machine. The Powermat 2000 Vertical Sawing Unit designed for veneer slats was another new Weinig product introduced at the show.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Laguna Tools unveiled nearly two dozen machines, including a five-function 5' sliding combination machine for professionals. The versatile European-style combo unit consists of a 10" table saw, 12" planer, 12" x 54" jointer, 3-hp shaper with spindle, and 3-hp mortiser. Other machines included 16" and 18" band saws, a dovetail table saw, mortisers, 26" production shop planer, 16" jointer/planer, raised panel door machine, shaping and sanding machine, three glue pot edgebanders, and several sliding panel saws.

DeWalt continues to produce tools for its expanding contractor lines. IWF debuts included a 10" dual bevel sliding miter saw, heavy-duty 15-gauge and 16-gauge finish nailers, and corded and cordless TrackSaws for finish carpenters, woodworkers and contractors.

Freud featured a number of new products, including a thin-kerf ripping blade, a French door router bit set and an expansion of its Quadra-Cut router bits from five to 50, while the JET booth featured an oscillating drum sander.

Steel City Tool Works may want to change its name to Granite City Tool Works with the large line of granite machines it put on display at IWF. Among the newest granite items were jointer beds to go with the previously available granite fences, a granite lower wheel for its 14" band saw, a 16" portable planer with granite tables, and two mid-range granite lathes, 47" center-to-center with a 12" swing. The company also released a mammoth cast iron lathe that measures 52" center-to-center and has a 20" swing (10" bed to spindle) and the capability to get a 40" swing from the upper bed to lower bed.

Woodstock International displayed nine Shop Fox additions at IWF highlighted by its 5-hp 10" sliding table saw and 3-hp 18" open-end wide belt sander, which has the capability of sanding 36" wide stock despite a small 25" x 17-1/2" footprint. The other items consisted of three jointers, two planers and a 5-hp 21" band saw with foot brake.

Many companies decided to display machines shortly before IWF at regional woodworking shows. The Martin T12 fixed-spindle shaper and Hoffman face-frame combination system were among those products seen by many for the first time at IWF. Several companies had machines in the production pipeline, but weren’t ready to release information on the record.

Festool offered a sneak peek at several new tools that are slated to be available in early 2009, including a lithium-ion cordless drill, jig saw, hand-held planer, and the MFT/3 multi-function work table.

CNC offerings
ShopBot introduced its low-priced Buddy CNC with PowerStick accessory. The four models have base prices ranging from approximately $5,000 to $10,000, with cutting areas from 24" x 32" x 5" to 24" x 48" x 5". The PowerStick provides a larger work area, allowing the user to cut, drill, and machine projects of much greater length than the standard bed size.

Onsrud Cutter, a supplier of CNC router tooling, was a Challengers Award finalist for its new Tuff Core 3/8" diameter tool that features a dual-grade carbide design. According to the company, Tuff Core allows feed rates to be increased up to 155 percent more than conventional 3/8" diameter compressions. Higher yields are also possible as standard compression tools can be replaced with the stronger 3/8" Tuff Core tool.

Amana Tool introduced its In-Groove CNC insert engraving system featuring one tool body with multiple carbide insert engraving tips for a variety of applications. The system is ideal for sign making, lettering and engraving applications in laminated materials, veneers, MDF, plastics, wood, aluminum and solid surface.

Ex-Factory presented the Cam-Wood WR 203 CNC router with a 2' x 3' table for less than $9,000; the WR 408 CNC router series available with 4' x 8', 5' x 10' and 12' table sizes; the KT2 glue-pot edgebander with a guillotine unit to cut edgebanding in coils up to 2 mm thick; and the 3200 sliding table saw.

The booth of Oneway CNC featured a Profile CNC Milling Lathe that allows the user to build complex legs and spindles without having to know anything about CAD or CAM software programs.

Wood products
In the wood products sector, there were few surprises. Several companies introduced new “green” products such as Uniboard, which expanded its certified engineered wood product by offering it in colors. Certification continues to be a contentious issue among hardwood dealers who have definite opinions about sustainability, the Forest Stewardship Council and other related topics that will undoubtedly continue to be the center of major controversy.

Northland Forest Products and Lewis Lumber Products were pushing a new mahogany alternative called Eucalyptus grandis. The FSC-certified plantation-grown wood is less dense than genuine mahogany, but has a similar grain and takes an exceptional stain. Northland, Lewis and Thompson Mahogany are involved in the joint venture with Urufor of Uruguay.

The National Hardwood Lumber Association introduced a new branding initiative, which brought with it a new logo and an attempt to establish an improved global awareness. The 110-year old, 1,600-member organization says it will go forward with an emphasis on education, promotion and communication, advocacy, networking, and industry services.

Other standouts
There were many other manufacturers whose products attracted crowds to their booths. Some of the notables were Polhemus, a small Vermont company that displayed its FastSCAN portable 3-D laser scanning system to the woodworking industry for the first time. By simply scanning items as small as a cabriole leg or as large as a huge column, the proprietary software stitches the images together and creates a digital image of the item in almost any format. At first glance, FastSCAN appears most suited for the restoration and reproduction furniture markets.

For those who feel a need for fast or instant gluing times, Franklin International introduced the Titebond Instant Bond line of CA adhesives. Available in thin, medium, thick and gel viscosities, the cure times range from three to 20 seconds. The Instant Bond line is designed primarily for wood and wood products, but can also be used with a wide variety of materials and substrates.

Colonial Saw, which imports Lamello products, hawked a new feature on the Lamello Cantex Ergo, a dedicated flush milling machine for solid wood edges. A new base plate facilitates trimming flush around corners in one pass.

Carter Products offered a number of new band saw accessories, and was selected as a finalist for the IWF Challengers Award for its SandTrac product that monitors abrasive belt usage on wide belt sanders.

CMT USA introduced its Rout A Bowl template and router bit system, which basically allows a woodworker to make bowls and trays without a lathe. The company has also updated its Universal Hinge Boring System, designed to be used with stationary drill press or hand-held drill, with two boring head sets. One includes a Blum/Salice head, Universal base and 35mm boring bit, while the other offers a boring head with five adaptors for the 32mm system.

SandMan Products, a manufacturer of downdraft sanding tables, has added a Sand Pro inspection light series. The non-glaring, flat beam bulbs are powered by a 12-volt transformer, which allows the light to be on all day while keeping heat output to a minimum.

Bessey boasted its new K Body Revo Parallel Bar Clamp featuring 1,500 pounds of nominal clamping force. The newly redesigned tool is geared for applications where 90 degree, high-pressure clamping or powerful spreading is required. It offers 30 percent more clamping surface and 25 percent more clamping force than its predecessor, as well as a new end rail clip, rail protection and many accessories. Representatives at the booth enjoyed showing attendees the 1,500 lbs. of clamping force register on a digital pressure load cell attached to a workbench.

Donaldson Co. Inc. introduced its Torit PowerCore dust collector. The machine handles high air flow and heavy particulates, but takes up less space than a traditional baghouse collector.

AWFS up next
For those IWF attendees whose feet no longer hurt and are already looking forward to the next huge U.S. woodworking and machinery blast, the 2009 Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers Fair, also known as AWFS Vegas, will be held July 15-18, 2009 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. One of the show’s highlights will be a series of “Going Green” seminars.

This article originally appeared in the October 2008 issue.

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