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Background Matters

14. June 2018 11:17

By: Ralph Bagnall, Woodworking Consultant, Author and TV Host: ConsultingWoodworker.com

We have all seen photos or video where something unusual or unexpected shows up in the background. These “photobombs” can be funny when they happen to other people, but can be distracting or even disruptive to your business marketing video. It is important that even as you insure that your video is properly lit and in focus, there are no distractions in the back ground that will take attention away from your message.
Your background should be well lit without being brighter than the subject. It should be neat and clean unless your video is about cleaning or organizing. When I began shooting video, I had a neutral blue sheet that I could hang behind the shot to hide the mess that usually existed in my shop. But with experience I learned that this looks contrived and is pretty dull. So I created a “studio wall” within my shop that became the background for my shooting. I staged the wall with tools to show the viewer that this was a wood shop, but not so many that they cluttered the focus of the video.
Note the two photos with this article. Both are part of the same bending project video. One uses the neutral backdrop, the other the staged wall. The neatly staged background does not distract from the photo, but in fact helps set the stage for the viewer, putting them subconsciously in mind of a woodworking shop.


Your facility may not all be camera ready, but removing distractions from the shot, and choosing a camera angle that hides unsightly cables or walls that cannot be removed will help your audience pay attention to your message. And a little judicious staging can help. I have used a large rolling tool box to hide things background items that are ugly and cannot be moved or shot around. Giving as much thought to what is behind your shot as what you are actually shooting, your overall video will be greatly enhanced.

Learn more about this topic during Ralph's session, "Video that Works" during the IWF 2018 Education Conference.


Mixology: How to Create Unique Home Organization Spaces

13. June 2018 13:22

By: Michele Weitzel, Northern Contours

Personalized design is one of the most in-demand trends today. With unprecedented access to social media and images from around the world, the imaginations of home owners are teeming with design inspiration for their spaces. With so much inspiration out there, the key to personalization is in the subtleties of melding or your own style with those inspirations, or combining elements from multiple sources of inspiration. This process of creating something uniquely you is the heart of a concept from Northern Contours called Mixology.  

Mixology with Northern Contours is a way to use our vast product line to your creative advantage, utilizing one source to capture the desires of home owners for something truly unique. From High Gloss Acrylic and textured 5-piece doors, to natural wood veneer and a vast library of 3D Laminates, you can create personalized designs by combining our different materials, finishes, and components.

Create a dreamy closet with a chic twist by combining white SuperMatte shakers with Gold Aluminum frames. Split glossy and matte color between functional floating shelves and lower cabinets in a laundry room for energizing contrast. Turn mudroom expectations inside out by pairing weathered woodgrain casework with our dust-repellant, anti-fingerprint FENIX NTM matte fronts in a livable, neutral tone. This is just a taste of the design possibilities with Mixology.

Join Michele Weitzel for her presentation “What’s Trending in Colors and Textures” at the IWF 2018 Closets Symposium to learn more about Mixology with Northern Contours.

About Northern Contours

Northern Contours is a cabinet door and components manufacturer with over 25 years of industry experience. We serve a variety of customers on a custom and volume basis in Kitchen & Bath, Home Organization, Commercial Furniture, and Refacing markets. Manufacturing expertise in membrane pressing, miter folding, laminating & edgebanding, machining & routing, and 5-piece door assembly. We operate six facilities throughout the US and Canada for full coverage of North America.



