The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

February 17, 2012

PBS star headlines ECC historic preservation event


TARBORO — Roy Underhill, host of the popular PBS show The Woodwright’s Shop, is coming to Tarboro.

He will headline the 4th annual Historic Preservation Trades School at Edgecombe Community College on Saturday, March 31, as a guest speaker.

In addition to Underhill’s presentation, preservation demonstrations in blacksmithing, slate and metal roofing, masonry, timberframing, carpentry, painting, window repair, and other topics will be under way throughout the day.

The Woodwright’s Shop celebrates its 30th anniversary this season.

“Roy Underhill is an icon of traditional woodcrafting, and we are thrilled that he is participating in our Historic Preservation Trades School,” says Monika Fleming, program coordinator.

“Though we’re still working out the details of his visit, we know he’ll give a presentation midday. Hopefully he’ll be available to meet guests and autograph his books as well.”

Underhill is author of six books, including The Woodwright’s Shop: A Practical Guide to Traditional Woodcraft and The Woodwright’s Workbook: Further Explorations in Traditional Woodcraft (both from the University of North Carolina Press). He lives in Pittsboro, NC.

After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Underhill and his wife moved to the Southwest in the early 1970s to pursue a career in theatre. When that didn’t work out, a subsequent move led to a rekindling of his interest in traditional tools and woodworking.

”My wife and I were living in the mountains of northern New Mexico, nearly 17 miles from the nearest electrical line,” he says. “If you wanted to do something up there, you did it with whatever you brought with you.”

Underhill says the forced independence of living in a remote area of the mountains and doing “the homesteading thing,” in addition to the environmental issues of appropriate technology, firmly established his love for the highly efficient tools of the past.

He returned east a few years later to further develop his woodworking knowledge and studied colonial American technology at Duke University. While he dabbled in both woodworking and blacksmithing following graduation, it was the birth of his first daughter that prompted Underhill to look for permanent work.

Drawing on his theatre background, Underhill put together a proposal for a woodworking show and took it to the University of North Carolina Center for Public Television. He was rejected, but a second try in 1978 led to the taping of the first 13 episodes of The Woodwright’s Shop. Initially airing only on PBS stations in North Carolina beginning in 1979, the show went national two years later.

At about the same time his television show was catching on, Underhill moved to Williamsburg, Va., to accept the position of master housewright at Colonial Williamsburg, where he also served as director of interpretive development. He lived in Williamsburg for 17 years.

For more information or to register for the Historic Preservation Trades School at Edgecombe Community College, contact Monika Fleming at (252) 823-5166, ext. 241, or