I've subscribed to this magazine for several years now, though somehow (sadly) I let my subscription expire. Trust me, I'm fixing that!
I've gone from hobbyist to almost-full time professional woodworker over the past few years, making everything from small desk clocks to custom cabinetry and furniture. I'd have to roger up with the other reviewers who've said that, if they could only have one woodworking magazine, this would be it.
Strengths -- I don't care where you are in your woodworking skill/experience level; you WILL find something worth a careful read in each issue. I've subscribed to several other woodworking magazines of which that could not be said. Yes, much of what is featured/discussed in these magazines is "high-level" stuff. That's how you grow as a woodworker. There needs to be at least one journal for any profession that takes on the finer points on a consistent basis. THIS IS IT for the profession of woodworking. What's new in water-based finishes (a lot!), veneering, dovetails on a curved drawer front (haven't tried THAT one yet!) -- just a few of the kinds of stuff you can expect to find in FWW. Four or five years ago I may have disregarded this magazine as "too much" for me; then again, I cringe at the quality and worksmanship of some of my "handiwork" from that same time!
The contributors to this magazine (I've met a few) are some of the most accomplished, yet down-to-sawdust people you'd ever meet in this business. Most of them are making a living working wood, and are happy to share lessons of both success and failure to help the reader.
Weaknesses? Well, as has been mentioned, you won't find many diagrams or drawings to help you step-by-step. Personally, I don't consider that a drawback, and it's not part of the magazine's mission to provide them. If you're out to basically cut out and assemble a kit every so often, you'll want to look elsewhere.
If, on the other hand, you want to develop your knowledge of one of the oldest crafts in history, to get to the point that you can conceive, design, draft, and build (oh, yeah -- and finish!) one -- or a hundred -- quality works in wood, then this is well worth the annual subscription.
Sooner or Later...
Many have heard the old Copenhagen snuff ad that stated, "Sooner or later it is Copenhagen!". Well, that is exactly how it goes with Fine Woodworking. Some say it isn't filled with enough projects and they are too difficult, some say the articles are way too technical, and even others say that the reviews are too critical. Response: Yes and no. If you don't want your tools to last a lifetime, then the reviews are too critical. If you want a project that you can be proud of your entire life and look at with pride, knowing it will become a family heirloom, then the projects are not to difficult, and after you spend 100 hours building something and another 30 to 50 hours sanding and finishing it, there aren't too few. And if you sincerely believe that ignorance is bliss, and education is the root of evil, then yes the articles are too technicle.
For anyone that wants to become the best woodworker they can, then this is the magazine for you. Many start out with other magazines, "BUT SOONER OR LATER IT IS FINE WOODWORKING"!
Of all the woodworking magazines available to read Fine Woodworking is the best, bar none. It will encourage those with no experience, and inspire those who are serious about woodworking. I have subscribed to this magazine for the past 12 years, and have read many articles that have helped me to become a better woodworker. The old issues I have saved for reference and are timeless in their information.
Once upon a time there was a magazine published on glossy paper, oversized, and printed in black and white. It covered high-quality, slightly artsy, woodworking and woodworkers. Sometimes it was a little hard for the average home woodworker to relate to some of the content, but it was a compelling magazine none-the-less. Yes, that magazine was Fine Woodworking, in its early incarnation.
Since that time, Fine Woodworking has developed into a mainstay of the woodworking world. Long printed in full color, the magazine continues to offer coverage of some of the more esoteric woodworking designs and woodworkers, but most of the content is geared towards the dedicated woodworking enthusiast. While it seems that most of the content is dedicated to furniture buiilders, there is something for everything in this magazine. If you are looking for home repair and carpentry, you won't find it here, but you will find information on woodworking techniques, tools and finishing.
I subscribe to few magazines because I just don't have the time to read them all. For woodworking , this is the one magazine I will not do without.
Getting better and broadening its audience
FWW is the standard for WWing magazines. It has gotten much better in including more tips, tricks, and tutorials for those WWers who are more hobbyist level, I would say that is very welcome. Each issue has at least an item or two I would like to do, or implement, or learn....they have greatly improved the drawings and article support information (no full-sized plans if you like that sort of thing)
If I had only one WWing mag, i would select this one, a few years ago i would not have.
if you are a mid level WWer, you will expand your abilities with this mag and be inpsired to do greater/more difficult techniques and pieces....price is a little steep compared to other mags, but you will find yourself keeping these, because something you read may not be used today, but next year you will want to read the article again.
I really like that the major articles can be read on the binding when the magazine is sitting on your shelf...like national geographic.
Only subscription that lasted
I jumped into woodworking four years ago and have had 5 woodworking magazine subscriptions over the four years. I started with Fine Woodworking and now it's all that's left. Nothing else compares.
If you think the price is too high (compared to the others) just remember: like woodworking tools, you get what you pay for.
This is the best woodworking magazine. It has a nice balance between projects, general instruction for newbies, and advance techniques for intermediate and advanced woodworkers. This is where all the 'famous' woodworkers write: Garret Hack, Chris Becksvoort, Mike Dunbar, and others.
The magazine is glossy and the binding is nice, so it keeps well in the bookshelf, unlike some of my Popular Woodworking and American Woodworker magazines.
I'm constantly referring back to my old issues for ideas and techniques.
Great for starting out, but now i'm bored
After 6 years I'm finally letting my subscription end. Its a great magazine for starting out, but after a while the articles begin seeming to be very alike. New ideas are now a rarity in Fine Woodworking, and that was the original reason that I subscribed. There are very few technique articles and too many tool reviews. And I've become skeptical of those review articles--primarily because many, but not all, are not rigorous scientific tests and are subject to the author's preferences, yet those articles are not presented that way. Furthermore, I believe that the magazine in general has dropped considerably in quality and definitely in content over the past few years. I'd have given it 5 stars in the begining, but now its just average.