The Best Publication Hardly Anyone Knows About.
In 2018 I started a new job as editor for American Period Furniture, the annual journal of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers, aka SAPFM. I knew about SAPFM from visiting their booth at various woodworking shows, having members in my woodworking and SketchUp classes and in connection with my work as an editor for Popular Woodworking. I kept my distance because my personal taste in furniture is heavily in the Arts & Crafts period of the early 20th century. I assumed that SAPFM was only for those interested in ornate pieces made before 1840. As my 9th grade shop teacher and football coach used to say, when we assume . . .
SAPFM was founded more than 20 years ago to provide resources to furniture makers who mainly built reproductions. At that time it was difficult for such makers to receive recognition or acceptance in woodworking shows that emphasized original designs over the quality of the work. As someone who builds reproductions on a regular basis I know I won’t be a good designer without a thorough knowledge of what was made in the past, how it was made and who made it. Two of my passions are high quality furniture and history. I found a home in SAPFM because most members share those interests to the point where they might be considered chronic afflictions. I’m not interested in finding a cure, I’m out to meet people with a common interest.
Above left is the cover of the first issue I created, the 2018 edition. The chair was made by the recipient of the 2018 Cartouche award, Ray Journigan. The chair wouldn’t fit in my house, but I consider myself fortunate to have met Ray and to learn from him. Although our tastes are different we both share a passion of fine work, created efficiently and challenges in the making and satisfaction when the project is complete. We also share an appreciation for all the furniture makers we learned from and a responsibility to pass down to coming generations what we have learned. That in essence is what SAPFM is all about, and American Period Furniture is a tremendous resource of information. If you’re interested in building furniture that will outlive you, you should be reading it.
One of the best parts of being editor is that my bosses, the members of SAPFM, are looking for quality information first and foremost. As the editor I don’t have to worry about most of the constraints that drive the commercial woodworking magazines. If an article needs a few more pages to be complete, I simply add pages. If the images need to be larger, the images are larger. The goal is to create the best possible publication, written by people with thorough knowledge of the craft, so that’s my approach. This type of content simply isn’t found anywhere else, it’s printed on heavy, high quality paper and in an age of ever-shrinking publications, the journal is still 120 pages. On the right is the 2019 cover, featuring the stunning work of Bob Stevenson. Like Ray Journigan, Bob is extremely talented yet down-to-earth and willing to share what he knows. Bob is also active in the San Diego Fine Woodworking Association. He doesn’t have a website, but you can get an idea of who he is and what he does in this video. In addition to featuring Cartouche recipients, the journal contains articles on a wide variety of topics that furniture makers are interested in, written by the folks who make the furniture presented in a unique way. If you find most woodworking magazines less than satisfying, you will enjoy American Period Furniture.
Last year, in the 2020 edition, Cartouche recipient Tony Kubalak wanted to try a different approach to a project article about the making of the clock seen on the cover. My concept of being a good editor is to trust the instincts of my authors. Tony wanted to include illustrations for each of the sub-assemblies in this complex project, based on his 3D SketchUp model, and the result is 11 pages of solid information in text, photos and drawings. The lessons go way beyond making this specific project. The article lets you in on how an accomplished woodworker approaches a major undertaking, how to break it down into manageable steps, how 3D modeling becomes a valuable problem-solving tool, and a bunch of ways to solve the problems that arise in the construction of anything.
I’m wrapping up the 2021 edition, which will go to SAPFM members who are on the rolls before November 1. I’m confident it will be better than the last edition, and it features the work of 2021 Cartouche recipient David Lamb.
American Period Furniture is only available to SAPFM members, and is one of the many benefits of membership. We also publish (and I also edit) another “member’s only” periodical, the quarterly digital magazine Pins & Tales that includes events and classes in addition to short articles on techniques and projects. Click this link to download a sample issue of Pins & Tales. In addition to the publications SAPFM has 22 regional chapters that meet on a regular basis, an annual conference and a wealth of information in the “members” section of the website https://www.sapfm.org/.
SAPFM is a non-profit organization dedicated to the understanding, education, and appreciation of American furniture. Click Here to learn more, join SAPFM and receive the upcoming edition of American Period Furniture.