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22. June 2018 11:35

By: Bill Boxer, Modern Finishing Products, Inc.
Last month we explored turbine/turbospray HVLP. There is a second HVLP format that utilizes a modified spray gun that complies with codes that define HVLP (less than 10psi at the air cap/nozzle) allowing these spray guns the title HVLP. These spray guns came about soon after HVLP was defined as a compliant technology initially based on the turbine/turbospray technology.
Spray gun manufacturers not ready to immediately commit to turbine/turbospray technology along with early limitations of turbine/turbospray systems found ways to modify conventional compressed air spray guns to comply with the 10psi limitation rule. Early entries into the marketplace left a bit to be desired along with continuous and numerous modifications. As time progressed, design improvements removed the issues and resistance to HVLP spray guns utilizing compressed air with consistent performance and desired atomization. Today, they are an accepted format and compliance with HVLP spray finishing codes. These spray guns are also known as HVLP Conversion Spray Guns.
Unlike turbine/turbospray technology which is fairly standard between manufacturers other than appearance, spray gun features and market philosophy, HVLP conversion spray guns come in all shapes and sizes, all designed to meet compliance rules. Internal and external design of these spray guns vary widely depending on the manufacturer.
While this article is not a commentary on conversion spray gun design or what is right or wrong or is it “actually” HVLP, I would rather comment on a few features and the positives and negatives of HVLP utilizing compressed air as opposed to the alternative HVLP turbine/turbospray systems. At the end of the day it is all about higher transfer efficiency and where mandated, air quality compliance.
In visiting many spray finishing shops over the years one of the things I consistently noted was the spray finisher trying to utilize HVLP conversion spray guns like they used their conventional compressed air spray guns and here in lies one of the issues. Most often I found the spray finishing technician exceeding the recommended inlet pressure settings to keep the HVLP spray gun at the designated 10psi or less thereby operating the spray gun out of compliance and defeating the primary goal of higher transfer efficiency, paint savings and reduced VOC’s in the environment. What is the answer? Better education in using HVLP Conversion Spray Guns.
Another question that comes up regarding HVLP Conversion Spray Guns: “Are they equally efficient as the alternative turbine/turbospray technology?” In the early 2000’s I was involved in a program to evaluate HVLP tubine/turbospray technology and HVLP spray guns for compressed air. Turbine/turbospray technology proved to be the most consistent and highest overall transfer efficiency. HVLP Conversion Spray Guns utilizing compressed air were more efficient than conventional compressed air spray guns but not quite as efficient than turbine/turbospray systems. I should note that the HVLP Conversion Spray Guns were operated within compliance guidelines.
There are a few additional points to note regarding HVLP Conversion Spray Guns for compressed air.

  1. Oil/water in the air lines are still an issue and require efficient oil and water filters to avoid contamination issues.
  2. Internal spray gun design is critical to achieving efficient atomization at the reduced air cap/nozzle pressure.
  3. Most, if not all HVLP Conversion Spray Guns for compressed air require a significant size air compressor (3hp/20gal tank is minimum) with adequate air storage to ensure not running out of air and the need to wait for the compressor restore air.

The last question that comes up: How do I select an efficient HVLP Conversion Spray Gun to utilize your own compressor?
Here is my personal guideline: If a spray gun can operate on both a turbine/turbospray system and an air compressor, the utilized air is being converted in a similar manner thereby producing the highest efficiency possible assuming the operator keeps within the recommended compliance guidelines. This is not to say that other HVLP spray gun design will not provide efficient results. They absolutely will. It’s on the operator to utilize the spray gun to its maximum efficiency.
To conclude: We all desire the highest possible finishing results for our spraying applications. Who doesn’t want a cleaner working environment, higher efficiency, paint savings and the ensuing financial savings. Each paint shop and applications are different. For many an HVLP spray gun for compressed air is a wise choice and for others an HVLP turbine/turbospray finishing systems is right. Speaking with a knowledgeable source with valued information can help you make the best choice.
 Learn more about this topic during Bill's session "HLVP Turbospray Technology, Past-Present-Future" at the IWF 2018 Education Conference.


Unintended Owners - Forced Sale of the Company

21. June 2018 15:04

By:  Terrance K. Resnick and Leon B. Resnick

                                                                           (Part 3 of 6)

Bill and Will, two lifelong friends started a woodworking company together. Bill’s strengths were on the entrepreneurial side and Will brought blue collar talents to the team. They determined that company ownership would be held 55% by Bill and 45% by Will.

