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Issue 8 T.O.C. – “Subversive Woodwright: An Interview with Roy Underhill”

Subversive Woodwright: An Interview with Roy Underhill   For 40 years, audiences from around the world have received their first taste of hand-tool woodworking from one source – Roy Underhill, star of “The Woodwright’s Shop,” author of many books, first master housewright at Colonial Williamsburg, and instructor at The Woodwright’s School. For those who have seen him on TV or heard him in person, Underhill is a living legend.   Joshua and Mike had the opportunity to spend a few days visiting Roy at his home in North Carolina (a renovated cotton mill), sitting in on a class at his school, and talking about a wide range of topics. For Issue Eight, we’ll share the conversation, covering Roy’s background, the...

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Know Your Audience

* This is another entry in our “Advice for Aspiring Writers” Series. "Uncle Ed" at Thanksgiving. Courtesy of awkwardfamilyphotos.com Everyone on this planet shares some similar experience or knowledge, to an extent. There are things that we all have in common, despite wildly different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. But in everyday conversation, whether with someone from another part of the globe or Uncle Ed at the family Thanksgiving get-together, we can quickly begin locating the boundaries of our shared experience. There’s a reason why many casual conversations start with an awkward comment about the weather – everyone has something to say about it. However, not everyone shares your personal take on iOS vs. Android, your raw-vegan-paleo-ketonic-grain-free dietary philosophy, or your stance...

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Farewell to Amana

Today started out much like yesterday (rainy, cold, and windy), but that didn't stop the crowds from gathering outside the Festhalle Barn quite early to await Roy Underhill's presentation. Once the doors opened, the atmosphere was electric and excited. And damp. As I started in to find a place to listen, I received a text from Joshua announcing the birth of their third son, Wyeth Day! What awesome news to receive. Everyone agreed: even though we missed Joshua at Handworks, we were extremely glad he wasn't here! Congrats, Klein family! The talk was wonderful and hilarious, as usual. I can't think of a more amicable presence than Roy. He really does light up a room. The day flowed by, filled...

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The Whetstone Quarry

Roy Underhill's books, I believe, are vastly underrated. It seems that every page contains not only loads of useful information about hand-tool woodworking, but historical context, interesting anecdotes, folklore, and typical Roy hilarity. Really, stuff that you can't find anywhere else. Paging through one of his books (The Woodwright's Companion) recently, I stumbled upon a short chapter about whetstones. The popular opinion of today is that we need a wide array of dead-flat, precisely-graded sharpening stones in order to keep our tools sharp and usable, but this isn't the case historically. Roy mentions that in many old towns in Europe, the stone step of the stairway of a certain house was often discovered incidentally to be a good whetstone, and...

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Early Influences

               As we think about our woodworking influences during National Mentoring Month, I’ve been pondering my roundabout journey so far. I suspect that my story isn’t terribly uncommon in that the most formative teachers I have had are folks I’ve never met. My grandpa was a strong influence on me in regards to fixing things, pounding nails, getting cars running, and the like. He helped me to see that the materials that you have on hand or can scrounge up from the basement are often enough to get the job done effectively. Because of what I learned from watching him, I have never been afraid to tear into a project, to disassemble a complicated doohickey just to see what’s going...

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