Q: So first off, tell me a little bit about yourself.
A:When I was a kid, me and my Dad used to watch This Old House and New Yankee Workshop. I have 6 sisters and 2 brothers, so there was always something that we could fix around the house together. I’ve been swinging a hammer since as long as I can remember. And I always thought that I would have a shop someday when I got older.
Q: I understand you used to work on the Big Dig in Boston – is that right?
A: Yes. I was down there for a long time. I was a heavy highway guy. So I was building big abutment walls with a lot of concrete, and a lot of high rises with windows. But then I got injured and my doctors told me I couldn’t go back to my old job on the Big Dig anymore. That’s when I just kind of fell into woodworking. I was recovering from a shoulder injury, and a friend encouraged me to look into North Bennet Street School. When I checked it out, I was immediately inspired by all the incredible work there. The passion and precision just spoke to me right away. I loved the place but was completely intimidated. I filled out an application anyway. So in April of 2000 I started my journey as a furniture maker. That was a decade ago, and I have remained passionate about woodworking ever since.
Q: Why the name Rough Cut?
A: Rough cut wood is the unfinished wood just cut from a tree that has not been dried or planed. And a rough cut is the first thing that you do when you start working with a piece of wood. For me, you need to mentally build a piece of furniture. I spend hours working with the stock, optimizing design details to take advantage of everything that the wood offers before I touch it with a single cutting tool. On a recent project, I spent four days working with this incredible figured cherry stock before I made the first rough cut. I believe that you need to build a project in your mind before you start building at the bench. So before I pick up my skill saw, and I make my very first rough cut, I already have a mental image of the piece of furniture that I see within that material. We are building things out of hardwoods, not composites or plywood, so it’s all about interpreting this rough material.
Q: How would you describe your style of furniture making?
A: Evolving, I guess. I think that I’ve been doing it for 10 years now, and I have a little bit of time behind me, and I’m just starting to express myself through my own design. Up until now, it’s just been a lot of traditional pieces. Now I’m trying to explore a kind of intimacy with my material and craft it and turn it into my own design work - like a little Shaker nightstand I built in the show, for instance. It’s just a simple nightstand – but it’s my own design, featuring the rough cut tiger maple I was working with.
Q: So for someone that has never seen the show, what is Rough Cut about?
A: Our show is going to be about honest woodworking. For me, its about the process, so I’m just going to try to demystify a lot of things like ball-and-claw feet or a sand-shaded fan or a shell carving or even simple grain textures. I want to let people know that these things are not that hard to do. The way I’m trying to get people up out of their chairs and into their shops is to let them know that its ok to make mistakes. We want people to just try it. It is a cool hobby, it’s a fun thing to do, and you can build some really beautiful things. That’s what the show is about.
It’s going to be a little bit of history about where these techniques came from because they are time-tested true techniques. I haven’t invented any of these; I’m not reinventing the wheel, I’m just carrying the message again. It’s simply a different voice with the same tools and the same techniques. So I’m just trying to remind people that woodworking is still one of the greatest things you can do. We are going to go to places like the Adams House and the USS Constitution, and talk to people. We are going to look at really cool things, and we’re going to see how a lot of history translates into furniture.
Q: How are you going to fill Norm’s shoes?
A: I don’t think I could ever fill Norm’s shoes, you know. I think it would be like every chef that’s come up through PBS trying to fill Julia Child’s shoes. I think the people who are first in these fields will forever be stand-alones. I have always looked up to Norm, and will continue to look up to him. I am not trying to be Norm, or even the ‘next Norm’. I have my own style, and I want to help people develop their own style while we explore this amazing world of woodworking together.
Q: What is your preference – power or hand tools?
A: They both have a place in my shop – every man’s shop. Power tools are great and very efficient. But you can’t get the level of detail that I need when I build furniture, and that’s where my hand tools come in. My favorite tool is my 4 ½ high angle hand plain. People tend to focus on one or the other but we are using both for the show – we want everyone to be able to try woodworking.
Q: Who is your target audience?
A: Anybody who has an interest in doing what we do. I don’t care, people ages 8 to 80, men, women and children, everyone is invited to watch this show and learn something. Then I’m hoping people will have the courage to pick up a set of chisels and then head into the basement and hack around. That’s my target. But I really want to try to introduce new guys into the field. There are trade schools closing all over the place and I want to make sure these kids have an opportunity to do what I do. I mean I love woodworking and I know I’m not the only one. Somebody just needs to inspire these guys.
Q: So you think you can inspire these guys to get off the couch?
A: Yep, I really do. I really believe that.
Q: What’s your overall goal, hopes and dreams for this show?
A: To carry the message to the new woodworker and be the steward of the craft. That’s why we have such high-powered special guests on the show – people like Phil Lowe, Gerry Ward, Brock Jobe, and others - because the show is not really about me, it’s bigger than me and that’s what the show is about. The show is about woodworking, and woodworkers. It’s got more to do about that and a whole lot less to do with me.