My Keeping Chest with Charles Neil

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Blog entry by mikega posted 01-12-2008 05:43 AM 2775 reads 3 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

In my last blog I mentioned that I was working on a Keeping Chest that I started back in October when I was in New Market for a class with Charles Neil. This is one of the 3 projects that we worked on that weekend (checkout the You-Tube video called 36 Hours with Charles to see the other projects I started). Well I got my chest done on Christmas day. The Saturday before Christmas I got an early Christmas present when I found my 7 disks DVD set called “The Adventures for Bob and Charles” in my mail box. Here is some more information about my chest and the DVD’s .
As I mentioned I start it back in Oct. with Charles. I never did any work with dovetails so Charles suggested that we make a Keeping Chest.

First we selected some real nice tiger maple stock that Charles had just gotten from his buddy Bob Kloes. Next we squared up and roughed sanded the stock and cut it to the correct sizes for the body of the chest. Then I got my first lesson on setting up and using a dovetail jig. After all dovetails were done we glued it up and left it dry. On the DVD they shows how to use painter tape to help with glue squeeze out. The week before I was there Charles and Bob started shooting their DVD’s so they had 14 chest in the working. They had extra molding cut out for the lid and base so I did not have to mill any for my chest. There was also extra molding cut for the feet so all I had to do was cut them out and put them together. The next day we unclamped it and sanded the dovetails flush. Then a thin dye was put on as a trace coat for sanding and to start to ‘POP’ the grain. At this point I took the chest home to finishes building it. I finished building the chest a few weeks later on a Sunday afternoon. That night I got a call from Charles inviting me down to watch them shoot some of the finishing DVD’s that he is working on. I told him that I just finished building my chest earlier that day and he said “Great bring it with you and we will put a finish on it.
So the next weekend I was on my way back down to New Market to learn more about finishing. Up to now all I knew about finishing was that you put on some stain and then throw on a coat of polyurethane and maybe a little wax and it’s done. Boy was I in for a surprise. Before I got there Charles told me to sand the trace coat that we put on back in Oct. off with 120 grit then put on another coat and sand that off with 150 grit so that we would be ready to start the final finishing when I get there.
The first thing we did when I got there was to spray on another coat of dye. This is the first time I ever handled a spray gun. Charles put on a nice thin coat.

Then it was my turn.

As you can see I put on a nice thick glob. I think I need a whole lot of practice with the spray gun. As soon as we were done spraying we grabbed a sponge and soaked the chest with the same dye.

At this point I am thinking that my chest looks like crap. It was not 2 minutes later that Charles looked at me and said ” I bet you think your box looks crap don’t you?” All I could say was “Yeah kinda”.

He just laughed and said ” Don’t worry it will get better”. After wiping it with a little alcohol things did start to lighten up and I felt a whole lot better. Charles felt we needed to add some amber tone to it so he sprayed on a coat of amber shellac. Next came 4 coats of lacquer and it was left to dry over night. All of this work was being done in between takes of the finishing DVD so it was a busy day.
The next morning he got me started by sanding (I think he called it leveling off) the 4 coats of lacquer that we put on the day before. He told me to wet sand it until I do not see any shiny spots but do not sand thru the lacquer. After sanding and sanding and sanding, Charles would come back and point out the spots I missed and I would sand and sand some more. Doing the flat surfaces was not to bad but doing the molding was a real pain. As you can see Charles had to come to my rescue with a little touch up.

After the sanding was all done I wiped it all down and cleaned it up.
Next his shop assistant Billy helped me attach the feet to the base.

After that his other assistant, Ed helped me attached base to the box. Then it was off to the spray room for one more coat of lacquer.

I hung around for a few hours till it was dry enough to load up and bring home to finish it up. If you ever want to get high just put a freshly coated lacquer chest in your truck and drive home 3 hours with it. Charles told me to let it sit for about 10 days so it cures and then start rubbing it out.
My Goal was to have it done by Christmas day for my wife. I put off working on it as long as I could because I was waiting for DVD’s to come so I could see how he installed the hardware. Two days before Christmas I got my disks and the first thing I did was watched the part about installing the hinges. He sure makes it look a lot easier then it is. Well by noon time on Christmas day my Keeping Chest was done!

When I meant Neil for the first time back in October he told me that I need to learn how to finish before I learn how to build a peice of furniture. I never really liked the finishing part of the project but I think it was mainly because I did not understand it. I now find that I spend most of my time on this site and others reading about finishing and I am starting to like it more. I plan on attending one of Charles finishing classes this coming May. Who knows may be some day I will like it as much as this guy.

If you ever want to build a chest like this I would recommend that you start by getting the Adventure of Bob and Charles DVD set. The first 3 disk cover every thing you need to know to build the Keeping Chest. The next 2 disk teach you how to make a Candle box. Then there is a disk just on finishing the boxes and another one with tips on it. All together it is 352 mins. of information and entertainment.
You can get the DVD’s at: and if you would like to get some nice figured wood to build the chest or candle box you can it it at:

Now I am off to start the next project that I started with Charles. A Pencil Post bed.

-- Mike

10 comments so far

View Karson's profile


35209 posts in 4962 days

#1 posted 01-12-2008 05:50 AM

Beautiful Chest. i need to get over and meet Charles. he lives about 15 minutes from my daughter.

Looks like a nice long process.

-- 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 Kerry's profile


161 posts in 4352 days

#2 posted 01-12-2008 05:56 AM

Wow! If that chest looks half as good in person as it does in these pictures, it must be incredible. I love figured wood (not that I’ve been able to lay my hands on much myself!) and you’ve finished it beautifully.


-- Alberta, Canada

View mikega's profile


81 posts in 4429 days

#3 posted 01-12-2008 05:58 AM

You really have to get there. I know Neil and the gang would enjoy meeting you. They are really a great group people who enjoy sharing there skills.

-- Mike

View Karson's profile


35209 posts in 4962 days

#4 posted 01-12-2008 06:04 AM

I’ve ordered his finishing dvd set. I’ve got the first one. I might purchase the set you got.

-- 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 GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4550 days

#5 posted 01-12-2008 06:19 AM

That is one great looking chest! Excellent finish.

Very nice blog.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Betsy's profile


3392 posts in 4457 days

#6 posted 01-12-2008 10:45 AM

Very nice indeed. You did a great job.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4383 days

#7 posted 01-12-2008 12:07 PM

Mike, that is a great looking chest. I agree with Neal that finishing is the key to any furniture project. You did a nice job on this piece.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 4436 days

#8 posted 01-12-2008 12:16 PM

Wow that came out nice. I’ll bet your wife really loved it.

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 4447 days

#9 posted 01-12-2008 06:07 PM


-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4722 days

#10 posted 01-14-2008 02:55 PM

a great blog and a beautiful chest!!
well done

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

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