August 2004


Kickoff Dinner

President's corner

Next meeting

Last meeting

This 'n That



President's Corner

The 3rd Annual Fall Kickoff dinner, with an expanded show & tell and jigs & fixtures night will be on September 16th. Read all the details at Kickoff. You can sign up at the August meeting. The absolute deadline will be 9/1. Sorry, no "walk ins" since the caterer will plan food for a specific number of people.

Now to the rest of my message:

What's New?

I just got my latest issue of Tools of the Trade magazine. It's their tenth anniversary issue, and it's all about the exploding growth of the tool industry for the construction trade. There are parallels in the changes in tools, materials and processes for woodworkers in the last ten years.

On the Design Side of Things:

In 1994, I repeatedly told all my employees that using computers to design our buildings was not only changing the way we design, but would soon change the way buildings look. We build buildings now that weren't possible ten years ago --- faster, in wilder shapes, etc. Frank Gehry's curved metal shell buildings, like his Music Experience in Seattle, are examples of this. But it's filtering down to my level -- I just purchased the latest and greatest AutoCAD upgrade that allows designing with complete wall, door and window modules -- and sketch it all in 3D! We've used computers for drafting construction drawings for many years, but I haven't used pencil and paper for sketching designs for some time now. Soon computerized sketching or design programs will also be widely available for woodworkers to use to model their designs. I predict that just as it did with buildings, this will first change how we design, then it will change how we make things, and finally our resulting projects (furniture or whatever) will look different.

On the Tool Side of Things:

There are many examples of big, expensive tools that are new. Sliding compound miter saws are replacing radial arm saws. But there are many smaller, less expensive changes too. How many of us now have several types and sizes of diamond sharpening "tools" to keep our blades sharp easily? There are new adhesives like Cyanoacrylate commonly available now. And with the growth of Japanese tools, we've learned what "sharp" really is, which is affecting the amount and type of details in our work. Also think of the impact of Japanese saws. Now it's easy to cut just a smidgen to fit a joint with amazing accuracy. And how many of us have one of the new, inexpensive moisture meters for checking that wood before you cut and shape it? There are even specialized mallets, depending on the type of chiseling or carving we're going to do. I could go on and on, but these tools just weren't used much ten years ago. Look at some old issues of Fine Woodworking or other magazines and you'll be astounded at the increased number and types of ads for tools and equipment. The tool world will continue to change how we work.

On the Materials Side of Things:

Veneering for example used to be a complicated process that took an expensive press and besides since there was enough solid wood available, we seldom used it. Since 1994 veneer is much more available to us, and so are small vacuum bag setups for veneering. Now solid wood is expensive and because the new tools are at hand we use veneer on almost everything. It's easy to include curved surfaces in our projects, so our projects are changing. The explosion in the tool and lumber industries, as well as CAD and the design industry will continue as manufacturers and retailers via for our dollars. To quote Tools of the Trade: "...In the USA the total tool market in '97 was more than $9 billion... and will grow to $15.4 billion by 2007. ...(The) Hand tool (portion of this) will reach $5.9 billion." They also note that the behemoth distributor, The Home Depot, is now forcing tool manufacturers to improve tools and add features so they can "sell themselves" in the warehouse distribution chain. In 1994, Home Depot had "340 stores, ...67,300 (employees) and earned $12.5 billion... (Today the chain) operates 1,553 stores, ...employs 300,000 people, and earned $64.8 billion..." Whew, now that's buying power! So what's all this have to do with you and me? Well, I encourage all of us to examine the new tools, processes and materials we see on the market and take advantage of them to do our work. It will change what we make and how easily we make it.

Craig Mineweaser