With Norm Abram in his New Yankee Workshop on the cover, you might think Design News has morphed into a woodworking magazine. Well, no, it hasn't. The “Norm” package of stories about building kitchen cabinets for the 2008 show focuses on core Design News topics — materials as in engineered lumber, fasteners and adhesives.
But I'd be lying if I said interviewing Norm and “New Yankee Workshop” Executive Producer Russell Morash wasn't fun and instructive. Many is the Saturday afternoon following a day's worth of home projects that I've turned on the TV to listen to Norm discuss some home project or furniture building project. His calming manner and amazing ability to teach hooked me even if I had no intention of building or renovating what he was discussing. Not that it's any surprise, but Norm is the real deal in woodworking expertise.
But I would be derelict if I did not dial the story into the realm of engineers. Like engineering, woodworking is a left brain activity with a little right brain thrown in for creativity. What's more, Norm studied mechanical engineering and is keenly aware engineers are a big group among his viewers. Just before I interviewed him, he was having a discussion with a tool supplier about how finicky and precise retired automotive engineers are as tool buyers.
Regardless, I wanted to find out if tools and woodworking were something engineers were passionate about. So, I put some calls into Black & Decker, which as it turns out owns many major power tool brands — DEWALT, Porter Cable, Delta and of course, its namesake brand. In my research, I discovered Danaher Corp. was also one of the bigger, if not less known, toolmakers with Armstrong (professional tools), Allen (mechanics tools), Jacobs (drill chucks) and KD (mechanics tools). The Stanley Works is another.
I wanted to learn how engineers as a group stack up as buyers of nonprofessional tools. Unfortunately, I was unable to unearth such statistics so we made the leap that this is the type of coverage our readers would find useful. But only half of it is in print. Some 31 photos, nine podcasts with Norm discussing many aspects of woodworking and six videos looking at the “Hidden Secrets of Norm's Workshop” are online. Check it out.
Engineering and technology are part of your daily lives both professionally and personally. Of course, last month's big engineering disaster was the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis on Aug. 1, followed by another in China a few days later. Within two days of the Minneapolis collapse, we posted more than 10 stories speculating the cause and a week afterward, yours truly was snapping photos from the Stone Arch Bridge less than a quarter mile upstream from the collapsed structure. As of this writing, we just posted our first story about the Mattel toy recall and the high levels of lead in the paint used in Chinese factories.
Herein lies two points: Design News now practices what its name suggests: news. Like it or not, every magazine that used to be just a magazine has to do news given the unmistaken immediacy of the Internet. Our new direction also recognizes the life and death importance of technology and engineering.
What do you think? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.