Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mastering Woodworking with Charles Neil

Charles Neil is a prolific Southern furniture builder and prolific woodworking instructor.  He was the first to do an Internet-base guild based on doing projects from design to rubbing out the finish with every step carefully explained and demonstrated in weekly hour-long videos.  And those videos rock.

When his guild first started, I eagerly joined and have been enjoying it ever since.  The pieces aren't pieces you'd consider beginner pieces.  These include scroll boards, Cambriol legs, dovetailed case construction, all-hardwood construction, applied molding, and exceptional consideration for the finish.  Charles is a bit of a finish guy.

Do you need a shipping container of tools to make these builds? No.  All along the way of the build, Charles explains how he would do the next step in his production shop then typically offers 3-4 other ways they can be done.  Any hobbyist no matter the level of "tooling" will have access to at least two ways he describes and demonstrates in detail.

You will also improve your Southern accent.  This, folks, is big.

If you are looking for a highly-orchestrated and edited video production... well, sorry, you're in Charles' shop.  It's usually dusty.  Sometimes there's glue in unusual places.  He builds a lot of furniture there.  You can be lucky enough to be there via the Internet with many of those builds.

How does he chose builds?  There's a guild forum where you can pose questions and discussion with each episode of each build.  Along the way, he gets ideas of what people want to build.  Generally, the viewers pick the piece while Charles decides on details to make certain we cover new territory.  What's new territory?  New techniques, new components (think Cambriol legs), new wood species to learn its working and, more important, its finishing characteristics.

Are you gonna see the same dovetailed drawers each build? No.  Same material processing? No.  Why!?  Because Charles realizes this gets old for people continuing on with the guild so he has cut mini episodes from previous builds that show you those steps as reference videos (these are in addition to the weekly episodes).  Now, new builds will refer you to those reference videos.

There's even a comprehensive video index for all the builds.  Here's a snippet of that index so you can see the detail:

Drawer Completion
Attaching Drawer FrontCC1201:04:48
Beveling Drawer BottomCC1209:43
Drawer BottomCC1200:36
Drawer TwistingCC1228:21
Evening dovetailsCC1218:02
Finishing At Band SawCC1248:06
Fitting Drawer To CaseCC1224:00
Hardware PlacementCC1257:57
Kerf KeeperCC1245:37
Making Drawer FrontCC1239:36
Optional Dovetails In BackCC1206:26
Planing Drawer FrontCC1250:10
Routing Edge ProfileCC1250:28
Securing Drawer BottomCC1207:50
Sizing Drawer FrontCC1240:19
Upper Shelf Tilt CleatCC1238:02

What will you learn?  Even if you don't build one project proposed, the techniques for orchestrating a build, dealing with the realities of a natural product, how to fix mistakes (and many other recoveries), and how to use tools in ways you didn't think of are worth the price of admission (about $5 per episode).  Honestly, he's a firehose of information and all of it from having been there for the past 30+ years.

I've been impressed.  So will you.

But... you wanna pay $20 for a month believing in my opinion!?! No, didn't think so...

Charles has put together a special program that gives you access to the show for a week FOR FREE.  Snoop around and see what you like.  The recoveries alone are worth the admission.


  • SEAN said...

    Hi yall have seen and enjoyed Charles Neils video 5 plank bench.That man is a great teacher and a joy to listen to.Must get more of his vids.tcnersa