From Laminate to Concrete: What you need to know

13. June 2018 10:40

By Jeff Girard, The Concrete Countertop Institute

Many countertop fabricators, especially those who specialize in residential remodeling, are recognizing the consumer demand for more custom products such as concrete. As a countertop fabricator considers adding custom concrete countertops to his or her offerings, there are a number of practical considerations such as startup costs, learning curve, profit margin and the logistics of incorporating concrete into shop space and production process flow.
Startup Costs
Adding concrete countertops to your offerings incurs low startup costs. There is very little equipment to buy. The largest equipment purchase is generally a concrete mixer, at less than $2000. All of your existing woodworking equipment can be used for making the molds.
Learning Curve
Although templating and installation are almost exactly the same for concrete as for other countertops, concrete is cast, not cut. For shop employees who are accustomed to cutting countertops, creating forms and molds can be challenging because it is a different way of thinking - upside down and inside out.
Another learning curve involves working with the concrete mix, whether you use a from-scratch or bagged mix. It is important to understand technical aspects of concrete such as water/cement ratio, water reducers and admixtures, because the behavior of concrete depends on many factors such as humidity and temperature.
Profit Margin
Custom concrete countertops command a high price, generally about $80 to $120 per square foot or higher, depending on your market area. Due to the low startup costs and low material costs, the profit margins can be very good.
However, you need to be acutely aware of your labor costs. Custom concrete countertop generally require a high amount of hand labor. As with other materials, the biggest barrier to high profit margins in concrete countertop manufacturing is mistakes and re-dos. Avoiding re-dos in concrete countertops requires all of the normal quality control procedures you have in place, plus a good understanding of concrete as explained above.
Shop Layout
You will need to allocate space in your shop for casting tables to accommodate the concrete slabs during forming, casting and curing. You will also need space for the mixer and mix ingredients.
Process Flow
Templating and installation of concrete are almost identical to procedures for stone countertops. The time in-between templating and installation is very different, however.
As mentioned before, concrete is a high touch process requiring a lot of hand work. It requires forming, mixing, casting and curing time that do not come into play with other countertops.
By understanding all of these considerations and focusing on employee education, quality control and carefully thought-out procedures, you can profitably add concrete to your business. The benefits go beyond pure profit to building competitive advantage through diversifying and differentiating your business with this beautiful, unique product.

Learn more on this topic during Jeff's session, "Leapfrog from Laminate to High End Concrete" at the IWF 2018 Education Conference.



13. June 2018 10:35

By: Jessica McNaughton, CaraGreen

Hard and shiny are out - warm and textured are in.  This is a trend, this is happening now.  The granite and quartz de facto polished finish, while the standard, is phasing out.  Most manufacturers are finding themselves forced into a honed or matte finish, and the stone fabrication market is having to scramble to make sure they are staying on top of new demands.  Difficult to match the surface texture on the edges, most shops usually polish to a high gloss, and as customers are starting to ask for more texture, the industry is having to shift.
What does this mean for manufacturers? 

Granite as a category is trending out and being replaced with man-made quartz.  Quartz has a wary eye over its shoulder, looking at the much higher performing sintered stone materials that are catching on in Europe and making their way to the US.  Dekton has been around awhile, unfortunately losing its cache by being offered alongside laminate at Home Depot, but Lapitec and Neolith are the sintered stones to watch out for, specifically Lapitec with its seven different textures and through-body color.  Out of the gate, Lapitec was playing the texture game and it is available textured in multiple thicknesses for walls, floors and counters both inside and out. Rough like sand, high-gloss, and matte are just a sampling of the possibilities.  Texture, texture, texture.

PaperStone has been waiting for its time.  That time is now.  Warm to the touch, as durable as stone while less brittle than granite, this material is ready to steal the show.  With an organic color palette that patinas over time to look more natural (think mottled, like leather), PaperStone performs like stone but is naturally textured, so does not need any polishing, sealing or finishing.  It fabricates and installs like wood, but performs like stone.  It costs less, performs better, and its natural finish is trending right now.  Win, win, win.

I have heard repeatedly that solid surface is making a comeback. This is likely true, especially with health being a factor, and the seamless, hygienic properties of solid surface play well to the healthcare and education industries.  The nice thing about solid surface is that you can finish it to whatever you want and some brands do have a warm feel.  The brands that are all trying to look like granite and quartz are floundering a bit right now, trying to figure out how to stop copying each other long enough to innovate.  It will be interesting to see how this market responds to the textured trend.  Whether it will be the manufacturers or the designers (through the millworkers) who innovate.
Original content from CaraGreen©.

To learn more about this topic, check out Jessica's presentation during the Countertops & Architectural Surfaces Symposium at IWF 2018.




Technology and the Human Hand: Are We Losing Touch? - Part 2

13. June 2018 10:34

By: Scott Grove, Furniture Designer: ScottGrove.com

When I deliberated the question of using technology in my woodshop, I began by breaking it down to two questions: What is technology, and what is craftsmanship? Technology means using advanced machinery and knowledge often associated with science and math. Craftsmanship means creating by hand, actually touching the material. Sounds easy enough, but where is the line between the two? How advanced can the process be before the piece is no longer handmade?

Since prehistoric times, there has been some type of tool or machine, from chisels made from bone to steel saws powered by water, then electric tools, and so on; each advancement allowing us to work a little more efficiently. However, until recently, we still directly controlled the tool and the material with our hands. For me this is an important distinction. With hands-on control, I have the option to spontaneously react to the material and a tool’s performance, change in midstream, and go with flow. The relationship I have to the material is intrinsically intimate. Machines alone simply can’t do this.

