Publisher’s note: The following is the essay I wrote at the beginning of The Stick Chair Journal that explains what it’s about and what is coming in the future. This is the only excerpt we’ll be publishing on the blog.
The world does not need any more chairs. Or magazines, for that matter. And yet I am compelled to create both.
When I left my corporate publishing job in 2011, I was determined to stay away from magazine writing. And for years I turned down a half-dozen friendly offers from former competitors to write tool reviews, a column or long-form feature articles.
It turns out, however, that what I hated about corporate publishing was just the corporate part. The endless fleecing of customers (why does the cost of a yearly subscription go up for loyal subscribers?). The pressure to grow revenue 20 percent every year (without additional resources). The constant cheapening of the printed product (if there’s a thinner, crappier paper out there, they’ll find it and use it). The pandering to advertisers at the expense of the readers. The non-stop pressure to write articles for the lowest-common denominator.
It took me 11 years to recover from that toxic diet. Then one day while taking a shower I realized I could start a publication on my own terms. No advertising. Beautiful paper. No pressure for growth. And the magazine/journal/zine could be filled with the minutiae that I obsess about.
And that’s how The Stick Chair Journal was born.
What’s it about? Chairs that look like they are made from sticks. While the first issues will surely be about the chairs that I love and build, the world of “stick chairs” is much wider. I consider Windsor/Forest chairs to be stick chairs. In the hills of Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia, ladderbacks are often called stick chairs. All these chairs share one central feature: They are built from very slender, roundish components (sticks!) that are joined to create a lightweight and comfortable place to sit.
Unlike frame chairs, which are rooted in the cabinetmaking tradition of square mortises and tenons, stick chairs use different technology. The joints are circles instead of squares. And instead of deriving strength from bulk, stick chairs survive thanks to the exploitation of wood at the cellular level.
In each issue, we hope to highlight techniques that you might find helpful. Discuss tools that fly under the radar of mass-market magazines. Offer plans for one chair per issue that you are free to build for yourself and even sell to customers. And I want to explore the cultural aspects of stick chairs. What does that mean? Read “A Vampire Chair” in this issue for a taste.
I consider The Stick Chair Journal to be a supplement to “The Stick Chair Book.” That means that my plans use the techniques already discussed in that book. If you are an experienced chairmaker, you probably will be able to follow the plans here without any help. But if you are new to chairmaking, you might want to pick up a copy of “The Stick Chair Book” to get grounded in the basics first.
For future issues, we hope to convince other makers of stick chairs to share their methods and designs. But first, we have to get a few issues under our belts to establish a rhythm for the editing, production and printing of the Journal.
Oh, one more thing: We don’t plan to offer subscriptions. We don’t have the staff or infrastructure to manage a subscription/renewal database. In any case, most magazines are trying to trick you into renewing (sometimes for several years). And I don’t have the stomach for that game any more.
The Journal will be printed annually and will be released in the fall – stick chair season. If you want a copy, you’ll be able to buy it from Lost Art Press, plus (I hope) the outlets where we sell our books. Purchase only the issues you want. Skip the ones you don’t. If you don’t like an issue, send it back for a refund.
If all this sounds like a lousy way to run a railroad, you are probably right.
But let’s find out anyway.
P.S. We still have PLENTY of Stick Chair Merit Badges to give away. Here‘s how to get one!
18 thoughts on “A Lousy Way to Run a Railroad”
It seems to me that the introductory four paragraphs hint that there might be a little devil on your shoulder whispering that the production of a woodwork magazine might be a good idea.
If that is so, then the only question is, whether or not you listen to the little imp. I can see the argument against: time spent away from the work bench, the logistics, lack of personnel etc. On the other hand, a magazine run with integrity, published at a fair price (which would probably equate to a bit more expensive than existing competition) and with an ethical relationship with advertisers i.e. they have no editorial influence, direct or indirect, whatsoever would be a fine thing … especially if it were printed on good paper etc. so that receiving it would be an aesthetic pleasure in itself.
Could you not explore the possibilities? Would you have to be 100% hands on or could you recruit an editor in whom you have great faith?
Surely the opportunity to take up Mr Hayward’s torch cannot be lightly cast aside.
Maybe the imp is worth a further consultation. (I’m sayin’ nowt.)
I hope you have an option for your Europe based fans/customers.
http://www.rubank.se is going to sell the issue – and they ship to the mainland (and I suppose to the UK too).
And they are shipping quickly! Ordered some stuff (Tremont cut nails and LAP books and a Swedish carving book) through them a while ago.
Sounds intriguing – since most of my reading these days is done on my iPad or Kindle I’m wondering if it will it be offered in digital format as well?
Never mind. I clicked on the link and see the answer – yep, both formats. Thanks
It’s so interesting to see people looking at the chaos of th Information Age and saying….you know I don’t really care that much. Or even better, I reject the premise that I need all that. I bought a real hand plane during Covid and my table saw has parked in the corner ever since. And my muscles, sweat glands and general disposition have been edified by the work. As a connected person until Covid, I am grateful for the disconnection from things that cause frustration and rob joy and reconnect to a medium that asks you to be more connected and brings peace with it. Which is why I’ve bought a ticket and have gotten on board the train. Looking forward to everything you guys endorse or produce. Also working my way through a child’s stick rocker. It will probably be an epic failure, but the journey has been grand. Hoping to earn a badge at the end, My best,
Well, I guess I did it backwards, since I bought the magazine first ($25 vs $50 I guess). Good quick first read – I’ll sit and read it more carefully later and probably buy the book – I like your books.
I’ve always thought that chairmaking was beyond my talents, but this just may tempt me to try. The practical application of pocket-hole joinery impresses me mightily – I’ve used them a lot in the cabinets that I build and find them to be very quick and craftmanly way of making strong, reliable, built to last joints. Use a little common sense in where to put them and they are never noticed in the finished product.
From the magazine, why remove the pocket screws? (Putting “remove pocket screws” in the search bar yields entertaining results sans answer)
I remove them if there’s a chance that one of my back sticks will be placed close to the screw. I don’t want to drill through the screw. Removing the screws allows me to reuse them in other chairs – and I don’t have to worry about running into some metal buried in the chair with a drill bit.
But feel free to keep them in!
Thanks Chris. I knew someone reasonably well that was “famous” in his field and wrote the back page article for a long running magazine for many decades. He felt that ladies of the night had more honor and ranked higher than magazines for many of the reasons you mentioned. Of course, he was much more colorful on how he expressed it.
Any idea if/when Lee Valley will have the journal in stock. Us Canucks are still anxiously awaiting it.
That is completely in the hands of Lee Valley. They have been offered to carry the Journal. When they do pick up one of our titles it usually takes about a month for it to show up there.
Slow Train Comin’
Question about the 4 piece arm bow, Do you cut the bevels on the arms and the middle arms before cutting the arcs, or?
I cut the bevels after cutting the arms to shape.
Unless I’m reading too much into your essay, I will have to wait a looong time for the Journal to have an article on “The Ultimate Stick Chair.” 😉
I wonder if George Walker & Jim Tolpin would be disappointed in your explanation about setting up hexagonal legs and sticks in the Journal. Seems to me that you can just find the center of the rectangular wood piece and then draw a circle of radius of the width of the wood (1.155x the thickness). Where the circle intersects the edges are the points of the hexagon. (I just need a quick way to get the proper width without a ruler… Hmm…, perhaps some kind a ratio scale?)
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