The tape is about to start rolling on Sunday morning for an episode of “The Woodwright’s Shop” with Roy Underhill. I’m so nervous about being a guest on the show that I can feel my morning coffee surging in my throat — about to pulse forward like a brown Trevi fountain.
Roy pulls on his hat, which his mother gave him about 35 years ago, over his thicket of hair and picks up a foam tube. I think: That’s… weird. It looks like one of those foam insulators that you wrap around your pipes to keep them from freezing.
He walks over to one of the cameramen and whacks him mercilessly with the foam sword, and the cameraman submits meekly to the mock beating. Then Roy walks over to the next camera operator and administers another stage whuppin’.
But when Roy approaches Mike Oniffrey, a cameraman and set photographer, Oniffrey resists and parries Roy’s attack using a long metal pole (where did a cameraman get a metal pole?). The two men re-enact a scene from “Star Wars” and suddenly the show has begun and I’m babbling.
Today we shot two episodes of “The Woodwright’s Shop” for its forthcoming season. One show is about the importance of the fore plane and the impotence of the smoothing plane. The other show is about how to build the English Layout Square that graces the cover of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.”
I have appeared on a fair number of television programs in the last 20 years, but those were nothing like “The Woodwright’s Shop.” The crew of “The Woodwright’s Shop” is tiny and close-knit. The entire program is shot in one take – there is no series of cuts that are spliced together. You either get it right the first time or you do the whole dang show over again.
And then there are the beatings…. Aw, who am I kidding? Most TV sets have people who beat you.
The first show on Sunday we did was about the English Layout Square. I was happy with my performance because I made only three embarrassing errors.
1. I cut myself. Yup. Just as the cameras started rolling I nicked my left index finger with my panel saw. I don’t know if you’ll be able to see the wound, but I’m trying to stop the bleeding for the first five minutes.
2. I threw Roy’s mallet off the bench during the show. I meant to just put it down, but the thing went flying off the end of the workbench. Lucky for me I had a second mallet on the bench and I just pretended that nothing happened.
3. I grabbed the wrong piece of wood when I demonstrated how to cut a bead on the square. I was supposed to put it on one of the legs of the square, but I grabbed the horizontal brace instead. Roy helpfully pointed out the error.
Despite all this stupidity, the cameras kept rolling and somehow didn’t record me wetting myself, which is what I wanted to do.
And this first taping of the day was the tame one. The second show was like “Pretty Woman” meets “Fight Club.” More later.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. Roy wanted me to tell you that his show is free to all PBS stations. So call your local station and demand they run “The Woodwright’s Shop.” And don’t let them tell you that they can’t afford it. No more “Teletubbies” — we want the Woodwright!