Although Bill and Will remained the closest of friends and business associates, neither was particularly close with the other’s wife as neither wife was actively involved in the business. Furthermore in the 25 years that Bill and Will owned the company, there weren’t more than a few times per year that the spouses stopped by the business. One day that all changed. Bill was in a fatal accident and because there wasn’t a properly structured and funded buy-sell agreement, Bill’s wife became the owner of his 55% interest. 

Bill’s wife and Will, now co-owners, talked and Will assured her that he would be able to keep the company profitable as it always had been. Even though Bill’s wife wanted to believe in Will she was not comfortable putting her financial future in the hands of someone she couldn’t know for certain could keep the business successful without Bill’s input. Bill’s wife decided to immediately sell…….during a down economy and for a sales price much less than what the company would have garnered during a more normal economic time.

Protect yourself and your business – Properly structured and funded Buy-Sell Agreements are a must!

Learn more about this topic during the Survive and Thrive - Assuring the Long-Term Success of your Company at IWF 2018.


“Building a Successful Team” Part II

18. June 2018 16:04

By: Gary Vitale, GFV Business Advisory

Building a team is much more than putting individuals together and identifying a common cause.  To be successful, there are a number of steps necessary to ensure team members understand what they are going to be doing and the importance of the task or challenge they are addressing.  We explored Trust and Understanding Yourself and Your Teammates in past articles so now we get to the part where you are actually building your team and the components that make up high performing teams.

Roles and Rules

For teams to operate efficiently and be successful, each member of the team must understand their role and be willing to perform at the highest level to continue to be on the team.  Sports teams have plenty of role players.  They are called on to perform specific functions and are expected to be ready and willing to fill their role whenever necessary.  Business teams need to have the same diversity of talent to be successful.  Without this diversity, one or more competencies necessary for the team to excel will be missing and present challenges to the overall success of the company.

For a team to function successfully, four types of individuals should be participating.  We can give them names which I will later but, the primary indicator of if you have all four necessary components can be determined by the questions they ask.

  • Type I asks: Why are we doing this?
  • Type II asks: How are we going to do it?
  • Type III asks: Who will be involved?
  • Type IV asks: What do you want me to do and how do you want me to do it?

Type I people are the Visionaries.  They are the champions who can act as politicians, communicators, and persuaders.  They want to know who they need to talk to get this thing moving.

Type II people are the Strategic Thinkers.  They are creators that can take the information available, assess risk, and put together the action plan to move the project forward.

Type III people are the Peacekeepers.  They are the facilitators that take the plan, identify the best individuals to perform the tasks, and build consensus for the group.  They also try to promote a harmonious team atmosphere.

Type IV people are the Producers.  These are the implementers that take action and focus on tasks and productivity.    

The ideal team has all four of these types of people available but, as we all know, we sometimes don’t get everything we hope for.  This does not mean the team cannot function at a high level.  If you know which component is missing you can compensate by identifying the area where there is a deficiency and address it openly with the team.

This happens all the time in sports and the teams that understand their deficiencies and compensate for them typically are very competitive and capable of beating teams that, on paper, should beat them.  This was on display in the 2000 NCAA Basketball Tournament when Wisconsin played Michigan State at the Final Four in Indianapolis.  Michigan State was a much faster team and Wisconsin had to do something to slow them down.  Wisconsin was a very physical team and felt if they could control the game’s tempo and push Michigan State around they could win.  The score was 19-17 at the half.  The strategy seemed to be working.  Wisconsin eventually lost 53-41 but their strategy allowed them to compete with a team with far more talent.

The key is understanding what needs to be done and the talent you have to allocate to the task.  With all this information available, you can formulate a strategy that gives your team the best chance of success.

Once your team is picked and all four areas are covered, you can execute your plans with confidence, evaluate the results more easily, and make the necessary changes following the same process you developed when the challenge was identified and the team was selected.

The final step is to create a set of rules that will govern the team’s actions.  Successful teams have some level of autonomy but there needs to be well defined lines that cannot be compromised.  Types of reporting, frequency of reports, and overall accountability procedures must be in place.  Your team members need to be part of this exercise and buy into the importance of reporting and accountability.  With the right team, the right culture and the right attitude, your teams will succeed and ensure the organization operates more efficiently and consistently adds value for you and all stakeholders.

Learn more about this subject during Gary's session, "Building Winning Teams" at the IWF 2018 Education Conference.


A Fine Finishing Fable

18. June 2018 15:59

By: Jim Larin, Fuji Spray

In the suburbs of Madison, WI lies a high end fine furniture production shop run by a 3rd generation woodworker named Tom. Tom learned everything he knows from his father, who was taught by his grandfather. Over the past 30 years, Tom was able to build his father’s two man shop into a ten-person operation servicing Madison and the greater Milwaukee area. They are well known for their ability to make something out of nothing.

