AWFS Fair: So Much to See, So Little Time to See It All – Rich Christianson

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  • August 7th, 2017
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AWFS Fair: So Much to See, So Little Time to See It All – Rich Christianson

AWFS Fair: So Much to See, So Little Time to See It All

By Rich Christianson

It never ceases to amaze me when I talk with an industry professional who fails to attend an important event like the recently concluded AWFS Fair because he is “too busy.” And don’t even get me started on the guy who takes a pass on the show because “there’s nothing new.”

Maybe Mr. Too Busy would have more time on his hands if he had attended the show to scout the plethora of products that could save him time AND make him more money. Maybe Mr. Nothing New would benefit by viewing attendance at a trade show as an unparalleled learning opportunity.

I spent three and a half days there and still feel like I barely scratched the surface in experiencing all that the show had to offer. Nothing new? Try telling that to the representatives of more than 150 companies who exhibited their wares at the AWFS Fair for the first time this year.

My first major trade show was the AWFS Fair when it was last held in Los Angeles in 1985. Ever since I have looked forward to attending the major industry woodworking show each year to explore and learn about as many of the big and small improvements that ultimately shape the industry. Whereas 32 years ago I was seeing demonstrations of the last vestiges of punch-taped NC routers and witnessing live the “32mm System” revolution, this year’s show was highlighted by exhibitor presentations of Industry 4.0, Predictive Maintenance and the Internet of Things, exciting concepts that are ushering in the next era of industrial woodworking.

The integration of software and CNC machinery continue to propel the woodworking industry forward. Attendees to the 2017 AWFS were treated to a wide ranging assortment of CAD-CAM software and computer-controlled routers, panel saws, edgebanders, etc. But while CNC machine demonstrations are quick to catch a show goer’s attention, there is so much more to be seen. Consider the new and improved soft-closing drawer slides and hinges, the expanded collections of textured thermally fused laminate panels; the impressive developments in LED lighting; and quicker-change, and longer-wear cutting tools to name but a few of the industry advances on display at the 2017 AWFS Fair.

Then there’s the education component. Seminars and workshops have long been a mainstay of the AWFS Fair. This year’s College of Woodworking Knowledge featured more than 50 seminars, workshops and symposia with topics ranging from Workforce Development and Wood Finishing to Data Management and Lean Manufacturing. Yours truly was honored to host a pair of Meet the Maker sessions on the AWFS Fair stage featuring two talented and energetic and engaging presenters: Marc Spagnuolo and Kyle Toth.

As previously mentioned, I have been involved in the woodworking industry for better than three decades. Over the years I’ve met a lot of industry professionals, many of whom I consider more than just good colleagues; they are friends. These are people I share more than just a handshake. There’s a how are you and how’s the family vibe to these meetings. At the end of the day it’s these relationships that have made my career in woodworking especially gratifying. The AWFS Fair has not only made these friendships possible but help them to endure.

Rich Christianson is the owner of Richson Media LLC, a Chicago-based communications firm focused on industrial woodworking. Rich is the former long-time editorial director and associate publisher of Woodworking Network. During his more than 30-year career, Rich has toured more than 200 woodworking operations throughout North America, Europe and Asia and has written extensively on woodworking technology, design and supply trends. Rich also serves as Communications Director of the Illinois Wood Utilization Team, an ad hoc organization dedicated to promoting the conversion of felled community trees into lumber and wood products. Learn more at