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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.

– Steve Shanesy






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  • ronin4711

    Is it just me or you see the same?
    I have no doubt about his knowledge in carpentry/cabinetry, as much as he tries to make his episodes entertaining, Roy is a goofball to say the least…

  • switzforge

    I am just about through with season 1. I found Roy several years into the series and have never seen these early episodes. They are all great I just can’t get enough. Pure simple and to the point. I have to admit that the blacksmithing episode was a bit painful to watch. He was way to distracted talking to take a good heat, but it was fun to watch never the less and for those who have never done any forge work, it still get the point across that this to id within the reach of anyone who wants to give it a try.

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