thoughts while crossing rivers

It’s been some busy times. It seems distant now, but Woodworking in America was not too long ago. The Ohio, the Monongahela, the Susquehanna, the Delaware, the Hudson, the Connecticut, the Charles – I crossed all these rivers & more heading back to the Jones, my own little river. All that driving gives a person time to think. So I have lots of ideas for posts, if I can remember them. 

But as soon as I got home, I got scrambling around trying to catch up to where I was, or wasn’t. Then came the World Series, where I lost a bunch of sleep watching the millionaires with “Boston” on their shirts beat the millionaires with “St Louis” on their shirts. None of it made me want to go tip over people’s cars. Nor high-five anyone. But that’s me…

So I prepped & packed for a one-day demo/evening gig at the MFA in Boston, then unpacked, worked a couple more days, then packed for a one-day demo/lecture at Historic New England as part of the Four Centuries thing. So many more hours in the car, going around Boston rather than through it, so I could avoid the hysteric nonsense surrounding the millionaires’ victory parade. 

One thing that I wanted to address is a compliment I often receive about my presentations. People are often remarking that I can work and talk at the same time, or that I can engage the audience well…I’m grateful for the compliment, but I know the truth. First of all, I get to practice full-time in front of an audience – for 20 years.

But the real truth is that I’m a second-rate copy. A cheap imitation. I trained at the foot of the master – and here I tip my cap to him. Yup. Roy Underhill.

PF & Roy at Plimoth, 2002
PF & Roy at Plimoth, 2002

I remember one day walking into work & getting a note from my co-worker Henry. It said “call Roy Underhill” and it had a phone number. “Yea, sure” I said, along with unprintable exclamations – in the vein of “get outta here!”

But somehow Hank convinced me that Roy had really been there the day before, and wanted to talk to me about shooting the show in Plimoth. This was about 2001 or so. Summer I think. So he came up & we shot stuff – it was really something. I remember watching his show & reading his first book to death back in the early ‘80s. So it was a thrill to work with him after all those years. Then a few more years went by, and we met up again at Colonial Williamsburg in 2007 – I arranged to hang around Roy as much as I could that session, whenever I wasn’t on the stage pretty much; and since then we have shot several more episodes.

What I have learned is that when Roy is around, I try to shut up & pay attention. But I’m not watching so much for the woodworking. He’s excellent at that, but what I get from him is the presentation…watch him work an audience, draw them to him & then pull a nickel out of their ears, so to speak. Ask Megan Fitzpatrick about the time we saw Roy teach Shakespeare to a little 10-yr old boy on the spur of the moment…

After WIA, me, Peter Ross, Patrick Edwards & Roy went to dinner across the street from the venue. Had to wait for a table – so Roy took over the maitre’d duties to kill time…and to engage the group hanging around waiting….it really broke the ice. 

One of the real thrills of my woodworking career has been to work with Roy. Whenever he calls, I say “yes- let’s do it.” Knowing it’s going to be good. I know he doesn’t read blogs, so I can say all these wonderful things about him – he’s a real inspiration for me. Thanks, Roy. 

If you haven’t seen it before, here is one of my favorite presentations of his – 

I doubt I need to do it, but just in case, here are the links you need to get a hit of Roy’s gig. 

http://www.woodwrightschool.com/

http://www.pbs.org/woodwrightsshop/home/

http://www.popularwoodworking.com/woodwrights-shop-roy-underhill

7 thoughts on “thoughts while crossing rivers

  1. Amen to you both. We need you all. You each bring your own uniqueness to the past, present and the assured future of woodworking!

  2. Peter, I love Saint Roy and his stigmata show, particularly when you’re the guest, but I give you bonus points for blogging — making it an at least somewhat closer match. ;-)

  3. I could not agree more. As someone who spend a lot of time in front of a camera then in front of an audience at a museum I have picked up so many little things from Roy. My colleagues at the museum are just the same and there is not a day that goes by when we don’t catch one another retelling some horrible Underhill joke to a guest. The very first time I met Roy (actually over the partition between urinals) he gave me some of the best advice I have ever gotten about woodworking on camera.

    “When the joint doesn’t come out just right, just pretend it looks great and keep it moving so the camera can’t focus on it”

  4. There’s never enough glowing endorsements for Roy, even if there are a million. I can’t imagine what arts would be lost to all but academics had he not changed the world for the better and inspired generations with the WoodWright show. I watched it with my dad as a kid (one of our few shared interests), and now I watch it with my kid’s and still love it, even when I know what punchline is coming!

  5. Peter, I have been taught under the the phrase of “each one, teach one”
    While I enjoy watching Roy and making my yearly visit to wood workers Mecca, I have to say that I enjoy viewing your blog, the pictures you share, and the relaxed lifestyle you enjoy much more.

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