For many of us an attractive wood and a good finish is thepreferred material for most projects.

But every woodworker should keep an open mind about materialsthat could be used to make that project special. At the very least, anyoneworking with wood should be aware of the many options available.

Marble topped tables are a trend in contract, according New cutting technology is helping to make largerproduction runs and allow for more complicated designs. The site offeredexamples of side table designs used with wood and metal.

At the NeoCon Materials Pavilion we noticed Neucor, a new typeof lightweight wood composite panel that can be used for furniture and architecturalapplications. Rather than using honeycomb construction, this panel uses formedand shaped engineered core.

We also saw Seeyond at NeoCon, a lightweight mobile wall systemmade of metallic surfaces folded into bricklike shapes and then stacked. The systemcan be used for enclosures, facings, columns and partitions.

Or how about kiln-formed glass cast with wood grain shapes andsandblasted or finished to resemble wood? It’s made by Joel Berman GlassStudios Ltd. And it would make a great room or furniture accent.

Another trend spotted by was the use offabrics being transformed into furniture by using carefully placed structuralfolds. One example was a sofa that was made of upholstery panels between layersof fabric that could fold out into a floor mat.

A small shop is probably not going to set up a marble operation.But you could join forces with another shop across town that specializes inmetal fabrication or stone cutting and expand your horizons.

We saw an interesting example of this when we were in Denverrecently and visited a cabinet shop that was supplying wood slabs to a maker oflarge custom steel tables.

Or more recently when we were in Manitoba and saw a new type oflightweight countertop. Pauly Kleinsasser of Springfield Woodworking saw a needfor a new type of top and went all the way to China to get the right materials.

You may not be interested in getting into vinyl, glass siliconeor even translucent concrete (all displayed at the recent NeoCon exhibition),but you should know what’s out there.

The important thing is to be open minded about materials.


Is green fading in retail design?

Costs are slowing retail sustainability efforts, according to anarticle in the Association for Retail Environments (ARE) magazine, RetailEnvironments.

There are fewer projects that incorporate green buildingstrategies this year than there were last year, according to a survey conductedby ARE. Suppliers also report fewer requests for green products this year thanlast.

Among retailers surveyed, 23 percent reported projects that hadno green building strategies in 2014, compared to only 11 percent in 2013. Thenumber of retailers with projects seeking LEED certification fell from 17percent in 2013 to 11 percent in 2014.

Among designers, the percentage of projects with no greenstrategies grew from 23 percent in 2013 to 39 percent in 2014.

Interest in green strategies is still strong, but the risingcost of green features may be keeping companies from using these materials orbuilding methods. Energy reduction and lighting are seen as importantopportunities to increase green strategies. See for more information.

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