Shows and shavings


Mark Baker (Group Editor)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Over the last two days I was at the W8 exhibition and Interbuild at the Birmingham NEC and it was a very interesting experience.

On the one hand there was the machinery aspect (W8), which was quite sedate and refined. Lots to look at, from the fully automated units aimed at furniture manufacturing companies, who pop some board in one end of the machine cycle and with proper programming it is cut, machined, detailed, edged and out pops something that is ready for finishing. Then there was a sliding scale down to small-scale machinery suitable for smaller cabinetmakers and woodworkers, with a vast array of items in between. Every aspect - including finishing and dust extraction - was dealt with. I was like a kid in a candy store! It is thrilling to see these items used and the latest items being created.

Conversely, the Interbuild exhibition covered many aspects connected with building, from electrics tools, finishings, flooring and so on. By contrast, this even was all hustle and bustle, a veritable hive of bodies looking at the various items they find interesting!

I am always amazed at items coming to market that are developments of old concepts but do genuinely make things easier. I remember my apprenticeship and the extensive use of handtools and am amazed at how things have advanced. There are now battery powered tools of every type that many of us would have given and arm and a leg to have back then. I remember wrecking many a piece of work by using a Yankee screwdriver and slipping from the screw being driven in (slot-heads not cross-heads), whereas if I had a battery drill it would have been simplicity itself!

The biggest developments by far have been in the form of power tools and clothing. The range of work wear now is vast and not only is it more practicable than ever, it is fully integrated, colour coordinated, available for hot weather through to arctic conditions and is quite fashionable too. What happened to the old woolly jumpers?!

I have got a brochure handy so no doubt I will slip a big hint as to what I would like for Christmas - I want a jacket that is windproof and not a fleece, as I have yet to see a washing machine get shavings or wood dust out of fleeces. They are, in my opinion, the spawn of the devil as far as woodworkers are concerned.

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