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?
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.
~ Stay Calm... Be Brave... Wait for the Signs ~
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
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.)
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.
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...
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
George Frank's articles on finishing techniques were, for example, for
me, far less interesting than most of what Jeff Jewitt or Terri Masachi
The profiles on masters in our craft, however, have always been
excellent. That's one of the features I enjoy most about Woodwork.
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.
If you're gonna be dumb, you better be tough
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
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
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
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
We get the condensed versions, and get to learn from other folks'
experience. That wasn't the case in networking...
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.
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
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.
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
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 :-).
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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