Magazine content and reader feedback

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Mark Baker

Thursday, August 11, 2016

www.woodworkersinstitute.com

I have been busy sorting out magazine things - when am I not busy on the magazines? - and tinkering with content and presentation a bit. There is always a sense of excitement when I hear what people want to see, and then - along with the team - try to deliver that in the magazines.

I like the fact that I get feedback - yes, including the critical ones - although I do my best to ensure that I try to cater for as many people as I can most of the time. I get requests to have a whole magazine dedicated or a heavy bias to pens, hollow forms, wet turning, toys and the list goes on. Sadly, that is not possible. An occasional issue with a bias towards a particular topic is OK, but I am mindful of the fact that some readers do not want to know about that which is featured. Hence, a broad topic spread is covered so there is wider appeal. Books and DVDs can be bought covering single issue aspects such as pen making, hollow forms and so on and that is the better way to go than using a magazine to do that. It is interesting to note that pen turning is the largest aspect of turning. There is a voracious appetite for all things pens. I can see the attraction, one can turn pens in a relatively small space, the equipment is minimal in comparison to some aspects of turning and there is a huge variety of materials, kits and mechanisms one can use. The end result can be quite spectacular and functional too. I am a lover of well-made pens, especially fountain pens. I still use them and love writing with them.

Anyway, I digressed a bit. Balancing what is featured and whom it caters for and what knowledge to assume on any given article is tricky at the best of times. Let"s look at turning a "simple bowl" with no decorative effects/enhancement other than the application of a final finish, and break it down into simple and non-exhaustive key stages.

Timber choice - What is the bowl going to be used for and what options do you have suitable for the particular bowl you are turning?

Design and proportions - There are numerous options shape-wise to suit its intended use and personal aesthetic likes. But what shapes do people know about and what proportions and positions of body curve, rim design, foot design and so on do people need to know about?

Work holding - What do we hold the wood with, why do we use that method and what happens if we do not have that bit of kit?

Tool use - What tools are used for certain things and why, and what happens if someone does not have a certain tool? How does one use the tools?

Sharpening tools - This subject vexes many and without sharp tools, working safely and effectively is more difficult.

Sanding - Does everyone know how to sand and what is used accessories-wise and why?

Finishing - The choice is huge and what is used is based on need, availability and personal choice.

Safety - A big subject that many take seriously, others less so, but if we turn there are potential issues that need to be taken seriously and addressed.

Yes I know there are gaps in what I have listed, but you can see that what to include topic wise and how much information featured in each article is a tricky balance indeed. Most readers of "how-to" magazines classify themselves as beginners and intermediate in ability - that is a broad subjective range. Trying to work out what they know already and what they want to know is always fun. Readers have a voracious appetite for knowledge and according to feedback, "need to know things in order to work better, safer, easier and such like". There are of course readers of magazines who are further along in their journey of discovery and read such magazines for numerous reasons and even with that ability level it is a case of working out what they know and what they want to see.

It is a given that I cannot get it right for everyone all of the time. I try my best and spend hours and hours of my life trying to do so, but it is just not possible to please everyone all of the time. But I continue to have fun trying.

Let me know what you want to see in the magazines and of course what you don"t like and I will add all of the comments to the long list I have and try to accommodate everyone’s wishes to the best of my ability.

Have fun,

Mark

Photo: Turning a simple bowl. Photograph by GMC/Anthony Bailey

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