Two days in The Shop of Charles Neil

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Blog entry by mikega posted 12-12-2007 12:08 AM 1657 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Well I thought I would try my hand at my first Blog. This past weekend I got to go down to New Market VA to spend some time with Charles Neil. Many of you know Charles from the Lumberjock site and through his YouTube and DVD videos. So I hope I thought I would tell you a little more about him. Hope this works.
Two weeks ago on Sunday after I just finished putting the last piece of trim on a Keeping Chest that I started with Charles back in October he called and invited me down to New Market to meet his buddy Bob Kloes and to watch them film some of the Finishing DVD’s that they are working on. I told Charles that I just finished the chest earlier that day and he said “great bring it with you and we will finishes it” (I will do another blog later on my Keeping Chest when I get the hardware on it and rub out the finish) Went to work the next day and put in for my last vacation day for 2007. Last Friday at 6:30am I headed south from York PA to New Market VA. Pulled into his parking lot around 10:30am and saw a sign on the door that said “FILMING – Enter quietly and slowly”. I slowly opened the door and found Charles and Bob sitting in front of a table that was filled with every kind of finishing product you can think of. There were finishing products sitting everywhere.

After a few introductions and getting caught up, Bob and Charles went back to work shooting the next scene. As many of you who have checked out his YouTube videos or may own one of his DVD’s know that they are shot right in his shop. If you have not seen his YouTube videos you can check them out at: Things are just a little tight. Here you can see shop assistant/cameraman Billy standing on the outfeed table of the tablesaw to shoot the next scene. Charles pointed out that they got new lights which has really improved the lighting quality of their videos.

The first scene I saw was about sanding. The one thing that I noticed is that there were no notes. They plan what they want to say before they start shooting and then just get up and start talking. Many times they start talking about one thing and end of on something else. This makes it hard for Sherri who does the editing to pull it all back together again. I own several of Charles DVD’s and one of the things I like most about them is that he not only tells you how to do something but he tells you why you are doing it and how it effects the next step of the process i.e.. like why you want to slightly round the edges of your pieces. This scene took about 20 minutes to shoot. Then Charles told Billy what he wanted to shoot next and while Bob and Charles talked about it Billy was busy cleaning up the last set and getting everything ready for the next set and Sherri was busy starting to edit the last take. Also between takes Charles got me started on finishing my Keeping Chest. The last time that Bob was there they started to shoot a DVD set on making a Keep Chest and Candle boxes. Most of the time they do all the work on putting these DVD’s together on their own, however they decided to sub the DVD production of this one out. Well things did not go well. Some tapes were lost and the editing was really poor so they decided to bring it back in shop and do it again. Many scenes had to be done over again so the next take was of Charles putting in a lock set on the Keeping Chest. After lunch they went back to shooting the Finishing DVD. This time they talked about rubbing out the finish.

If you watch the YouTube videos you know that not only does Charles like to teach but he likes to have a good time doing it. On the Finishing DVD you will see Charles polishing Bob’s bald head. I also got to see a short clip of the Box DVD where Bob does a dance. It will be worth getting just to see that. Also when he was shooting the lock set scene he dropped the router on the floor (it landed on a mat so there was no harm done) but they let that kind of stuff on the DVD’s just to show that this kind of thing happens to even the best of us. The Sugar Chest that they worked on in the rubbing out scene was for a customer and had to be finished that day because Bob was taking it home with him the next day to deliver it. After the filming was done everyone jumped on it to get it done. They even left me help.

