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PopEntertainment.com > Feature Interviews - Literature > Feature Interviews K to O > Tommy MacDonald

 

Tommy MacDonald, host of the PBS series "Rough Cut: Woodworking with Tommy Mac."

Tommy MacDonald

Hits the Nail On the Head

by Ronald Sklar

 
Copyright ©2012 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: November 9, 2012. 

The star of PBSí Rough Cut - Woodworking with Tommy Mac says that creating furniture from scratch is can-do, even for those who think of themselves as canít-donít.

Iím trying to broaden the horizons of what has been shown on television for woodworking,Ē says Rough Cut host Tommy MacDonald, known to his growing legion of fans as Tommy Mac. ďI just want to continue to broaden peopleís expectations of themselves when they go to do some woodworking, so they really can do any of this stuff.Ē

Tommy MacDonald, host of the PBS series "Rough Cut: Woodworking with Tommy Mac."The popular PBS how-to program enters its third season this fall, and Tommy Mac isnít surprised that the fine art of woodworking has caught on with old die-hards with calluses as well as curious newbies with carpal tunnel.

 ďI really and truly believe that if you really want to dedicate the time doing this type of work, youíll be able to do it in some capacity,Ē he says. 

Those are pretty much fighting words for an old-world New England guy who normally takes his sweet old time and hones his craft. But now heís stepping up for season three, and a whole lot of woodworking fans are clamoring for more. In order to teach out loud whatís in his head, MacDonald has to think and work at buzz-saw speed, yet maintain his usual stamp of quality and slow-good attention to detail. 

ďItís very methodical,Ē he says of the craft. ďItís kind of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. You really need to start in one spot and end up in another. I bet Type A guys would really get wrapped up in the whole process, as long as you arenít agonizing over all of the small things that you donít really need to agonize over. I think the more you do it, the more you realize that the things that you agonize over in the beginning donít amount to a hill of beans six months or a year down the road.Ē

A life-long resident of Canton, Massachusetts (with a New England accent not heard on PBS since the days of Zoom), MacDonald polished his passion for woodworking since middle-school shop class.

ďMy dad was a civil engineer,Ē he says. ďHe couldnít do woodworking to save his life, but he had nine kids and we were always paneling and doing drop ceilings.  We were always fixing cars. He could make miracles out of a couple of nuts and bolts and bubble gum and elastic. My dad was definitely MacGyver, for sure.

Tommy MacDonald, host of the PBS series "Rough Cut: Woodworking with Tommy Mac."ďI had six sisters and two brothers. I was second to last, and I was fixing all my brothersí and sistersí cars, fixing whatever was broken around the house. I was kind of my dadís helper. I got to the point where I ended up doing all the stuff.Ē

By adulthood, he was a full-fledged carpenter (with a union card), improving homes all over the area. By the mid-Nineties, he worked on Bostonís Big Dig, but an on-the-job injury and a shoulder separation forced him to set his career sights elsewhere. Thatís when he found furniture making.

Since then, MacDonald has had his work showcased at the Massachusetts Historical Society, The Rhode Island School of Design Museum, The Concord Museum, and Doric Hall in the Massachusetts State House.

When he was urged to start a video podcast to demonstrate step-by-step woodworking, he didnít even own a computer. But he learned fast, and before long he was on television.

ďIím striking a chord with a lot of people on television because Iím pretty damn good at what Iím doing, but Iím not the expert,Ē he says. ďIím just another guy in the shop trying to figure out a really good way to make something that I want to build.Ē

Yet with the TV series, he was able to sand off one finished product after another, with a huge following doing the same at home. MacDonald is eternally appreciative for the opportunity to share his passion with a national audience.

Tommy MacDonald, host of the PBS series "Rough Cut: Woodworking with Tommy Mac."ďIíve had some pretty tough times along the way, so Iím really grateful just to be here,Ē he says.  ďI got into a car accident when I was twenty-years old, and it really almost killed me, so every day I wake up and I feel like Iím on borrowed time. For me personally, itís just an honor to be a steward of the craft, and Iím doing my best not to mess it up. I have a really good family thatís not afraid to knock me down a couple of pegs, if my head gets too big. Iím just lucky to be here, man, Iím just blessed. Honestly.Ē

For those about to carve, McDonald says that focus is key, and not being afraid to goof up. That is a given (even for him).

ďThe mistakes you make are instantly clear,Ē he says. ďYouíre like, ĎOh, I get it,í and then you have to try to fix your mistake or pick up another piece of wood. Overall, the material is pretty inexpensive, even if you are paying fifteen or twenty bucks a board foot. The amount of time that goes into these projects is where all the money is.Ē

However, once you get into the groove, youíre grooving with the best of them.

ďIf you have the passion to do it, and youíre willing to stay on the learning curve, you can achieve anything,Ē he says. ďWhat I do is an acquired skill. If you just spend enough time and have the tools, you can get pretty good at it. Itís like anything. I donít cook, but I know that if I stayed in the kitchen long enough, I would learn how to cook something.  If you really, really want to do it, you can do it.Ē           

Find out more about Tommy and Rough Cut: www.thomasjmacdonald.com

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