Re: The Glory Days Of "Fine Woodworking" Are Behind Us

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Hi Tom,
I agree, but being one of the "unwashed" amongst us, I still look for my next issue (to put things in context, I still like/look forward to NYW each week).
FWW is still better than anything I subscribe to - and I am subscribed to 3 others - my FWW subscription dates back 12+ years.
When you are an accomplished woodworker (as yourself and others with like ability who hang out on the wreck) it must get a little "old" to hear the same stuff repeated over and over.
Some of can't have it repeated often enough, and actually learn from the repitition.
Is there another better magazine out there?
Happy woodworking!
Lou
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I hadn't thought about it, Tom, but their renewal notice remains unopened on my desk.
My subscription has currently lapsed, and I'm not certain I'll renew. For a publisher, that's a problem, as we/they make little from single copy sales compared to the subscription which typically pays the cost of printing and mailing the piece.
I managed to obtain a number of those early B&W issues a couple of years ago, and while I disagree with you that the move to color was a problem I do lean t'ward agreeing with you about content.
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I allowed my subscription to lapse last fall after subscribing from #117 to #172 - and even sent a note as to why I wasn't renewing. In my opinion they've become too Borg-ish with ho-hum tool comparisons that are riddled with inaccurate testing methods as well as losing the artistic slant and the variety of woodworking interests they covered in the B&W days. I covet my B&Ws - many of the articles are still inspirational.
I've mentioned this before: The article that I view as the "Jumping the Shark" moment was #144s "Tying Down Lumber." Not long after that issue I discovered Woodwork and have been happy with it since. (I had both subscriptions simultaneously for about 4 years - so I did give FWW a number of chances after they jumped the shark). In my note to FWW about my not renewing I commented on how Woodwork was addressing much more than the how-to and this vs. that of FWWs recent past. Never heard a word from them.
(BTW, #160 carries evidence of the $35 I received from Taunton.)
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wrote:

I had both subscriptions for about the same length of time. I gave away the Woodwork magazines and dropped their subscription. :-) Different strokes for different folks. I'm more interested in 18th century furniture than I am art'sy projects.
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I'm a relative newbie in woodworking, so I don't know the history of FWW. However, I will say that it is my choice, by far, of any of the publications currently in print, regardless of whether it has slipped a notch.
I'm an aviation enthusiast and subscribe to a publication called "Sport Aviation". 10 years ago, I thought every article was fascinating. However, 120 issues later, I don't see nearly as many interesting articles. Why? The writing and focus have changed some, so that's part of it. However, the biggest thing is that there are only so many articles that can be written about the core of the subject without duplicating material. That leaves the magazine to either publish redundant articles or publish articles that are so out of the mainstream that they don't interest anyone.
Its a heck of a problem to have...
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snip

snip
Agreed. I've been homebrewing for 10 years, making splinters & firewood for 5. Early in my homebrewing life I wore out copies and subscriptions to "Brew Your Own". I thought it great to even be in existence, and then, after reading them for years I got tired, and worse, resentful of them. The articles and recipes on "how to clone your favorite store beer" or whatever were unbelievable. The BYO magazine was particularly insipid in it's publishing letters from readers about how great the magazine was; I can't remember a single correction or "We messed up" type message from the editor. I let my subscription lapse. Now when I pick one up on my rare jaunt to the bookstore I think "Damn this magazine is still the same!..yawn".
To be honest, though, I haven't had a magazine I've felt like was worth the $4.50/$5/$6/$7! in a long time. Al east we have the Internet, and these forums where information is passed so much more readily, and subject to criticism without all the inane advertising for the next geewhillickers thingamajigee!
Cheers! Duke
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"Tom Watson" wrote in message

As when two boats drift apart, the distance between the entities in any relationship can open up pretty quickly. I subscribed for awhile, then paid full over-the-counter price for years and most always looked forward to the next issue.
Reading your post I realize that the only issue I've bought this year is the "Power Tools" issue, and despite my similar feelings regarding the magazine becoming ho-hum, the taper jig idea in that issue was worth the price of admission.
My point is that I now check out FWW before buying, whereas before I bought it sight unseen, and therein lies the crux of yours.
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<snip>
<more snippage>

Yes, maybe. "Woodwork". Like FWW, it can be spotty - some issues fascinating, others not, but it is at least as consistent as FWW and features artists and craftspeople each issue. Much less "how-to" and more visual inspiration.
Rick
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I agree with Rick. Woodwork is consistently better than FWW these days, at least for my tastes.
Having been given the 'black & white' years of FWW by a good friend, I read them all. There are nuggets there, and they were groundbreaking for their time. But stacked up against the current fare, I think it inaccurate to say that they are head and shoulders above the new material.
George Frank's articles on finishing techniques were, for example, for me, far less interesting than most of what Jeff Jewitt or Terri Masachi have written.
The profiles on masters in our craft, however, have always been excellent. That's one of the features I enjoy most about Woodwork.
Patriarch
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On Tue, 21 Jun 2005 00:32:25 -0500, Patriarch

I think you've hit on the main issue here Patriarch. You came at the original FWW's from the perspective of someone with a number of years of experience and probably got a good bit of your initial knowledge from the more recent magazines (I'm speculating here, but infer that from your comments above). Thus, you saw the information in those magazines as somewhat mundane relative to what you already knew. I would further speculate that people like Tom Watson and others were earlier in their careers and thus saw what was in FWW then as new material back then. As their skills grew, the material in FWW become repetitious or more mundane, because by that time, they had their own experience base and prior education from the earlier volumes from which to draw.
... snip
+--------------------------------------------------------------------------------+ If you're gonna be dumb, you better be tough +--------------------------------------------------------------------------------+
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<snip>

