Chris Schwarz's Blog

Help Choose the Topic for a Visit to Roy Underhill's Show

Roy Underhill has asked me to appear on “The Woodwright’s Shop” during the show’s upcoming 30th season. (Note to self: You can now stop squealing like a little girl.)

Between now and the time we tape the show sometime this summer or fall, there’s lots I have to do to prepare. Shave my back, attempt to stop looking like a frightened lab animal while appearing on television and , oh yes , decide on something to talk about.

That’s where you come in.

Underhill thought it would be fun to have the unwashed (yes, I can smell you from here) readers of this blog help decide on the show’s topic. Underhill and I kicked around a few ideas this week. Read them through and then vote for the one you like best using the polling widget below.

I cannot guarantee that the most popular topic will win. I’m still hoping we can do something on hand skills that even the CNC jockeys need (wiping, picking, flicking).

“The Evolution (and De-evolution) of Workbenches”

I’ll track the workbench form through history with the help of six cool miniature scale models of my favorite benches, starting with Egypt, moving through Rome and then Paris, with side trips to Scandinavia, England and America!

Then I’ll show how civilization reached the summit of workbench design in the 18th century and was then plunged back into the abyss by the Industrial Revolution and the dreaded “Euro-Bench.” Plus, details on what’s so awesome about ancient workbenches and how you can modify your modern bench to make it work like an old one.

“The 1839 Tool Kit”
We’ll take a trip back to explore the toolkit of young Thomas, the hero of the 1839 book “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker.” We’ll go over his complete tool kit , it’s tiny , and show how he was able to stretch this basic kit of tools to build some impressive casework. We’ll cut dados, tenons and dovetails using this simple set.

“Sawing With an English Accent”
We explore the “three classes” of sawcuts laid down by English craftsman Robert Wearing. For third-class sawcuts we’ll rip wood English-style and compare it to the French and Third-world styles. We’ll cut tenon cheeks using the second-class sawcut and show how the chisel is a saw’s best friend. And we’ll show how to saw your tenon shoulders without using a saw , the tricky first-class sawcut. Plus we’ll show how the French cheat on this joint.

– Christopher Schwarz

51 thoughts on “Help Choose the Topic for a Visit to Roy Underhill's Show


    Please, please, please the workbenches, and I can tell you why I feel that way.

    The Woodwright’s Shop is the *only* woodworking show I can find on Verizon’s cable package + bunny ears with my local public station (WQED, Pittsburgh).

    Every silly week, he shows me how to do something I want to do… with antique tools that I’m unlikely to see this year, or ever to own.

    I’ve stopped watching at this point, and gone entirely to podcasts; I can watch folks like Marc S break down how to do something with a drum sander, and if you don’t have a drum sander, he explains with a plane, belt sander, orbital sander, and sanding block.

    For those of us unlikely to have a ten thousand dollar collection of antique handtools, *that’s* what I think some of us would *love* to see.

    And seeing an evolution of the bench would help *all* of us. Second on the three classes of saw cuts. Big negative on mid-1800’s toolkit; if there’s a better way to cut it with modern (hand) tools, I’d prefer to see that!

  2. William Goodwin


    Your skills are excellent and Roy knows that. Appearing on TV well that is another issue. Forget about the camera and do what you do so well. You certainly have much experience with workbenches. That may a good topic for starters.

    Bill G

  3. Dan Miller

    You lucky, lucky guy! I appologized to Roy on behalf of all California woodworkers, because it is completely unfair that after being a TV star for 30 years his fans are mostly old fat guys with beards and not hot young women. Roy agreed (after making sure his mike was turned off)

  4. Joe Lyddon

    Three very good choices…

    I selected the Saw one primarily because the other two have been covered pretty well.

    There is another one, however…

    Hand Planes… some adjusting and using techniques… as well as the various common types & their usage.

    I think that would really be a SUPER good subject to cover… especially with St. Roy to help out! 🙂 🙂

    Thank you for giving it some thought.


  5. Bob Strawn

    All Three! I really want to see the workbench episode, I need to see the Sawing episode, and I think the tool episode will help answer the question most asked by beginners.


  6. Dale Smith

    If Roy routinely uses many of the tools in the 1839 kit, then maybe the workbench history would be fresher for viewers. Good luck!

  7. Alan in little Washington (NC)

    Hmmm, this sounds more like an audition!!!!

    As my wife just found out when searching for a birthday present for me, Roy’s classes are booked and his school is doing very well.

    Is Roy finding it tough to meet the demands of both endeavors? Could this be an audition for a co-host, or a new host for the "Woodwright’s Shop" or the host of "The Toolwrights Shop with Christopher Schwarz"????


    I like the idea of the 1839 Toolkit also. Please make a small project using the tools. Maybe something like a small box or even a toolbox to carry around our tools from 1839.

    I can’t even imagine how he is in person. I plan to try and get down to NC to take one or more of his classes.


