We all love to hear about a woodworker who can build the most beautiful pieces of furniture, can finish better than the old masters and can teach their skills to others, plus we love to be able view their shops and glean from their special techniques of doing things a better way than other woodworkers . Sometimes these people that we admire because of their skills and talents have secrets they don’t want the general public to know about. Sometimes we are shocked at things that are revealed about famous people, like Tiger Woods. These people we had high hopes for let us down by their actions in their not-so public life.
I have held my tough long enough about a well thought-of individual. Yes, you might have guessed I’m talking about Charles Neil, the well-known Virginian woodworker. I have been in touch with Charles for around 5 years and was first drawn to learn more about him by viewing his 40 +or- videos on You-Tube and then by purchasing some of his DVDs. Then to my surprise he actually answered questions I had when I e-mailed him and to be even more surprised he answered everyone who e-mailed him. This seemed almost impossible since he makes up to 60 major pieces of furniture a year, produces many DVDs a year and has a weekly program “Mastering Woodworking”, develops his own products like a dove tail jig and blotch control and more, not to mention teaching in-person classes through the year. I still can’t believe all that he does. But over the years of touching base with him he has shown his true colors. I have known these things about him ever since we became friends, but knew if I told his true story he would get upset.
The truth of the matter is Charles is always helping people who need help, with his time, his money and through calling all of his friends to help, too. Since I’ve known him he has supported friends who have had cancer, made trips to young woodworker’s home’s (teenage woodworker) to encourage him to keep up with his woodworking. He has grown huge gardens and donating much of it to those in need of food, he has raised thousands of dollars for wounded warriors, and he has helped many struggling folks get back on their feet. He helped my son when the VA was not getting help for a medical emergency and sent funds to travel back and for to the hospital. There are many more great kindnesses Charles has given to folks out there.
One of his most recent great gifts goes back to a post I had put on LJ’s about young woodworkers, http://lumberjocks.com/topics/31979 . He contacted me and said if some of the young woodworkers wanted any of or all of his DVDs he would gladly give them to them. I contacted a couple of the young woodworkers and they jumped on that offer with both feet. Well it turns out Charles donated his full set of all his DVDs to both of these aspiring young woodworkers and to my local high school’s woodshop where I volunteer and teach my adult local community college woodworking classes and for good measure he gave them a free subscription to his weekly on line program “Mastering Woodworking”. These DVDs would cost thousands of dollars when bought through Charles not to mention the mailing cost to places as far as Great Britain.
You might think, “What’s the big deal, Charles is rich, he can afford all this”, but that’s not the case. Charles has very humble beginnings and has worked hard to achieve where he’s in life and is just a hard working individual who gives way beyond anyone I know. These products that Charles makes are part of how he makes a living so he can’t give these things away everyday in these tough times. Whenever I hear from Charles and I find out something nice he has done for someone. He always says not to tell anyone, and I know it’s because he does those things to help folks and not to get credit for what he has done.
I know I’m not alone when I say I’m proud to call Charles Neil my good friend and mentor and a first class human being.
Sorry to let the truth out Charles, but it’s time to give credit where credit is due.
-- W James Brokenbourgh Custom furniture maker http://artisticwoodstudio.com/