Work & ham. When a camera is involved, you can count on a funny expression. Here’s Roy as he prepares stock for an upcoming class.

More than 30 years on TV hasn’t softened his approach to the craft, tools or people.

Editor’s Note: This interview originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of Popular Woodworking

It’s a typical day at The Woodwright’s School in Pittsboro, N.C. Sunlight floods the storefront room through two enormous plate-glass windows. Six students carve ball-and-claw feet at their German workbenches while 1930s-era music tinkles through the air.

Something crazy, radical, and perhaps dangerous is about to happen.

Roy Underhill makes the rounds at the benches. He checks on each student, cracks a few jokes and retires to his miter box to crosscut the material for the next day’s class.

A bell rings. The door to the school opens and in walk two women and a man. They stand at the entrance and look a tad bewildered, as if they accidentally stepped into a small flaw in the space-time continuum in this small Southern town.

Professor Underhill. It’s tough to catch Roy Underhill with his guard down. Here he is examining a chest of tools that was brought to The Woodwright’s School to sell to Ed Lebetkin, who runs a tool store above the school.

Within seconds Roy and instructor Mary May are in front of them, all smiles and welcoming them into the shop. They invite them to look around at the benches, they explain what the students are doing. And they talk as if nothing unusual at all is going on in the bench room.

The students play along. They chat up the visitors, who gawk at the work on the bench, ask questions about the tools and still look a bit confused, but pleased.

After about 15 minutes the visitors leave, and the room falls silent again as the students return their full attention to their work.

I saw this. When…


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