Any of You Fellow LJ's Notice a Huge Decline in Fine Woodworking Article Quality?

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Forum topic by gerrym526 posted 07-06-2010 08:14 PM 2294 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View gerrym526's profile


276 posts in 4106 days

07-06-2010 08:14 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I recently renewed my FWW subscription and realized it’s my 15th year getting the magazine. Used to look forward to every issue, and while I can’t say I read each one cover to cover generally found myself going back constantly to issues to find articles that really helped me “jump start” my woodworking skills.

However, in the last 2 years or so, I’ve begun seeing what looks like a very disturbing decline in the quality of articles that takes the form of the following-

1) lots more “fluff” articles like-”What’s faster-cutting dovetails by hand or machine-with 2 guys actually doing it , measuring elapsed time (what relevance this topic has to being a better woodworker is a mystery to me).
2) more tool and workshop reviews than techniques reported
3) repeating articles-e.g. “how-to mill lumber from rough to finish state” written by 2 different authors in less than 24mos.
4) huge dropoff in the number of notable woodworking authors articles featured-lots more articles being written by the editorial staff, rather than woodworkers.(e.g. I compared the current issue with a 2008 issue-2yrs ago the same month had a Norm Abrams article, followed by a Michael Fortune article-current month 2010 issue really had no one of that caliber authoring an article)

I kept my FWW subscription for many years while letting my American Woodworker, Wood magazine, Popular Woodworking subscriptions lapse long ago because the quality of their articles was poor compared to what I thought was the premier magazine for the craft.
It’s a tough economy, and I understand advertisers are pulling back $’s from publishers, but in FWW’s case the drop in quality, in my opinion, is huge.

I probably won’t renew after this term expires unless I see real improvement in the publication.

Would appreciate others’ comments on this topic.

-- Gerry

20 replies so far

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3568 days

#1 posted 07-06-2010 08:24 PM

I have reduced my subscriptions to shop notes and woodsmith as I get tired of the glossies with all the adds. If you count the amount of space devoted to advertisements you will find that the magazine is more then 1/2 to 2/3rds adds. I find that I can use the internet to do the majority of my research…and for some darn good tips (LJ’s is one of my favorite sources – of course). I haven’t noticed FWW going down….but I did notice that on wood magazine…and did as you and let the subscription lapse. Now I get 100’s or requests to renew and all these teasers (free books, a free year… etc). If they paid attention to folks like yourself and kept up the quality…they wouldn’t have to advertise so much and they wouldn’t spend so much mailing out teasers…. My other major complaint is that all of them have plans for bookcases and rocking horses….stuff that realy fits on the new woodworker skillsets….they really need to add more projects for intermediate to advanced woodworkers…so they can hone their skills too.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3372 days

#2 posted 07-06-2010 08:41 PM

It has to be hard to come up with fresh and interesting articles for every issue. I see more and more “filler” articles in virtually every magazine I subscribe to. I think every conceivable shop tip has been discovered and documented in magazines at least twice.

I will not be renewing most of my subscriptions.

With the internet, the need for magazines is declining. Except, in my case, I have no internet access in the bathroom. I need something non-electronic to read at certain times. With a fast acting laxative, I would have no need for magazines at all.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

11318 posts in 3726 days

#3 posted 07-06-2010 08:51 PM

Allowed my FWW subscription to lapse over ten years ago.
Now it’s only Wood, Woodsmith and Shop Notes.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5181 posts in 4258 days

#4 posted 07-06-2010 08:54 PM

I’m bummed by all of ‘em. My favorite subscription is Woodshop News. Not sayin’ that I know it all, but how many tool reviews can ya read when ya don’t need any new tools? Did I really admit that?

-- [email protected]

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 3221 days

#5 posted 07-06-2010 09:46 PM

I agree with everyone above. I thought it was just me.
One of the things that ticked me off was the Renew Now offers I used to get every month. Didn’t make any difference that my subscription was paid for two years. Wood was really bad about that.
Now I do still get a few mags,I do my research on the net, especially when it comes to buying a new tool.

-- Life is good.

View schloemoe's profile


709 posts in 3236 days

#6 posted 07-06-2010 10:12 PM

I use to rely almost exclusivly on Wood mag now I get and in tenn minutes I’m done .All of them need to find new material to hash over some of it is wearing kinda thin I mean how many different ways are there to check to see if you’re fence is flush with the blade on you’re table saw?......Not going to renew…..................Schloemoe

-- schloemoe, Oregon , http://www.

View gerrym526's profile


276 posts in 4106 days

#7 posted 07-06-2010 10:24 PM

Thanks for the feedback, and confirming my impressions of what’s happening to FWW. At least now I know I’m not becoming a “curmudgeon” and griping without reason.
I may get exercised enough about this to write to the publisher and explain why I’m not going to be renewing-time to stand up for woodworkers everywhere. If I were to suggest something to the publisher it would be to go back to the type of articles FWW did many years ago-ie. advanced techniques that would challenge woodworkers to step up to more challenging projects. Instead, what they’ve done is “dumb down” the magazine to the point where it’s become just a glossier version of the magazines I cancelled years ago.

Schloemoe-I agree-you only need one article on squaring the fence to the TS blade.

Bill-don’t ever admit you have too many tools! Never ever!

