Woodworking with a legend

Roy Underhill has been showing traditional woodworking on PBS for 37 years. He was a master carpenter and Woodwright for Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia before he started. He has concentrated on traditional 18th/19th century tools and woodcraft, and has been a prime mover for the rebirth of hand-tool woodworking in America. Roy has a definite, almost manic style of presentation, both on TV and in person. Always a joker, He keeps it light while helping to explain the intricacies of using a 19th century tool to come up with accurate results.

About ten years ago, he opened up a school for woodworking, where folks can come and attend classes, see and use the tools (he has a host of them available if folks don’t have their own) and purchase tools to take home if they’d like (there is a separate store, owned by Ed Lebetkin, upstairs). The schools is in a store front in the quaint town of Pittsboro, NC.

I’ve taken classes there on hand tool use, and a special one on wooden molding planes. Last week I took a class with Will Myers and Roy at his school, where we built a great “portable” workbench. This one is based on a bench that Will found in the Moravian museum in North Carolina, which they believe is a design built around 1800. As most woodworkers know, a good bench is strong, sturdy and heavy, so it can withstand the pounding without moving or breaking. This one breaks down into six major parts, the heaviest of which is the 4” think workbench top (around 100 lbs.). It’s fairly portable, but sturdy when you set it up.

There is something really enjoyable about doing all the work by hand. Every cut is hand-sawn, every hole is hand-drilled, and every joint is cut out and fitted. By the end of five days, we were able to take home a workbench that was 85%-90% complete, including a great front vise. The remaining work that needed to be done is relatively easy (I’ve already gotten about half of it done over the last 2-3 days, in the evenings).

I would greatly recommend to anyone that if they have hobbies, don’t wait till you retire early. Take the opportunity to explore them now, if only to confirm it is something that you’d like to do for a long time.

 

What new skill would you like to try out?

 

Mr. 39 Months

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