stevenbunn Sun, 02/01/2015 - 16:48

One of the non-chair projects I have been working on this past year is a new Shaker work-bench. The bench was built so that I could take photographs to accompany an article I had written for American Woodworker magazine.

The article draft and photographs are now sitting somewhere in limbo at Popular Woodworking magazine. The article may or may not ever be published. Its a real bummer, but an interesting story.

I had previously written several other bench related articles which appeared in American Woodworker. My editor there, Tim Johnson, knew that I had in my shop a larger Shaker work-bench which was featured in a 1994 article in Fine Woodworking magazine. That was the first article I had ever written. Tim really wanted me to do an updated article describing the construction of a Shaker work-bench. He kept pestering me to do the article. But, I was reluctant because this committed me to constructing a completely new work-bench so that I could document the construction with photographs. This was no simple project. It was going to take a huge block of time out of my life, and practically speaking, who needs two, count them, two!! shaker benches in the same shop. I would never be able to turn around in the place much less have room to work. I love shaker benches, but still, what was I going to do with two? After a year of back and forth discussions I relented and agreed to write the article if Tim, and American Woodworker, would pay for the materials. He was hungry for the article and we came terms.


I submitted a draft of the article to Tim in November. Ordered material for the bench. And went so far as to take the month of December off from my part-time job as a cabinet-maker for Bowdoin College. I expected Tim to jump on the project right away, but he was busy shepherding five or six articles through the editorial process and trying to get them out the door for the next issue, and didn't have the time yet to talk with me. I, for my part, couldn't start construction until we had reviewed my suggested list of photographs and agreed on a final list of shots to go along with the text. So, I spent December kicking my heels and working on other things in the shop.


Tim finally called back the beginning of January. But before we got started, he said “I've got something to tell you. The magazine's been sold!” He went on to tell me that an entity named M+F Media, owner of Popular Woodworking, had bought out AW as well as a bunch of other magazine titles owned by AW's then current parent company. The staff was of course told, as always happens in take-overs, that everything was OK. AW would continue to come out and everyone's jobs would be safe. Typical lies that folks desperately want to believe. This is one of the reasons I work for myself. Tim and I got down to the task of building and photographing the shaker bench one step at a time. Because some shots are impossible to retake, or dummy up, Tim and his photo editor had to approve each shot before I could go ahead to the next step. This made an already lengthy project even more drawn out. Usually I heard something along the lines of, “Steve, image #23 is great, but could you re-shoot it from a higher angle?” Which was a polite way to say, “Dummy, go back a do it again.”


In February, Tim told me he was being laid off after the next issue of AW was put to bed. He promised that the transition between editorial staffs would be smooth and seamless. If only! Good-bye to Tim Johnson the best editor I've ever had.


The smooth hand over was a disaster. Major portions of the text were lost. Tim's notes, where he revised the order, and photo number, of each pose didn't get passed on. Since May of last year, three different editors has been responsible for the manuscript. And each time the draft has changed hands pieces get lost. In October, three editors, guess which ones, quit PW. Leaving my article in the hands of an editor who admitted she can not read blueprints. God help me!


I am to the point of walking away from the article. Despite promises of publication sometime in the future, I don't ever expect to see the thing in print. I'm now exploring the world of self-published e-books, you tube videos, and anything else, this blog?, that will help me leap over the editorial wall which separates the craftsman from the public. Did I mention the commission I have for a church's communion table? Out of one frying pan, editors, into another, church design committees. A topic for another day.


Its Friday morning in Maine. Snowing, and I need to go out and get a fire going in the wood-stove in the shop. As always, thank you for dropping by. Have a good day.