Now that classic episodes of Roy Underhill’s “The Woodwright’s Shop” are available I’ve been looking at some of the earliest episodes. They are fascinating for a number of reasons and I enjoy them more now than when I first saw them years ago. Now I appreciate the genius of Roy as a amazing teacher and entertainer. His knowledge of traditional woodworking coupled with his enthusiasm and energy is infectious. It makes learning enjoyable.
I recently saw two episodes from his first season some 30 years ago. He was building a rocking chair from green white oak. He rived the parts from the log, turned them on spring pole lathe and bent those that needed it in ways so simple you just had to say, “duh!” His commentary throughout was the “how” and “why” of what he was doing, but all the while he provided all sorts of interesting information about the tools, wood grain, and historical anecdotes both interesting and funny. In the second episode he demonstrated how to make the strips of white oak for the rocker’s seat and then how to weave it. Part of the weaving included a really clever yet simple way to interlock the ends of two strips with just a couple knife cuts. And yes, of course I was just waiting for one of the classic “Roy gets injured” scenes but it didn’t happen this time.
And there’s another interesting aspect of watching these programs from long ago. When they first aired, woodworker’s appetites for using hand tools was nothing like it is today. Yet here was Roy preaching and teaching their use. He was so far ahead of most of the woodworking world back then he must today be considered a visionary.
About every month a season of “The Woodwright’s Shop” is being released (already available are seasons 1-4 and 20). Each season is available on a two disc DVD set. You can also view these classics on our streaming video web site. You can watch the 20th anniversary episode for free. Until August 15 you get four days of free viewing on the streaming site so if you’re up for a woodworking video fest now’s the time to start.