Charles Neil Finishing Workshop

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Review by zzzzdoc posted 04-27-2013 10:32 PM 4076 views 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Charles Neil Finishing Workshop No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I just got back home from attending Charles Neil’s Finishing workshop at his shop in New Market, Virginia (which may not be the end of the Earth, but you can see it from there. ;) The workshop was three days, giving him an opportunity to lecture us on many topics, and more importantly gave us plenty of hands-on time to spray finishes, screw up, and more importantly learn from our mistakes how to do it correctly.

Charles suggested that we each bring our own guns and turbines, which was great having a finishing master show us how to get our own equipment to work at its best (actually, my gun worked at its best when Charles was using it, but that’s another matter.)

We spend time dying, glazing, repairing, rubbing out, using mostly water-bourne finishes (to have us learn on a more challenging finish) as well as solvent lacquer with a Kremlin air-assisted setup (sweeeeeet!!!!!!!!). We were presented with a daunting variety of finishing challenges, and shown how to properly accomplish them. The only thing we weren’t asked to do was shooting a finish while hanging from the ceiling, and I was afraid that was the purpose of the chains that were hanging down. Charles dispelled a plethora of preconceived notions that we picked up from miscellaneous drivel on the Internet. Invaluable.

I’m SO much better at finishing than I was just a few days ago. Absolutely worth the trip. But the best part was meeting Charles, Sherri, Bob, Ed, as well as my classmates. They truly couldn’t be nicer, more helpful people. Charles answered every question we threw at him, from finishing screw ups, to opinions on equipment and finishes, to health care reform, to Civil War history. All with his wonderful charm and sense of humor.

If you have the opportunity to attend this, you will be a far better woodworker to show for it. Plus have a great time.

-- Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

View zzzzdoc's profile


568 posts in 3804 days

12 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


118079 posts in 4378 days

#1 posted 04-27-2013 11:30 PM

Super review Doc Even though I’ve been spraying for close to 40 years I wish I could have tagged along with you.
Charles and I have been on line buddies for close to 6years but it sure would have been great to see him in person .
Thanks for the review.


View Dave's profile


11435 posts in 3640 days

#2 posted 04-27-2013 11:57 PM

A wonderful read. Thanks for the peak.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View whitebeast88's profile


4128 posts in 2991 days

#3 posted 04-28-2013 12:25 AM

thanks for the review,i’ll keep this in mind and maybe one day i will be able to go.

-- Marty.Athens,AL

View ScottKaye's profile


782 posts in 2753 days

#4 posted 04-28-2013 12:45 PM

I have no excuse for not attending one of his classes as I live only 35 miles away from his shop! :( Thanks for the review, I now know this is a must do class.

-- "Nothing happens until you build it"

View eddie's profile


8565 posts in 3414 days

#5 posted 04-28-2013 02:21 PM

great review ,hope to do the same oneday

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

View StumpyNubs's profile


7817 posts in 3601 days

#6 posted 04-28-2013 02:41 PM

I heard they tested some of those ancient cave paintings and found one of Charles’ signature finishes on it. I knew he’d been at it a long time…

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

View Justin57's profile


38 posts in 4037 days

#7 posted 04-28-2013 03:44 PM

“I heard they tested some of those ancient cave paintings and found one of Charles’ signature finishes on it. I knew he’d been at it a long time…”

Don’t judge him by those. He was only so-so at finishing back then. He’s gotten better.

-- North Carolina Woodworker

View Norman Reid's profile

Norman Reid

3 posts in 4087 days

#8 posted 04-28-2013 04:28 PM

I took this class a couple of years ago and was amazed at what I learned. I now spray water based finishes with complete confidence and do a darn good job with it too! I took Charles’ sugar chest class right before this one so I’d be able to spray a good finish on that fine piece of furniture; I did and it looks terrific! I’ve taken some good classes over the years, and while I’ve loved them all and learned a lot, I got more practical value out of this one than any other I ever did. The only downside was, I found out how much better a job I could do with an Apollo spray unit than the cheapo I had been using and ended up buying one, not cheap but worth every penny. It’ll last the rest of my life; that’s all I need ask.

Charles is a great teacher. He’s extremely knowledgeable, instructs logically and completely, and lets you learn by doing. In his classes, there’s no such thing as a mistake, only learning opportunities (and when building a project, design opportunities)!

I recommend his classes very highly.

-- Norm Reid

View RBWoodworker's profile


442 posts in 4152 days

#9 posted 04-28-2013 04:58 PM

Me, living on the west coast have not had the privileged of taking Charles class BUT, being a constant e mailing buddy of Charles and talking everyday.. Charles has walked me thru so many finishing jobs I might as well claimed I took his say that my finishing skills have improved greatly is to say the very least..I am now hired mainly because of the finishing jobs I can now do on my cabinets and furniture.. I receive e mails all the time asking me advise on how to finish things mainly because they have seen my pieces that have been finished using Charles me.. his advise, and techniques WORKS!! and while Charles will be the first to tell you that there is no bulletproof formula, he will give you options that allow you to do the very best finish possible on any project you are doing..I have e mailed his pictures showing my mistakes and asking him how to fix them and he has always come thru for me..I have taken on jobs that required stripping down old finishes and respraying new finishes on $10,000 tables that other finishing companies would not touch..he’s that good..

regardless of how well I think I can do my finishes I am still going to take his class one of these won’t be cheap for me since I have to fly there and get a hotel and car and all that, but I have a saying.. “Education cost money, no matter where you get it” and I can only get better..

-- Randall Child

View Bigrock's profile


292 posts in 3763 days

#10 posted 04-28-2013 05:02 PM

I am one of many that can finish more like the pros. make a finish look like now. Yes, it is always a great experience to take a Class with Charles. Before Charles Finish Class, lets say my finish project was fair. Now with the knowledge and better equipment (Sandpaper,Finish & rub out equipment, etc.) I enjoy finishing a project that I can be proud of. The First project I finished after the Finishing Class was a Sugar Chest and I can say it came out Beautifully.
I don’t think you can spend a better three days learning to finish than with Charles and it will not break the bank.

View Lim's profile


6 posts in 3202 days

#11 posted 04-29-2013 01:15 AM

I’ve taken Charles class and a private class. All I can tell you is that I left with more information than my head could hold. The best part is Charles is always patient and available to answer any question you can think of after the class is over! In the 6 years I’ve known him, I have never been able to stump him with a question, problem or disaster. He always tells me that there isn’t anything I can screw up that he can’t fix. Trust me, I’ve probably given him a few gray hairs, but he has NEVER let me down. In fact, his input has enhanced my projects beyond my initial expectations. I call him BOSS for a very good reason. As far as I’m concerned, he is the MAN!!

View jakeobean's profile


9 posts in 2655 days

#12 posted 04-29-2013 10:46 AM

If you’ve been thinking about taking a class but you can’t decide which one take…..I’ve got a hint for you…..take Charles Neil’s Finishing Class. This class would be a bargain even if the price were doubled. Every project you build must have a finish and if you are anything like me, a novice woodworker, finishing is where I broke out in a cold sweat. I’ve just completed Charles Neil’s finishing class and I feel much more confident that I can finish my projects with a great durable and good looking finish. As an added bonus, Charles is always available and quick to help me out of problems and provide me with advise that I know will work.

-- Jakeobean, Maryland

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