By Karen Koenig & Bill Esler

New technology and supplies will be on view, plus dozens of learning opportunities,
at IWF 2010, Aug. 25-28 in Atlanta.

As thousands of professional woodworkers prepare to converge on the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta Aug. 25-28, news arrives that over 950 exhibitors will be
packing the aisles for The International Woodworking Machinery & Furniture Supply Fair - USA (IWF). Show management was cheered by the swelling numbers of industry suppliers booking space in the final weeks. Plenty of first-time exhibitors could bring the show to as much as 400,000 square feet.

Along with a robust presentation of hundreds of new products and technologies, IWF 2010 also features new programs and educational venues: both Green Product and New Product Showcases, plus Challengers Awards, Student Design Emphasis Competition, Upholstery Pavilion, four new symposia, 23 technical sessions, myIWFGPS and two Exhibinars.

IWF 2010, the largest woodworking show in the Western Hemisphere this year, is staged bi-ennially by the American Home Furnishings Alliance, Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America and the Woodworking Machinery Industry Assn.

Swim with the fishes: Aug. 24, the evening before
IWF 2010 opens in Atlanta, the  Georgia Aquarium
(the world’s largest) will be the site of a mixer
($17 per person includes food and admission).

Show management is upbeat with the latest uptick in exhibitor head count, since more on display brings stronger show traffic. This year, a total attendance in the 25,000 to 27,000 range is forecast.

“IWF 2008’s timing was just ahead of the economic downturn that began that fall,” said Patrick LaFramboise, IWF president and CEO. “It looks like with the timing of this year’s show, it could be the beginnings of the road back to recovery for a lot of us. I think everyone would be in favor of that.”

Breaking the 950 mark for exhibiting companies was a significant achievement, said LaFramboise. “We’re very proud of that,” he said. “We take that as a vote of confidence and that the industry is ready to get back to the business of business.”

Riccardo Azzoni, IWF 2010 chairman, said “Industry leaders need a strong event where they can see new products, get training and network with their peers.” Azzoni , who is also president of Atlantic Machinery, New Milford, CT, says “IWF is a must-attend event.”

Answering the Search
Finding the suppliers and products they need will be easier than ever this year with IWF’s new search tool: myIWF GPS. Attendees enter in either a company name or a product list, and myIWF GPS highlights where they are on the show floor.

“It’s a great way to make the best use of your time while you’re at the show,” LaFramboise said. “It will print out a map showing you where you are and where you need to go to see the companies and the products. After the show, you can continue to use the myIWF GPS database to find products and companies. It helps you connect with when everyone gets back home.”

New Show Features
In addition to myIWF GPS, this year’s show highlights educational initiatives. WoodLINKS, the national effort to advance careers in the woodworking industries, will name winners of the 2010 RTA Contest, which woodworking educational programs around the country entered. Finalists are Dale Jackson Career Center; Halifax County High School; Harper Creek High School; Lincoln East High School; and Madison Area Technical College.

The RTA Contest sponsors — AHFA, FastCap, Fein, Graco, IWF, Kreg, RT Machine, Stiles and Valspar — donated $30,000 in housing for teachers and students and prizes for the five finalists.

Custom woodworkers will find plenty of avenues for education, among free seminars and presentations within exhibitor booths, and in the formal IWF program.

On Tuesday, Aug. 24, the day before the show opens, four all-day symposia will be held. During the show 23 seminars are slated, beginning Wednesday, Aug. 25, at 9 a.m. with “Regulatory Issues” (concurrently with “Marketing Effectively”) through Saturday Aug. 28 with “Understanding Consumers” and “Reinventing Your Business,” both at 9 a.m.
Of the many technical symposia, seminars and free presentations at next month’s International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta especially valuable to those in the custom woodworking field are:

Finishing Technology taught and moderated by Phil Stevenson, president of American Wood Finishing Institute, looks pretty good. It includes sessions on sustainable finishing, avoiding overspray waste, and a “virtual paint” training technique.

Selling Closets From A-Z which the presenters say is a great session for newcomers to the closets markets or those considering entering the field as an extension to custom woodworking.

And finally, Cabinets to Countertops, a good fit for custom woodworkers, e.g., including “What Architects Want,” and “Countertop Trends, Margins & Pricing, Consumer Preferences.”

Of regular seminars, some stand-outs for custom woodworkers are:
Lean Manufacturing for Custom Cabinet Shops — Custom cabinetry firms must be able to deliver at quality and productivity levels of the largest firms in order to compete. “Can [lean manufacturing] be applied on a much smaller scale in custom manufacturing?” asks presenter Ralph Bagnall. It’s Wednesday, Aug. 25 from 3-4:30 p.m.

Working with Common Plastics in the Woodshop —
“Common plastics, typically acrylics and polycarbonates, can be a big asset to the woodworking shop,” says presenter Ralph Bagnall (see above). “Being able to successfully add plastics to your product lines makes you a more valuable resource. Plastics can be offered to customers of woodshops for glazing, shelves and accents.” It’s Thursday, Aug. 26th, 1:00 - 2:30 p.m.

LEED - Green - Sustainable Woodwork —
This explores the relationship between the U.S. Green Building Council LEED project specifications and the use of wood and wood products. For woodworkers who are unfamiliar with the LEED requirements, presenter Greg Heuer of the Architectural Woodwork Institute says, “The concept of LEED points or credits are related to AWI’s support of sustainable architecture and the use of wood.” Benefits and drawbacks of FSC-certified materials are reviewed. It’s Friday, Aug. 27th, 11:00 am - 12:30 p.m.

A Competitive Finishing Room — Taught by Mitch Kohanek, Dakota County Technical College, this will cover bringing the best available products and techniques into your finishing room, Advanced finishing technique requires the finisher to already know basics of wood finishing applications, says Kohanek. “We will review the basic skills of how wood finishing should be performed,” he says, “and then take it even further.’” It’s Friday, Aug. 27th, 1:00 - 2:30 p.m.

Reinventing Your Business, presented by the Cabinet Makers Association, will present a panel of cabinet and custom woodworking shops who have actually grown during the downturn. It’s Saturday, Aug. 28, 9-10:30 a.m.

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