Tommy MacDonald is passionate about woodworking, and his enthusiasm for his hobby is contagious. His new book, Rough Cut: Woodworking With Tommy Mac is based on the first season of his successful PBS show of the same name.
How long have you been woodworking?
Wow, I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember. My first memories are from sixth grade when I started going to trade school after school and hanging around the shop classes. I loved woodworking so much that I went to a trade school instead of high school and after that joined the carpenters union and did my apprenticeship.
You say in your book that everyone can pick up woodworking. So, you don’t need any special skills or tools to take up this hobby?
No, woodworking is really about problem-solving, and we’re all involved in trying to solve problems every day. If you have a passion to work with wood, you can build these projects with a minimal amount of tools and the desire to see the project through to the end. My book is technique-based so it provides basic patterns you can use in every project you undertake. The only skill you need is being able to visualize what you’re doing, break the project into manageable pieces, and be ready to accept that you’re going to make mistakes; make them, learn from them, and move on. You also don’t need to buy lots of fancy tools to get started. Buy the tools you’ll need for your project and build that project.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from woodworking?
Well, I’ve learned to slow down a little. Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned for my life from my hobby is I can now complete a task fully. I tend to rush through woodworking and life, starting about 100 projects at one time and never finishing any of them. Woodworking has taught me the patience to complete one task at a time.
What message do you want readers to take from your book?
I hope the book—and my show—is a catalyst to get wood into people’s hands and to get them fired up about woodworking. Listen, if you want to start woodworking—or learn new techniques—I’ve provided simple techniques for doable projects. The main thing to remember is that your first piece—or any of them—doesn’t have to be perfect. Your very first piece is not going to be like your next piece and the piece after that, so embrace the process of working with the wood and learn the techniques and don’t worry so much about the final product.