I finally stumbled upon Tommy MacDonald’s Rough Cut Show on the Create Channel. Maybe it had been there the whole time, but I only found it when we ditched DirecTV and went to broadcast and web-based content. I was delighted! I had wanted to see this show since its inception, so I settled down on the couch for a woodworking fix.
My initial impression? Fast. Way too fast.
This episode covered construction of a Chippendale stool, complete with carved ball-and-claw feet and an upholstered top. This is a wonderful classic project that incorporates a vast array of woodworking elements, and is a great subject for a show – actually, more than one show.
The show opened with a road trip to see a master woodworker carve ball-and-claw feet. This was great, since I had never made any. A few minutes later I was going, “Ah! THAT’S how it’s done! I get it!” This was wonderful – I had the basic principle in my head, and was ready to find some 12/4 mahogany. However, back in the shop, Tommy and his guest expert from the North Bennet Street School proceed to duplicate the steps we just saw to create their version of the foot. Suddenly, 15 minutes have passed, and we still have to make the stool! Somehow it all gets finished in time for the credits to roll, and I’m left sitting there wondering what just happened.
This was a letdown for me. Granted, I’m somewhat prejudiced. I was an avid fan of Tommy’s “T-Chisel” podcast series. He had a relaxed pace that allowed you to overlook the shortcomings of the camera work in exchange for the superb nature of the content. The quality of his projects, tips and tricks, and attention to detail always inspired me to a higher level of woodworking. I still consider his Bombe Secretary to be the greatest woodworking project ever done for media distribution – bar none! Compared to that, the frenetic pace of the broadcast show seemed more like a movie trailer.
Now, I’m not naive – I realize that commercial television is not podcasting. These time slots cost a ton of money, and the director is trying to cram in every bit of information possible. However, there is a point of diminishing return. I’ve done enough woodworking that the basics of cabriole leg construction are familiar to me, but for many woodworkers they are a mystery that require more explanation. Beginning woodworkers, which the sponsors are surely hoping to attract, may be baffled or even put off by a format that seems to assume a skillset that they don’t yet posses. I would have at least liked to have seen the project divided between two episodes – ball-and-claw cabriole leg, and the rest of the stool construction. This would have allowed for the presentation of more information and a pace that didn’t resemble a Black Friday sale at the mall.
Now, to be fair, this is the only episode that I’ve seen. And, as a writer, I understand very well how easy it is to get caught up in details and lose perspective of the overall flow of a piece. Perhaps this was a one-time miscalculation, or at the very least a step on the road to finding a proper pace. I certainly hope so, as I’m always delighted to see new woodworking shows make it to television. It’s even better when they generate such an audience that they are renewed season after season.
Let’s hope that turns out to be the case here. “The Rough Cut Show” – it lives up to its name. But, just like a rough board, there’s lots of potential for real beauty with a little refining.