Roy Underhill looks over the rim of his beer at the City Tap – the bar behind his woodworking school – and asks me the following left-field-what-are-you-doing-inside-my-skull question.
“You built your first bench at 11,” he asks, “what were you building there?”
In addition to my crappy crafty projects and pseudo-furniture projects, that workbench is where I was making books. I was writing, illustrating and binding small books on that bench and showing them to my parents and friends.
Roy raised his eyebrows.
“When I was 11,” he said, “I was pretending to host my own woodworking television show.”
Roy looks around to the other students gathered around the table at the City Tap.
“So that just goes to show you,” he said, “that what you were doing at age 11 could be your destiny.”
It’s a good story to tell at a bar, and so I kept at it with some follow-up questions. What, I asked, do you remember about making up your own show?
Roy said his family had a hand-cranked grinder in their shop, and he vividly remembers pretending to be on television while grinding away on a piece of wood that was on its tool rest.
“And I remember saying to the pretend camera: ‘Don’t let me catch you doing this at home!’ ” Roy says. “So nothing changes – I mess something up on the show and say, ‘Well… you get the idea.’”
He pauses for a moment while everyone around the table laughs. The table quieted down and people gazed down into their beer glasses for a moment. One student, a Kentucky doctor, remarked: “I don’t even remember age 11.”
I sure hope that the students remember this week. We spent the first day of this sawing class at The Woodwright’s School learning the tricks to sawing straight and beginning the process of building some English-style sawbenches. Roy and I shot the above video during the day when I wasn’t teaching and he wasn’t trying to get the students to eat doughnuts, Sun Chips or candy bars.
There were other distractions. Above Roy’s school is a store that sells old hand tools, and only old hand tools. After lunch I had to slap myself a few times to not whip out my wallet and buy some more moulding planes, which cover almost an entire wall of the store, or some layout tools – tables and tables of layout tools.
I have two more days of teaching to do here. Perhaps if I spend all my money on beer I can resist the tools.
— Christopher Schwarz
A book you should buy: Roy Underhill’s latest book, “The Woodwright’s Guide: Working Wood with Wedge and Edge,” is my favorite. It covers the craft from the tree to the philosophy. It’s available in our store now, and at a very good price. Click here.