A Good Goodbye
Last summer, upon accepting the position of managing editor here at Popular Woodworking Magazine, I wrote a blog post publicly asking myself if I was a woodworker. Today, as I begin my final week in this role, I’m only slightly closer to a definitive answer.
Sorry – burying the lede is an old writer’s habit of mine (same with posting misleading photos). Yes, I’m leaving my position at Popular Woodworking Magazine. I’ve been offered editorial work with a company down the road from my house, and I accepted. The managing editor job has been a wonderful experience for me, and I’m extremely grateful to the staff here for taking a chance on a hog farmer with a portfolio of freelance writings to sit in this seat. In the just-shy-of-a-year I’ve been here, I’ve learned about everything from correct jointer usage to effective headline construction. Megan and I debated “on to” vs. “onto” and the correct way to capitalize “lazy Susan.” I conquered my fear of table saws.
And I’m also aware that many of you don’t know who I am at all. I haven’t been the most frequent poster on this blog, and my name only appeared on one article. Nonetheless, I hope my presence at the magazine has been positive. I know a few typos got through as I gained my sea legs, but I like to think I helped make the magazine a quality experience for readers.
But back to that dogged old question: Am I a woodworker? The answer, I suspect (still), lies not in what I call myself so much as what I do. This weekend I made some bread, did about five loads of laundry and restored a 60s-era Wurlitzer electric piano. I also, in response to my wife’s request for a wall-mounted coat rack, grabbed an old walnut offcut from my garage; flattened and smoothed it with old handplanes I was given and restored since taking this position; cut a decorative edge using my router table; and mounted hardware in a consistent and attractive way.
If you are one of the few who found me on Instagram, you saw too many pictures of the Wurly restoration (see photo above – how’s that for burying a lede?), but you didn’t see that coat rack – I really don’t like posting that stuff. I’ll continue to make things from wood in my remaining years, growing in knowledge of and comfort with techniques. I’ll savor the time it takes me to complete a project, and I’ll delight in knowing I fulfilled a need with my own hands. I probably won’t post many pictures though – it just doesn’t occur to me. It’s a blindspot I guess, a quirk I’ve come to accept. Call it hog-farmer pragmatism: I have a hard time distinguishing between pride over a well-constructed table and repairs to a splintered farrowing-barn wall.
But if you’re not a camera-shy hog farmer, you probably enjoy showing off your woodworking skills. Of course you do! And if you also know comma usage per the “Associated Press Stylebook,” can make sentences sing and possess good time-management skills, you may want to consider replacing me here behind this computer terminal. You can find the rest of the job description on our parent company’s website. You’ll get access to the magazine’s full woodshop, a perk I didn’t take enough advantage of and will certainly miss. And don’t be afraid to apply – I was collecting eggs and checking on a pregnant sow when I got my call for an interview, so this job is open to unlikely candidates.
As I clean off my desk and prepare documents for the next managing editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine, I want to thank you all for reading the results of our hard work. And thanks to those of you who reached out with comments and pitches, as well as the authors I had the pleasure of working with in this role. It’s my belief that a body leaves every encounter with an experience he or she can use to better themselves – and I don’t have to work at all to find the good I take from my experience at this publication.