Roy Underhill Woodwrigth's school in Pittsboro, NC

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Review by yrob posted 08-23-2011 04:20 AM 3761 views 1 time favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Roy Underhill Woodwrigth's school in Pittsboro, NC Roy Underhill Woodwrigth's school in Pittsboro, NC No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Last weekend, I had the pleasure to take woodworking classes with Roy Underhill of the Woodwrigth’s shop fame. Two full days of classes taking place at his school in Pittsboro, NC. when you step into this charming little town, you are transported back a century. The main street features antique shops, art shops, music shops, the “old soda shoppe” and of course Roy’s school. He has a front window on the street. In there, 10 nice german benches are setup for students.

The classes starts around 9am and last until needed to finish (suppositely 5pm but on the sunday class, we finished at 7:30pm). There is a lunch break in between but otherwise, its pretty intense.

Roy is a wonderful person. He is as full of life and laughter as he is in his show. He is really like that, its not a facade for TV. In his shows, you sometimes get the impression he is a bit sloppy because he rushes to do it in 24 minutes (its done in one take..). Well, when you work with the master, that is a totally different story. He has an incredible understanding of the tools, and the behavior of various woods.

For example, when cutting a tenon, he might just split the wood if its amenable to that rather than saw with a tenon saw. Then finish off with a paring chisel and its perfect…

The dovetail class had us do a through dovetail, a half blind and a mortise and tenon (see the pics of my attempts).

I knew how to cut dovetails before but the point of the class was to learn something new. How he does it. So I did it his way and learned quite a few things not to mention had a lot of fun.

Lastly, one of his associates has an antique tool store in the second floor of the school.

A smattering of hundreds of wooden planes, chisels, saws, etc… This alone is worth going there. It beats ebay any day and his prices are very good (better than ebay). Not only that, you can take the tool downstairs and test it if you are taking a class. If you like it, you buy it..

I strongly recommend anybody who is into hand tools to take a class with him. you will not regret it.

-- Yves

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16 comments so far

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#1 posted 08-23-2011 04:33 AM

It sounds like a great school. Thanks for sharing.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

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#2 posted 08-23-2011 04:44 AM

Sounds like fun. I met Roy in Portland a couple years ago when he was teaching a class on making your own spring pole lathe.
He is great guy just like you said, he’s the real deal on PBS. I’m sure we all would learn a lot if we all could attend his class.

-- Custom furniture

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#3 posted 08-23-2011 05:04 AM

I’ve got to make it a point to get there. It is only a couple of hours away.

-- I love Jeeps

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#4 posted 08-23-2011 06:33 AM

it sounds like a fun class to take. besides the two day workout; did you get breaks at 10 am and 2 pm?

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#5 posted 08-23-2011 06:45 AM

That sounds like a cool experience, I bet it was just a blast and time flew by like nothing
Good for you!

-- Scott "Some days you are the big dog, some days you are the fire hydrant"

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#6 posted 08-23-2011 02:34 PM

That dude’s got skills.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

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#7 posted 08-23-2011 02:39 PM

Deke, I was taking notes on the board when Roy was explaining. did not have a piece of paper handy…

-- Yves

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#8 posted 08-23-2011 04:45 PM

That sure is one place I would love to go to if I ever have time. I love that guy.

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

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#9 posted 08-23-2011 05:01 PM

That’s the Mecca for hand toolers, I’m thinking. Would love to go. Great review, thanks!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive

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#10 posted 08-23-2011 09:10 PM

Not only a gifted craftsman but dam funny sometimes! I swear the guy could have been comedian!

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#11 posted 08-23-2011 09:19 PM

I want to take his DT class sooooooooooo bad. Can’t justify it right now though. Eventually. Thanks for the review.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

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#12 posted 08-24-2011 03:45 AM

Didn’t know he had a school… thanks for sharing.

-- Al H. - small shop, small projects...

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340 posts in 2692 days

#13 posted 08-24-2011 05:25 AM

He opened it two years ago. The school website is . He is going to post a new schedule for October in the coming days soon.

-- Yves

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#14 posted 08-25-2011 05:12 AM

One of his obvious strengths is one of my clear weaknesses: he knows how to keep his tools sharp.

-- Paul, Clinton, NC

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340 posts in 2692 days

#15 posted 08-25-2011 08:24 PM

Speaking of sharpening, he uses two stones. One medium grit India stone and one finer Arkansas stone.
Put snake oil on it (well once, we pressed him he did admit it was olive oil.. ) and sharpen freehand.

The grind is established with a hand grinder. A pretty neat little tool. I would love to find one of those at auctions or ebay. He does not know at what angle its ground. His answer as, I do not know, I find whatever is optimal for a given chisel. If the angle is too small for the steel, the edge will chip. If he sees that, he just regrinds with a bigger angle until it works for that chisel. For a chisel that already has a grind, touching it up takes maybe 1-2 minutes on the india stone and then another minute on the arkansas stone. He has a microscope that he uses to look at the edge to check if its ground and then smooth all the way to it.

-- Yves

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