If you’re interested in learning the art of traditional woodworking, there’s no better place to start than on the TV show “The Woodwright’s Shop.” Hosted by Roy Underhill, this how-to series teaches viewers how to make bookcases, chairs, puzzles and toys, all using classic hand tools. Each season of this PBS how-to show consists of 13 episodes that are broadcast during the last 13 weeks of the year, typically starting in October.
What to Expect
For nearly five years, the lanky figure of Roy Underhill has been introducing twentieth-century Americans to a more intimate relationship with wood and glorifying the traditional craftsmanship of the days before power tools. His PBS series, The Woodwright’s Shop, has become one of the longest-running how-to shows on the network.
Underhill introduces viewers to a range of hand tools and human-powered machines used for woodworking, including the chisel, plane, and lathe. He also teaches the proper use of these tools, showing how to properly cut wooden joints using mortise and tenon (a joint used for joining two pieces of wood together that attach in a “T”) or a dovetail.
Unlike modern saws, which can chop, split, bend and saw easily when dry, the shear resistance of wood changes as it dries out. This is why traditional craftsmen often work with freshly cut timbers, because they can manipulate the wood more easily than if it had drained of moisture.
Host Roy Underhill
Throughout the 35 seasons of The Woodwright’s Shop, Roy Underhill, the host, has introduced generations of Americans to a more intimate relationship with wood. It’s a relationship that celebrates the hand tools used by craftsmen before power tools were invented.
His PBS show is the longest-running how-to series in history. He also runs a school in Pittsboro, North Carolina called The Woodwright’s School where he offers classes on traditional woodworking.
He’s a historian, craftsman, and activist who is passionate about old-time techniques. He brings this passion to life on his popular television show and in books like The Woodwright’s Companion: Exploring Traditional Woodcraft.
Underhill also teaches at his own woodworking school in Pittsboro, and the classes are sold out fast. He plans to close the school at the end of 2022, but that doesn’t mean he’s stopping his work as a woodworking teacher.
The Woodwright’s Shop is an educational PBS program that teaches viewers traditional woodworking techniques. During the show, host Roy Underhill instructs viewers on how to use hand tools and machine tools to create useful wooden joints for furniture and other projects.
The show explores various aspects of the craft, such as the history of woodworking tools and the construction of various objects. Underhill also demonstrates how to lay out a wood project and select the proper tools for each task.
This season, Roy Underhill will be joined by several guest craftsmen in the shop. Each will be demonstrating their own special talents and skills.
The first episode of the season features Roy making a grand, classic workbench using pegged and keyed mortise-and-tenon construction with help from coopers from Colonial Williamsburg. He also builds a stunning nailed-together, six-board blanket chest with an interior till.
There are many tools used to work with wood. They include axes and adzes, saws and shaping tools, chisels, measuring devices and sharpening equipment.
Some of the basic tools used in woodworking are not expensive or large, but they must be properly cared for. They mellow with use and must be nurtured to retain their value.
These tools are essential to any woodworker’s toolbox. Roy Underhill provides clear instruction on their use and suggests how to build a set of them for your own personal shop.
A wide variety of woodworking joints are taught, including mortise and tenon, a common joint used to join two pieces of timber at right angles. Then, Roy visits Colonial Williamsburg and sees firsthand how 18th-century craftsmen built furniture using their tools. He then shows how to create frame-and-panel construction for a door and the joinery steps required to cut a dovetail.