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Blog entry by stefang posted 11-04-2014 11:34 AM 2288 reads 1 time favorited 29 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Just a few words about all the woodworking magazines that are going belly up. I wanted to put them out as blog in hope of creating a wider discussion of this topic. I think it is important that we as woodworkers provide some feedback to the those trying to make a living providing woodworking information, so I hope some of them will be reading this.

These comments are my own thinking and attitude about the situation, but I’m sure others have a lot more to contribute to the discussion. it would be interesting to hear your views on the subject, so please don’t be afraid to join in.

My Thoughts

When I first started in woodworking in 1996 with my newly purchased lathe I had only a woodworking book from England translated to Norwegian from 1973. However it was a darned good book and almost all of the techniques that are taught in the various woodworking magazines are encompassed in that book, even to this day. I learned basic turning from it and a lot of other stuff.

I eventually became aware of the American woodturners Association Magazine which I subscribed to where I learned a lot more, and finally a woodworking friend of mine introduced me to FWW mag. which was really an inspiration to get heavier into general woodworking. Again I learned a lot and even though they didn’t contain much more than my first woodworking book, the articles were a lot more inspiring and much better presented. I dropped my FWW subscription about 4 years ago, but I still have all the issues from 1996 up to 2010. I have read them so much that I can remember most of the articles and pretty much which issue they were in, so I still refer to them occasionally. I still subscribe to the FWW website.

It is sad that the magazines are failing and the ones who are still in the game are having to reinvent themselves by providing good net content. How we get our information is constantly changing. We began with clay tablets, moved to parchment and eventually to paper, then along came radio, tv, and now the internet. Who knows what’s next, but we do know that information is a lot like electricity, in that it flows the path of least resistance. Just think, even PC’s are pretty much outdated already! Personally I love the net because much of the content is coming from ordinary folks who though they may not be accomplished master woodworkers, they can still provide us with creative inspiration, and they often bring expertise from their day jobs to their woodworking to come up with fresh ideas that we can all benefit from. In addition to that, I can search for the things I’m interested in without paying for a lot of content that is not relevant for me.

Personally, I think it is a positive thing that purveyors of woodworking info have to work hard to produce information that we still find valuable and that we are willing to pay for. Same old, same old will no longer cut it. The only sad part I see is that some great people will be looking for new jobs, but this is what happens in almost every industry and we can’t change that.

Thanks for reading!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

29 comments so far

View hunter71's profile


3304 posts in 3392 days

#1 posted 11-04-2014 11:56 AM

Not only the woodworking magazines are becoming scarcer. I have written for Outdoor magazines since the 80’s and see them becoming fewer also. Internet is becoming the NEW magazine.

-- A childs smile is payment enough.

View laketrout36's profile


200 posts in 2232 days

#2 posted 11-04-2014 11:57 AM

A year ago I let my subscription to a well known magazine expire due to too many of their articles being about toy vehicle making. That is of no interest to me. I know a magazine has to make itself appealing to the widest base of it’s readers. When I first started my subscription to that magazine there were plenty of articles and plans for furniture, shop storage, jigs, plenty of beginner and intermediate and some advanced projects. It was well rounded. There were even some projects that were covered over multiple issues to give you a complete set of plans for furniture or matching items.

Now I’m willing to only pay for a magazine if it has an article of interest to me. I can search the internet for ideas and further reading.

View JuniorJoiner's profile


488 posts in 3645 days

#3 posted 11-04-2014 12:12 PM

I still subscribe to F&C from the UK, but none of the other woodworking offerings appeal to me anymore. fine woodworking in particular, as they keep trying to sell their subscribers the same material repackaged.

-- Junior -Quality is never an accident-it is the reward for the effort involved.

View emart's profile


445 posts in 2833 days

#4 posted 11-04-2014 12:18 PM

one big problem is that while the internet is that the content is cheapened. too many amateurs trying to teach people without understanding what they are doing. The other problem is the lack of details in internet guides most of them lack the finer details in their plans or instructions. Any techniques presented lack any real research into their merits.

-- tools are only as good as the hands that hold them

View becikeja's profile


952 posts in 3018 days

#5 posted 11-04-2014 12:24 PM

“Personally, I think it is a positive thing that purveyors of woodworking info have to work hard to produce information that we still find valuable and that we are willing to pay for.”

Your statement above really sums it up. There is so much “free” information on the web, magazines and books have to step up and offer something truly unique to get any of us to pay. I still enjoy getting FWW. I have never built a single piece from it, but have increased my skill set dramatically because it. The risk in loosing print material is that we will no longer stumble upon new techniques and skills that stretch us. For example, with the internet we google exactly what we want to find, take the information and we are done. Reading a magazine you search or that article on resawing, and the next thing you know you have built a steam bender in the shop. In a million years, I never would have thought about a steam bender.

-- Don't outsmart your common sense

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3047 days

#6 posted 11-04-2014 12:35 PM

It is very sad to me that it seems multiple good magazines are ending their run.
I wish I did have the answers.