              One of Tom’s greatest resources outside of his company was Bill, a wise, 40 year old veteran of the local lumber yard, and Tom’s fathers first contact when building his shop. Tom and his father always seemed to joke at family reunions, “Bill’s invite must have gotten lost in the mail again”.  Despite the family’s admiration of Bill and his decades of wisdom, Tom would soon have a new-found appreciation for their family friend.

              It was the start of the busy season for Tom when he stopped by the lumber yard to speak with Bill about getting some slabs for an upcoming project, a high-end board room table for the top law firm in Milwaukee. As they spoke, Tom went over his workflow and how he planned to build & finish the table. After taking in the impressively elaborate plan of attack, Bill asked suspiciously “The plan sounds great, but what happens if something goes wrong?”. Without fully processing Bill’s concern, Tom confidently responded “Bill, you know me, and you know my father – our process is so calculated and carefully thought of, nothing can go wrong”. Together they both chuckled while reminiscing about Tom Sr. After the lightheartedness subsided, Bill couldn’t help but say, “I don’t want to be the one to say I told you so but remember what your Dad would say – “when it rains it pours”. Tom nodded, thanked Bill for his input, loaded the remaining slabs into his truck, and started the thirty-five minute drive back to his shop.

              Over the next three weeks Tom worked in his shop on perfecting every angle and profile of the table to meet the specifications of the designer. Tom was so confident in his ability to meet his deadline that he included his new apprentice, Mark, during the build to show him the ropes of what it takes to build for high end clients with premium materials. As week four approached, Tom began preparing for the delivery of the finished piece. The law firm was on the 37th floor of a tall corporate building so Tom knew he had to plan ahead to make sure everything ran smoothly on delivery day. First, he arranged for a large rental truck as the table was far too large for Tom to transport in his truck. Since this was a corporate office, Tom was unable to secure a freight elevator during working hours and was told he must deliver on the weekend. For this reason, Tom had to pay overtime for two of his employees to come with him during transportation and installation.

Despite all the preparation, delivery days were always stressful. This particular delivery would prove to be the biggest test Tom would encounter since taking control over the shop thirty years ago. To start things off, heavy traffic caused Tom to miss the drop off time. Because of this, the team had to wait for security to get off break to gain access to the building. Then came the install. While moving the table through the tight boardroom doorway they scuffed one whole side of the table’s live edge and damaged two of the legs. Despite this, Tom was confident that they could buff out the scuffs. The table leg damage was only a minor aesthetic issue, would not affect the tables structural integrity, and was hard to see unless you really looked for it. That was before Mark, carefully removing the packaging straps, lost hold of his end of the strap and let the metal claw gouge the centermost part of the table. Tom was devasted, but before he could react, one of the firm’s partners walked in and said jokingly “you had better fix that or else we’ll sue”. Tom was too upset to find the humor in the comment and immediately began moving the table back to the elevator and down to the truck. During a moment of perceived levity, Mark joked “I guess Bill was right again, eh?”.

Tom delivered the rental vehicle without gas and had to spend the rest of his weekend in the shop reworking the problem to prepare for a second delivery. Due to his frustration and anger, he felt it was necessary to let Mark go. Next, the employee time cards and the rental invoice from the weekend came in – already Tom knew he would be losing a lot of money on this job. Luckily, the firm was understanding and reserved a freight elevator during working hours. Tom was grateful until he saw the $350.00 parking ticket on his rental vehicle for parking in a fire escape. At the end of the day, the table was delivered and the client was happy, but Tom was not.

A few days passed, and Tom learned how important it is to repair and refinish on site. He decided he would purchase a portable spray finishing system. His local retailer, the lumber yard, had just what he was looking for. So, Tom went on the thirty-five minute drive to the lumber yard to pick up his new investment. As Tom arrived he noticed that Bill’s son, Jeff, was holding down the fort on that day – Tom was relieved he didn’t have to speak with Bill, tail between his legs. Tom spoke with Jeff sharing the nightmare he encountered. After finishing his lumber yard therapy session, Tom shook Jeff’s hand and thanked him for his time. Before closing the door of his truck he said to Jeff “so what are the odds this stays between you and me?” Jeff smiled and waved as Tom pulled out of the yard.

After the final payment came in from the law firm, Tom decided he deserved a long weekend and took Monday off to spend time with his children. Around noon Tom heard a knock at the door and saw that a delivery woman was waiting out front with a long and slender parcel. Tom wasn’t expecting anything and was excited to see what was inside. Upon opening the package, to his dismay, he found a large umbrella and a small hand-written note from Bill. It read:

“Hi Tom,

I spoke with Jeff. I hope this umbrella serves you well.

