Conversation with Tom McLaughlin

Old House and Barn Expo Preview: Conversation with Tom McLaughlin, host of popular TV show Rough Cut with Fine Woodworking

Visit with the new host of NHPBS’ popular TV show Rough Cut with Fine Woodworking, at the N.H. Preservation Alliance’s Old House & Barn Expo. Tom McLaughlin is a longtime woodworker and teacher and a member of the New Hampshire Furniture Masters. At the Expo, he will be working with hand tools and available for conversation on Saturday, March 24 between 1-5 p.m.

In advance of the Expo, the Preservation Alliance team asked Tom a few questions about his New Hampshire connections, myths about crafts and current trends before the event.

 The new season of  Rough Cut with Fine Woodworking  with Tom McLaughlin starts April 7th at 4:30 pm on New Hampshire PBS. Come see him in person at the Expo! Photo: NHPBS

The new season of Rough Cut with Fine Woodworking with Tom McLaughlin starts April 7th at 4:30 pm on New Hampshire PBS. Come see him in person at the Expo! Photo: NHPBS

What’s it like living and working in Canterbury, New Hampshire?

When I first looked at Canterbury as a potential place to live twenty years ago, I had no idea how much creative vitality was hiding behind the old stone walls of these rolling hills...I love living here! There are so many gifted independent creative entrepreneurs in town, it just feels normal to walk out to my workshop behind my home each morning.

My most influential friendship and professional associate in town is two-term NH artist laureate, David Lamb. We have shared so many design challenges and inspirations over the years, and I have benefited so much from being his kindred spirit, furniture making neighbor and friend. David was also instrumental in introducing me to the then newly formed NH Furniture Masters Association when first moving to town in 1997 with my wife Kris and three children under four years of age. Being a member, and former chairman, of the NH Furniture Masters stretched my skill levels and creative borders beyond my wildest imagination.

And Dave Emerson, another long-time woodworker and Canterbury resident, invited me to teach furniture making classes at the Shaker Village in the summer of 1998, which turned out to be the beginning of discovering my love for “passing on the craft.” Three years later we built a new shop behind our house, which turned into hosting woodworking classes, later forming, and led to currently hosting a national PBS woodworking show.

We think the Old House and Barn Expo offers rare connections for old home owners and craft enthusiasts to interact with craftspeople and each other. Why do you think this is important?

Most gifted craftspeople keep a low profile. It only takes a few private commissions to tie up their time and keep them hunkered down in their shops, out of sight and mind of the clients and connections that may be the best fit.

So getting out to craft shows like the Old House and Barn Expo are key to making connections. Not to mention the inspiration and encouragement gained from getting to know other craftspeople who may be in a related or similar craft.

What do you see as positive or negative trends related to the craft, preservation or old building world?

With emergence of the Information Age, the world of fine craft “how to” techniques is as simple as searching YouTube or some other craft related search engine. At the same time, CNC methods and the 3D printing industries are growing rapidly, threatening to marginalize many handcraft and old world techniques.

It is likely the best of the old world crafts and finer hand techniques will increasingly be carried on and proliferated by serious hobbyists, the availability of solid teaching, and information online. This is why I feel committed to sharing and “passing on the craft” in the most effective ways possible.