Crazy Stuff Stumpy Thinks About #14: Tommy MacDonald and the Incredible Hulk.

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Blog entry by StumpyNubs posted 03-22-2012 03:28 PM 2615 reads 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 13: Is it ok to laugh at wood? It is unless you live on a creek... Part 14 of Crazy Stuff Stumpy Thinks About series Part 15: How often do you rearrange your shop? »

We all screw stuff up from time to time. Some of us do it more often than others. In Blue Collar Woodworking Episode #12 I show how I cut half the pins off when I was dovetailing the sides of the “Ultimate Tool Cabinet”. How on earth did I let that happen? This is 100 year old white oak!

I’ve messed up my share of dovetails… and box joints… and dados, and, well, you name it! Sometimes I feel like chucking a tool across the shop and getting a job at McDonalds. That gets me thinking about a cheeseburger, which calms me down, and then I think of another MacDonald… Tommy MacDonald.

Back before he was a PBS sensation, way back when he was still calling himself “T-Chisel” (a nickname that still makes me cringe) he did a series of podcasts. If you’ve never watched “Tommy Mac, the early years”, you should get a bowl of popcorn, take a week off from work, and have yourself a podcast marathon, because you will learn a lot from those videos. Anyway, I watched something like 30 hours of the guy building a Bombay Secretary. It was a massive project, challenging all of his carefully honed skills. And he screwed it up, BIG TIME! You’ll have to watch to see what I mean, but he was not happy about it. Countless hours of work and a lot of mahogany was wasted.

Of course, his screw-up looked better than some of my finest work. And he was able to redo the offending part of the project the proper way. But it was a screw-up on a massive scale, and it made me feel good to watch it. No, not because I like to see someone fail, but because I like to be reminded that the finest woodworkers still make big mistakes. Guys who are a lot more skilled than I am still have moments when they feel like going all Incredible Hulk with their shirts and smashing the table saw.

Tommy MacDonald kept his cool. He smashed half the project, but in the end was able to rebuild it and it looked great. So the next time you cut a board too short, or butcher a set of dovetails, or feel like you can’t even get a butt joint right, remember that somewhere out there, probably at that very moment, countless other woodworkers are having the same problems. And if they can work through it without karate chopping the band saw in two, so can you!

Stumpy Nubs is the host of “Blue Collar Woodworking” – the best woodworking show since wood was invented. New Episodes on Wednesdays at

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13 comments so far

View Ben's profile


302 posts in 3405 days

#1 posted 03-22-2012 05:40 PM

Like today for instance. I got a call to go pick some things upside I rushed to finish up the bevelled cuts I had set up. I didn’t double check my set up like I should have and now I have a pile of SCRAP 100+ year old white oak. Now I have to wait until I can find more before I can finish re-building a really awesome Gothic newel post. *&%$ me!! I did keep my cool,boss man however, is not.

-- Welcome to downtown Coolsville, Population: US! --Hogarth Hughes

View DamnYankee's profile


3320 posts in 3637 days

#2 posted 03-22-2012 06:51 PM

I think I’ve mentioned before the time I COULD NOT cut miters for a wrap-around kick-plate for a cabinet without cutting the board too bloody short! I’d cut one 45 miter, place the board up to where it would go, mark the board, and rather than make the second miter to cut into the mark I cut it with the mark as the outside length. I swear I did this like 4 or 5 times! The same mistake over and over and over again! Prior to this, and in the end during this incident and since, not only do I mark the length I also mark the direction of the angle.

-- Shameless - Winner of two Stumpy Nubs Awards

View Ben's profile


302 posts in 3405 days

#3 posted 03-22-2012 07:59 PM

Been there too. Actually ended up cutting the ends square and coping them seems easier to me and looks just as good IMO. Miters get me every time

-- Welcome to downtown Coolsville, Population: US! --Hogarth Hughes

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 4310 days

#4 posted 03-22-2012 10:58 PM

I’ve watched the full bombay series at least twice. That was a rough episode to watch.

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View DIYaholic's profile


19921 posts in 3750 days

#5 posted 03-22-2012 11:01 PM

I relate this to playing golf & watching the PGA tour. It’s great to watch the pros end up in the water, woods & hazards. Even I can play golf that well!!! I also know that when I shoot way above PAR for the course (that’s every time), I am actually reducing my “Cost per Stroke”!!!

Without mistakes, are we truely learning anything? When I did gymnastics, if we were not falling (during practice), we were failing to push ourselves in learning/improving our skills. We also had a motto; “Cry in practice, Laugh at the meet”. We laughed to ourselves of course, it wood be unsportsman like to do otherwise!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View DS's profile


3741 posts in 3495 days

#6 posted 03-22-2012 11:14 PM

DIY said, “Without mistakes, are we truely learning anything?”

My favorite learning experience is “How to do it right on the first attempt.”

Doesn’t mean I’ve learned that lesson yet though… :-(

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View DamnYankee's profile


3320 posts in 3637 days

#7 posted 03-23-2012 12:21 AM

While insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, genius can be defined as learning from someone else’s mistakes.

If we learn from our mistakes….I AM A FREAKING SUPER GENIUS

-- Shameless - Winner of two Stumpy Nubs Awards

View DocSavage45's profile


9048 posts in 3918 days

#8 posted 03-23-2012 01:18 AM

Sometimes mistakes are just mistakes? Sometimes they show us something new? One thing about Charles Neil is he shows us how to fix mistakes. Wonder how he learned them.

Having been a fair carpenter I use to see “Norm” make mistakes when he worked with Bob Villa. Like Stumpy said.. about feeling more normal? It makes me less cranky when I make the next new one.

My grandfather had a saying”I cut it off twice and it was still too short.” I usually sigh when I make the mistake of cutting it too long, cause I can cut it again . LOL

Great topic!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View DamnYankee's profile


3320 posts in 3637 days

#9 posted 03-23-2012 01:42 AM

As I’ve said before… the first lesson a woodworker needs to learn is how to cut a straight line, but the first lesson a woodworker does learn is how to make that cut an intentional design modification.

-- Shameless - Winner of two Stumpy Nubs Awards

View Sanman's profile


78 posts in 3432 days

#10 posted 03-23-2012 03:22 AM

Great post. Thank-you.

-- I'll get it done when I get a-round-tuit.

View Dave's profile


11435 posts in 3915 days

#11 posted 03-24-2012 03:29 AM

Tommy is a go getter. How long and how many pieces did he cut to get the top right. The top was a compound bevel nightmare. His endurance and persistence are great.
Thanks for posting.
And all the comments are right on to.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View BigTiny's profile


1707 posts in 3963 days

#12 posted 03-25-2012 03:59 AM

The episode where he loused up so bad was the one that endeared him to me the most, even more than the exceptional skill levels he shows. Many lesser egotistical folks would have edited out the error, making them look infalible. Not Tommy though. Makes him more human.


-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View exelectrician's profile


2339 posts in 3502 days

#13 posted 03-25-2012 04:20 AM

I liked the part when T-Mac was routering a huge table top edge when the guide strip which was doublesided taped to the underside came loose and the router dived into the table edge. Steam came out of his ears!!!
But he recovered in typical T-Mac style, and simply convinced the customer that the table “should be so much of an inch narrower” I love watching this guy – I have learned a lot from T-Mac.

-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

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