I regret to say that I stopped subscribing to magazines a long time ago.
I seek them out in stores and thumb through them.
If I see something new at all, I purchase them.
Why do I say see something new?
Too after I thumb through and see articles and techniques that I’ve seen time and time again in the same or a different magazine.
I have two large filing cabinets at home of back issues dating back to the seventies of about six different magazines at least.
I see far too many of the same articles regurgitated, rewritten with new photos and run multiple times, sometimes in the same year in the same magazine.

So, two years ago, I subscribed to a favorite magazine (won’t name names) that I stopped seeing available locally.
I really liked this magazine and decided to give it a shot.
A factor that helped this decision was that I got a book in the deal that I wanted anyway by paying up front for two years.
So I paid my two years up front and got the email almost immediately that my book would be shipped in ten to twelve weeks.
So I called them and explained that I wanted my book right away and that it was a deciding factor in purchasing the subscription.
It was explained to me that the book in question would not be available for that long.
I did not feel like arguing.
So I went down to the book store in the mall the next day (don’t even get me started on that rant) and bought the book by itself.
So I waited for my quarterly subscription to start coming in.
Before the first one came in the mail I’d already gotten five (yes, I saved them to count them) five cards asking me to renew my subscription.
Why would I renew a subscription when I hadn’t even received the first edition in this subscription?

So then a review of the magazine?
Here is what I get every three months.
Half the magazine is the same ads and techniques that are reprinted in every single issue.
There are at least four cards in every issue asking me to renew and at least two more cards advertising different magazines.
I know of at least one project article that has had minor details changed and reprinted three times in two years (that’s only eight issues for a quarterly magazine).
I finally got the second copy of the book I went and paid extra for six months after my subscription started.

I know I am complaining too much, right?
So I decided to go to their online content and see what I might be missing.
I usually don’t mess with online magazines.
My kids say I’m too old to understand but I like to touch and feel a magazine.
The online content is an exact copy of the actual magazine.

Again, I’m too much of a complainer, right?
So I decided to go do something purely for researcher sake.
I pulled out five years of my favorite magazine.
I will name names here because I think it’s ranks with one of the best rags ever written, SHOP NOTES.
In fives years of issues not a single article was rewritten without some major design change, and even then, they noted that it was revisiting an article and explained why they were revisiting it.

So, is it that magazines have fallen to the same level as most news and information sources?
I don’t know.
I will say this though after my long rant.
I will not be resubscribing to that quarterly rag I was talking about earlier.
There is one single thing though that would have made me resubscribe.
No, it isn’t the rewriting articles. I understand that it is hard to always come up with new material for a scrolling rag.
No, it is not the ads. I understand they have bills to pay.
No, it is not the resubscribe cards. I understand they are desperate to continue paying those bills into the future.
No, it is not the online content. I understand that, as much as I hate it, online is the way of the future.
There are three instances since I started my subscription that I called the company.
1. The book deal in the beginning.
I know they can’t help their shipping times sometimes, but don’t BS me that a book is unavailable when I can buy it for $19.99 locally.
2. I wanted to report major measurement mistake in one of their projects.
I know the person I speak to doesn’t write or edit the mag, but take a note and pass it to the appropriate person. Don’t treat me like I’m just wasting your time. If you don’t know how to be polite, maybe rethink taking a job in customer service.
3. My magazine was absolutely destroyed in what I can only assume was some kind of horrific shipping accident.
I know the magazine cannot oversee shipping, but be sympathetic to my situation. Send me another copy. Extend my subscription by one issue. Do anything besides claiming no fault. I was not blaming the magazine. However, business practices dictates that you send me another issue, ask me to send the damaged issue back if needed, and take up your loss with shipping.

Yes, my issue, even with all my complaints, came down to crappy customer service.

Sorry I don’t have any answers. Just thought my experience here fit the topic of conversation.


View altendky's profile


169 posts in 2415 days

#7 posted 11-04-2014 12:41 PM

@becikeja If you want to stumble upon things you can do that quite well on the internet. In fact there is a website named exactly that (see link above, note that I don’t actually use it). Further, follow blogs, monitor forums, and when you search for something specific and find it… then click a few links! I personally use an RSS reader to track all the goings on here at LumberJocks (I also track craigslist and a few other sites). Any time I want to expose myself to a bit of woodworking awesomeness I open up my LumberJocks folder and start stumbling upon projects and techniques until I really must get back to doing something else. It can go on for a few minutes (like perusing a magazine) or several hours, however much you are looking for.

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 3158 days

#8 posted 11-04-2014 01:21 PM

Good topic. My first reaction was to lament all the high quality woodworking mags that have passed on, then to lament the massive clutter of good, bad and terrible on line content that has replaced them. After a bit more reflection it also occurred to me that the same technology that is frustrating at times, has now permitted me to connect up with new sources that more directly suit my interests (such as the Society of American Period Furniture Makers). DVD’s (though more costly) by some of the top makers now replace the occasional article I could find in my, admittedly, narrow areas of interest. And, the DVDs are better than the articles ever were.

It’s also true, that one has to “kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince” on line, to get through all the clutter and junk, but the good stuff, the high quality stuff, is there in greater quantity than ever before. And, it’s now possible to make direct contact with others of similar interest much more easily… and anywhere in the world. I hear from folks who have bought my ebooks, and may have questions several times a week. And I enjoy these new contacts a great deal. New friends, committed to making great stuff.

