Review By Dean Bielanowski  WAH Website - http://www.woodworkingathome.com

Woodworking at Home DVD Magazine
 Review

By Dean Bielanowski

 

When a beginning hobbyist commences their new venture, they often seek out information and knowledge to get them started, and help them avoid making common mistakes. Some hobby's offer a wide variety of informational sources to glean knowledge from, others are not so lucky. Woodworking is probably one of the lucky ones. There are numerous magazines available globally that offer solid woodworking information that appeal not only to beginning hobbyist woodworkers, but to seasoned veterans as well. Each magazine offers its own unique style, layout and content focus, and each has its own team of writers with particular writing styles and methodologies. This makes for a good information mix, and we haven't even mentioned online forums or newsgroups yet! The Internet has allowed digital media to be shared like it has never been shared before, unfortunately however, the woodworking fraternity has not really cottoned on to this opportunity as fast as many have wanted, and in terms of video media, there is not a lot of solid video content to be found online.

This is where Woodworking at Home magazine comes into play to fill the void. I am not sure "Magazine" is the right word, as it is actually a DVD production, but it does retain some magazine-like features with regular "issues".

So what is it? Imagine your run of the mill woodworking magazine with product reviews, woodworking projects, tips and tricks and regular columns... Now imagine those articles being animated... or even filmed and presented to you every 2 months on DVD media... This is exactly what Woodworking At Home is all about. it is a 'digital' magazine showing off the latest woodworking products, some great furniture and items you can make, as well as a swag of tips and tricks along the way, and all for the very reasonable price of US$8.95 per issue, or US$33.95 per yearly subscription (6 issues with a bonus 7th DVD) - prices are higher for International orders outside of the USA.

So armed with a couple of issues sent to us, we went about viewing the DVD magazines several times before compiling this review. So let's explore the content and layout of a typical Woodworking At Home issue from start to end.

Table of Contents
Once your DVD has successfully loaded, you will be presented with an easy-to-navigate Content menu... a table of contents so to speak. Here you can view and access any part/content of the issue quickly and easily using your DVD remote or DVD controls, basically in the same manner you would access normal sections of a regular DVD movie. Some sections are split into sub-sections with their own sub-menu, allowing you access to specific parts of an article itself. Overall, the menu is very easy to navigate and allows quick access to the section you wish to view.

General Magazine Sections
The length of each DVD varies slightly, but with most issues you will enjoy around 2 hours worth of content.
The magazine is hosted by Chris DeHut, who also provides a lot of the content for each issue, focusing more on product reviews and woodworking projects for the home and workshop. Chris walks you through construction of many types of furniture, each section being menu-indexed for later reference if needed. His approach is both informational, and procedural, often explaining why a particular joint is used (for strength for example) or how to construct a particular piece of a project, including proper tool use.

As an example of some of the projects you might discover in the magazine, here is a list of projects that were featured on the 3 issues we received:

  • Oak Hall Table
  • Cherry Armoire
  • Project Cart for the Shop
  • Cherry Dresser
  • Miter Saw Stand & Storage Cabinet
  • Pirate's Treasure Chest
  • Router Table on a Budget

Obviously, there are many more projects on other issues we haven't mentioned but the range of projects seems quite good and many are included that can be built in a weekend, which is perfect for those of us who, unfortunately, don't get as much shop time as we would like!

I think what really makes this magazine shine is in fact that it isn't a true print magazine. Thirty seconds of video can often explain a procedure much better than even 2000 words of text! Plus, just think that every second you are literally viewing roughly 25-30 single images in motion to create the film. From a content standpoint, Woodworking at Home certainly delivers much more useful information and raw content than any issue of any print woodworking magazine I have read before. It is much easier to understand a procedure when it is shown in motion, with full audio instruction. It's really quite an exciting way to deliver a magazine. Think Norm Abram or David Marks episodes x 4 on each DVD and you come close to the content included on each issue, but with much more variety.

There is also a great 'regular column' called "A Closer Look" where specific woodworking tasks are discussed in details and answers to common questions and problems are delivered. In the issues we received, this included a 'closer look' at Panel Glue Ups which was quite informative, discussing grain and color matching, effective clamping and how to avoid bowed panels.

Tips and Tricks sections include showing you how to develop and scale drawings, put an edge on your cabinet scrapers or build and use circle cutting jigs for the router, to name but a few.

