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MacDonald caught on quickly with new career path

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Thomas J. MacDonald caught our attention at the Providence Fine Furnishings Show in 2006 with two highly technical interpretations of a Hepplewhite sideboard and Federal breakfront china cabinet. His backstory was just as good: a 19-year union carpenter who, because of a shoulder injury, was starting a new career.

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“At age 35, my doctor and my physical therapist had an intervention with me,” MacDonald said in our July 2007 feature. “They said I couldn’t do carpentry anymore. It was a tough day. I didn’t know what I was going to do because [carpentry] was all I ever did. I never really liked it much; I was just good at it.”

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He was accepted into the two-year cabinet and furniture making program at Boston’s North Bennet Street School and started to make a name for himself.

“I wasn’t brighter or smarter or anything than anybody in there. I just had the approach that this was my new job. I didn’t really care about the artistic part of anything I did. I needed to start making money and had to try to figure out how to make this furniture,” MacDonald said.

At North Bennett, he met Bob Vila and another career in front of the camera was born, beginning with a podcast series called “Rough Cuts with T-Chisel” on

“I hadn’t even thought of going on TV,” MacDonald recalled in a February interview with Woodshop News. “Then I got a phone call from contacts at It felt like a good opportunity.”

He’s currently hosting the sixth season of “Rough Cut: Woodworking with Tommy Mac” on PBS.

The original story is available at Search for “MacDonald.”

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue.

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