Last week I talked about what it took to create the cover of our current “Working in a Small Shop” issue. This topic is always the theme of our June/July issue. I also mentioned how I enjoy photography, especially when the results turn out well. Today, I’d like to chat about a few of my favourite covers since I became editor of CW&HI.
First annual small shop cover
Before I joined the CW&HI team, I wrote for a number of other North American-based woodworking magazines, including Canadian Home Workshop. I tried to talk them into showcasing small shops to their readers, as opposed to the large dream shops they sometimes focused on. My thought was that dream shops looked great on the page, but that really didn’t help woodworkers improve their hobby. If anything, they now had dream shop envy, and might even underestimate what they could accomplish in their small space. Unfortunately, they weren’t really interested in my idea.
When I became editor of CW&HI in 2010, I knew that was one thing I wanted to do. Within a few issues we put together our first “Working in a Small Shop” issue. In fact, I didn’t plan for it to be an annual thing, but the publisher at the time, Paul Fulcher, told me about the positive feedback we were getting about the issue and thought this should be an annual theme.
I still remember talking with former CW&HI editor Vic Tesolin about a potential cover image for an issue like this. Taken at night, with an overhead door open and all the shop contents framed nicely by a dark sky. I think I took only one shot, then sent it off to our art director. Thankfully, he liked it, as did everyone else. It’s funny how some cover shoots are very labour intensive, while others require only one push of a button.
Second annual small shop cover
My approach to the first small shop cover went over nicely, but I couldn’t use that same approach again. At least not at my shop. A house a few streets over had an added enclosure on one side of it, and I always thought it looked really nice. One day I drove by and noticed the door open, and open space behind it. Turned out there was no rear wall.
I got the idea to do sort of an opposite approach to that first small shop cover. A dark silhouette working on the inside, with a light and bright exterior. I didn’t have a shutter remote at the time, and I probably ran about three kilometres that cold April morning trying to get the right shot. I had just enough time to start the 10-second timer, run into the enclosure and pose before my time was up. At least the running kept me warm.
The reason I like this shot so much is because the simple silhouette inside could be just about any woodworker in Canada, if you use your imagination. I think anyone can imagine themselves on that cover, building their next project.
Fun fact: This issue featured CW&HI’s most popular article ever, Cynthia White’s “Tung Oil: Debunking the Myths.” It’s been read over 406,000 times online since it was in that issue, and it’s still going strong.
Like the first two covers I mentioned, this issue also had a theme, but in this case it was texture. For the past 10 years or so I’ve enjoyed adding texture to many of my projects. I find a smooth surface is one thing that most people are impressed by, but a textured surface gets far more compliments. The fact that it can be added in such a wide variety of ways, by so many different tools, makes it a lot of fun to add to furniture and woodwork.
I find most people who view textured wood haven’t a clue how the texture was added, even if they’re woodworkers. Putting this issue together was a lot of fun, and photographing the cover was a blast, too. One of the projects in this issue was a heavily textured mahogany wall shelf. It was flipped upside down on my bench while I hit it with a fairly narrow carving gouge, and a shot of this was eventually used on the cover. This texture would not be easily seen, but it would be felt.
I like the closeup nature of the shot, and obviously the shadows the heavily textured surface creates. When you see this shelf in person you can’t help but reach out to run your hand over it.
One general rule for magazine covers is to avoid the colour brown, but since we’re a woodworking magazine that’s sometimes tough. Especially when working with brownish-red African mahogany. Add to that a brown skybar background across the top of the cover and even more browns in a few of the small images at the top of the page. Heck, the hand in the shot even belonged to a Brown…me. I guess rules are made to be broken.
Another fun fact: This issue featured CW&HI’s second most popular article ever, “12 Ways to Add Texture With Tools You Already Have.” It’s been read over 336,000 times online since it was in this issue.
Those are three of my older favourites. In the future I’ll talk about a few of my newer favourites. It might also be fun to chat about a few of my least favourite covers. That could get me in trouble, though!