Chris is not the only face you will see on the DVD however. Woodworking At Home also features a regular woodturning and woodcarving section. Since I have been doing a spot of turning lately, I took particular interest in this section. The woodturner featured is Dick Sing (a professional woodturner). Dick is not only a good woodturner, as evidenced by the speed and skill he demonstrates in his section, but also has a solid ability to teach you the skills of woodturning in an easy to understand manner. I have seen many woodturning videos in the past, and Dick's success in delivering his message and demonstrating procedures is right up there with the best. I think why it seems so effective is because it doesn't seemed rushed. The relaxed, casual approach to his segments gives you time to think about what he is saying, and to understand the theory behind the practice. We enjoyed seeing Dick turn a small jewelry dish, a wooden 'worry stone' and being shown some tips on turning efficiently and safely with gouges. This last segment I thought was very valuable... something that is often not discussed in such detail in other turning videos I have seen.

David Reilly is the magazine's 'resident' woodcarver. I'll be the first to admit that woodcarving is not my thing, but it sure does look like fun. If I could get just one of my turning gouges to look and function as sharp as one of David's carving tools, I'd be a happy camper... err woodturner. You can watch David effortlessly carve an Applique for the Armoire built on the show, or relief carve a leaf for a similar project. Again, the emphasis on instructing with supply of relevant theory shines through. Whether this is a goal of the magazine, or just the natural way the hosts teach I cannot say, but it works very well.

Tool Reviews
This section is much as you would expect. New tools and products reviewed. The detail is generally not bad and you can view all the product features and see it in action. The reviews are not as detailed as those you might find on this site (ok, so we are a little biased), but again, the video edge wins out and you can better see how these products perform in action! Its a great segment to see some quality tools and products being put through their paces.

Viewer Gallery
This is a great little inclusion where magazine readers can submit photos and text of their projects and have them shown in the DVD magazine. It gives you some design ideas other users have employed in their projects. The section is suitably named "Bragging Rights".

Project Plans
Another interesting feature of the DVD is that you can view the plans from any of the projects featured on the DVD in PDF format. These are included and provide enough information to guide you along. Admittedly, they are not the same quality as plans you might find in some woodworking magazines, Woodsmith magazine coming to mind, but combined with the video footage of each project, they will get you by just fine. The plans do also come with text and associated images to walk you through each step of the project's construction..

Advertising in the Magazine
Like all print magazines, Woodworking At Home also includes commercial advertising. This usually consists of 10-20 second takes showing a company's products with voiceovers mentioning product information and company contact details. Advertisements seem to be spread randomly throughout the magazine but are generally non-intrusive and not overly bothersome. While we all love to see as much content as possible in any type of magazine, adverts are a critical part of magazines. They not only benefit the publisher by helping to offset costs of magazine production, but believe it or not, they go a long way in keeping subscription and issue costs way down.

Naturally, some products mentioned in the magazine are provided by the sponsors/underwriters of the publication, but in my opinion, I didn't feel these were 'pushed' to the limit, or even over the limit that other productions occasionally cross. Any promotion of such products seems to minimal, or transparent in most cases, which is certainly good to see as it offers a non-biased approach to the magazine's coverage of the hobby.

Overall
Well, Woodworking At Home DVD Magazine is certainly an interesting concept, and it's finally good to see someone taking the initiative to produce a publication that the world is crying out for. The content is excellent, presentation is very respectable, and the range of projects and information delivered each issue rivals that of print magazines, and goes way beyond any existing commercial TV productions for woodworkers. If there was one downside I could mention about the magazine is that some of the menus and title screens seem a little bland. I think a little work into making these more graphically attractive would match the quality of the video content itself. It does seem that the Woodworking At Home team are working on improving these, as the latest issue is much more visually pleasing.

So there you have it... If you are a fan of the New Yankee Workshop, WoodWorks or any other woodworking program on television, I think you will very much enjoy this new format magazine and the content and information it offers. I think it is very well priced for the content you receive and certainly more valuable, in my opinion, than some magazine subscriptions I have entered into in the past.

Woodworking at Home website - www.woodworkingathome.com

Woodworking at Home
DVD Captures
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Typical DVD menu


Here is your host, Chris DeHut


Chris showing you how to create a router table in your tablesaw extension wings


Ahoy there... Arrrr... This DVD gives ya' land lubbers a Pirate's box project... Arrrrr!


Chris demonstrating a new product in the tool review segment.


Resident woodturner, Dick Sing, ready to teach!


He sure knows how to turn wood!


Woodcarver, David Reilly, demonstrating some relief work.


Chris assembling a Cherry Dresser


Rounding over a cabinet top.


Mmmm... Nice drum sander!


Woodworking At Home goes on the road to the Bauhaus Apprenticeship Institute.


Sample PDF file from the DVD.
 

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