Roy Underhill is awesome! I don’t mean in the gnarly, radical, 1980s sense; but rather, in the dumbstruck, slack jawed sense. If you disagree, then stop reading this blog. You probably wont’ want to come back either as we will have some serious differences of opinion. The Woodwright Shop host is entertaining, knowledgeable, and all around funny. As our host he waxes philosophical and throws in a lot of bad humor and puns along the way. In person, he is as nice as can be, and the consummate entertainer. Never have I seen Roy in person where there was not the sound of laughter everywhere. So how does this fit the definition of awesome above?
Today I “met” a different Underhill. A no nonsense, master craftsman at work. I was watching season 4 of The Woodwright Shop through Popular Woodworking’s Shop Class On Demand service during lunch. In this episode, Roy and his crew of housewrights/joiners/carpenters from Colonial Williamsburg raise the frame of the Anderson Blacksmith shop. Let’s forget the irony of watching this raising knowing that it has sense been taken down in order to build an even bigger armory today at Williamsburg. The show opens with typical showman Roy doing his best to explain the history and the tools. Trying his best to infect the audience with his own passion for hand tool woodworking. This episode is different however as in between explanations, Roy and his crew actually raise a building in near real time. When the microphones switch off and move to an ambient sound, so too does the ebullient showman and on comes the Master Housewright on the job seeking a well made structure. This is not to say that Roy suddenly becomes a different person, but instead of goofy, he takes charge, gives orders, and works quickly and efficiently. It is a subtle change but a powerful one.
Over the years of watching Roy I always assumed the work we saw on screen, while impressive, wasn’t near to his actual potential. Trying to build something in 30 minutes while talking through it is extremely difficult and mistakes (and blood) happens. Watching Roy switch into professional carpenter mode gives us a look into how this master craftsman works when the end product is the goal and not the demonstration.
As if it could get any higher, my respect for Roy Underhill just climbed up a few more notches.
Seriously people? You’re not subscribed to The Woodwright Channel on Shop Class on Demand or haven’t bought the DVDs? I don’t think there exists a better education in hand tool woodworking. No affiliate links here, just an honest, hurry up and subscribe, recommendation.
Next week I’ll be at The Woodwright’s School in Pittsboro, NC taking a week long class. I plan to broadcast live Tuesday night from The Hand Tool School demonstration page with Roy as my guest. Let’s hope I don’t blither like an idiot. Hey stop by, it should be fun to watch me make a fool of myself.Google+ Profile