Earn your "masters" degree in woodworking without leaving the shop!

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Review by StumpyNubs posted 10-24-2014 09:04 PM 5116 views 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Earn your "masters" degree in woodworking without leaving the shop! No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Has it really been five years? This week Charles Neil released the two hundred forty-fifth episode of his “Mastering Woodworking” show. For the one or two people in the woodworking world who don’t already know, “Mastering Woodworking” is a weekly video series produced in the workshop of Charles Neil, one of the biggest names in the craft. But is it any good? Well, as someone who has been a subscriber for a good portion of the show’s run, I think I’m qualified to give my opinion on the matter…

First off, this is not your typical online woodworking show. In fact, Charles breaks all of the rules, crossing many of the lines that most woodworking podcasters do at their own peril. Conventional wisdom says that online videos should be short, fast paced, and you should edit the heck out of them. “Mastering Woodworking” is pretty much the opposite. Each episode is between thirty and fifty minutes long. They are loaded with talking, and virtually nothing is edited out. Yet the final result is an extremely successful show. It took Roy Underhill twenty years to reach his two hundred forty-fifth episode! Charles has done it in five, and people pay up to a twenty dollar per month subscription fee of to watch them! Such success defies the laws of the internet, but after a while the method to his madness becomes clear: Charles Neil isn’t bound by the same laws that other internet woodworkers are because he isn’t like other woodworkers at all.

I am embarrassed to admit that the first time I saw one of his videos I wasn’t overly impressed. To be fair, it was one of his very first… and I was a moron. I judged the book by its cover, so to speak. Like many click happy internet browsers, I required flashy effects and edge of my seat action to hold my attention. If he wasn’t going to take time away from making fine furniture to learn high end video production, why should I watch? I mean sure, he’s invested more than half a century learning the craft at the highest level, built a business from the ground up, and created some of the finest period pieces of his generation… but no high definition video? That’s where I drew the line! But then I started bumping into people that absolutely loved the show. I gave it a closer look and before I knew it, I wasn’t just watching them, I was a subscriber! Why the change of heart? Simple, I stopped looking at the book’s cover and started seeing the amazing amount of useful content within.

The show follows a project from concept through construction over a series of weekly episodes. There have been twenty-six so far, from simple one or two board projects to beautiful eighteenth century furniture. Each series typically begins with an in-depth discussion of the project’s design. You get to see the wheels in his head spinning as Charles shows you similar pieces that inspired him and how he intends to add his own touches to the often classic designs. Sometimes he makes a mockup from MDF, sometimes he scribbles out a full scale drawing on cardboard. He talks to himself, working through the problems he expects to encounter during the build, changing a profile here, some joinery there. This may take an entire episode, but it’s a valuable lesson for aspiring designers. As the series continues he mills his stock, slipping in tips about grain direction and the benefits of using one species over another for this particular project. He may spend ten minutes showing you how to avoid mistakes as you lay out your mortises. He may give a half hour lesson on turning legs or carving a ball and claw foot. Sometimes the chips fly, sometimes he slows everything down and just goes into teacher mode. All the while the camera keeps rolling. Recently he’s introduced HD video and the overall quality of the show has improved dramatically. If he makes a mistake, he doesn’t hide it. Instead he uses it as an opportunity to show you how to avoid making it yourself, and how to fix it if you do. He doesn’t sing and dance and tell jokes, though he does lighten things up with his southern charm and the occasional back and forth with his daughter, the camera girl. His goal is to share the decades of knowledge he has with woodworkers of all skill levels while walking them through a project they can be proud of.

I used to think his videos weren’t for everyone. They’re longer than internet viewers are accustomed to, the pace is slower and he’s a lot better woodworker than I am. But now I believe they quite literally ARE for everyone. At least everyone with less than a lifetime of experience and a project portfolio that’s would impress Goddard. The show’s subscribers include new woodworkers, old woodworkers, garage woodworkers and professional woodworkers. And those who watch, take notes and apply what they learn are slowly becoming master woodworkers. Hmmmm… I wonder if that’s why he chose that name for his show?

Check out the subscription page here. (There are three, six and twelve month subscriptions available, and right now they are giving a free month with all multi-month subscriptions.)

Watch one of the project series for free. (Note: this is an early series before HD video)

I also HIGHLY recommend you subscribe to his YouTube channel here.

-This article was written by Stumpy Nubs and is based on his opinion. It is not an advertisement and was not requested by Charles Neil or CN-Woodworking.

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7853 posts in 4044 days

7 comments so far

View retired_guru's profile


838 posts in 2603 days

#1 posted 10-24-2014 10:14 PM

Your high praise and in-depth explanation make it hard not to want to go out and subscribe, sight unseen. Such praise comes from the woodworking heart. You have plenty of that. In my corner of woodworkingdom, everything depends on getting the workshop setup and working. Once done, I believe I will take you up on your recommendation. Thanks, Stumpy.

-- -- Paul: jack of all dreams, a master none.

View lightcs1776's profile


4270 posts in 2897 days

#2 posted 10-24-2014 10:34 PM

I will readily tell you I am cheap. I do not like to spend funds on something unless I get a solid return on my investment. From what I have seen of Charles Neil’s work, his YouTube videos, and the help he has provided to folks here on the furm, one can learn a lot from this man. When life settles and I can devote significant time to learning the art and craft of woodworking, his teaching will be high on my list. It is also by the way, very reasonably priced, unlike some other teaching videos or classes I have seen offered to woodworkers.

-- Chris ** If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. — Tom Paine **

View DIYaholic's profile


19921 posts in 3918 days

#3 posted 10-24-2014 11:53 PM

Thanks for the review….
I’ll have to consider subscribing.

Thanks for all you do!!!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View DocSavage45's profile


9069 posts in 4086 days

#4 posted 10-25-2014 01:40 AM


Some time back in your unsophisticated daze, you challenged Charles to a box build, and although you did well, as you say you were not even the woodworker you are now! The box Charles built was auctioned off on Ebay with proceeds going to a veteran’s organization. “Wounded Warriors,” I believe. I knew Charles in pre Stumpy days when he started making DVD’s, which improved in style,polish and presentation. Charles does it his way. As stumpy says it’s a different pace. I described it in a blog as having your uncle as a master builder in your shop with you, guiding the build.

He doesn’t just teach woodworking, he has been making southern antique replicas of extreme quality woods before the teaching and he still does.

Charles taught me”Measure three times and then Sneak up on it!”

Right on with the review, Sir!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View eddie's profile


8565 posts in 3857 days

#5 posted 10-25-2014 01:55 PM

thanks Stumpy , Charle Neil was the first master that i came into contact with on learning wood working and has a wealth of knowledge of this craft and has a gift if teaching also .i will be subscribing. may as he teaches Sneak up on it.

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

View a1Jim's profile


118253 posts in 4820 days

#6 posted 10-25-2014 02:55 PM

Charles is the best of the best,I’ve been a member of Mastering woodworking since day one. At the time I first found Charles on line I’d been a woodworker for 20 years and thought I had a good grasp on woodworking and it’s techniques but after just a short time of watching Charles I realized I was only a beginner who had been doing woodworking for a long time. Mastering woodworking and Charles are the best things to has happened to me in my woodworking ventures.
Good post Jim


View Roger's profile


21055 posts in 4047 days

#7 posted 10-29-2014 12:42 PM

Wow! Some high praise for Charles here. Thnx Stumps for opening up my eyes.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

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