Special Events

TOOLS OF THE TRADE: TOP TABLES

A STABLE TABLE is an event and meeting staple, top table companies across the board agree. The differences come in the ways individual manufacturers are creating sturdier, more stylish models to meet the modern event industry's needs.

LASTING IMPRESSION

It's smart engineering rather than space-age material that's improving table durability, many manufacturers say.

Ken Hufstater, vice president of sales and marketing for Chicago-based Midwest Folding Products, says that something as simple as steel has made the difference in his company's sealed-plywood-top folding event tables. “Aluminum edges, which have been used for years, don't hold up too terribly well to rolling on concrete,” he notes, saying that his company's switch to steel edging has been a boon to business.

For Clearfield, Utah-based Lifetime Products, blow-molding is the key to producing lightweight polyethylene event tables that stand up to the elements. According to vice president of sales and marketing Vince Rhoton, the process, which is used to make plastic milk jugs, has been used to make tables for only the past two years or so. “The advantage of blow-molding is that you get a seamless piece,” he says. He points to the advantage over tables with two-piece tops — the standard before blow-molding technology, he says — which can separate after handling or sun exposure.

MEASURE OF MERIT

As tables get tougher, they're also changing in size and weight — a reflection of today's planning and setup needs, manufacturers say.

“There's been a trend going entirely into 72-inch rounds,” according to Hufstater. That's a significant bump up from 60-inch and 66-inch rounds — two longtime event standards that have been supplanted by larger rounds of late, he says. “It's always easier for the planner to work with tables of 10,” he explains. “The larger tables also afford more room for more elaborate centerpieces,” which also have been on the rise, he adds.

Rhoton says his company is focused on a smoother setup. “The first thing you notice when you pick up one of our tables is that it's about 25 percent to 30 percent lighter than a wood table of equivalent size,” he says. “Anybody who has to set up is going to really appreciate that you can have one person moving them around instead of two.”

SAFETY FIRST

A shaky or damaged table can be a nuisance and a safety hazard — both out of the question when it comes to special events. Smart manufacturers are focused on reducing the risks.

Carol Swift, sales manager for Colfax, Iowa-based Monroe Table Co., says her company's polyurethane-finished plywood Rental Master table has a “gravity lock” system in place to keep it in good standing. “Once the table is set up, it stays set up, even if it's bumped,” she says. A steel pipe that extends the width of the table and attaches to the table legs offers yet another means of support, she adds.

Hufstater paints the picture of an all-too-common scene: Guests pull their chairs up to a table, oblivious to the table leg concealed under the tablecloth, “and they either bang it with their knee, which hurts, or spill coffee all over the place.” His company has met the challenge with its Comfort Leg table, which uses a cantilevered leg design. The six-foot model can accommodate three guests and the eight-foot can accommodate four, “with nobody having to straddle a leg,” Hufstater says. “That one thing sells more tables for us than anything else,” he adds.

Phil Maxwell, co-owner of Chino, Calif.-based California Table Manufacturing Co., cites another unsettling scenario: “How many children have you seen at a party that will run their hand along the table on the underside and get a huge splinter in their finger?” Intent on eliminating the problem, Maxwell says his plywood is cut and sanded on both sides, and tables are routed and fitted with mounted legs and runners. “It costs us a little more money, but it eliminates a lot of issues,” he says. “When our table goes out the door, we're positive it's safe and will stand up to almost anything in the rental business, short of dropping it off a 12-story building.”




RESOURCES

California Table Manufacturing Co., 909/597-0304; Lifetime Products, 800/225-3865; Midwest Folding Products, 800/621-4716; Monroe Table Co., 800/247-2488

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