Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Finishing, Simply Put"

I recently received "Finishing, Simply Put chemistry degree required" by Charles Neil in the mail. Weirdest thing happened: I read the first 120 pages right after sitting down with it. Finished the book the next night.  Not often a book on finishing keeps me glued to a seat.

What I liked about this book is the volume of photos to show what's going on. I've included some scanned pages here to give a feel for it (the grey shadow to one side of the scans is due to my scanner).

I've followed Charles for a number of years so some parts of this book were review of some of his own techniques. That said, though, having things I learned from him here and there all in a compact reference with photos is well worth it.

Other chapters included new ideas, like using water under oil to control blotching, or very old ideas, like the use of asphaltum over dye to create rich Mahogany colors.

Most finishing books fall into two categories: details on the chemistry of finishing, and cookbooks.  Both are very useful; certainly I have a couple in each category.  This book hits a practical stride between those two explaining how the parts build to the finish you want to achieve.

There's considerable coverage on how to avoid common pitfalls (with photos), how to recover if you didn't (with photos), and common repairs (with photos).  I love books that cover "when things don't go as planned".

The volume of photos and easy text make this a fast read. Since formulations for stains, dyes, and clear coats are different for every vendor, this book specifically references many products by name and even shows their differences in photos.

Oils, varnishes, and shellac are all covered along with water-based products with discussion of special issues with water-based products.

Here's a link to a PDF of the table of contents.

This is a self-published book so you won't find it popping up on your usual woodworking radar so I thought to give it some attention.


  1. I would have never known about it without this post. Looks like a great book. I'll be picking it up.

  2. Lemme go check, Russ... :)

    Good to see you pop your head up again!

  3. Thanks for the heads up about the book!

    I realize I can just ask Charles, but do you know if there is any plan for an ebook version?

  4. I dunno, Nathan... likely have to ask him. Depending on how he edited the document, it shouldn't be too difficult to move it to an electronic publisher.

  5. There is a PDF downloadable version of the book currently available, but I'd like to know what sort of paper the book version is printed on?

    Since its meant as an encyclopedia stored in the workshop is the material resilient enough to withstand wear and tear, liquids involved in finishing, etc.? i.e. is the paper plastic coated or similar?

  6. You're fast, Reiska... Charles just informed me a couple days ago that they got their PDF version available (so that's the answer for Nathan, too).

    The covers are high-gloss so they would survive spills easily. The binding is ring-bound, which is great for the shop since it sits flat even when "folded back" to only take the room of one page. The printed pages are also more of a glossy finish that would tolerate spills.

    There aren't many recipes in this book so you may not need to keep it on the bench with finishes, stains, and dyes everywhere. But there was a lot of interesting information I hadn't heard before that I'm applying to some experiments for Angle Madness's finish.

    He does have a pre-order going on now for a followup. Looks like the same binding and printing style, but it is all color recipes. That should be fantastic. Not sure the timing of that book, but if you plan on ordering the printed book, you might prefer to wait until they can both be shipped to you.

    Here's the link to his new recipes book:

    As it says "laminated cover and spiral (actually ring) binding allows you to put it to use in your workshop not your bookcase!"

    I have mine on order :)

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