On the other hand, I see many wood “craftsmen,” myself included, using advanced technology to produce furniture with laser-cut veneer and CNC devices turning precise duplicates and mill high-tolerance joinery—and these furniture makers are considered some of our best. Are they the best craftsmen? Or, are we now seeing a divide between true hands-on craftsman and now, designers?

As a hands-on craftsman, I strive for perfection, to make an exact joint, seam, curve, carved pattern, and finish that is absolutely flawless.
Obviously there are more questions than clear answers here. But one thing is for sure: Technology is here to stay and will keep advancing, helping us to become faster and more accurate, work more quickly and more cost effectively. The technological craftsman is a reality and our trade is splintering in two.

The dilemma is: How to use technology without losing touch with our craftsmanship? Or is that just cheating?  Be a part of the conversation during the "Technology and the Human Hand - Are We Losing Touch?" session at the IWF Conference on Wednesday, August 22nd from 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM.

For a 9 minute TedX talk overview of this discussion, please visit https://imaginegrove.com/
Scott Grove, ScottGrove.com ImagineGrove.com


Software Acclimation

12. June 2018 15:51

If possible, get acclimated to your software program long before you install the machine. Learn the software, use the software, and then the transition when you get the machine will go much more smoothly.

Chris Dehmer of Dark Horse Woodworks (Atlanta, GA) explains how he actually invested in the software ahead of time, did all of the design work in that, and then had it cut at another shop. Eventually he was ready to purchase his own CNC machine. “The mistake most people make,” Chris elaborated, “is that they buy the router first and then figure out how to use the software.” Buying the software first worked well for him.

Leland Thomasset of Taghkanic Woodworks (Pawling, NY) agrees with Chris’s method. “Many times, it’s not so much a mistake, but people go all in,” Leland explained. “We had CabinetVision for the better part of nine years before we purchased our CNC, so I had a good solid footing under me of how to use the software.”

Leland admitted that although it is getting easier, there’s still a steep learning curve if you take on CNC and software simultaneously. If you own the software and know how to use it when the CNC arrives Leland claimed “literally we were making cabinets the same day they set up the CNC.” It doesn’t matter what brand of software you use, he can’t stress enough that you should have a good grasp of and comfort behind the computer screen before you buy your machine.

Leland also recommends that after you learn the software then you should hire somebody who knows how to use it. At this point, you should have enough knowledge to understand what they’re doing.

If you are interested in learning more about how and why Chris and Leland learned their software first and then they bought their CNC, register to attend Buying that Big Machine during IWF.






I am not my customer

12. June 2018 15:35

During the CMA’s 20th Anniversary Conference this past March, the opening keynote speaker, Paul Downs, made an interesting point about website content. He said, your website should be about what you sell—your product(s)—not you. Do you currently boast about the longevity of your business on the home page of your website? Or perhaps about how you are a family-owned business? Often when making marketing and business decisions we gravitate towards what we personally like. The harsh reality is, Paul said, was that nobody really cares about those things.  What they care about is what you are selling and how they can get it. It’s truly that simple.

Often we say that we put the customer first, but often that phrase is simply a façade until it is an issue (i.e., has a financial impact). Adopting a true customer-first attitude should ultimately be no matter what the cost. After all, customer service is, at its core, about serving the customer. The customer, not yourself. The statement “I am not my customer” needs to be your new mantra.

To do this, you need to venture outside your comfort zone and make the entire process of working with you convenient for the customer. Admittedly, this is not easy task.  You need to evaluate your inefficiencies and make them efficient for the customer.  In the end, all customers want to get through the process as easily as possible.

Keeping tight partnerships with your key customers is crucial to do this. Before you reach this level though, you should know your customers and understand their needs. This is the measure of how relevant your business is to your client. Investing time in building relationships not only brings you closer to your clients and enables you to better understand their needs, but it also may pay off in additional growth. The best outcome is to have your client partners recommend you to other clients.

On a related note, a very important customer we often overlook is internal customers: your employees. In the Marines, they teach “servant leadership”, which essentially means that as a leader your job is ensure that your subordinates have what they need—the necessary tools—to be the best at their job. In your shop, these “tools” are not necessarily machines or even hand tools. It may be training or flex time… it’s whatever they need to be the best to perform their job.

To learn more about this topic, register to attend “The Power of Leadership” presented by Guy Bucey during IWF 2018.



Hire a Specialist!

12. June 2018 15:33

If a family member had a serious heart condition that required surgery, we would surely seek out the best cardiovascular specialist available to perform the operation. The same should hold true when seeking advice on our estate and business succession plans

Our families and businesses deserve the benefit of expert advice. We need legal advisors and other facilitators specifically trained and experienced in dealing with the estates of business owners. Many lawyers who are general practitioners are adept in handling common legal affairs. But, few of them would attempt to develop a sophisticated estate plan that could provide the specialized legal documents you may need. Just as we would not likely ask our family doctor to perform open heart surgery, neither should we assume that a generalist attorney is qualified to develop a complex estate and business succession plan.

