Editor’s Note: Last issue, we gave you a day-by-day description of the goings-on at the National Hardware Show in Chicago. This issue we flew Woodworker’s Journal editor, Rob Johnstone, down to Atlanta to the International Woodworking Fair. If you didn’t attend this major woodworking show this year, here’s what you missed.
– Rob Johnstone
The bi-yearly Mecca of all things woodworking opened on Thursday morning, August 24th, with a rush of excitement and an unbelievable bunch of tools. The sheer volume of new products is a testament to creativity and capitalism. Some of the tools go far beyond the scope of what a hobbyist or even a moderately-sized professional shop would use.
Some equipment is so sophisticated, automated and complicated, it seems that you could put an acorn in one end of the machine and a piece of furniture would probably come out of the other end of the humonguous automaton. It was tool geek heaven. The good folks we wrote about at the Chicago National Hardware Show were represented again on the floor of the World Congress Center. In addition, giant tool manufacturers DeWalt, Ryobi and Skil Bosch, missing at the last show, were very present at this one. Trade shows are a strange environment. They are a blending of pure commerce and fantasy theme park with hall after tremendous hall of woodworking related gear waiting to be discovered.
The most interesting tool I found on the first day was a rabbeting bit presented by Amana Tools. This new bit has square pieces of carbide, sharpened on four edges, attached to the bit with a threaded fastener. When one edge of the carbide becomes dull, the piece is removed and rotated a quarter turn so you always have a sharp edge on the wood. Talk about your square deal.
Always a trooper, I charged out onto the floor. My legs and feet were aching from the previous day’s lengthy trek across the trade show floors (approximately 730 miles a day), but I bravely persevered so I could report to you, my loyal readers.
Properly fueled by mass quantities of coffee, I made my way to freud’s booth, where I got a hands-on demonstration of the amazing cutting prowess of the new Premium Series of saw blades reported on in our last issue. With a forty tooth combination blade installed in a standard JET table saw, I saw remarkable results. The cuts were unbelievably smooth considering the 40 tooth blade. I was very impressed.
The other showstopper that everyone was talking about is the SawStop, a device which instantly stops saw blades if they touch flesh (like your finger). The booth where this wonder was being demonstrated drew a big crowd, so it took me a while to see what was up. Apparently, this device can detect, through the electrical current in the blade, whether the saw blade is cutting through pine or appendages. The guys who invented it, new to the woodworking world, were demonstrating how fast the blade stops by running a hot dog through it. The dog I saw had only a small nick in it before SawStop halted the operation and saved the frankfurter’s life.
Saturday is a day in which the crowd contains more pure hobbyists and amateurs, so the gee whiz factor increases exponentially. The atmosphere truly becomes just like a fair in the old sense of the word. Go back in time 500 years, and this show might have featured the latest wagon wheel advancement while we traded our wares and shared in the joy of each other’s company.
I started the day at JET Tool’s editors’ breakfast. The folks at JET and the combined family of Powermatic and Performax reported a very prosperous year and unveiled their new free accessory program. Look to their advertisements for further details in that regard. For the rest of the day, I hooked up with Ian Kirby and walked the floor exploring what the show had to offer. It was slow progress, however, as so many of Ian’s friends were gathered at the show ? we couldn’t go far before we had to stop and chat.
Ian and I ended the day talking with Paul Hemingfield and Alison Thompson of American Tool. They are overseeing the Record and Marples marketing in the U. S. and both are quite excited about plans for elevating Record’s visibility in the marketplace. Look for a reintroduction of Record’s Lathes and some lathe accessories at year’s end.
The show ended for me with a tired trudge to my hotel. Atlanta is a beautiful and friendly city, a good host in every way. The restaurants are good and the people hospitable. So, with my tool fix sated, I set my sights on home and family.