I just returned from the second annual Weekend with WOOD, an educational conference provided by the folks at WOOD Magazine in Des Moines, Iowa. While I only had two sessions to teach, I didn’t have much of an opportunity to sit in on other classes. I was too busy taking tours and chatting with staff and other woodworkers. But I had a blast and I do feel my time was well spent. Here are some of the highlights.
My own class was focused on the basics of oil-based finishes as well as how to apply a simple varnish finish. What you see here is the typical class size. Because the event is held at the Meredith campus (WOOD’s parent company), they can only fit so many attendees into each room. While this makes for a cozy and intimate experience, I have to say that it makes it a little awkward to find your classes. For instance, to attend my session you would need to go down the hall, take the third door on the left, head down two flights of stairs into the basement, hang a right, and it’s the second room on the right. Of course, there was ample signage that made this process much less painful than it could have been. All of the classes were full so attendees were clearly able to get where they needed to be without much trouble.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was the tour of the Meredith facility. What many folks don’t realize about our favorite woodworking magazines is that they are usually owned by very large parent companies. Oftentimes their “personalities” and content choices are largely dictated by the rules of the mother ship. In the case of WOOD, the mother ship is a behemoth! The amount of space dedicated to sets and props for publications like Better Homes & Gardens was mind-blowing! From the looks of it, they must have one guy who’s only job is to build fake walls! And yes, that is the one and only Steve Ramsey (below) from Woodworking for Mere Mortals who appears to be contemplating his options in second-hand stemware. By the way, the view of downtown Des Moines was remarkable!
The WOOD office and shop spaces were pretty awesome too, featuring past and future projects scattered around the building. Here’s just a small sampling of what we saw.
As we continued our tour, we had the opportunity to see the area where WOOD designs and builds their projects. Picture this: a typical cubicle jungle with a fully-functional wood shop in the middle. We’re talking heavy duty tools and a fully-functional dust collection system. From what I understand, the sound isolation is really good and the folks working in the office aren’t disturbed by the shop noise.
I also learned some interesting facts about their production process. Apparently, all of the projects are built in the office-shop mentioned above. When it comes time to take photos, the project is carted down to the basement for the photographic treatment. I suppose this wouldn’t be so bad if you’re just taking pictures of the finished piece but this process is done for ALL of the photos that appear in the magazine, including the in-process shots!
And perhaps even more interesting is how their stage-shop does double duty. One side is built to look like a classic woodworking shop with lots of tools and wood paneling. This area is used for the more advanced projects. For the beginner/entry-level projects, they use the other side of room which is made to look like a typical DIY’ers garage or basement space. Pretty cool stuff!
I’d like to thank the folks at WOOD Magazine for the opportunity to teach and attend. For those of you who attended my sessions, it was awesome getting to know you and I hope you enjoyed the experience as much as I did.