Sincerely Bill.

PS: I told you so…”  



Lean Manufacturing is More Than Just Tools

18. June 2018 15:57

By: Larry O'Keefe, LJ Okeefe Inc.

Too often we hear Lean Manufacturing (or Toyota Production System) referred to by one or more of its many technical tools. Some call it ‘kaizen’, ‘JIT’, 5S and so on, leading one to perhaps believe these tools or elements are the essence of Lean. In fact, nothing could be more incorrect.
The Toyota Production System, upon which Lean Manufacturing is based, is a balance of three elements. Those elements are the Philosophy, True North (perfection is the goal) and the Technical Tools. Obviously, when a company begins its lean journey applying technical tools is one part of the response to the problems being attacked. Unfortunately, the efforts that simply apply tools without also embracing the other elements will fall far short of achieving sustained results or perhaps never achieve any real improvement.
Some companies even go so far as to decide to avoid implementing key parts of the system and then will explain that Lean Manufacturing does not work, or does not work for their business reality.
For example, some efforts may attempt to implement the concepts of JIT, such as takt time, continuous flow or pull systems while deliberately avoiding the foundation tools like production leveling. Implementation of these tools is not sequential; there is not a defined step by step process of when to implement each piece. Many will be implemented simultaneously, where simply leveling by volume within some time frame is used in order to balance a line to takt time and create standardized work. Too often I have clients tell me that they cannot level production because customer demand varies daily, even though lead time for the product is weeks or even months!
One role of top management in leading a lean transformation is to challenge current paradigms and conventional thinking. As my first Sensei explained to me when our plant was struggling with the concepts, “TPS is a revolution against current practices”.
Learn more about this topic during Larry's session, Leading Change, Top Management's Role in a Lean Manufacturing Transformation at the IWF 2018 Education Conference.


Visual Format

14. June 2018 11:32

By: Bobbo Buckley, Software Developer: Cabinotch Innovative Solutions

Effective Estimating that leads to Bullet Proof Proposals - BMG10

When it comes to effective estimating, the words every contractor and sub-contractor dreads to hear is "can you give me a ballpark estimate". If you guess low, it's the only number they remember. If you guess high, you may never see or hear from them again.
"baseball stadium," 1899, from (baseball + park (n.). Figurative sense of "acceptable range of approximation" first recorded 1960, originally referring to area within which a spacecraft was expected to return to earth; the reference is to broad but reasonably predictable dimensions.
My response to this inquiry always started with the statement, the average cost of a ballpark is $750 million, which never failed to produce a laugh, and to open the door to a more serious conversation, mission accomplished.
Don't get me wrong here, I'm not opposed to Ballpark estimates, they are great pre-qualifiers (they get rid of the tire kickers), but I'm not a FAN (see what I did there? Ballpark - Fan) of a single number. I always provided a RANGE like this:
1. The least expensive project we produced last year ran $400.00 per cabinet, and you have approximately 20 cabinets, so the best case scenario is your project will cost $8,000.00.
2. The average cost for all our projects, taking everything from the least to the most expensive projects into consideration was $750.00 per cabinet, you have approximately 20 cabinets, so your project will probably fall somewhere close to $15,000.00.
3. The average cost per cabinet for the most expensive project we produced this past year was $1,500.00 per cabinet, so if your selections align with that project, your project could cost as much as $30,000.00.
This broad range of prices is based on the selections customers made over the previous year (doors, drawer fronts, drawer box type, functional hardware type, wood specie, finish, accessories, etc.), so it's a good number. This is just a small example of the kinds of things we will cover in this session. Sign up now.


How to travel lighter, smarter, farther in business

14. June 2018 11:20

By: Monique MacKinnon, Energetic Evolution

Have you noticed progressively more businesspeople are packing lighter and flying only with a carry-on? Doing so saves time, money and effort.

Lighter is also better in business. The successful woodworking professional’s carry-on is the Eagle Soaring ToolTM. Once you use it, your workload, and possibly even yourself (smile) will lighten up. With clearer thinking, you will fulfill your responsibilities with more ease and enjoyment.

What areas of your work do you enjoy doing? Which ones weigh heavily on you? Reflect on and note them now. In the How to be Visionary, Create BOLD Results in Uncertainty session, you will learn how to soar, regardless of what you are doing or facing.

My promise to you: I won’t charge you for the Eagle Soaring ToolTM carry on that you will walk with!


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.