Popular Woodworking’s New Look

I received the latest issue of Popular Woodworking today. As soon as I saw the cover, I knew things had changed big time with the magazine. I read on Lost Art Press blog a few weeks ago that Chris Schwarz will no longer write articles for them. That, and the fact that since a lot of the old contributors like Megan Fitzpatrick, Bob Lang, and Glen Huey are long gone, the magazine is a complete a new rag.

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The new look just looks like a typical run of the mill woodworking magazine that appeals to the masses. Something like a Woodworker’s Journal or American Woodworker. It definitely lost its old hand tool feel charm. As far as the projects inside, don’t get me started. I asked my wife about the projects in it (basically two of them) and she said “who builds this shit? Why don’t they put furniture in there that people want to make?” It’s been an ongoing conversation with us for years about why I subscribe to woodworking magazines with uninspiring projects in it.

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The new look has a lot of photo boxes where they describe what’s going on in the picture. Not a bad idea as it’s kind of the same idea of how I write this blog, but the layout seems a bit impersonal. On the plus side, they did have an article about welding. I’ve always thought that woodworking magazines should focus more on mixed mediums. Plus, Peter Follansbee’s Arts and Mysteries and George Walker’s Design Matters are still there.

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I also noticed there are a lot of ads in the magazine for people who are old. From hearing aids, to walk in tubs, to a plethora of ads for medications. Don’t get me wrong, I actually don’t mind ads. If anything I learn from the good ones, but damn, don’t make me feel like I need to go get my dentures fitted.

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Did you get your copy? If so, what do you think? Am I being too harsh? Are the days of the old Popular Woodworking concentrating on hand tools techniques long gone? It’s frustrating because Popular Woodworking was my favorite magazine. I guess I’ll have to start subscribing to Mortise and Tenon instead.

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32 thoughts on “Popular Woodworking’s New Look

  1. Rats, I just succumbed to their “best offer” of 2 years for $18.00 or so after wondering if it would be worth it. Don’t know about you but I’ve been woodworking for so long there’s very little that’s new other than tools which seem to eliminate the hand tool route I prefer. Well, no matter it’ll give me something to look at and then recycle during my 4:00 relax and wine time!!

  2. I don’t subscribe, but I used to pick up the odd issue and enjoyed the articles…Now? Looks boring as hell…think they just drove the last nail in the coffin and are planning to ride it into the ground.

      1. I agree, I haven’t bought a wood mag for years, other than Popular Woodworking when Chris and the old team were there. I had been through the others over the years, and PW was for me, the last remaining quality woodworking magazine. I think it will spell the end…

  3. I don’t subscribe but I’ll buy an issue every now and then. So, I’ll hold my criticism until I can read it, but if I were to head the committee which chose the new masthead, all I can say is the other options must have been pretty bad. Of all the things they could have chosen as a logo and they pick a square with a sans-serif font. Just thought that was really odd.

  4. Gosh, I haven’t picked up PW in a couple years; there’s only one place in town I can find it, when they do have it. Odd, because my library has FWW and I am more apt to purchase an issue of it, and December will be one I get; I guess.

    The image looks like news print through and through. Reminiscent of the old Norm Abrams New Yankee Workshop in rewind….. We are harsh critics.

  5. Definitely catering to the masses. Advocating power tools and gadgets will sell the magazine to the weekend warriors that do not have the time or patience to do the same thing with a few old hand tools. Hey, ma … look what my machine made!

      1. Most likely. Most woodworking magazines are all about selling tools. Whether power tools or hand tools blazoned with the name of the lastest woodworking guru. I’m of the opinion that knowing how to use a tool is more important than the tool in and of itself.

    1. I agree. it’s horribly thin and has been for several years now. I just browsed through the latest issue of Fine Woodworking today and their content is much better.

      The one thing I’ve noticed is that when you buy an issue of Pop Wood at a bookstore, they fill the middle of the magazine with free bonus content so it makes the magazine thicker.

  6. Richard

    I have not been a PW subscriber since long long time ago after taking one of their $1.5 per issue offer (or something like that). But I have not stopped reading it as my local club is a subscriber. To be honest, 10 minutes tops, much less on average, is what I need for any of them. Its shop tips column is the main reason I read.

    As for the latest issue (yet to read it), I find the new cover change fine as I don’t think the old (and older) covers are anything better. They are just a cover, and I don’t see how it will make a difference if the contents are excellent. I don’t buy a book or magazine based on its cover anyway.

    PW has lost a lot of readers before the current editorial team was put in place, and so if PW — like Sears — dies, its death call was made at least 5 to 10 years ago.

    To be fair to the current editorial team, the ads are not worse or anything, I checked out the Oct. 2017 issue and it had the “little blue pill” ad in it. That was under the previous editor’s watch. The #1 circulating magazine (WOOD) has non-woodworking ads as well.

