The 2009 woodworking fair offers more seminars and new events to ensure that during the economic downturn, attendees can position themselves for a rebound.

Attendees to the 2009 AWFS Fair will be searching for new ideas and technology to help them improve business.

Although the economy is still fragile and uncertain, this year’s AWFS Fair, being held in Las Vegas July 15-18, will provide attendees with the opportunity to view the latest product innovations and learn from industry experts at the College of Woodworking Knowledge (CWWK) — all to help them survive and emerge as better business people.

For more than 100 years, the Association of Woodworking & Furnishing Supplies (AWFS) has advocated on behalf of the industry. For the past 50 years, the AWFS Fair has sought to bring industry members together in one location to showcase new machinery, the latest trends and share educational opportunities. The largest U.S. woodworking event this year is no exception. AWFS executives say that the tradeshow will provide manufacturers and suppliers an opportunity “to position themselves to capitalize on pent-up demand when the economy recovers.”

“Economic forecasters are saying things will ease in the second half, meaning the worst thing a company could do, would be to stay out of the market just as buyers are starting to loosen their purse strings again,” says Angelo Gangone, executive director, AWFS.

Continued Education a Key Opportunity

AWFS is touting its 2009 CWWK as a reason to head to Las Vegas this summer. In what the association describes as a “power-packed” lineup, the CWWK will feature topics dealing with industry challenges.

“All of the seminars planned for the show will be structured to provide assistance to businesses on the key issues of the day,” says CWWK Committee Chair Philip Martin of Häfele America Inc. “Never have we had such a strong contingent of company presidents, manufacturing specialists, designers, engineers, marketing directors and trainers, all assembled to deliver some tough talk and impart knowledge they have culled from many years in the industry.”

The CWWK will consist of classroom seminars and panels, lecture demonstrations, all-day workshops and the Special Machinery and Relevant Technology (SMART) seminars, held on the exhibit floor.

A new part of the CWWK this year is the “Going Green” track, which was included as a result of feedback from 2007 show attendees. The goal of the Going Green track is to help attendees decipher the numerous environmentally driven issues from certification to chain-of-custody and other initiatives. Topics for this track include: Understanding LEED, Linking Lean and Green, Greening Your Marketing Message, Chain–of-Custody: From Forest to Consumer, and Green Solutions for the Wood Finishing Industry.

Continuing the Green Theme

In addition to the “Going Green” track, AWFS Vegas also will feature a “Green Desk,” hosted by a variety of industry professionals. It will function as an “Ask the Expert” booth, allowing attendees to ask all manners of questions related to green issues, sustainable practice certifications and regulations.

Organizations participating in the Green Desk include: the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Lean and Clean program; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); the California Air Resources Board (CARB); the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC); the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI); Scientific Certification Systems (SCS); the Sustainable Furnishing Council (SFC); the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC); the Composite Panel Assn. (CPA) and the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Assn. (KCMA).

Attendees will have the opportunity to participate in variety of “SMART” Programs. These Special Machinery and Relevant Technology sessions are held on the show floor.

Small Shop Solutions

Also new to the trade show this year is an area on the show floor called the smartSHOP, which will be a fully functional cabinet shop. The smartSHOP will feature automated machinery from participating exhibitors, including nesting machines, multi-head horizontal boring machines, edgebanders, motorized case clamps and hinge-insertion machines. The goal is to show how the machines all work together and can increase shop efficiency.

This sample cabinet shop will be operated by Gero Sassenberg, a woodworking expert and furniture consultant specializing in management and engineering. Sassenberg will demonstrate the machinery and the processes of cabinet construction, from initial data input to final cabinet assembly.

“This hands-on demonstration will provide a great learning opportunity for attendees, answering their questions and allowing anyone who attends to get one-on-one advice for their own shop,” he says.

The decision to launch smartSHOP was another example of AWFS listening to feedback from previous attendees.

“Owners of smaller-sized businesses told us that the AWFS Fair can be overwhelming and they just didn’t know where to start looking for machinery or supplies,” says Archie Thompson, AWFS Trade show committee chair. “We felt the smartSHOP would allow them to see everything at work in an environment that is similar to their own, giving them the advice on what products they need and direction to the exhibitors who are showing equipment they can use.”

Cabinets and drawers fabricated at the smartSHOP will be donated to a local Las Vegas charity.

Friendly Competitions

Also on the show schedule are activities to relax and be inspired. For example, it is off to the Belt Sander Races on July 16 at 4:30. Returning this year is the Belt Sander Racing Assn.’s (BSRA) 2nd National Championship, which is sponsored by Accuride Intl ( and AWFS. At the last fair, this popular event drew a large crowd to cheer on the racing enthusiasts who compete with customized belt sanding machines.

Also, finalist and winning projects in the 2009 Fresh Wood student furniture design competition will be on display. This year’s competition received 165 entries from 49 different schools in the United States and Canada. Sixty percent of the entries received were from high schools.

Categories included: Casegoods, Chairs, Production/Contract Work, Reproduction, Tables, Open and Class Project. Final judging will take place during the AWFS Fair, and all winners will be announced Friday, July 17, at the AWFS Awards Reception.

Also being honored at the Awards Reception will be winners of the AWFS Sequoia Awards, which recognize the creativity, quality and innovation of the best new offerings on the market. Entries compete in the following categories: Environmental, Ergonomics, Safety, Innovative Technology and Productivity.

There also will be unique products on display in two Product Innovation Showcases. The New Product Showcase will feature 2009 product launches. The First-Time Exhibitor Showcase will feature the products of new exhibitors. For more information about AWFS events, visit

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.