The lady in the picture above is Sherri. She is the other person that you do not get to see. She is the Office Manager/shop assistant/cameraperson/ production editor. Filming these things is just a small part of making the DVD’s. Sherri spends many, many, long hours trying to make Charles look good. As we were finishing up the Sugar chest and Bob was packing up his car Charles said “OH (blip) I just remembered we need to have 22 trophy bases for NASA ready to ship out of here on Monday morning” Billy was told to call the sawmill to get 100 board feet of Walnut right away. Filming came to an abrupt halt. Tables were cleaned off and the camera was torn down. The lumber showed up around 7:00 that evening. Charles said he could not miss the shipping date plus he will be out of town at Woodcraft’s headquarters shooting some videos for them most of this week. Charles has been doing these bases for NASA for the last 15 years and they have made hundreds of them so they all knew that they would be working all weekend. We went out for supper around 8:00. Later I said goodbye to my new friend Bob who was headed back to Wisconsin at day break. I called it a day but Sherri returned to the office to try and finish the Box DVD’s till 3:30 am then slept on the sofa in the office so she could get up early to start working on the trophy bases. Saturday morning after some breakfast and checking out a local sawmill ( I got some nice cherry lumber) I went back to the shop. Production was in full swing. Billy was on the planer, Charles was on the tablesaw cutting out the parts and Sherri was busy sanding. Charles stopped to get me started on sanding down my Keeping Chest to get it ready for the last coat of lacquer. After I was done sanding we put on the last coat of lacquer then I just hung around trying to help where I could but mostly just watching these people do what they do best, build furniture. Around 4:00 my piece was dry enough to carefully put into my truck and head back to PA. I wish that I could have watched them film more of the Finishing DVD’s but I guess I will just have to wait till the DVD’s comes out. One last picture. I call this one a Rose between two Thorns :)

I hope that you have enjoyed my first Blog as much as I enjoyed my visit with Charles and Bob and that you will take the time to check out Charles Neil’s web site at: where you can watch a video telling you everything that will be on the Finishing DVD. Charles said that this DVD has been 40 years in the making. It has turned into a bigger project then even he imagined but he said he wants too do it right and does not want to leave anything out. Also check out Bob Kloes website at: Bob sells some of the most beautiful figured lumber that you will ever see. I would also like to THANK all you other guys out there who take the time to make and put videos out there on the net for guys like me to learn from and ENJOY.

-- Mike

8 comments so far

View cajunpen's profile


14578 posts in 4627 days

#1 posted 12-12-2007 12:59 AM

Great first blog Mike. I really enjoyed reading about your trip to Charles Neil’s shop. I have become a big fan of Charles and I have purchased some of Bob Kloes Tiger Maple – it is incredible. Both are genuine and really dedicated to promoting the craft. You are a lucky man to have had the opportunity of spending time with them.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View Karson's profile


35209 posts in 4962 days

#2 posted 12-12-2007 01:25 AM

Great job documenting your weekend in Charles Shop. I hope the finishing dvd’s are great because I’ve already ordered them.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 4436 days

#3 posted 12-12-2007 01:31 AM

Thanks for giving us a behind-the-scenes look. It was a neat blog.

-- Happy woodworking!

View shaun's profile


360 posts in 4467 days

#4 posted 12-12-2007 01:44 PM

Great blog Mike, thanks for sharing it. The only thing on my wish list this year is Charles’ Finishing DVD set. I’m like a kid in a candy store waiting for it, the anxiety is killing me!

-- I've cut that board three times and it's still too short!

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4524 days

#5 posted 12-12-2007 02:09 PM

For a first blog, that was very good. I’ve come to really appreciate Charles and his work. Looks like a great crew of dedicated friends there. Thanks for sharing this with us.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4722 days

#6 posted 12-12-2007 09:07 PM

well done! A great blog. Thank you for sharing this special time with us

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View CharlesNeil's profile


2500 posts in 4432 days

#7 posted 12-13-2007 11:09 PM

Mike, just got back from Parkersburg and Woodcraft, it was a great visit, maybe I’ll try my first blog as soon as I get my newsletter out this weekend, finish filming the DVD get the orders out I promised for Christmas and so on. Loved having you down and to any other lumberjock out there, feel free to call if you live close enough or you’ll be in the area, love to meet ya.

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4661 days

#8 posted 12-17-2007 07:05 AM

That really had to be a good time. I really envy you.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

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