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Industry meets face-to-face at AWFS

Festool’s booth at the 2021 AWFS Fair.

Festool’s booth at the 2021 AWFS Fair.

Exhibitors and attendees were happy to be at the 2021 AWFS Fair. Held in the spacious, newly built West Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center in July, the biennial event had a refreshing aura of energy longed for by industry professionals in wake of the pandemic.

Furniture maker Ethan Abramson, who moderated the event with announcements and interaction with guests on the show floor, says the in-person event helped lift everyone’s spirits and bring back the positive vibe experienced at the 2019 show.

“There’s just a different feeling people get when they see tools and machinery in person versus looking at them online, and you could definitely see that excitement on the show floor,” Abramson said in an interview with Woodshop News. “Watching people’s eyes light up as they looked around, watching their smiles grow as they got to experience the tools in person, watching friends pulling each other in different directions because they both want to go to a different booth to see a new machine that caught their imagination, all of that is the beauty of live shows.”

Delighted attendees

Gary Mintz of Ninth Island Woodcrafters in Las Vegas was attending his first fair and plans to return.

“We were absolutely thrilled with what we experienced. Having so many suppliers and manufacturers in one place is a huge advantage to small shops like ours. The product knowledge gained was invaluable to us,” says Mintz.

“We came specifically to evaluate and purchase several pieces of equipment. A slide saw, edge bander and CNC unit. The selection at the show did make things a bit challenging, but after speaking with several manufacturer reps we were able to make a decision. If we had not had the opportunity to view so many products at once, it would have extended the process by months. In addition to the equipment we purchased, we made great contacts with so many new suppliers. With all the new products to offer our clients and new prospects, we are extremely excited. We plan on attending all industry related trade shows from now on.”

Craig Peters of Elite Custom Cabinetry in Phoenix was attending his fourth AWFS with his shop foreman and called it, “all in all great show.” He purchased a Unique door machine, Razor Gauge saw, Ritter oscillating belt sander, and Guffey paint booth system, along with some used equipment.

“It’s nice to see all of our reps there in their booths. It kind of makes us feel at home when we can meet on neutral turf and get a chance to see the new products and discuss their uses and applications to suit our needs,” says Peters, noting the show seemed smaller than previous ones.

“This was an advantage to us as we were able to spend quality time at the booths and even return for more information and we got right in and down to the nitty gritty. As the result of these great visits, we are purchasing several pieces of new equipment to assist my shop in production. We are buying equipment that will speed up the work and add accuracy to the job since it is so difficult to find any skilled workers at this time. We had to stroll past a lot of booths in past years due to the high count of people milling about and it was hard to pin down a salesperson most of the time.”

Odie’s Oil Products had a busy booth.

Odie’s Oil Products had a busy booth.

Exhibitor energy

The spacious lobby of the West Hall greeted visitors with a product showcase of entries in the fair’s Visionary Awards (see story, Page 16) and from first-time exhibitors. An Industry 4.0 showcase highlighted innovative developments including artificial intelligence, augmented reality, robotics and more.

The trade show floor plan was laid out to have a constant variety of machinery, tooling, material and accessory products around every corner, rather than grouping them by category.

Exhibitors displayed and demonstrated their products. Bill Grom of Bill’s Custom Trim, a first-time exhibitor, was glad for the opportunity to demonstrate the Chatternator, a machine he invented to quickly sand and remove chatter marks from trim pieces.

“The show was very productive with a lot of interest and sales. It was very well done. Now I will need to get to work. I had a lot of people stop by from Oregon to Pennsylvania and points in between, my target market,” says Grom.

SCM North America commanded a 23,000-sq.-ft. space, filled with automated cutting and lifting equipment, and other advanced technologies. The company held a silent auction for a nuCamp mini teardrop camper in support of Semper Fi & America’s Fund, which supports injured and ill members of the U.S. armed forces and their families (see story, Page 25).

Off the show floor

The fair’s educational component, the College of Woodworking Knowledge, informed attendees with career development sessions under the categories of Culture & Workforce, Cabinetry, Millwork & Furniture, Technology & Innovation, and Business Management.

The keynote address from economist Chris Kuehl of Armada Corporate Intelligence touched on the status of manufacturing, construction and housing markets and how to follow their trends. Similar points and supply chain issues were later addressed in an afternoon session with Kuehl and AWFS executive vice president Angelo Gangone.

The Cabinet Makers Association hosted its popular “What’s Your Problem” a roundtable discussion for non-members to learn about the organization’s value. CMA director Amanda Conger reports the group had a record number of new members sign up at the fair.

Promoting the industry

Recruiting the next generation of woodworkers was a big focus. The Woodwork Career Alliance promoted its credentialing program. The AWFS held a silent auction to benefit the WCA, which included a signed guitar from Jimmy Buffet.

Mark Smith, an industrial technology teacher at Reed-Custer High School in Braidwood, Ill., participated in a special presentation on a new registered woodworking apprenticeship program.

“It was great to be back at the AWFS Fair this year,” says Smith. “Meeting with teachers and members of industry is always a positive experience. I especially enjoyed presenting about the new registered apprenticeship with Kelly Victor-Buke of Burke Architectural Millwork and Logan Leinback, the nation’s very first woodwork manufacturing specialist apprentice.

“Another highlight of the show was visiting our industry supporters at their booths and giving them a thank you certificate from my students, taking their picture, and posting it on our program’s social media platforms. My students and I cannot thank our supporters enough for the positive impact they have had over the last thirty 25 years. The knowledge gained from other teachers and members of industry will be taken back and worked into the Reed-Custer high school’s industrial technology curriculum. The relationships developed will provide new career opportunities for my students.”

This article was originally published in the September 2021 issue.

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