SPOTLIGHT 

Woodworking magazines

In our age of mass-produced cheap furniture, there’s still a market for exquisite hand-crafted pieces. Alan Geere looks at what reading material’s available for those fine woodworkers beavering away in workshops, garages and sheds up and down the country.

By Alan Geere

Woodworking magazines
Photograph: Dominic Scythe on Unsplash

Cabinet maker

What’s it about: ‘The complete home furnisher’ – strapline under masthead.

Vital statistics: December 2019 issue: 108 pages of 297mm x 210mm. Quality gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. Print and online subscription advertised at £9.99 per month. Distributes 2,500 copies according to media pack. Published monthly by Information Publications Ltd in Mansfield, Notts.

Cover: Big pictured of a sofa (supplied by a customer), three well-written cross-refs above the masthead, including a picture of a bed, and a stylish gatefold flap advertising the January Furniture Show.

Content: Editor finds enough to say to fill page three, followed by a chichi contents page divided into Features, Upholstery and Cabinets, Beds and Mattresses. No less than TWENTY SIX pages of news. ‘People behind the news’ (three in this issue) are elegant Q&As, features are generously illustrated, two trade show previews are comprehensive and ‘Last word’ is a reader-supplied opinion column. All deliciously wrapped up in a simple, two-column format with small headlines and plenty of white space.

Digital: A website as smart and orderly as the magazine has content from the printed product plus copies of the magazine to read via Issuu. Has a Twitter page with nearly 6,000 followers, populated almost exclusively by one-line links to magazine content, and a presence on LinkedIn.

What they say: “I've signed the petition for the government to make Amazon pay their fair share. Will you add your name?” – publisher Stewart Rickersey tells his Twitter followers where he stands on big tech.

Verdict: Newsstand magazines could learn a few tricks from this supremely professional product, combining authority with accessibility in equal measure. Easy to flick through with tons of names, products and faces that will resonate with its discerning readership. A triumph for a small publisher.

Furniture & Cabinetmaking

What’s it about: “The only woodworking magazine focused exclusively on fine furniture making” – explainer on publisher’s subscription page.

Vital statistics: Issue 289 (no date, but available autumn 2019): 124 pages of 285mm x 222mm. Quality matt paper, card cover, perfect bound. £5.99 cover price. Sales figures not available. Published every eight weeks by Guild of Master Craftsman Publications Ltd in Lewes, East Sussex.

Cover: Almost full-page picture of a studious looking man using a plane, courtesy of Getty Images, the masthead and the bar code. That’s it.

Content: Kicks off with an unsigned ‘Welcome’ introducing the ‘new-look’ F&C followed by consequential contents spread starting with ‘Craft me a river’ on page 4 and ending with ‘Japanese sunrise dovetails’ on page 120. That first project is a frankly gorgeous table made from one huge piece of wood, painstakingly explained in 18 well-illustrated stages. This sets the tone for more delightful projects, striking features on art and photography and even a thoughtful piece headlined, ‘Is vegan furniture the future?’.

Digital: Like its stablemates, has a page on the Woodworkers Institute website with a wealth of material behind the simple heading of Features, Projects etc plus a lively forum which has 16,491 members. Only advertised social media is a page on Instagram with 2,384 followers looking at the 36 posts.

What they say: “Any form of posting of pornographic pictures or text or links of any kind to content of pornographic sites is forbidden” – forum administrator makes sure everyone sticks to the woodwork in ‘Rules and Guidelines’.

Verdict: The publisher promised ‘a fresh, contemporary look’ with the relaunch of this issue, something that is delivered with finely-crafted knobs on. The design and photography do justice to the exquisite content which is detailed and thoughtful. Complementary advertising, also with high production values, only serves to enhance this weighty publication that would not be out of place on the oak Arts and Crafts coffee table (see projects).

The Woodworker & Good Woodworking

What’s it about: ‘The original and best since 1901’ – strapline under masthead.

Vital statistics: Autumn 2019 issue: 100 pages of 297mm x 210mm. Matt paper, heavyweight gloss cover, perfect bound. £4.75 cover price, although digital comes in at £2.23 per issue. Lists a circulation of 16,000 in the media pack. Published 13 times a year by MyTimeMedia Ltd in Edenbridge, Kent.

Cover: Close-up picture of a decorative wall sconce with well-fitted coverline. Another picture, of a toolbox that can be won, complete with coverline in circular saw blade artwork, three straplines under ‘Plus…’ and a very decorative masthead all on a demure regal claret background.

Content: Packed contents on page five, divided into projects, technical, features and regulars along with a publisher’s box in the smallest type you ever did see. A gruesome-looking rocking hippo is the first project followed quickly by part nine of the woodworker’s A-Z encyclopaedia, which is only up to ‘C’ so plenty more parts to come. More splendid projects, including that cover story sconce, and an autumn project to restore a church door that runs to 24 illustrated steps.

Digital: A very presentable website over at getwoodworking.com with news, things to make, videos and events. Has a Twitter feed which has 3,236 followers, although there has been no activity for more than two years, and just under 1,000 likes of Facebook.

What they say: “I therefore devised a strategy to create a new and improved ‘super’ magazine, taking the strongest elements of both titles, while appealing to a broader audience and also catering for all ages and skill levels” – editor Tegan Foley, explaining away the long title of the magazine on LinkedIn.