  9. Jonathan Link

    I will have to say that whatever you don’t do for Mr. Underhill’s show should definitely appear as an article in PW at some point!

  10. james

    30 years huh, dang, i didnt realise till now it’s been that long, guesses i am getting old. Congrats on appearing, should be fun.

  11. Lee Laird

    Looks like I’m in the minority, but the evolution of the Workbench sounds cool. Seems Roy has had some bench topic shows, but perhaps you could bring a slew of bench specific info to the audience. I think it’d be great, but any of the three would add to the show. Look forward to whichever one it is.

    You will post which episode it is that you’ll be on, right?


  12. Bob DeViney

    1839 tool chest. Roy’s already done a show on the Viking tool chest with Don Weber. Agree with comment about emphasizing what an apprentice/journeyman could be expected to build with a beginning set of tools, rather than talking about the tools themselves.

  13. Mark

    Yeah, I already know about the online videos, but I mean DVDs of past seasons, back as far as the first season even, does anyone know if they exist?

  14. Luke Townsley

    All great ideas that I really like. I voted "The 1839 Tool Kit" since I like hearing about how people can work without an extensive assortment of tools. I guess you can say I identify with that one.

    BTW, if you need a stunt double to shake Roy’s hand, I have big hands, a good grip, and am about 6′ tall…

  15. J

    Workbenches would be a great video blog post, but its not a WoodWright episode in my mind, as it leans too much toward "talk" and possibly not enough toward the "do" that is defining of Roy’s show.

    The sawing option seems very interesting, and would like to see this, but think that the tool kit is a perfect mash-up of your work and Roy’s.

    What would be perfect would be to include Katie (the most famous child apprentice?) in this show. You, doing some of the tool kit history bit, and at least some of the demonstrations being done by Katie.

    This could even be part of a story arc on the show where by parent/child make appearances. Get Leach and the tool model on there. Konrad and Riley Sauer. I think this fits well with Roy’s vision of getting young people involved. This also dovetails nicely with how I watch the show, with my 7yr old daughter, prior to our heading out to the shop.

    Also, while I’m sure you have, re-read Roy’s book "Khrushchev’s Shoe" prior to this appearance and you’ll be great, what an honor!

  16. Mike

    The Thomas tool kit. Some of the tools in use would be nice. But not the typical ones–maybe a couple from each of the projects that exemplify tools the average hand-tooler doesn’t–or hasn’t–used much.

    Like for the packing box, showing how quickly one can break down stock with hand saws, what a thick shaving actually means, the use of nails for assembly–and clenching. Heck, with some stages advanced along, the entire box can be made in Roy’s time slot.


    Seek medication for your doe-caught-in-headlights moment. BUT don’t overdo it! Even too much Dramamine can have an adverse effect. I recommend a shot of your favorite Kentucky sippin’ whiskey about thirty minutes before filming. But not on an empty stomach. And don’t forget to offer one to the host… LOL

    I’m kidding, you’ll be fine, bro. Have fun and I can’t wait to see the outtakes.

    Idea: You attempting to work with ALL of your fingers bandaged then Roy steps in to point something out and HE has all of his bandaged as well. I’m talking big loose floppy old-school dirty gauze bound with blue painter’s tape. LOL

  18. Josh

    Tough decision here. I went with the 1839 tool kit, because I think this needs the air time. However, sawing with and English accent was a very close second. Perhaps he can have you on for the 31st season?

    Roy couldn’t have ask a better guy onto the show.

  19. Jonas Jensen

    I votes for Thomas’ tool kit.
    Anything that will show how few tools are actually needed to do great work is a good thing those days.

  20. Mark

    Sorry to go off topic, but does anyone know if any of the past seasons of The Woodwright’s Shop are available on DVD?
    I live in Canada and I don’t get the show in my area, so the only way I can watch it is online, which is great but it only goes back a few years and I would love to see all the old episodes.
    Also since they only put the previous years season online, I will have to wait a long time to see this one.

  21. Michael

    My vote would be for the "Sawing with English accent" Although I think the idea of having a triology is the right approach.


  22. Peter C. Tremblay

    I know that it is just one man’s opinion but the new folks to handtools will appreciate the 1839 tool kit and the folks who have more handtools than they can use will also appreciate it. We can always use a ‘back to basics’ course. So my vote was for the 1839 tool kit topic.

    Either way I am sure it will be good.



  23. Ian Wigle

    Reading about Thomas just now. An introduction to his tool kit sounds just about right.

    Perhaps Chris’ daughter could play the part??

  24. Narayan

    Another vote for the 1839 toolkit. It would fit much more nicely into his show’s format and temperment than a "since the dawn of time" workbench exposition.

    As a fallback: the merits of professional wrestling. *BAM*

  25. Eric Sandvik

    Sweet! I am just starting out so the 1839 Tool Kit would probably be the most immediately helpful to me. However the Evolution of Workbenches would satisfy my TV stuck on history channel self.

    So if we’re voting I’m going with one of those two.

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