Tommy MacDonald and WGBH pursue a new woodworking show
You might know Tommy MacDonald as T. Chisel, from his days hosting a series of web videos first at Bob Villa’s website and currently at his own website. Well, all of his hard work (and goofing around with Al) has paid off. Tommy and WGBH, the public television station in Boston, plan to make a new woodworking show. Evidently, a pilot episode has been shot and they are now looking for sponsors. You can watch the official announcement here.
I worked with Tommy shortly after I started at Fine Woodworking. I edited an article he wrote for us about buidling a Shaker step stool. I had a lot of fun with Tommy, and he did a great job. I know first hand that he is a great woodworker and his personality is well-suited for television (to say the least). I spoke with Tommy recently and one of the things we discussed is the new show. Here’s what he told me (What follows is meant to express Tommy’s vision for the show.)
Most importantly, the show woiuld be about the craft and not about Tommy. You might not even see him woodworking every week. Tommy is a great furniture maker, but he knows that there are others who are better than him, especially when it comes to speciality tasks like carving and marquetry. Tommy would like viewers to learn about the entire craft and if that means they learn it from someone other than Tommy, then so be it.
The show would be filmed in Tommy’s shop in Canton, Mass. (It’s a great space in an old industrial building, and it’s where we shot the photos for his article.) He’d like to have a live studio audience and expert woodworkers as guest. The idea is that the experts could explain techniques, discuss design, or exlpore the history of a particular style, technique, or design element. Tommy would also like to give audience members a chance to participate by inviting on screen to try their hands at the technique being taught.
But he also would like to take trips to musuems to take a look at and learn about historically signficant furniture. He mentioned that what he’d like to do is have other woodworkers come along with him to the museum and that they would get something like a behind-the-scenes look at the furniture and perhaps even get to meet with the curator or other expert to discuss a particular piece or a particular design aspect (like a ball and claw foot).
In terms of the type of furniture to be covered, Tommy says there are no limits. He is partial to period furniture, but would love to follow the history of American furniture from the colonial period right through the most avante-garde contermpary makers.
Tommy also said that in terms of the technique, he would cover both handtool and powertool based techniques. He added that like many woodworkers, he makes use of both in his work and believes that both have a place in the shop. He would also like to explore non-traditional techniques and tools, like CNC fabrication which is now being used creatively by small shops and individual furniture makers.
All in all, I’m excited by the prospect of having a woodworking show back on PBS. I never get enough. Let’s hope they find a sponsor and it all comes to pass.