Verdict: Small type and lots of pictures give this title a serious feel that will not be lost on the legions of enthusiasts who have found plenty to devour for 118 years. Complemented by pages of ads for supplies and equipment, this is a value proposition for all woodworkers, ‘good’ or otherwise!

Woodcarving Illustrated

What’s it about: ‘To promote woodcarving as an artform and an enjoyable pastime’ – mission statement.

Vital statistics: Fall 2019 issue: 100 pages of 275mm x 215mm. Quality gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. £4.99 cover price. Lists a total paid circulation of 50,050. Published four times a year by Fox Chapel Publishing Co Inc in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, United States.

Cover: Big picture of a ‘Playful Beaver’, two smaller pictures, no less than nine coverlines and even room for four reminders on the spine.

Content: ‘In this issue’ decorously spread across two early pages followed by the editors’ notes, a few readers’ letters and what passes for news in the woodcarving world. Patterns – Chip-carved ball-foot box – and Projects – Whittle a wily witch pin – make up the bulk of the content, all patiently explained with how-to step-by-step pictures. Even has some hand exercises ‘to increase strength and stamina’…

Digital: URL on the folio line leads to a sensible website which has magazine content plus bonus plans and video extras. A link to Facebook, with 11,800 likes, but have to search for Twitter page which has just 1,500 followers and only one post in the last three years.

What they say: “Note to Professional Copy Services – the publisher grants you permission to make up to ten copies for any purchaser of this magazine who states the copies are for personal use” – disclaimer in publisher’s box (syndication manager, look away now).

Verdict: An upbeat assessment of the woodcarver’s lot which makes everything look quite simple and straightforward – which it probably isn’t. Interesting to note that a magazine published in the United States and selling on the UK newsstands doesn’t look or feel much different to a home-produced one. Lots to read and plenty of ads, mainly for crafty gadgets, make this a handsome, if somewhat specialist, page turner.

Woodturning

What’s it about: ‘The world’s leading magazine for woodturners’ – strapline under masthead.

Vital statistics: November 2019 issue: 108 pages of 297mm x 210mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight matt cover, perfect bound. £4.50 cover price. Sales figures not available. Published 13 times a year by Guild of Master Craftsman Publications Ltd in Lewes, East Sussex.

Cover: Big action picture of some woodturning, one large coverline, eight further cross-refs in a strapline, bold masthead and barcode with a link to the Woodworkers Institute website.

Content: Long ‘From the editor’ piece followed by well-illustrated contents divided into Techniques, Projects, Kit & Tools, Community and Features. Clear plans and step-by-step instructions on the projects, topical features like ‘Whither woodturning’ offer the opportunity to think rather than do, all wrapped up with plenty of those helpful techniques and some letters and listings. A fine array of photographs accompanies all the articles giving a busy but not cluttered feel.

Digital: Another fine offering from the Woodworkers Institute with content galore and an opportunity to sign up for a newsletter and a subscription. No dedicated social media for the magazine although individual contributors do have a presence.

What they say: “Mark has demonstrated extensively at clubs, symposia and other shows and events in the USA, Canada, UK and mainland Europe” – promotional material for a ‘Woodturning cruise’ where group editor Mark Baker will be part of the ‘passenger tuition team’.

Verdict: Plenty to read and admire in this specialist title, written by professionals for enthusiasts. The type feels rather small and dense in places, but that only emphasises the amount of content crammed onto the pages. A good range of advertising helps the whole package come together as a comprehensive read.

Woodworking Crafts

What’s it about: ‘Hand, power and green woodworking [blob] Turning [blob] Restoration [blob] DIY’ – strapline under masthead.

Vital statistics: Autumn 2019 issue: 92 pages of 297mm x 210mm. Quality gloss paper, heavyweight cover, stitched. £4.25 cover price. Sales figures not available. Published every four weeks by Guild of Master Craftsman Publications Ltd in Lewes, East Sussex.

Cover: Action picture of a craftsman making dovetail joints, four smaller pictures, all involving wood and two featuring hands. Four informative coverlines and four more clues to the content on a strapline.

Content: Well-written editor’s letter-cum-blog followed by clear, illustrated contents page divided into areas such as ‘projects’ and ‘techniques’. Nothing is skimped on here – ‘Chair making simplified’ runs to eight pages – while the clear step-by-step guides make you want to reach for the chisel right now. Tools get a thorough work-out, as do those techniques: Anyone for steam bending?

Digital: Publisher’s website is “not available at the moment as a new one is on its way” but there’s a very natty website over at the Woodworkers Institute, which is promoted off page three. Woodworking Crafts has its own page with editor’s blog and some reader comments as well as tons of ‘features’ and ‘projects’. Social media for the Institute but not for the magazine itself.

What they say: “There is something desperately wrong with an education system where young people’s access to learning practical skills is very limited” – editor Anthony Bailey puts it out there in ‘My Working Day’ piece online.

Verdict: Feels like you’ve wandered into an exclusive club, but one that makes newcomers feel very welcome. Right on message for its distinctive audience, this relatively young magazine (started 2015) has a maturity born out of expert writers and a compelling design that keeps the pages turning.

This article was first published in InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list, please register here.