Founder of Fine Woodworking magazine dies
Paul Roman

Paul Roman, founder of Fine Woodworking magazine and The Taunton Press.

Paul Roman, the influential founder of Fine Woodworking magazine and The Taunton Press, has died. He was 92.

Roman, a longtime woodworking hobbyist, launched Fine Woodworking magazine on his dining room table after he was laid off from a public relations job at General Electric. The magazine became an icon of woodworking and broke many of the long-held assumptions about what it took to be a successful consumer magazine.

Aided by his wife, Janice, Roman mined customer lists from mail-order suppliers to woodworking hobbyists. His very first mailing asking for subscriptions to a magazine that did not yet exist was so successful it funded the first issue of Fine Woodworking and set it on a then unique publishing path.

Fine Woodworking magazine first issue 1975
The first issue of Fine Woodworking magazine was published in 1975.

The magazine was designed to rely more on reader subscriptions than on advertising revenue. Advertising was restricted to companies and products specifically related to woodworking. Even prime advertising real estate — the back cover — was given over to special editorial features rather than sales.

Roman recruited talented professional woodworkers and academics to provide premium editorial content. A longtime photographic enthusiast, Roman made sure that the magazine used high-quality photography, crisp design, and clear line drawings. 

This editorial model was extended to create additional magazines, such as Fine Homebuilding, Fine Gardening, Fine Cooking, and Threads. All under the umbrella of The Taunton Press, these publications spawned books, videos, and eventually online content. Fine Woodworking’s pages were filled with work by some of the best craftspeople in the country, and some argued that the publication helped make stars out of people like Sam Maloof, Tage Frid, James Krenov, and Garry Knox Bennett.

Born March 25, 1931, Roman died at his home in Newtown, Connecticut, on January 5, 2024, surrounded by his family, many of whom were involved in his publishing business at one time or another.

Roman was born in Aix-en-Provence, France, the middle child of the late Emile Roman and Dorothy Bridge Roman. The family moved to the United States in 1937, settling in Mamaroneck, New York, where Roman attended local schools. He graduated from Mamaroneck High School in 1949.

He attended Middlebury College until January 1951 when he joined the US Air Force during the Korean War. His longest assignment was in Limestone, Maine, where he inspected nuclear warheads for the Strategic Air Command. After four years of service, Roman returned to Middlebury College and completed his major in physics.

After graduation he joined Westinghouse Electric Corp., first in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and then in New York City. After three years with Westinghouse he went to study physics in the PhD program at Yale University. It was in New Haven where he met his wife, Janice, and then left Yale to marry and settle once more in New York City, working for McGraw Hill on Electrical World magazine. This led to his later employment with the General Electric Co in public relations and government affairs.

In 1974, General Electric moved its headquarters to Fairfield, Connecticut. As part of that move, the Roman family moved from Port Chester, New York, to Newtown, Connecticut. The family had by then grown to four daughters and a newborn son, requiring larger quarters. It was a family project to clear the lot and build the house on Taunton Lake Road.

Restless in the corporate world, Roman began planning a magazine about his hobby, woodworking. There was little information then available on the craft. He visited experienced woodworkers, convincing them to write authentic articles, and began publishing his new venture, Fine Woodworking magazine, in December 1975. In close partnership with his wife Jan, The Taunton Press was born.

Roman retired from publishing in 2000. The Taunton Press was recently sold to Active Interest Media, which is continuing to publish Fine Woodworking and other Taunton titles.

Roman is survived by his wife of 64 years, Janice Ainger Roman, and his immediate family Melinda Roman and Douglas Clott of Newton, Massachusetts, Andrea Roman and Thomas Gloria of Newton, Massachusetts, Suzanne Roman of Newtown, Connecticut, Sarah Roman and Timothy Rahr of New Haven, Connecticut, David Roman and Julie McEvilly of Menlo Park, California, and niece Elissa Roman Farmer and Edward Farmer of Seattle, Washington.

His grandchildren are Andrew and Luna Clott, Allison and Scott Garber and great-granddaughter Avery, Emily Clott, and Juice Roman; Nicholas Gloria, Patrick Gloria, and Isabelle Gloria; William Roman; Stephen Rahr and Lindsey Orne, Thomas Rahr and Sophie Towle, and Owen Rahr; Daniel Roman, Michael Roman, Natalie Roman; and Eli Farmer.

He is also survived by his brother-in-law Kenneth Ainger and wife Carol of Delray Beach, Florida, and many Smith, Baldwin, Ainger, Roman and Lachaud nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his sister Monique Smith, his brother Alain Roman, and his grandson Benjamin Roman.

Family, friends, co-workers and neighbors joined the Roman family for a gathering on Saturday, March 23, at Rock Ridge Country Club, in Newtown, Connecticut, to celebrate his life. Donations in his honor can be made to The Newtown Scholarship Association, PO Box 302, Newtown, CT 06470.


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About the author
William Sampson

William Sampson is a lifelong woodworker, and he has been an advocate for small-scale entrepreneurs and lean manufacturing since the 1980s. He was the editor of Fine Woodworking magazine in the early 1990s and founded WoodshopBusiness magazine, which he eventually sold and merged with CabinetMaker magazine. He helped found the Cabinet Makers Association in 1998 and was its first executive director. Today, as editorial director of Woodworking Network and FDMC magazine he has more than 20 years experience covering the professional woodworking industry. His popular "In the Shop" tool reviews and videos appear monthly in FDMC.