Roy Underhill – That’s Entertainment!

I was previewing the 20th Anniversary Episode of the “The Woodwright’s Shop” on my computer at work, preparing images and a description for use in our Roy Underhill streaming video site. I had my headphones on and I hadn’t realized I’d been laughing out loud. Steve Shanesy wandered around the corner of my cube to see what was funny, and I unplugged the headphones so he could hear. It wasn’t long before the entire Popular Woodworking staff was standing around watching vintage Roy. Why all the interest?

I know who Roy is, and watched the show during the 1980s and 90s. It was always a good show, with a solid mix of entertainment and interesting information. At the time I was all about power tools, so Roy was a bit of an anachronism to me. To be honest, I watched it more for the entertainment. I seem to recall a drinking game in college related to when he would hurt himself. Sorry, Roy, for “benefiting” at your expense.

 

Part of my job these days is to get “The Woodwright’s Shop” episodes, (transferred from the original videotape to digital form by the University of North Carolina) up on the web and onto DVD for sale. When the first episodes arrived I was a little dismayed by the quality of the video, but let’s face it, the shows are 30 years old. Video technology hasn’t just advanced since then, it’s been shot out of a cannon. Heck, my phone takes better video than the equipment used at that time. As the bouncy fiddle starts playing at the introduction of the video, I’m drawn back to the 1980’s by the clothes, cars and general look of the streets where Roy starts his walk. As he wanders across the stream and into the woods, the years slip away. When he enters the shop, time stands still and I’m not thinking about video quality, I’m visiting with Roy.

That’s the reason for all the interest – Roy Underhill and his shows are timeless. His encyclopedic knowledge of traditional woodworking techniques is more insightful today than it was decades ago when he first donned his hat and suspenders. Watching through the first four seasons, I’m constantly impressed with the depth of knowledge and his ability to teach and entertain at the same time. Roy is a performer of extraordinary skill. If you’ve ever done any public speaking then you can appreciate doing 30 minutes straight, without a pause, offering humor, instruction and managing to be visually engaging all at the same time. That’s entertainment!

And that’s why a bunch of editors would take time out of their busy day to watch Roy at his best. It’s also why I’m excited when each new season arrives in the mail. What’s Roy doing this time? What will I learn while being entertained and amazed? It makes me feel good to be a part of making sure the knowledge and fun is still available only a click away. Thanks, Roy!

– David Thiel

9 thoughts on “Roy Underhill – That’s Entertainment!

  1. Dixie Gunsmithing

    I’ve got to agree on some of the laughs, although Roy always did make me wince when he was working, as I was always waiting for him to lose a finger at any moment. I don’t know if it was because of trying to work around the filming, or a little clumsiness, but he really did make me wince, and I have seen blood drawn several times during the shows. My father and I would bet if he would injure himself, as we sat down to watch him, when he was new on the air. Still, though, I like ol’ Roy!

  2. taco58bell

    Roy is a presenter and entertainer, even perhaps an actor. The Woodwright’s Shop is not, or at least not exclusively, about woodworking, or a “how-to” show. Roy’s episode on “The Spirit of Woodworking” says a lot about his approach and philosophy. And he makes us laugh while he does it.

    1. jamierodg

      Perhaps an actor? He is 100% an actor, 100% woodworker, and 100% a real man. If you’ve ever seen him in person attacking a piece of tree with a sharp object you would have no doubt. What’s more? All of his different aspects add up to 400 percent! You hit it on the head yourself mentioning the spirit episode, is that not soliloque? We love you Roy and our class at The Woodwrights School was an absolutely sublime and unforgettable piece of our lives. I love your show but there is nothing like being there in person to see you work your magic (and spill glue all over too!) James and Maria, Tampa Florida. Damn retiring young, we’re buying your videos instead!

    1. wrduffield

      The lead-up to the punch line that was shown in the original episode makes it even better. Roy starts out by explaining that the nutcrackers were originally made as caricatures of Authority Figures, for example soldiers, princes, deacons, etc. He lets that sink in for quite a while before he pulls out the Nahm.

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