Today I attended IWFS 2016 just a few stops down MARTA from where I lay my head at night. Here are a few photos and a few thoughts.
Approaching the Georgia World Congress Center from the closest MARTA station. I had to chuckle at the obvious out-of-towners who piled onto my train car at Five Points, quite wary of their reputedly dangerous surroundings. When I attended my first IWFS in 1998, I was the same way. I thought my adopted town did a good job of welcoming the visitors today.
I don't think there's any one spot where you can see the entire expanse of either Building A or Building B. This was the closest I got to an overlook. In this shot you're seeing about 5% of one of the two halls. If you walked all through the whole venue without stopping, it would take several hours. And it's packed. And it's loud - - after all, machinery is being demonstrated all over the place!
I was struck by the fact that some of the vendors who made their names selling traditional machinery like bandsaws, tablesaws, jointer/planers, etc. now have booths totally dominated by CNC equipment. That was the case with Laguna, which had a couple of dust collectors and bandsaws off on the periphery, and Felder, which had a few more non-CNC machines (including the awesome 16" Format 4 jointer/planer), but still were both clearly there to sell CNC.
Kreg was there to unveil new products that we can't have yet! They have revamped their slide installation jigs, and I can tell you they'll be in use in my cabinet classes as soon as I can get a pair.
Kreg also had a very promising-looking jig for doing Euro hinge holes with a handheld drill. When I was told the price I asked "That doesn't include the drill bit, does it?" It does. And the drill bit is carbide. Again, I will have one of these for my classes to try out ASAP.
This makes sense too, why didn't they think of it before? Starting in November, you'll be able to make your own Kreg pocket hole plugs in scraps from your own lumber, so your holes can be concealed with matching wood. They wouldn't let us try it ourselves, but the samples they had on display were fantastic.
What would a woodworking show be without a bit of carnival huckster action? It slices! It dices! It makes julienne fries!
Of course the Stiles guys were doing their own huckster routines too, just hawking higher-priced goods. It's not a product, it's a relationship!
Why so serious? It's only a sander.
Keep the damn robots behind glass.
I heartily recommend you take a look at this video, which I find fascinating and horrifying. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAmyZP-qbTE Yes, I know it's a parody.
Many of the new pieces of equipment have touchscreen rather than levers or wheels. Equipment operators are flying by wire these days.
A gigantic dust collection system that dominated several rows of booths.
Rikon was there with what looked like a new jointer-planer, no doubt sourced from the same factory as the Jet and Grizzly versions; I happen to like this color scheme better. They also had a 24" bandsaw which I hadn't seen before. Perhaps they've had it a while already and Highland doesn't carry it?
Plenty of software suppliers were on hand.
Lee Valley/Veritas were there with the same display they have had at every show I've seen them at, ever.
One nice change since I had last seen this booth is that they give you a chance to feel all their knob and tote offerings side by side. The differences are quite subtle, but real. Walking away, I thought of how many other hands had grabbed those knobs, and it gave me the willies. Maybe Veritas should offer hand sanitizer.
Makita's cordless sliding compound saw. Am I the last person to learn about this? Makes sense to me, but I am committed to a different brand of cordless tools for family reasons.
Today was also the first time I saw the Bosch "REAXX" system in the wild. Carry it home for slightly less than the equivalent SawStop.
I couldn't get close enough to actually see the demonstration. People seemed impressed though!
The student furniture is always among my favorite things to visit.
This chair seemed to be the most proficiently executed of all the pieces. Great design, flawless workmanship. Not very groundbreaking, not very flashy, but it was my choice for "best in show" because the design will fit with almost any decor and the workmanship is inspiring.
Why would you go to the car show without kicking the tires on the Ferrari? If I won the lottery I would have a shop full of Martin equipment. My student Mike and I talked to one of the salesmen about the big shaper. A good guy, with lots of experience running Martin shapers and lots to say about them.
I have been to IWFS in boom years and bust years. This year wasn't really either, but the place was packed with people who seemed like they were there to either spend money or make serious decisions about mid-term spending.
Not shown in photos: Lignomat had a small, low-key booth but I got to speak with a charming employee who knows more about wood and drying it than I ever will. My favorite new CNC maker is Axiom: their smallest unit has cast iron table and frame, and all three axes of movement are via ball screw, not stepper motor. I have a fascination with ball screws. You should too. Byrd Tooling is always fun to visit; everyone working in that booth seems like a down-to-earth, small-town person even though they know they're all rock stars in the woodworking world. I had big doubts about Blum's motor-driven door openers and slides, but they are just plain seductive in person. And Knape-Vogt: I always thought of them as second tier. Their booth today changed my opinion.
I'm very glad I went, even though I left with aching feet and knee. The day was inspirational and I got to meet a couple of old friends. This industry is full of good people working very hard to get good ideas out to us makers.