I spent a couple days with Roy Underhill of The Woodwright's Shop starting
Thursday evening and running through Friday and Saturday. Roy came to my
woodworking club, Northeastern Woodworkers Association, and did a
presentation at the club meeting on Thursday evening. It was a great
presentation that left me grinning all night! In addition to passing around
and discussing various tools and projects he told many amusing stories.
Taking a light hearted shot at the Normites was part of the show too... as
the cause of global warming and having Windsor Chair Machines into which
they put raw materials on one side and get a finished chair out the other.
Also, talked about how there is no magazine for 'rough' woodworking but
there is one for 'fine' woodworking. "Woodworking beyond the Norm" came up
Friday morning started out with a demonstration on felling a tree and hewing
it into a timber of rectangular profile. The tree was firmly rooted on the
stage by two "elves" which we were instructed to ignore (see ABPW). This was
pretty exciting as chips were flying about 30 feet into the audience... the
elves were REALLY excited. Axes, adze, broad axe, German hewing axe, and
chalk line use were used in demonstrating both English and German methods of
After the hewing, Roy moved on to using a shaving horse, draw knife, spoke
shave, and planes to prep stock for window sash. The sash demo included
dimensioning the stock, the various types of planes, gauges, chisels, and
fixtures used to make sash. There were also joinery demos that included
through dovetails--that went together the first time without any glue and
Saturday morning involved demonstrations of novelty and puzzle woodworking.
Roy showed a wonderful chess set that had a theme of traditional tools vs.
power tools. The set wasn't finished in that the board was not glued up and
finished and not all the pieces were made. See ABPW for a photo. Friday Roy
had welcomed folks to bring in and show things they did with traditional
woodworking methodologies. I brought my "treatise on dovetails" samples (the
ones I posted on ABPW a few months ago). He was very complementary in
describing them as "fine work" and asked if they could be passed around. The
feedback was great! ;~)
Much of Saturday afternoon was spent on turning with a spring pole lathe. He
showed a set up for spindle turning, another for bowl turning, and yet a
third for thin spindle turning the included the use of a steady rest. See
ABPW for a photo of the steady rest set up. Part of Saturday's presentation
included photographs from various Woodwright's shows, trips related to the
show, and photos of early restoration work at Colonial Williamsburg (CW).
Roy surprised me when I presented him with a quiz that I figured he couldn't
answer. Back in 1987 he autographed three of his books for me. Both of us
worked for CW at the time... He wrote in one book "To John, Survivor of the
'Summer of the Blonde!' I showed him the autograph and asked him "Who's the
blonde?" With only the briefest of hesitation he responded with the name of
the woman--my roommate at the time and one of Roy's wife's good friends. I
commented that I was very surprised that he remembered and he responded that
somethings you cannot forget. ;~)
It was a great couple of days and fond memories of my days at CW filled my
head. I've always felt that my life was richer for having known Roy at CW
and to have this recent opportunity reinforced those feelings. He is a
serious student of traditional woodworking but also knows how to have a good
time. It was quite amusing to hear him poke fun at himself as a "TV
woodworker" who had guys from a dozen other woodworking related TV shows,
armed with Stanley 45s, gunning for him. There's a close up of a
Woodwright's Shop t-shirt on ABPW too.
Roy will also be at the NWA Woodworkers Showcase the last weekend of March
2006 in Saratoga Springs, NY. Come see him for a wonderful experience.