When it comes to creating a custom trade show exhibit, it takes a village. Unlike many exhibit houses where booths are prefabricated, booths by Rockway Exhibits + Events are not only designed in-house, but they are custom built on-site by our team of carpenters who take pride in building and have worked at perfecting their craft for over 100 years.
Want to know the process of building bold trade show exhibits? This month, we sat down with our builders to get the inside scoop.
Rockway: Describe a typical work week in the workshop.
Mickey, Director of Production: Once we receive a work order from an account managers, we dive into production. We start by developing a cut list which outlines the various components needed for the project. Once the framework is complete, the raw components go into the finishing phase where they are laminated or painted. Then, we go through the process of building the booth again from the ground up to ensure every aspect is done based from the original specs.
Rockway: How are roles divided up among the team?
Jose, Warehouse Supervisor: We train each person to understand every facet of production. This includes the actual building of the exhibit once the individual components are created, cut, laminated, painted or stained, for example. Because the booths we create are custom, we work with a lot of different materials that need to be handled in different ways.
Rockway: What’s one thing that separates the workshop team from others?
Mickey, Director of Production: Every person brings a unique skill or specialty to the team. Willie knows the shop inside and out. He’s been building for trade shows for over 13 years and has a great eye for solving problems and coming up with innovative solutions. Clyde is drawn to flashy, high-impact design and he is great at working with metal. Robert owned a cabinet shop for over 25 years, so he is highly experienced in laminating and woodworking. Keith’s been building since he was 8 years old. He got his start in the woodshop at his elementary school and continued to hone in on his craft. He is a master at detailing and understanding how different pieces fit together to make up the big picture. He has a way of understanding the intricacies of custom projects that others might not realize. That 10,000 piece puzzle that seems impossible to put together? That’s what Keith loves tackling most.
Rockway: How do you build to ensure that customers get a high-quality product?
Willie Susana, Exhibit Carpenter: We’re a team that is founded on a set of core values, including integrity, which we bring to every project. This means that we don’t cut corners when we’re developing booths. We use high-quality materials, such as plywood, and components are glued, stapled, and screwed to ensure proper adhesion. For us, the details are super important and we don’t stop working until we’re pleased with the result.
Rockway: What is your favorite tool in the workshop?
Keith, Exhibit Carpenter: For me, it’s whichever tool gets the job done right. Robert primarily works with laminates, he enjoys using hand tools like routers to get the best result. Clyde would probably say his brain because he uses it 24/7. Willie likes the staple gun best because it’s fun.
Rockway: What’s the most challenging part of working in trade show carpentry?
Clyde, Exhibit Carpenter: We work at a very high pace in the workshop, so preventing injury is one of the most challenging things. With so many moving parts and pieces of machinery being worked on at the same time, it’s critical to be alert to ensure no one gets hurt.
Timeframes and deadlines can also be a challenge. There are some projects where we have a good amount of time to get it completed, but there are others that need to be turned around in a matter of weeks. Because of the custom nature of our work, it can be difficult at times to accommodate tight deadlines.
Rockway: What is a common misconception about tradeshow carpentry that simply isn’t true?
Robert Barth, Exhibit Carpenter: Carpentry is not just working on homes. The work we do is actually more like millwork. A regular carpenter wouldn’t be able to come in and do the kind of work we do without training because the principles aren’t the same. Also, there is no easy button. What might sound like a simple request, like changing the dimension of a shelf, for example, can change the entire scope of a project.