All that being said, I confess that where woodworking magazines are concerned, I still prefer and enjoy holding the paper much more than trying to read articles on the screen, whether computer, iPad, or iPhone. Just an old guy’s preference, I guess. FWW is still the gold standard in magazines, but even it, seems somehow to be struggling to offer the same quality content that is used to. Or, perhaps it just seems that way. LOL Either way, I guess I’ll just take it as it comes.


-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View jerrells's profile


918 posts in 3090 days

#9 posted 11-04-2014 01:42 PM

I, too, feel some of your pain. I do scroll saw woodworking and one of the two GOOD mag’s went out of business. I do not know the reason but I do know the many of the writers, who contributed tot he mag, and many readers were left hanging. I am sure that profit margin shrink had a lot to do with it. Print publications are in trouble in general. The internet has fast replaced print and is much cheaper and delivers information faster. Plus there is a scam subscription service that is milking profit off of renewing your subscriptions.

All of this leads most of us crafts persons to wonder what is next. Here is hoping some level of good mag’s will be left.

-- Just learning the craft my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ practiced.

View Gunslinger's profile


17 posts in 1592 days

#10 posted 11-04-2014 02:09 PM

All of your comments have merit and I agree the internet has taken over. But as some have stated there is an up side to it also. One item in particular is the reduction of issues for an higher price (semi-monthly / monthly) change. The other, if you subscribe to a number of magazines, storage becomes a issue unless you have a library addition to your shop. I do like the archived cd versions, in which some of the magazines are offering since I did not renew my subscriptions to some of them.

-- AL, Alabama

View Michigander's profile


220 posts in 2624 days

#11 posted 11-04-2014 02:25 PM

The internet will never eliminate magazine printing until the reading experience on line is the same or better than picking up a magazine. So far I have not found a reader that does this. The readers must provide book type font quality without the screen glare that is so tiresome reading on line. You need to be able to file issues and have access to indices like print. Once this is done print of all types will be doomed as the zoom function, font size changing of the “computer” really changes the game. Oh yea, and I want to electronically share articles with my friends like copying an article on a copy machine.
My thoughts!

View altendky's profile


169 posts in 2415 days

#12 posted 11-04-2014 02:37 PM

@Michigander Those concerns have mostly been addressed, I think. Except for the screen glare thing which has only been fixed on limited functionality e-readers. Use URLs to share or print to PDF and save or email (or Pinterest etc). Indexes are replaced by searching of various forms. RSS feeds give the likes of a table of contents. Portable devices have 200-300 DPI displays (looks like I may even be behind the times with that stat).

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

21748 posts in 3310 days

#13 posted 11-04-2014 03:24 PM

Hi Mike. I did not know they were going away. I used to get Wood magazine but I did not use much of the content and they just started piling up in the basement and I had to find space for them. The 2 main reasons I quit is that I do not work from plans. I draw everything from scratch or scale photos to build things and the second it that You Tube provides much better detail in the videos than I could get from reading…oh and the most important is that I am a member of Lumberjockcs and I can find out most anything about woodworking here and don’t have to go back and find where it was stored in a magazine. Everyone is so helpful and willing to share ideas and processes and all that leaves little time to read any magazine!!

I think it is bad they are going away for the guys that depend on their plans and tips in there,though. Not everyone has the internet to search.

Cheers, Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View sras's profile


4944 posts in 3334 days

#14 posted 11-04-2014 03:43 PM

I have only one subscription Woodsmith – and I have had it for over 30 years. It’s not too easy to go back over that many issues and find an article. There is an online index that helps. The collection takes up about 10 feet of shelf space. I’m not sure why I keep renewing as I have only built a few projects.

On the other hand, I have FWW on DVD. The search function works quite well. I have the dvd installed on my PC and I copied the pdfs to my tablet. I would say that I am getting more use out the dvd that by collection of back issues.

But – here is an interesting point. When I have my magazine in hand – be it Woodsmith or anything else, I will read nearly every article. Many of those articles would just be skipped over if on a computer. It’s too easy to jump over an article on line. But when the article is in a magazine, I’ll notice a graph or a picture that catches my eye and I’ll end up reading the whole article. I end up missing out when on the computer because I only read what i was looking for andrarely browse.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View stefang's profile


16144 posts in 3539 days

#15 posted 11-04-2014 04:33 PM

Good point Steve. Often we see an article in a magazine that doesn’t interest us at all, but down the line, weeks, months or even years later we may have developed an interest for it. Perhaps one of the main advantages of magazine education. That said, personally I do look at woodworking subjects that are different than my current needs might dictate just out of curiosity and to see some great craftsmen in action, so I guess the net covers that too if we make the effort. The downside to the net is all the people out there making instructional videos who don’t know what they are doing. That’s easy for more experienced woodworkers to weed out, but potential pitfalls for less experienced folks. I guess having a good personal policy about how to judge the validity of net content would be helpful for many. Maybe we will hear from someone who has that.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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