Chris Schwarz's Blog

Significant Staff Changes at Popular Woodworking Magazine

Note: This is a longer message than we usually post here on the blog and is in two parts. First, a message from Steve Shanesy, the publisher and leader of our woodworking community at F+W Media. Then a message from Editor Christopher Schwarz.


Heading Back into the Front Lines of Writing

Nearly 17 years ago I was at home on a ladder painting when the phone rang.

“I’m with F&W Publications here in Cincinnati, and we’ve recently bought a woodworking magazine. We are looking for an editor. Would you have any interest?”

How could I have known that call would lead to such a long career with Popular Woodworking Magazine?

A couple months back, I decided to leave my busy and often demanding position as business leader of everything relating to woodworking at F+W. I wanted more time in the shop and to begin writing about the craft again. To many, it might have looked like retirement, but it was really about changing gears now that I’m approaching 63 years of age.

Well, folks, the phone rang again.

A few weeks ago, Senior Editor Glen D. Huey told us of a great opportunity that has come his way and that he would be leaving the job. (I’m very glad that he will continue to write for us a contributor.) That hole in the editorial team has become an opening for me. I’m really thrilled to be moving into Glen’s position and continue with the magazine. It’s a new/old role that takes me right back to my editorial roots here and allows me to do what I’ve longed for – more time for woodworking and writing. Some days you get lucky.

And other days you’re not so lucky. In what I’m sure to many will look a bit like a soap opera, I had the unhappy task earlier this week of letting the staff know that our longtime and much-respected editor has decided to move on as well. Chris is filling you in on his plans below, which really look pretty cool. We’re all very happy for him and are getting on with the business of keeping the magazine rolling along.

I know there will be those who will look for intrigue behind these staff changes. The truth is it’s just an amazing set of coincidences. As with Glen, we have every intention of Chris continuing to have a role in the magazine by contributing articles, online content and presenting classes at Woodworking in America this fall.

I’ve had the good fortune of a stable editorial team for years and that’s unusual in the magazine world. There is a certain inevitability that it couldn’t continue forever.

— Steve Shanesy


I’m Leaving the Editor’s Chair

On June 15, I’ll be stepping down as editor of this magazine, which I love almost as much as my wife and children, to launch the next phase of my life, which I have been working toward for many years.

An organic llama farm.

Just kidding about the llama farm. Actually, I’m going to plunge deeper into woodworking history, old texts and traditional hand-tool techniques with my little company, Lost Art Press LLC. To my friends, this move should come as no surprise. I’ve always preferred to work independently. Before I came to Popular Woodworking in 1996, I was editor and co-founder of a small newspaper that covered state politics in Frankfort, Ky.

That business struggled mightily (and eventually failed), despite our every effort to grow it. And I left it in defeat and came here to this magazine, tail between my legs, and learned a lot about the business side of a publication from my boss, Steve Shanesy.

But I am now ready to go back out on my own and try to stand on my own two feet. I might succeed this time. I might not.

Either way, I hope that you’ll still hear a lot from me in Popular Woodworking Magazine, on this blog and at Woodworking in America. I’ve offered to keep writing my blog here at popularwoodworking.com, author regular articles for the magazine and demonstrate at Woodworking in America.

In other words, I don’t want to leave the fold here.

I know it looks like we have been shifting around a lot of duties and job descriptions here at Popular Woodworking Magazine. But for the last 15 years or so, things have been remarkably stable for a national magazine, with only a few comings and goings of note.

So perhaps, from a karmic point of view, we were overdue for some change here. Or perhaps, in my particular case, the right timing, urges and opportunities arose all at the same time.

No matter the reason for the personnel change, I know what isn’t going to change: The quality of the magazine. No one in this organization, from the very top down to the bottom, thinks that Popular Woodworking Magazine is due for an overhaul. Our balance sheet is excellent. Our bean-counting superiors are happy. Our readers are (generally) satisfied.

So why am I messing with things?

That’s hard for me to say. I turn 43 in a few weeks, and I want to make sure I’m heading into the rest of my life with no regrets.

And for me, that means I need to take one more big gamble.