Rich-you can reference woodworking info on the web in the bathroom with a laptop and wireless network-just make sure you don’t drop the laptop in the toilet when you’re done!!!-LOL

-- Gerry

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3281 days

#8 posted 07-07-2010 12:05 AM

Its hard to pay for a magazine with all the ads and fluff and little content. Although I still find Woodsmith and Shopnotes still worthy of getting my subscription. Sad thing is, its all topics in subscription magazines that are doing the same thing. With todays internet and the information available through the net its hard to part with money that doesn’t fulfill my needs for information. While nothing is perfect these are the times in which we live. Before the internet I use to look forward to my monthly subscriptions of different magazines. Now I surf the net and pay the bill each month and it takes up less space. I remember keeping my magazines in beer cases to keep them organized. Thats a lot of worthless ads to store for a little information. Don’t misunderstand I still will pay for some internet information and online books. But no where near what I spent for subscriptions.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View KayBee's profile


1083 posts in 3544 days

#9 posted 07-07-2010 07:25 PM

I let my FWW lapse years ago. Used to be that they only repeated something every 5 years, now it’s like every other year. Also, you’re right the quality of articles has gone downhill. There aren’t any really great, jaw dropping, wish I could build that articles anymore.

They seem stuck in a rut on design/style too- it all looks the same. Can you tell any difference between Design Book 2 and Design Book 6? How about the clean lines on this months cabinet and last years cabinet with clean lines? Nothing like the varirity of projects here on LJs.

-- Karen - a little bit of stupid goes a long way

View stefang's profile


16559 posts in 3632 days

#10 posted 07-07-2010 10:47 PM

I have been a big fan of FWW for the last 14 years. I have noticed a steady decline not only in quality but also quantity since they got on the web. They are a long way from where they were. I suppose the web has been a game changer for so many and I wouldn’t be surprised if monthly magazines were to disappear altogether in the foreseeable future.
FWW has taught me most of what I know about woodworking techniques and tools. I no longer get excited about receiving the latest issue. They do have a fabulous archive on the net though, which covers most of what anyone would need to know about woodworking, at least those who do it as a hobby.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 3224 days

#11 posted 07-08-2010 12:41 AM

Hope they don’t disappear too quickly, I just renewed mine for three years…

Been looking through my old issues, and my wife and kids bought me the Complete Index on DVD (every issue they made (up to 2010) complete with ads, and it is very nice for searching out plans and things I saw in print more than 10 years ago.

Always holds some interest for me, I think if I learn one new thing each month from it, whether its a tip, project idea or find a supplier, I will be that much smarter next year… :)

I do admit, however that the dovetail issue has been thrashed to death in all publications…

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View lanwater's profile


3111 posts in 3232 days

#12 posted 07-08-2010 01:11 AM

Not only they repeat the same material, They also have the same articles in different magazine within a month of each other. It seems to me that few people submit article to those magazine without exclusivity.
The articles are also getting very poor in details.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View Edziu's profile


151 posts in 3349 days

#13 posted 07-08-2010 01:30 AM

I’ll agree that I have not been overwhelmed by the quality of the content coming out of fine woodworking in the last couple of years. Having said that, I am still renewing my subscriptions to FWW and Popular Woodworking.

As jusfine noted, there is always some salient point, feature or article that keeps me reading. I also feel that if I learn one good thing a month, I’ll be better off from the subscription.

As for some subjects being rehashed too often, or beaten to death by all of the magazines, there has got to be a reason. When I worked in the woodworking retail sector, we would get at least half a dozen people a week asking about dovetails, for instance. People wanted to know everything about them, from hand cutting to dovetail jigs; from the $25 options to the $500 options. And about preparing lumber- for heavens sake- it’s the foundation of woodworking. It’s also an issue for lots of woodworkers- novices and beginners alike. If FWW doesn’t touch on some aspect of lumber preparation every so often, people won’t learn it, and if people don’t learn it, they’ll become frustrated with their work, and give it up and cancel their FWW subscription. It’s about building a customer base. All woodworking magazines have to research the retail sector to know what’s selling, so they know what they can write about.

As for saying ‘I quit on FWW years ago, I only get (shopnotes, woodsmith, etc.)’ Those magazines are not in the same genre as FWW. FWW is technique and design based, while lots of other publications are heavily based on plans for projects and tips on how to store your masking tape. You’ll never see a parts list or cut list in a FWW article. Apples and Oranges.

View BTKS's profile


1989 posts in 3762 days

#14 posted 07-10-2010 11:05 AM

My real complaint about FWW, now that I’ve had to think about it. Once the web FWW came into being they want me to subscribe to the magazine to get the jist of the article and PAY AGAIN for a web subscription to get the details and maybe a video link or something like that. I feel I paid the subscription so why don’t I get access to the web content too?!
I cannot make myself pay twice for the same product. I also subscribe to Fine Home building. It is the same company thus the same issue.
The white area on the pages and the add vs article ratio is disappointing.
Just my two cents, BTKS

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View Ger21's profile


1075 posts in 3429 days

#15 posted 07-10-2010 03:13 PM

I agree with Edziu that FWW is in another class then just about all the other magazines, and is the only one I’ll subscribe to.

But I am disappointed in a lot of the issues. part of the reason, though, is that they are trying to cater to a wide skill range. I would prefer that they focus on much higher end projects and techniques, but that’s probably not a viable option, as the audience would be much smaller.

And I’m also with BTKS. I pay about $80 every 3 years for FWW. I’m not paying more to look at the website. I just use it as an index to find articles. I much prefer looking at the actual magazines.

-- Gerry,

showing 1 through 15 of 20 replies

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