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JOEL Joel's Blog

Quercus Magazine

12/20/2023

The first three issues of Quercus Magazine
The first three issues of Quercus Magazine

We've been stocking Quercus Magazine since the first issue. The magazine was a bolt of joy during the pandemic, covering and celebrating an incredible array of topics relating to hand tool woodworking all over the world. (If you don't believe me, check out the summary of the contents of each issue on our Quercus page. Whew!) The magazine was founded and published by Nick Gibbs, a veteran of the English working magazine world. Each issues was inexpensive, eclectic and well worth the read. Quercus celebrated many luminaries that we've known or known of for years, but also introduced us to toolmakers like Julia Kalthoff, whose carving axe we started carrying after reading about her in Issue 4.

I met Nick at Handworks this past fall in Amana. Nick was busy getting subscribers but he also found time to come to our booth, play with our new treadle lathe prototype and have a go at some of the tools we offer. This current issue, No. 21, has a review of some of those tools and an article about our lathe.

Sadly, a few weeks ago Nick told us that that Issue 21 will be the last issue of Quercus. The task of editing, assembling, and managing a magazine of Quercus's quality simply required too much energy to sustain. As Nick observes in his Note in Issue 21, "The dream...to produce a magazine for chairmakers and hand-tool enthusiasts had been met. Yet what began as a plaything is now invading my life." Nick proved that a magazine like Quercus, with an infectious energy and correspondents from all over the world, could be successful. It's a wonderful magazine - and one that makes its readers feel part of a community. As Nick notes, "I was lonely in 2020 and I've been reminded that I have friendships around the world."

Magazines in general have been going through very tough times. People aren't reading as much, and "content" is supposedly supposed to be free. In the old days, subscribers paid for the privilege of getting copies, but not all the cost was paid by subscription. The bulk of the money came from advertisers who loved getting access to an audience that had showed their interest by forking over some cash to get the issues.

The rise of the internet killed that model as people found all sorts of info for free on the net. Advertisers found that print advertising wasn't nearly as effective or fashionable than it had been, so a major source of revenue dried up. Many magazines tried to drive up their circulations (and appeal to advertisers) by heavily discounting subscriptions, but less money in the game meant cost cutting, making it harder to get compelling content, and the disappearance or zombie-fication of magazines. This trend affected all sorts of magazines, not just woodworking, of course.

In the 1990's one major mantra of magazine was that people were too busy to read, so give them lots of pictures and very little text. Unfortunately for magazines, the internet is far, far better at offering this recipe than magazines, which have come to seem a little anachronistic. My basic thought is that if I can read a magazine completely between the time I buy it and then get on line for boarding a plane, it's just not worth it anymore.

So in the past years we have seen a consolidation and, disappearance of a lot of great publications. Fine Woodworking magazine, along with the other titles left at Taunton Press, was recently sold to Active Interest Media, the publisher of Popular Woodworking and Woodsmith (among other titles).

Now don't get me wrong - I love magazines. I love the thrill of discovery. No matter how brilliant the YouTube algorithm is, you can't beat the human editor who makes sure that whatever reaches your eyeballs has been vetted, corrected, and is worth your time. Mortise and Tenon Magazine, which we are proud to stock, is a case in point. The articles are in depth, have a focus and perspective. I don't always necessarily agree but I so value their perspective. Wood Magazine is another great publication. It's the opposite of M&T with its stress on power tools, but I enjoy that their approach to woodworking each issue is consistently filled with projects meant to be made in a powered shop with lots of jigs and accessories to extend the ability of the tools you have.

We wish Nick Gibbs and his team (including Amanda Laidler, a theater director who also served as our point person for shipping the the physical copies of the magazine) a very happy new year as they contemplate their next steps. The closing of Quercus is very poignant - Quercus will be very much missed - but it shows not just to Nick, but to all of us, that there is room for great magazines, written with passion, and designed for readers.

At Handworks 2023
At Handworks 2023, Nick Gibbs (left) tests out our folding treadle lathe while Alan Dorsey, the demonstrator, looks on


The cover of the last issue of Quercus
The cover of the last issue of Quercus, with a slightly modified motto


Join the conversation
12/20/2023 Mike Rodgers
I too love magazines and hate to see Quercas go away although I can certainly sympathize. My wife is a former editor of a quarterly magazine and I remember the hours she spent. I also really like Mortise and Tenon. Like you, I don't always agree with some of the guests' perspectives but it is a quality publication and I appreciate its depth.
12/20/2023 Dave Polaschek
Sad to see it go, and I hope someone else has the energy to try and fill the gap left by its demise.
12/20/2023 Kevin Schroeder
Nick's Quercus will be Greatly missed here, but what scared the _ell! out of me was reading that FWW has been sold to the Popwood publisher. It will also be Changed & Improved, and quickly turn into toilet paper...
12/21/2023 Tom Buskey
I was sad when I received the email from Quercus. I'm glad I had a chance to subscribe.
Maybe it will prompt someone else to produce a similar magazine.
12/22/2023 Bob Sheppard
I just ordered #21. I have every issue since its beginning, and reread them at times. Quercus is a great magazine, and I will miss it
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The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.