— Christopher Schwarz

p.s. I promise you this transition will be transparent. I have not been fired or forced out. I’m not leaving in disgust. We’ll be offering more information on the coming changes and Steve and I will even be answering your questions in a public forum.

65 thoughts on “Significant Staff Changes at Popular Woodworking Magazine

  1. Bill Wiese

    Dang! Darn! Gosh! Gee! Expletive Deleted!!! Although I am happy to see Steve back in the editorial mix I am a tad, maybe more then a tad, distressed at some of the other changes that are going on at PWM. Yes, I know that I am being selfish. It is just that I have growen accustom to the celeberty status of “The Schwarz.” It is hard to invision PWM without Christopher. After all, Christ was a carpenter and Christopher told us how He pegged the temples framework. Well, maybe Chris was not quit that good. But, I’m convinced that he is good–really good. I will miss him in his roll as editor. And, I will miss my daily dose of the Schwarz.

  2. hikingdoc

    Well, nuts. Chris’ departure leaves a gaping hole at the magazine. His writing, interest in hand tools, quirky sense of humor, and aesthetic style transformed Popular Woodworking from just another generic magazine into a cherished and well-used tool in the workshop. Thank you for inspiring me to do better with my own work, and for igniting my new-found passion for a reasonable blend of hand tools and power. I hope the remaining staff can fill those big shoes and maintain the quality, style, and usefulness of PWM. Good luck to all!

  3. Tom H

    I have grown as a woodworker over these past decade, in no small part due to the influence of Popular Woodworking, and in particular thanks to Chris’ no-nonsense writing about tools and woodworking with hand tools. Any everytime I sent Chris an email question, I always heard back within a day or so – pretty darn nice service to his readers. I wish all the staff, departing or not, the best in the future. Thanks for publishing one of the ‘BEST’ woodworking magazine, period.

  4. Tom Dugan

    Good luck, Chris! Looking back at when I was 43, I can completely understand your motivations. If I had an opportunity as good as yours I’d go for it too.

    Nobody likes change, so I’m sure the staff is even more upset than the readers, but we’ll all be able to handle it. And it sounds like you’re not disappearing anyway.

    Have fun!
    -T

  5. MikeDoughty

    Well, I’m not too surprised as this stirring takes hold of me from time-to-time as well, however I am saddened to see this hole in this extraordinary staff. Please don’t let this wonderful magazine turn into one of the other also-rans as my entire transition to hand tool woodworking is a direct result of Chris’ writing and encouragement. Best of luck Chris in all your endeavours and I look forward to reading your upcoming publications.

  6. jerryolson19

    I heard the folks at FW were popping Champaign last night.

    PW=Chris *(Meg+Glen+Steve+Bob) subtract Glen and PW=Chris *(Meg+?+Steve+Bob) subtract Chris and PW=0 * (Meg+?+Steve+Bob)

    No offence intended to the rest of a great team it’s just the sense I have that Chris was the engine that made things go so well.

  7. irishclover

    Chris,
    I am not a woodworker, but the wife of one and an avid reader of Popular Woodworking. We have a minor tussle every time it arrives to see who gets to read it first. I’ve enjoyed reading you through the years and have enjoyed your opening letters to the readers. May you have the best of luck with your latest journey, and I hope we still find you in the pages of PW every now and then.

  8. gabbymoore

    Good luck to you Chris! I hope Lost Art Press goes really well for you, and with the following you’ve built up through your writing for popular woodworking, I’m sure it will.

    On a more selfish note, I hope you still have the time and energy to keep blogging. I’ve been reading your posts for a few years now and they’re as entertaining as they are interesting.

    Dave Moore

  9. gdblake

    Wow! Next you’ll be telling us Megan has married some Brit and is moving to England to teach Shakespeare and Grammer at Oxford plus Bob has cut his ponytail and left woodworking to become an investment banker. No offense to you Steve (you’ve done a lot of fantastic things at PWW), but Chris took a really good magazine and turned it into a great magazine. While I’m happy for Chris and wish him success, I’m fearful the magazine will change its focus of reviving handtool skills. I’m anxious to learn who will be taking over for Chris as Editor. Good luck to all of us.

