Advice for being a successful apprentice? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 10-23-2017, 01:30 PM Thread Starter
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Advice for being a successful apprentice?

I'll keep this as to-the-point as I can: After five years in an unrelated career, I'm now a full-time stay-at-home dad and I do woodworking in any spare time I have. My city (Fresno, CA) has both a pre-apparenticeship and an apprenticeship program for carpentry, and that's something I'm really interested in. BUT: From my research, it seems like getting a full-time apprenticeship gig right off the bat is pretty rare, and it's a lot more job-to-job stuff: Not super viable for a guy who has to take care of two kids full-time (or enroll them in full-time day-care). So it's looking like I'll have to wait two or three years for the kids to go to school before I'm able to pursue this.

So I was hoping to get advice from the experienced woodworkers and carpenters here:

- What can I do right now, and in the next two or three years, to build key skills and make myself more attractive to potential employers once I'm able to pursue carpentry as a career? What skills do I need to develop? What kind of projects should I tackle? Is there a good way to make connections with professionals in the area without making a nuisance of myself? do I lay the groundwork to be a successful apprentice (and, of course, a successful journeyman and pro later on)?
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post #2 of 5 Old 10-23-2017, 02:22 PM
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" do I lay the groundwork to be a successful apprentice (and, of course, a successful journeyman and pro later on)?"

You start out with a good attitude and a good work ethic. You attend any classes that you are able to attend. You go to Habitat for Humanity and volunteer for whatever hours you are able.

You reed books/magazines/articles and watch videos on the subjects that you feel you want to work in.

You will learn a lot volunteering at Habitat.

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post #3 of 5 Old 10-23-2017, 02:36 PM
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What has helped me is to change jobs a lot doing different kinds of woodworking. I started off working for a guy that was making sailboat parts, foosball tables and furniture refinishing. Then I went to a place that did residential custom cabinets. Then I went to a place that did architectural millwork. We made entry doors and windows as well as a spiral staircase. From there I went to a place that made commercial fixtures. Then I opened my own shop at age 30 where I was doing anything anyone could think of. To get known I opened a booth at a flee market which happened to be a antique mall so I ended up doing mostly furniture restoration for the antique dealers at the mall. Over the years I've built custom cabinets, commercial fixtures, entry doors and windows but today I've given up hiring help and work by myself. Almost nobody repairs their own houses anymore so I stay busy doing repairs. That is really what I should have gotten into to begin with. There isn't near the overhead. Just a van and a good selection of tools. It doesn't get near as monotonous as cabinet work where you build the same cabinet over and over, just different lengths. Doing repair and remodeling work I never know what I will be doing until I show up at someones door.
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post #4 of 5 Old 10-23-2017, 02:36 PM
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The Habitat for Humanity is a great idea. Might be something I need to check out just to help with my local community. Thanks GeorgeC that was excellent advice.

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post #5 of 5 Old 10-23-2017, 02:49 PM
where's my table saw?
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you got your carpentry, your furniture and your cabinetry ...

Yes, they are similar in many ways, but different enough to require different skill sets.

Carpentry, is more physically active and "can" require math/trig/geometry to calculate stairs and loads for structures ... roughly. Measuring and calculating are very important, but especially here. Cutting the materials, 2 X's and sheet goods can be only slightly less accurate, sometimes even very precise, so the machine and tool need to be top grade.

Furniture may require more carving and shaping depending on the different styles. Mission Style uses very little hand carving in the basic joinery, but for mortises and tenon and dovetails carving is needed. The dimensioning of rough lumber requires different skills and machines than cabinetry or carpentry where construction sizes are used most of the time. You won't be reducing the thickness of plywood as a rule.

Cabinetry uses sheet material in large sizes and broken down accurately into smaller panels. Frames and supports are made from hardwood in various smaller sizes as well.

Basic joinery methods comes to bear in all 3 areas, so get familiar with the common joints, where they are used and why. Fasteners are different in the 3 areas also. Furniture is often made without any mechanical fasteners.

Gluing up materials for cabinets and large doors and tables is a valuable skill and requires many sizes of clamps and braces. You can't have too many clamps, and if you do, you won't on the next project.
Patience is a skill that is required here!

NOW, if you decide which area of woodworking you like or suits you best you can concentrate on acquiring those machines and skill sets.

Some schools offer apprenticeships in various trades but they are becoming harder to find locally.

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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