Throwing away old issues of my woodworking magazines is almost sacrilege. There are project articles I should reread. Earmarked techniques I should try, and product links I should bookmark but haven't. You get the idea, and like me, I bet you have stacks and stacks of your back issues squirreled away, too. But, here's the challenge: how do you find those great articles again from, well, who knows when? Page through every back issue? Not likely. Cut them up and file them in individual binders? Too much work. Who takes the time to get that organized?
Here's one guy who does: Rick Van Schoick, a fellow Woodworker's Journal reader and founder of woodworkingmagazineindex.com.
Back in the late 1990s, when his woodworking interests were growing, so were Rick's magazine subscriptions. Only instead of just plopping new issues on top of his teetering stacks like I do, Rick had a better idea. He decided to catalog them, page by page, electronically.
"I am OCD about organization," Rick admits. "Everything needs to have its place and be easy to locate, so when I started getting into woodworking, I felt that I needed to create a directory in a (spreadsheet) program that I could go back to when I needed to recall a particular project or article."
At the same time, Rick, who over the years has been a sales rep and consultant for various financial services software packages, was seeing opportunity as the Internet began to bloom. He decided to publish a personal woodworking website to document his shop, projects and a variety of other stuff that interested him. Once he had his site up and running, it just seemed logical to make his new magazine directory spreadsheet available to other woodworkers, too.
"At that time, I set it up so you could download a file, try it for free and then pay me what it was worth to you," Rick recalls.
When he first launched the index, it had 2,400 entries. Then, it evolved into a searchable database index and grew to cover 38 different woodworking and do-it-yourself (DIY) magazines. Not all of them are exhaustive, in cases where Rick doesn't have a complete collection, but he included what he could for partial archive. Today, his index encompasses more than 26,000 entries and tracks new issues of 16 print publications. Rick says he spends 30 to 60 minutes on an issue to document its content, and he tries to get new issues added within a week of when they reach his mailbox. Sometimes, he gets them logged in even sooner than that.
Van Schoick says woodworkingmagazineindex.com includes DIY publications because he splits his time between both pursuits fixing up his Pennsylvania home and making sawdust from occasional woodworking. And continuing from his original plan to maintain a personal website (rickswoodshopcreations.com), Rick documents some of his favorite achievements from both woodworking and home improvement. He's restored a mahogany rocking chair that a neighbor had left in pieces for the trash truck as well as an antique dresser inherited from his grandmother. He's also proud of a rocking horse he built for a niece and an extensive remodel of his basement. Recently, Rick built a mantel clock that enabled him to chop mortises for the first time.
"I haven't done much with social media, to be honest," Rick admits, and he doesn't have a Facebook page, "so my personal website is still where I choose to share information about my hobbies and other interests."
In that regard, Van Schoick's rickswoodshopcreations.com is content rich. It's a veritable cyber cornucopia of more than 400 woodworking and DIY links, project plans, an index to 16,000 wood species, 110 of Rick's favorite shop tricks, a gift guide for woodworking tools and products gleaned from years of editors' recommendations, plus a few surprises. He collects Hess toy trucks. He's an avid birder. But the special interest novelty that really stands out to me is how to grow a pineapple from a pineapple top.
Rick has become sort of an Internet authority on the topic of growing pineapples at home — if web traffic is any indication.
"One time when I was cutting up a pineapple, I wondered if I could grow them from the top portions myself," Rick says. He figured out the process and explains it, step by step with photos, on his website. "Ironically, 'Grow a Pineapple Top' drives more traffic to my website than anything else. It actually comes up first in a Google search for growing pineapple tops," Rick quips, "and these days, I get about 50,000 hits each month for it."
But back to the magazine index, Rick has seen other, more expensive, subscription-based services come and go over the years. So far as he knows, woodworkingmagazineindex.com is the only one left. It continues to improve, yet the subscription rate remains modest at $9.95 per year. A few years ago, Rick began scanning the "beauty" images of project articles and including them for added convenience. "Project images are great because they enable users to see the project before they go digging through their libraries of back issues for (the article)."
Looking forward, Rick plans to continue publishing the index to keep himself organized. However, he says that by the time he pays for the magazine subscriptions, hosting and programming fees and other costs, the return on his investment from customer subscriptions won't exactly let him retire from his day job any time soon. The data entry involved can be monotonous, plus, he's compelled to make sure that everything on the index is entered accurately and consistently. "Let's just say that the index is a labor of love for fellow woodworkers who appreciate its value," Rick says.
But, from time to time fellow woodworkers offer feedback and provide encouragement, and that is its own reward. "I often get correspondence from people about just how helpful the index is to them, which warms the heart."