  10. rmcnabb

    Best of luck Chris! I hope Lost Art does great things. I will certainly be a regular customer. Hint: there aren’t enough cool hand-tool t-shirts out there. Thanks for bringing so many great books to light, and it’ll be fun to see what else is coming down the pike.

  11. rboe

    Wow. When it rains it pours. But it also sounds exciting. Well, the llama part did.

    Good Luck, don’t think you’ll need much though.

    I look forward to seeing how this all turns out, interesting times.

  12. KGU

    Wow, best wishes to you all!

    Steve, You terrified me at first—but that made a compliment from you much more meaningful. Because of you I hold deep respect for handmade. I collect antique tea cups (seeing your collection at a party inspired me). Our salads are first-class (as promised, we use that bowl for much more than display). And I only hope that you, now in a position you very much deserve, end up with a boss as good as you were—someone who knew how to build a product with integrity, do first and ask permission later, and wear both hats well—all things I greatly admired.

    Chris, Thank you for your patience in the shop, pushing me to do things I never dreamed I could do (build a bookcase, a table, a chair), and insisting I keep at it, even after watching a board fly past my gut and dent one of your (very nice) chisels and shop wall (I still feel bad about that). Because of you I have better taste in music, I live in a 100-year-old house (that I love) in Fort Thomas and, most importantly, I’m a better writer. And editor. You taught me how to tell a better tale. You, too, deserve this and I wish you the best.

    Glen, I so enjoyed working with you on a freelance basis and often wished we could have worked together in the office. You’ve always treated me with kindness and respect and I wish you only the best in your new endeavor.

    I was so young when I first started working at PW (I remember at one of my first staff dinners, Steve asking me if I was old enough to drink—I was). But I learned, and grew, so much—all because of my colleagues. When I look back at my full-time-job days, I consider my PW days some of my happiest. And I consider those who work with each of you in the future very lucky.

    Warmly,
    Kara Gebhart Uhl

  13. jaredegg@gmail.com

    Steve, I look forward to seeing more from you in the magazine, congrats on the new position. Chris, instructed by your technique and watered by your wit, you brought to fruition the latent hand tool passion within. Thanks for your candor and most of all, your integrity.

  14. KC Kevin

    Wow, talk about a stunner. But you know I truly understand and respect the decisions that made. Well maybe not totally understand, but respect. As long as Chris is staying “in the fold” it won’t be quite as painful except maybe to Megan. Best wishes to Chris, Steve, and Glen. I’ll keep reading.

  15. Duncan D

    How wonderful! Three talented people exploring new pastures (and keeping us in the loop) and space created for new talent to emerge. These changes strengthen and deepen the woodworking community.

  16. watermantra

    This saddens me, but I wish you all the best, Chris. Unlike the other, unnamed woodworking magazines, Popular Woodworking speaks to me in broader terms than does most magazines that teach us to simply change wood into other shapes. It’s an ethos that is more wide reaching, and I feel that you are greatly responsible for that, the rest of the staff at PW not withstanding.

    Good luck to you and your family. I’m eagerly awaiting my copy of “The Anarchist’s Toolchest” and the inspiration that it will most certainly engender.

  17. tjhenrik

    I am shocked (although I feared this recently) and heartbroken. I had finally found a magazine that offered me inspiration, education, confidence as well as sheer entertainment. Not since a tot waiting for the next MADD magazine issue have I so anxiuosly waited for the mail to deliver me my next few hours of delight as I devoured every word, especiall, the ‘Note from the editor’. Selfish thoughts aside, I will continue to stalk you out on LAP and wood shows all the while wishing you continued success! Especially if that means we get to continue to peer into the life you so eloquently share with us (see … That’s not too selfish).

    Tim Henriksen

  18. jmaichel

    Sad to see you leave the magazine Chris. I often look forward to your articles however, I am really excited to see how Lost Art Press progresses. Good luck on “dividing and conquering”

    James

  19. Steve Branam

    Wow, double-whammy! That’s a tough one. But I say to Chris, Steve, and Glen, long may you write. I look forward to all your work, within the magazine and without. I can honestly say that Chris’ writing especially got me started with hand tools, totally transforming my hobby.

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