The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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You’re gonna lose that girl

The following is a true story:

I think just about everybody claims to “never watch TV!” There seems to be a stigma associated with watching TV too much. But I can honestly say that I don’t watch much television. I should probably rephrase that: I don’t watch much of what I want to watch on television. I have a daughter, and the television watching hours of 7pm-9pm are dominated by her and the Disney Channel. Usually during that time I will read, or sometimes use the computer, or whatever. Of course, I could go into another room to watch television, but that usually only lasts just a few minutes, because soon enough I will hear my daughters little footsteps, and sure as the sun will rise she is next to me and the television has magically changed channels to one of her shows. I probably should take that as a compliment.

In actuality, this little arrangement doesn’t really bother me all that much. There really isn’t a whole lot on TV that interests me at that time of the night anyway, in particular this time of the year, and with the Phillies being horrible for the past three seasons that pretty much takes baseball out of the equation. But there is one show that I do enjoy watching.

Every Tuesday night at 10pm the Woodwright’s Shop is on in my area, and I always try to watch it. There usually isn’t a problem; my daughter is generally sleeping and my wife is at the point in the day where she really doesn’t care regardless. Last night, however, was a little bit of a different story. Both my wife and daughter were awake, and both were vehemently opposed to my watching Roy Underhill for 23 minutes. Last night’s episode featured Christopher Schwarz constructing a try square modeled after one found in the Benjamin Seaton tool chest. Being that I had never seen it before, I kind of wanted to watch it.

Before I go on, I will say that my wife not wanting to watch the Woodwright’s Shop is really nothing new; she thinks it’s boring, and it probably is to her, but this was something more. I asked her, half-jokingly, what she had against poor Roy Underhill. She proceeded to tell me that not only was the show boring, but that Roy was also annoying. In fact, my lovely wife had a laundry list of complaints, ending with “everything he does is sloppy and rushed”. I’m not even going get into what she said about Christopher Schwarz. I tried to briefly explain to her the premise of the show, but at that point she couldn’t have cared less. Needless to say I watched the last 15 minutes in another room, alone.

I haven’t been watching the Woodwright’s Shop for more than a few years, but I’ve come to enjoy it. I’ve felt before that the show could use some tasteful editing, but yet part of the show’s charm is it’s single-take method. I like how Roy tells a story, not only with words, but with woodworking. Chopping up the show and editing it would really hurt the continuity in my opinion, and take away from that charm. Not that it really matters, the show has been on for 30 years and it’s format has proven to work, but I was a little disappointed in my wife’s attitude towards it.

Like I said earlier, The Woodwright’s Shop is the one TV show I look forward to watching during the week. It’s roughly 23 minutes every Tuesday evening at 10pm. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that I can watch it without criticism from the misses and my daughter, but it seems like it might be. It just never occurred to me that The Woodwright’s Shop could be such a controversial topic in my house.

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When you’re wrong, you’re wrong.

I’ve written more than my fair share of blog posts that were critical I will readily admit. I’ve tried not to take my criticisms to a personal level, though that isn’t always easy to do, but I have been critical of certain ideals and mindsets that I don’t agree with. Logically you may conclude that if one is being critical of a particular person’s ideals or way of thinking, one is then being critical on a personal level. That could very well be true, but I do believe that it’s possible to disagree with somebody and still respect them and what they do; and I’ve tried my best to make that fact be known. I also want to go on record and admit that I’m not always right. On the other hand, I’ve also tried to offer praise whenever I found something praiseworthy. I am a firm believer in the concept of reciprocity, and if I can put my energy into being critical, I also have the responsibility to put my energy into being constructive. It is my hope that I’ve maintained that balance as much as possible, because I do believe it is important.

Last night I happened to catch most of an episode of the Woodwright’s Shop. I’ve only been watching Roy Underhill for three years or so. I knew who he was before then, and I had watched his show here or there on the internet, but the Woodwright’s Shop has not been airing in my region for a very long time, so I wasn’t introduced to it until fairly recently. I’ve come to really enjoy the show, and I look forward to watching it every Thursday evening. Last night’s episode featured Bill Anderson, who I know of vaguely, and his using hand planes to make a “drop-leaf” joint for a folding table. The work was very interesting and it was obvious that Anderson is a talented woodworker, but his plane work isn’t the reason I am writing this post.

Near the end of the episode it dawned on me why this guy was actually doing the show. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t there for money. Most professional woodworkers are not wealthy or rich, though I do hope that every one of them makes a nice living. I’m pretty sure that he wasn’t there because his “agent” was trying to get him some exposure. It seemed to me that he was there because he really enjoys woodworking and he thought it would be fun to film a few episodes of a woodworking show with Roy Underhill. I liked watching him work; he seemed like a nice guy and it is really enjoyable watching a talented person who enjoys what he or she does for a living. I was so impressed that for a brief moment I experienced the serendipitous notion that the world is not such a bad place afterall.

As brief as my euphoria may have been, it did bring me to the realization that woodworkers like Bill Anderson, Peter Follansbee, and Christopher Schwarz among many others, as well as the many tradespeople that have been featured on the show, went out of their way to appear on the Woodwright’s Shop not for personal gain, but because they love woodworking and they wanted to share their knowledge with whomever may be watching. That is commendable, and it makes me feel good about woodworking. At that, I felt the need to write this post to thank Roy Underhill, Bill Anderson, and the many other woodworkers who have gone out their way to share what they know and love. I also feel the need to apologize if I’ve ever gone over the line and gotten personal with my criticism. Last but not least, I feel the need to put this hippie dippie love fest to bed, before some of you start to thinking that I’m a nice guy.

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