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!

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