80 Years of Being a Helping Hand

Products Finishing is celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2016 and is looking back at eight decades since first publishing in 1936. How has PF helped your finishing career?


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Most of you remember your first day in the finishing industry like it was yesterday; it may have been your first job out of high school or college, or you may have kicked around a few careers before deciding that nickel, zinc and powder coatings were where you wanted to spend the remaining years of your life.

If you weren’t someone who was born into the family business—where your father made you run a plating line or hang parts for liquid coatings for what seemed like hours on end—then there was always that “first day” on the job that may have left you scratching your head and wondering what you had gotten yourself into.

Over the last few years, I have heard many tales from people who tell me how they got their start in the business, often when I am visiting a facility and walking through the shop floor to see the heart of the operation.

When I meet line supervisors or managers, they usually tell me how long they have been reading Products Finishing, and some even tell me how important the magazine was to their career.

That was the case last year when I was touring a plating shop in the Pacific Northwest. When I walked through the testing lab with the owners, I saw one seasoned veteran stare at me, knowing he recognized my mug that adorns the upper right portion of this page.

He walked over and introduced himself, and as we talked plating, he began to tell me how Products Finishing not only helped him when he started out in the business 30-some years earlier, but how it saved him many times over.

“I knew nothing when I was hired,” I remember him telling me. “The first day, I found Products Finishing on a table in the break room and I started reading it. I looked around and found some back issues, too. I just started reading and reading, and I started learning and feeling more comfortable.”

It’s a tale I hear often, certainly before the internet gave us billions of data at our fingertips, (some more trustworthy than others). If you started in finishing in the 70s, 80s or 90s, chances are your main channel of information about electroplating, anodizing, liquid and powder coatings came from Products Finishing and the case studies, the expert answers and even the advertising that graced the cover.

And even today, our magazine is still the No. 1 source for information each month, as well as the volumes of data and research on PFonline.com.

Products Finishing is celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2016, and we are planning a special reflection issue soon where we will look back at our eight decades since we first published in 1936.

Many things have changed and improved over the years, but the one thing that has remained a constant has been Products Finishing arriving in your mailbox every month like clockwork.

I have only been at this gig for about a tenth of the issues we’ve produced, but I get the sense that Products Finishing has made a difference in the careers of many who have worked in the finishing and coatings industry.

And for the special 80th anniversary issue, I’d like to hear from our faithful readers on just how we’ve been an integral part of your career. If you can share with me, I’d like to know:

  • How has Products Finishing helped you in your job?
  • What do you remember about the first article you read in Products Finishing?
  • What were some memorable stories from Products Finishing that stick out in your mind?
  • How do you use Products Finishing today in your job, such as reading case studies, expert answers or even the new innovations in the finishing industry from suppliers?

If you could take a minute and send me a note, I would appreciate it. Email me at Tim.Pennington@PFonline.com, and I’ll pick several to share in our upcoming issue where we'll have a look back.

I recall one of the first finishing shops I ever visited, in Grand Rapids many moons ago. I was taking a tour and was talking with a zinc plating supervisor about the process, which I was not too familiar with. After six or seven questions, I found myself imposing on him, and I apologized for being so inquisitive and taking his valuable time. 

“No, not at all,” I remember him saying. “I’ve worked here 27 years, and none of my family or friends ever ask me about my job or even what I do. I’m happy to talk about my job.”

Suffice to say, I haven’t been here 80 years, but in my short time at this publication, I have truly enjoyed “talking” with you all about your jobs. 

Originally published in the October 2016 issue.