In addition to technical expertise, estate-planning attorneys often have developed the skill to explain complex issues in understandable terms. Since these attorneys regularly deal with multifaceted challenges facing family business owners, they can focus on listening. And because they may be more skilled and experienced in working with other advisors, they have a greater ability to direct the planning process to a successful—and cost-effective—outcome.

Federated Insurance is committed to helping family business owners complete this important planning. Their marketing representatives can help clients locate attorneys specializing in estate planning and personally help facilitate much of the “leg work” that can make the process go more smoothly. Your local Federated representative would be happy to discuss this with you.

After all, your life’s work should not be left to chance.

For more information about how to develop a succession plan, attend “Building a Valuable Business” during IWF.


Remodeling on a Budget

12. June 2018 09:40

By: Kim Loftis, CaraGreen and Scott Olmstead, Paneltech International

Not everyone has $50,000 to spend on a kitchen remodel.  How can you update your kitchen without spending a fortune?  Close collaboration with your contractor and savvy choices in surfacing materials and finishes can result in a beautiful upfit without costing a fortune.

Consider PaperStone for a countertop.  A ¾” thick piece of PaperStone can be cut using standard woodworking tools and carbide bits and blades, which means a remodeling contractor can do this themselves, cutting out the cost of engaging stone fabricators, who have to template, cut, fabricate and install.  At around $20 per square foot for material, minimizing fabrication costs make it an extremely cost-effective option. But there are many other benefits, as well.

Is it strong?

Only steel is stronger.  The base material in PaperStone has been used for cutting boards, pool tables, skateboard ramps and multi-use concrete release forms.   It performs like stone, but it cuts like wood.  Making it cost effective but high performing. If it happens to get a surface scratch, a quick sanding will make the surface look brand-new.

How does it look?

The matte look of PaperStone is warm to the touch and it is organic in appearance, unlike the glossy, shiny, cold look of stone and quartz. If you want a more natural look that is not reflecting light in all directions, PaperStone is a great choice.  Warm greys, oceanic blues, pure black and more mottled browns and mochas create an organic and natural palette that aligns well with the more subdued styles of the homebuyers today. The surface can be sanded to a variety of matte or smooth textures depending on personal preference.

Anything else I need to know?

Yes!  With over 50% recycled paper, this material is diverting waste and making it into something beautiful.   Leading the surfacing industry in environmental stewardship, PaperStone continues to lead the way in bringing cost-effective beautiful options to the cost and environmentally-conscious remodeler. Its petro-free resins provide a healthy alternative to other surfacing materials that leech toxins into the environment throughout their life.

Learn more about this subject during the Innovation in Composite Materials sessions during the IWF 2018 Education Conference.

Original content from CaraGreen©.


When Does Information Become Knowledge? - Part 3

12. June 2018 09:37

When you’re reading a trade magazine, attending a class, or watching a video, keep in mind that editors, school administrators, and hosts don’t necessarily have their 10,000-hour master craftsman background in the trade they represent. Running a magazine or managing a school doesn’t require master craftsmanship: they require master writers and master administrators. However, these institutions have a financial business model that validates the information they disseminate, or they wouldn’t stay in business.

I’m more concerned with online forums: I see popular YouTube sites that have a lot of subscribers, but hosts are demonstrating unsafe practices without acknowledging their lack of skill or giving a don’t-try-this-at-home warning. How does someone differentiate between a weekend warrior looking for 15 their minutes of fame and the sincere master who want to share quality information as well as make a living?

Don’t get me wrong: there are many schools, publications, and YouTubers that do a great job of teaching, like the colleagues on my upcoming panel discussion. The New England School of Architectural Woodworking, Marc Adams School of Woodworking, FDM+C, Fine Woodworking, Stumpy Nubbs, and Woodworking Guild of America are all top quality outlets. But how do you tell what is safe and what isn’t, when you’re just learning, too?

Please join me to discuss these and other questions with a panel of media experts: we’ll weed through all the information and get to the truth during the When Does Information Become Knowledge session on Thursday, August 23rd from 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Will Sampson, Editor, FDMC Magazine

Greg Larson, Director, New England School of Architectural Woodwork

Jim Hamilton, Author and Host, Stumpy Nubs Woodworking YouTube channel

George Vondriska, Host, Woodworkers Guild of America