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Charles Neil - a craftsman?

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Forum topic by rwe2156 posted 08-19-2015 06:34 PM 2958 views 0 times favorited 79 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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rwe2156

2190 posts in 941 days


08-19-2015 06:34 PM

I absolutely love Charles especially because he makes mistakes and shows you how to fix them. I’ve learned alot about handling wood stock in the milling stages that has helped me immensely.

BUT—

Watching the Pie Safe episode on dovetailing and I’m sitting here thinking, this guy obviously makes some very nice pieces, but his hand tool skills are worse then mine!! I know that’s probably because he uses a lot of jigs and power tools, but doesn’t every ww’er eventually have master the hand plane, a chisel, and a saw? Am I wrong about this, or can we just router and sand our way into calling ourselves “craftsman”? See, to me it implies hand work. In the end, being able to say “I built that” vs. “I had that machine dialed in, didn’t I?”.

So I’m just thinking about “craftsmanship” (I’m also reading the book by Richard Sennett) and wondering if its not really just for the individual? When you think about most of the joinery is invisible, what diff does it make if its M&T vs. Dominoes vs. dowels?

The end product can be quite beautiful and very well made (especially when someone excels at finishing like Mr Neil) yet the person is not a “craftsman” in the true sense of the word?

Maybe its one reason why craftsmanship is underappreciated in our “get it built/get it out the door” approach to things?

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!


79 replies so far

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OggieOglethorpe

1211 posts in 1570 days


#1 posted 08-19-2015 06:42 PM

The end product can be quite beautiful and very well made (especially when someone excels at finishing like Mr Neil) yet the person is not a “craftsman” in the true sense of the word.

BS…

That is all.

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rwe2156

2190 posts in 941 days


#2 posted 08-19-2015 06:52 PM


The end product can be quite beautiful and very well made (especially when someone excels at finishing like Mr Neil) yet the person is not a “craftsman” in the true sense of the word.

BS…

That is all.

- OggieOglethorpe

EDIT: I meant it as a question, not a statment of opinion.

I’ll take your answer either way.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

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chrisstef

15658 posts in 2467 days


#3 posted 08-19-2015 07:03 PM

I dunno, the guy’s been at it professionally for quite a long time. I guess you can call him whatever you want, or don’t want, but he’s makin a living out of it and that’s more than I can say for myself.

-- rock, chalk, jayhawk

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a1Jim

115202 posts in 3037 days


#4 posted 08-19-2015 07:11 PM

Hey Guys Charles has hand skills and hand cut dovetails for years and years.Charles turns out lots of high-end furniture every year in as much as other shops don’t always believe he can turn out 40-50 major furniture pieces a year. Be sides be an incredible craftsman Charles keeps experimenting on better ways to do things,this is why he as good as he is. Yes Charles is an expert finisher but he is an outstanding woodworker too . Charles is a one take kind of guy so if he goofs it’s on camera not edited out,what he says “is if he’s going to goof it’s almost always when he’s Camera.I stronly recommend Charles,videos, books, online classes and in person classes

If in doubt take a look at the furniture he turns out

http://www.cn-woodworking.com/woodworking-photo-gallery/

http://www.cn-woodworking.com/welcome-to-charles-neil-woodwo/

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

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CharlesA

3018 posts in 1258 days


#5 posted 08-19-2015 07:12 PM

Perhaps this is a way to say it. In a forced choice question, “process or finished product, which is more important?” someone like Chris Schwarz or other more purists types might come down on the process side—I think Charles Neil comes down on the finished product side. I love learning from the process types, but am myself a finished product woodworker.

There might be a better typology, and most of us fit somewhere in the middle, but I think Chris Schwarz might choose to do something they way they did in the 19th century for the process while Charles cares more about how well built it is and how it looks.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

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mds2

308 posts in 1405 days


#6 posted 08-19-2015 07:19 PM

Use and proficiency of hand tools hardly a craftsman makes.

My grandather, at 93 has been a woodworker for close to 80 years. Never uses hand tools. But if you are ever in Historic Nebraska City look at the old historic homes. He did the finish carpentry on the interiors of nearly every one in that town. Come back and tell me if you think he is craftsman or not.

“I supported myself, your grandma, and 4 children with nothing but my table saw and a router” -Gpa.

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Adrock1

43 posts in 667 days


#7 posted 08-19-2015 07:32 PM

Hand tools are not required to be a craftsman. In my opinion a true craftsman is someone who can can consistently execute high quality work regardless of the tool use.

