I would probably be a better person if I didn’t interact with other people.
That is the thought that flashes through my head when Roy Underhill says to me: “I could go down the street and buy a plastic doll that you could saw in half.”
Let’s back up a couple hours. This morning I started teaching a three-day course on sawing at Roy Underhill’s “The Woodwright’s School” in Pittsboro, N.C. And I began the class (as is my way) with a quick survey of the history of saws and sawing.
I have always been fascinated by the Bible, so I quoted two passages from it about saws. These are not nice passages; they are about people getting sawn in two. Nevertheless, they are some of the earliest accounts of sawing that we have in Western literature. So I recite them in my best Charlton Heston voice.
Usually when I discuss Biblical resawing, I’m afraid that some wiseacre will ask me if the saws were filed rip or crosscut. But today something much more frightening happened.
Roy Underhill got a funny gleam in his eye.
That was before lunch. In the meantime, everything was going swimmingly with the class. I taught the students about selecting the right saw, how to hold it, how to use it, and the three kinds of saw cuts. About 4 p.m., Underhill disappears from the school and returns $1.50 poorer but with a bag in hand.
It’s Polly, the only $1.50 doll available at the Dollar General store. Underhill prepares a special jig to hold her upright in my face vise.
“What,” he asks, slyly. “Don’t the other schools buy you plastic dolls to saw in half?”
I can’t argue with that. So at the end of the first class session, Roy clamps the doll into my face vise. He sets up my camera and goads the students into pretending to have horrified expressions. And he takes the photo above.
I want to apologize to all the great Presbyterian ministers I grew up with. Sorry to say, but it looks like you failed.
Other than that, the rest of the day was incredible. The students moved swiftly through the lesson plan (perhaps too swiftly), and we are on track to building these sawbenches by the end of the day on Wednesday. I have more stories to tell about the day, but the clock is ticking.
– Christopher Schwarz
All photos by Roy Underhill