Roy Underhill, YouTube Videos and Dovetail Waste

I am grateful that Roy Underhill did not begin his career during the YouTube era, where shorter is considered better and thousands of disgruntled viewers sling misspelled insults like an angry version of the infinite monkeys theory. Roy makes long-form shows that dig deeply into historical methods and forms, creating a body of video content that probably would never have gained traction if it had started in the early 21st century.

I’m also glad that Roy is not really a “tips and techniques” guy. If the producers of “The Woodwright’s Shop” filled his shows with lots of pull-out segments on how to choose drill bits or the like, we’d all lose the flow of Roy’s running narrative. We’d lose the bigger picture.

All that being said, however, “The Woodwright’s Shop” is very much a part of the 21st century. It is fast-paced, forward-looking and visually intriguing. And Roy Underhill is a very smart and efficient woodworker with some terrific methods in his repertoire, even if we don’t want to call them “tips and techniques.”

Here’s a fine example where Roy cuts a dovetail – waste and all – in less than 2 minutes. I couldn’t resist uploading it to our YouTube channel.

Some notes:

1. Roy is using a carpenter’s rip saw, rather than a fine-toothed dovetail saw, because he is cutting oak for a workbench he’s building. In other words, it’s a tough wood and the end product does not need to be visually perfect.

2. If you’re not keen on using a brace and auger for this little job, do it on a drill press. Many of Roy’s methods are equally useful in a power-tool shop – you just need to use your own creativity to adapt them.

3. What’s this about a workbench build? The excerpt is from Season 23, when Roy produces a small, sturdy workbench based on a 20th-century American design. If you’re currently considering workbench options for your shop, Season 23 is worth checking out.

Season 23 is also worth checking out if you’re just plain interested in the show as a whole. We recently released the new DVD in our store, and you can find all the previous seasons there as well. Fill out your video library!

I promise we won’t upload any “Roy Underhill with Kittens” mash-ups, but I’m hoping to continue building out our YouTube channel with these short, useful segments. What are some of the best 2-minute segments you’ve seen on “The Woodwright’s Shop” over the years?

Dan Farnbach

The Woodwright's Shop, Woodworking Daily
Dan Farnbach

About Dan Farnbach

Dan apprenticed and worked in two professional shops during the years after college. But sweeping shop floors only goes so far toward learning woodworking. These days Dan is online editor for Popular Woodworking, and is learning new skills every day. He divides his time between Boston and Maine.

8 thoughts on “Roy Underhill, YouTube Videos and Dovetail Waste

  1. alexmoseley

    Dan, any chance we’ll see an option to buy digital downloads with by-the-season pricing? I don’t really need more DVDs in my house, but I’m not sure I understand paying a premium for the downloaded versions.

    1. Dan FarnbachDan Farnbach Post author

      That is an idea, and I will make sure our video product team considers it. As of now, I don’t think it’s on the table, but I will check for you.

      The other thing to start thinking about … something you may enjoy signing up for later this year if you have not already, is our Shopclass streaming video site. The reason I say you might want to wait is that we are not up-to-date with the Roy videos on Shopclass right now. But I think later this year we will be up-to-date, and there are also going to be some new pricing options there to consider. So I’m told.

  2. renaissanceww

    Choosing a favorite Roy segment is like asking which child is your favorite. It is the single take method that makes his show so valuable so breaking out 2 minutes only interrupts the zen of it all. However if pressed, basically any time Roy exhorts us to keep our mind free of impure thoughts in order to execute a difficult cut.

  3. jomisam

    ” the YouTube era, where shorter is considered better and thousands of disgruntled viewers sling misspelled insults like an angry version of the infinite monkeys theory.”

    I am so glad to know that someone else notices the coincident decay of our language and disintegration of polite decorum. One almost wishes for the 19th century to return. –JMS

    1. Dan FarnbachDan Farnbach Post author

      The best reply I’ve seen on YouTube recently was from Marc Spagnuolo, who had received a crazy comment below one of his “Wood Whisperer” videos. Marc wrote back something like, “Sir, I politely but firmly disagree with your well-reasoned and cogently stated opinion on this matter.” It was very funny and pointed.

  4. bsrlee

    I hope they have fixed the editing problems with the last few DVDs. The first 19 volumes were great, but 19 & 21 onwards are terrible – episode selection is hit-and-miss, the introductions are jumbled up & there are obsolete ads included. I should get the neighbour’s kids to do a rip and re-edit.