Well, Tom has HAD a 30 year woodworking career. I have had but a 5 year hobby, after banging on carpentry and home improvement project in my spare time, from my electronics-based career. Tom learned and did, multiple times over, as did many wReckers. I learned and did few, smaller, more accessible projects.
When Tom was building beautiful homes, furniture and cabinetry, I was trying to get networks to talk, and people to stop screwing them up. We decided, my wife and I, at the beginning, to put the artistic pursuits on hold until after the kids grew up. We both knew of far too many starving artists, including a few Mendocino County woodworkers.
I appreciate those who teach, demonstrate, inspire and answer questions. Here and elsewhere. I also enjoy getting out in the shop, and making beautiful stuff. This week, however, seems to have been about making 'interesting firewood' at the lathe, as I try to pick up some skill at bowl turning.
Patriarch
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On Wed, 22 Jun 2005 00:40:55 -0500, Patriarch

Don't misunderstand what I was saying; I meant absolutely no criticism of Tom or others of his skill level and experience. My only point was that, given his skill level, it is not surprising that current FWW seems mundane now; he has aquired many of the skills that FWW has to offer. As an analogous situation, think about your skill level in networking; think about the technical magazines you most likely poured through when you were first building your career and knowledge. Now, think about how much of those magazines are of value to you now -- probably a few select articles that highlight either current trends or some new technology breakthroughs -- you've got the basics down, it's the new things that are going to make you take notice. It doesn't mean we stop learning, it just means we get a lot more selective.
+--------------------------------------------------------------------------------+ If you're gonna be dumb, you better be tough +--------------------------------------------------------------------------------+
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<snip>

I understood what you were saying, and agree(d) with you completely. I simply took the opportunity to express gratitude that the information, experience and knowledge is accessible to me, and others like me, who didn't start this when we were 18 years old, under the direction of a grizzled master.
We get the condensed versions, and get to learn from other folks' experience. That wasn't the case in networking...
Patriarch
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Mark & Juanita wrote:

...
...
I don't disagree <entirely>, but I don't <agree> entirely, either...how's that for equivocating? :)
I think there's perhaps some of that, but I also think there's been a very conscious impetus (backed by some of the editorial content) to add more "novice level" and "ordinary" (as exemplified by the tool reviews, etc.) articles since the early years.
This isn't necessarily all bad as the audience/circulation may require it to remain economically viable, but I personally think there's no question that the "average" skill level of the articles has come down...of course, they've also backed off of the more extreme era of "form over function" and "green issues" some, too, which is the point in time a number of years ago when I almost quit subscribing.
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Duane Bozarth wrote:

Actually thsat accurately reflects the dilemma of the magazine editors.
....

They have to find a sweet spot where you can attract new woodworkers to your magazine, and keep/attract experienced ones. it's not an easy thing.
--
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Tom,
I agree with you whole heartedly. I began FWW at Issue 56 and have continued all these years to faithfully to renew my subscription. I delved into Fine Gardening, Fine Home Building and Inspired Home for a few issues but quickly lost interest in the calibre of articles being accepted by these magazines.
FWW does have a gem per issue IMO but, in the past five years, those gems are getting harder to find amongst the plethora of ads and second-rate articles. FWW tends to dwell on certain woodworking subjects and rarely looks at other aspects of a hobby-for-some/career-choice-for-others. It seems FWW repeats article themes every 14 months or so. For example, there must be a dozen articles on how to build a desk or bed or chair, how to route a tenon, how to finish with rubbed oil and varnish, how to build a table saw sled, and so on. FWW will not touch on articles about carving for example. Or marquetry. Or design theory. Or intricate lathe work. Maybe there is a lack of modern high calibre authors to replace the earlier masters. To write for a magazine such as FWW requires of the author not only aptitude in their chosen field but also the ability to concisely and clearly communicate that knowledge to a large audience of varying skill and interest. Maybe master woodworkers spend most of their time creating art and little time passing on their hard earned knowledge.
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Rob wrote:

...
This, sadly is becoming more true, I agree...

Here I have to disagree...I can recall several marquetry and carving articles and some of Conover's turning in the not very distant past...

I think this is the crux of the problem...particularly losing Tage Frid and some of the other early contributors has hurt a lot. Quite possibly it is true that Roman's going on has led to a loss in hard recruiting of such masters, although that is pure speculation.
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snipped-for-privacy@doglover.com says...

Istarted with #59 and stopped at #161. Why? Well, it had gotten somewhat repetitive, which is to be expected, and after retirement I had to stay within a budget. I'd rather buy wood and/or tools than a magazine :-).
I did buy a set of FWW Techniques just before they became unavailable, which gave me tbe articles from issues 1-55. One of these days I'll locate 56,57, and 58 at an estate sale :-).
--
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I'm not a subscriber of FWW but I've been reading them from the local libraries. I think you hit it on the spot when you mentioned the lack of the "design theory" articles. Every issue, I have seen a number of "fine" pieces in their projects showcase. Although most everyone will agree that they are indeed beautiful, there is no telling of "why" they are. Because of this, IMO, these showcase pieces are more than likely to be only the sources for the "inspired copycats" instead of the seeds for the next generation "masters."
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David wrote:

It still has value, but I've been subscriber since early volume 2 so I've seen essentially the whole run, too. I also think the depth has lessened, particularly over the last several years.

To a certain extent, yes. Some of such remembrances are, in fact, based on reality... :(
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