    As for projects, I don’t see anything exciting based on what I see in your snapshots. But neither did I like the so called Experimental Table in the Oct. 2018 issue (“ugly, and crude” are the words I heard when the club people talked about it), which was penned by a member of the old editorial team. Projects are pretty hard to please: too simple, too advanced, too familiar, and too unfamiliar! There is really no one single formula for success as the readers are not homogeneous.

    Finally, I disagree that the inclusion of welding is a good thing at all. #1, if you don’t know how to weld (you also unlikely have the equipment), you will never learn how to weld well by reading! I took a welding class and I could still barely weld to a good standard, as I have little time to practice. #2, If you already know how to weld, you don’t need a woodworker (the author) to tell you how to weld. If PW wanted to educate the readers about welding, post the information and video on its website, and provide the link in the magazine. FW, WWJ, WOOD, etc. all do that. The reason PW includes the Welding article is it runs out of good materials, if you ask me. They need to fill the pages.

    Like American Woodworker, PW is heading to the graveyard because it has lost its focus. Woodsmith and Shopnotes have merged, and it should be able to consolidate the running costs for a while. Woodworker’s Journal and Woodcraft have backing from their parent woodworking stores. The ones left are going strong: WOOD and Fine Woodworking. That is until the readers decide magazines indeed are a thing of the past.

  7. Richard

    MVFlaim Furnituremaker

    So, is that why there’s a brand new Porter Cable router on the front cover? A little sneaky product plaacement? haha

    Did you read the PW’s online review on a new $300 coping saw (not sure if it is the same as the print version)? Someone must have made a typo: it should’ve read “Tool Ad (written by (the authro’s name) and sponsored by (the tool maker)!”

    1. I saw that. I’ve never read one of those tool reviews where the reviewer says “it’s just okay”. It’s always worth its weight in gold.
      At $300, its almost three times as expensive as a Knew Concept saw. You’d either have to cut a crap load of dovetails or you’re a pediatrician with your own private practice in order to easily afford it.

    1. Richard

      After tasting the success of social media, Paul Sellers has fallen victim to the 21st century marketing scheme. He is now obsessed with his youtube, instagram, blog, etc. I would not be surprised if one day he offers “limited” or selective support of certain companies or tools, or some form of endorsement in the name of supporting the craft.

      1. I don’t get the popularity of that guy. I watched a couple of his videos and find him extremely boring. But to each his own.
        It’s all about marketing to your audience. Look what Chip and Joanna Gaines have done with their TV show Fixer Upper. Apparently they were near bankruptcy until HGTV approached them to do a show. Chip even bought out his partners without them knowing about HGTVs offer before he signed a contract with them. Now, they have their own line of paint, home decor, a magazine, restuarant and real estate company. They’ve made millions within five years simply promoting themselves. Hell, even Chris Schwarz is marketing to his audience promoting his line of Crucibal tools he and his partners make. It never ends.
        Maybe I should sell my home made blend of tool oil I use to protect the antique tools I restore, but unfortunately no one knows who I am. lol

  8. Richard

    Oil? Better wax, because some girls have been selling wax and stickers(!) to woodworkers for a couple of years now as their dad knows a thing or two about than just promoting Crucible gear. I would never have thought some mature woodworkers would behave just like tweens and teens in terms of idolization.

    Just sayin’.

    1. Hey Richard, do you think it’s ironic that a guy who started his business writing a book about buying tools you really don’t need, is now in partnership making tools you really don’t need? I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m a free market capitalist. If someone wants to buy your product at your price, then by all means go for it. But I don’t need a 50lb holdfast or a set of dividers that will last for 200 years.

  9. Richard

    Funny thing that you mentioned the holdfast. Since he started selling the 1″ dia. holdfast, he has been trying to convince the world that the 3/4″ dia. ones aren’t such a good idea, and 1″ holes should be on every bench under the sun (so….).

    He is parting company with the PW blog, but one of his recent posts ranted about people who “attacked” him all these years, and he went to say how he “id”ed those people. I suppose he would do the same to people who disagree with him on his own blog, trying to nail down who those people are. He has grown not only arrogant after his success, but also mean-spirited. Quite a surprise to watch him age like that, frankly.

    1. haha. He can do whatever he likes on his blog. it’s his blog anyway. What gets me is that he claims to be an anarchist against consumerism but he’s doing the same thing with all the different things he selling now. Maybe some day he’ll have his own line of Chalk Paint. haha

  10. My particular complaint is YouTube videos or magazine articles that describe how to make a coat rack and then show you a shop set up with the most elaborate power tools out there. I live in a 10’x20 single room apartment. Although I have a Dewalt 745 contractor’s saw and a nice Kreg router table most of the time I prefer the use of hand tools that are quiet and don’t create a dust cloud. My senior next door neighbors appreciate that.

    I live on Social Security checks so I don’t have a buttload of cash to spend on elaborate tools. I guarantee you my coat rack made with Japanese back saws and Lie-Nielsen bench planes is just as nice as those made by power tools,

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