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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

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Showing 16 comments
  • Ron Boe

    I prefer your expression in the second photo.

    You have the "Now where in the heck did they learn that and what the heck are they doing?".

    More of a student that came in late than the instructors face. Perhaps you need to work on that. :^)

  • Mitchewd

    For those looking for verses…

    Hebrews 11:37
    – "They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;"

    1 Kings 7:9
    – "All these were of costly stones, according to the measures of hewed stones, sawed with saws, within and without, even from the foundation unto the coping, and so on the outside toward the great court."

    2 Samuel 12:31
    – "And he brought forth the people that were therein, and put them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brick-kiln: and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon. So David and all the people returned unto Jerusalem."

  • The Bible as "Western" literature?

    Just poking fun at your geography, not your theology . . .

  • Ernie Stephenson

    Its a good thing Roy does not allow Dozuki’s into his school….Christian Shintoism…..

  • sonja

    Hah! Very inspiring…now what were the bible verses!?

  • Tim

    Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it? As if a rod should wield him who lifts it, or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood!

  • Charles Davis

    Best expressions ever. That picture is a keeper.

    Your blogs posts with Roy have been super entertaining… You’re having a just a little bit of fun down there aren’t you?

  • Jeremy Pringle

    So, since you now have the experiance required, should you use a rip or crosscut saw?

  • Greg Barringer

    Alas! Underhill has been exposed for the fake that he is! A P-L-A-S-T-I-C DOLL? I thought he did not allow modernity in his place.

  • Looks like Chris has gotten his hair cut since his spread in Maxim.

  • Eric

    Love the corporate shirt ("The Woodwright’s Global Enterprises") – is that the required uniform of the cadre there? 😉

  • Brian

    Christopher’s expression looks a little bit like the doll …just sayin.

    Seattle, WA

  • Haika
  • Picture perfit,only needs a whip an chain

  • Rob Young

    You guys should try to re-enact the Curry painting "Tragic Prelude"


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