I don’t think it takes much more skill or talent to turn out good hand work then it does good machined work. Maybe different skills but not more skills. The main difference I think is that hand work takes much more time and physical effort. Put simply it takes more work. Getting good results with either approach still requires good execution.

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rwe2156

2190 posts in 941 days


#8 posted 08-19-2015 07:38 PM

I probably shouldn’t have mentioned Charles Neil by name and I apologize both to him and to anybody who is offended by my poor choice of wording. I have a lot of respect for the man’s talents.
Please don’t interpret my questions as questioning his abilities.

The question was meant to be a general rhetorical question.

That book has caused me to think more about “producing” vs. “crafting” and the old days of apprenticeships and reaching a point where one takes on the moniker “master”. One person I think of nowadays is Philip Lowe. After watching him work, or watching the Doucette and Wolfe videos, I think anyone would appreciate what I’m trying to say.

When I hear about ww’ers who don’t own a handplane, that makes me wonder. I couldn’t imagine fitting a drawer or door without one.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

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Arlin Eastman

3550 posts in 2022 days


#9 posted 08-19-2015 07:42 PM

Charles Neal is a great guy IMHO and a craftsmen to boot.

I feel anyone who makes things and tries hard to do better and not satisfied at OK is a Craftsman!!

-- Please help me help other Vets click..> http://www.gofundme.com/m1abko.....It is always the right time, to do the right thing.

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RBWoodworker

432 posts in 2812 days


#10 posted 08-19-2015 07:49 PM

Most of you know of, or heard of, or even met personally, the late Sam Maloof. I knew him personally and spent many great hours with the man.. once I asked him if he ever made mistakes. He laughed and took me to a big bin that was full of cut chair parts. Arms, legs, just about every part of furniture that he made..and pointed at it and said yes..I have..all the time, everyday.

As for hand tools only.. he’s reply was “if your going to do woodworking for a living, you have to produce or your going to starve to death. He used whatever tool was best for the task at hand..he would use his teeth if it worked the best. I agree with Sam. You use whatever tool is best for the job.. I dare anyone to tell me Sam was not a true craftsman..

-- Randall Child http://www.racfurniture.com/

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Pezking7p

3097 posts in 1112 days


#11 posted 08-19-2015 07:58 PM

I don’t think any of these guys is a real craftsman because they all bought lumber from a mill or a hardwood dealer. REAL craftsman fell the tree with an ax that they forged themselves and then mill the lumber with home made saws. And, really, I think you ought to plant the tree as well to really get involved in the creative process at the ground level.

I’m obviously hyperbolizing here, but you get the point. In our culture we equate hard work and “skill” with quality and craftsmanship. But I agree with others that it takes just as much skill to, say, dial in a table saw so that it will cut square (or even to mill a square part) as it does to tune a hand plane.

We live in a small world of people who’s hobby is building things. I think if you go outside this small world, you’ll find all sorts of people who would be baffled by everyone here (woodworkers, et al) and their ability to create things. Most people I work with would not be capable of producing the pieces that LJs create using ANY set of tools.

And that is what I think separates the craftsman from the non-craftsman. It’s people who have a passion for creating, and who can do it well, regardless of the means.

-- -Dan

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MrUnix

4207 posts in 1659 days


#12 posted 08-19-2015 07:58 PM

When I hear about ww ers who don t own a handplane, that makes me wonder. I couldn t imagine fitting a drawer or door without one.

Your definition of ‘woodworker’ is too narrow. There are many types of woodworking that have no need for a hand plane :)

Cheers,
Brad

-- Brad in FL - To be old and wise, you must first be young and stupid

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Daruc

459 posts in 593 days


#13 posted 08-19-2015 08:36 PM


Charles turns out lots of high-end furniture every year in as much as other shops don t always believe he can turn out 40-50 major furniture pieces a year.

- a1Jim

Can or does?
That’s almost 1 per week.
I’m not sure what your calling high end major furniture, but if he’s turning out almost 1 a week (every week) he’s not doing it by himself…JMO…

Whether he’s a Craftsman or not, no question he is a good woodworker, just as thousands of others that are equally as good, and better. Some just don’t put themselves in the limelight sort to speak.

I think the term “Craftsman” has many definitions.

-- -

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jdh122

879 posts in 2278 days


#14 posted 08-19-2015 08:46 PM

Post removed.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

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Neitsdelf

1 post in 996 days


#15 posted 08-19-2015 08:50 PM

Was Stradivari less of a craftsman because he had the help of apprentices and journeymen?

showing 1 through 15 of 79 replies

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