Lots of room for improvement

There are two aspects to this review. The first is regarding the premium subscription experience with WWGOA itself and the second is specific to the “How to build a stylish stool” plan (which requires premium membership).

First, if you Google WWGOA to find out more about it you will extensive references to a business practice it had a few years ago of buying names and addresses from woodworking supply companies and then sending unsolicited DVD’s and then sending invoices asking for payment or return of the DVD (but in a non postage pre-paid envelope). From what I can tell they then evolved their business model into the current WWGAO website with two-tier levels of free and premium content. The WWGAO is one of several similar websites run by TN Marketing.

One of their current business practices with their websites including WWGOA is to do videos that purport to be instructional videos but in fact are nothing more than paid product promotions. So that free video on uses of a drum sander is in fact a paid 4 minute commercial for a Brand X drum sander. To me this is deceptive as the videos do not contain a disclaimer that the video was funded by the manufacturer being demonstrated.

Visiting the WWGOA website is currently an exercise in frustration as it is very slow. Most pages take 10+ seconds to load. Whatever the root cause, it comes down to they are unwilling to invest in sufficient server or bandwidth capacity to give a better user experience. This is one site that is all about the money.

I initially signed up as a premium member about a year and half ago and after a few months cancelled my membership because at the time I found I wasn’t using it. A couple of weeks ago, without any consent on my part, my membership was re-activated and my credit card dinged for another month’s membership fee. While I found this irritating I first sent an email to their account department requesting a refund but this went unanswered after several days. Thus I called their ‘customer service’ number which just goes to a call centre and they ‘cancelled’ my membership but dodged my questions about what happened. As it was obviously a call centre I didn’t push the matter. They also didn’t refund my money (again, the person at the call centre dodged that request) so I had the remaining 3 weeks left of my $ 5.00 paid month. Given the amount was $ 5.00 it literally wasn’t worth my time to call my CC company and dispute the charge.

On a side note, this experience has led me to personally stop using CC’s for these types of subscriptions. Paypal is much better because the subscription is a visible recurring payment within Paypal and when you go in and cancel it – it is truly cancelled. Also, I find disputing a charge much easier with Paypal and I find Paypal has a much lower tolerance for vendors that pull these kinds of stunts / mistakes / frauds. A few issues with invalid transactions and Paypal cancels the vendor account.

Anyway, given I had the remaining membership I came across the “How to build a stylish stool” video. This is a beginner level project but I liked the resulting stools and I needed a couple so I decided to build one.

The first thing I noticed was that the link to the “PDF for this project” was broken. There is a comment section so I posted a request for the broken link to be fixed. After a couple of days my comment was moderated away and the link not fixed. I then posted another comment asking again that the link be fixed and requested the comment not be moderated away. After a couple of days – nothing. So I added yet another comment that as paid, premium content that the link should be fixed. This time it was fixed, however with my comments moderated away.

It turned out the “PDF for this project” was simple cutlist and to make matters worse it had mistakes (anyone else know of a board width to be 5/5”?). It did not have a diagram / picture of the project and its parts as you would expect in a plan. You can download and save the video but it costs money (Reg. $ 14.99, current sale $ 6.00) for this 33 minute video. Thus if you want to build this project after your premium membership has ended, all you have is a cutlist. This issue isn’t isolated to WWGOA – the videos in the premium section of the FWW website also use this business model. With the FWW video series, even the plans cost money. I greatly dislike this business model – to me if you are paying a monthly subscription for premium content you should at least get the plans (diagram and cutlist) as downloadable PDF’s as part of your subscription. On the other hand, the FWW premium membership does give access to lots of content that you can download and save as PDF’s and this includes plans that had been published in the magazine.

As a video for a beginner project I found it lacking in several areas. I understand that there are numerous preferences for video length and detail and there are a variety of ‘depth’ formats to be found in woodworking instruction. There are the short YouTube projects, there are the in-depth Wood Whisper Guild projects and there are the TV show 30 minute formats. On the side, I find the TV show format (common to Wood Works, New Yankee Workshop and Rough Cut) to be the most frustrating of all. The projects on these shows are too complex to show in 22 minutes and huge steps are left out or ignored. However WWGAO does basically TV Show style videos but without the excuse of having limited airtime. To me it is just produce the most content for the least money.

One big disappointment with the video (and cutlist) is there are side stretchers on the stool with angled legs. This means the width of the tops of the stretchers are shorter than the bottoms. In both the video and cut list, the dimensions provided are for the shorter top dimensions. This is completely moronic as first of all you need roughly cut your stock and you’re left in the dark as to a suitable length. Second, when you actually make the cut on your mitre gauge, you need to set your stops based on the length of the long sides. Thus you are left either using trigonometry to calculate the length or you have to mark the short side and trial and error you way to cutting it and then measuring your long side. It would have been simple and logical to give the long side lengths.

The other disappointments was the video used the Domino to attach the rails (I have no problem with that). However the rails are of course narrower than the legs and you need to offset the Domino fence when creating the mortises on the legs. This was mentioned in the video but the video left out the offset dimension to use or even calculate it. This is needed to build the project and would have been quite useful. The other thing is the Domino was used in the manner of cutting the mortises oversized instead the exact fit setting. You could see this being useful to get the top stretchers exactly even with the legs however this was never mentioned or discussed in the video.

Some steps were left out of the video completely. When you see the completed stools, the tops have roundovers. However this wasn’t covered in either the video or cutlist. So it is a 1/4” roundover, a 1/2”? Who knows.

The final disappointment came when the video completely skipped over the finishing process. Again I would expect a video aimed at beginners to give finishing a discussion. The video describes the pieces as being sprayed which is inconstent with the proejct being aimed at beginners who likely lack spray equipment.

I chalk all the ommisions to the video being rushed in order to crank it out and get on with the next one.

The video did have some good points. The presenter did discuss the challenge of clamping an angled workpiece and showed how angled cauls could be attached via double stick tape or hot melt glue. The video also did a good job of showing use of contrasting woods and different stool heights. The video also did a good job of cautioning not to rely on the cutlist to position the lower stretchers but to rather position based on your actual project which is very good advice.

Woodworking Reviews at LumberJocks.com

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