You’re new to woodworking and you want to make it your life. You email Paul sellers and ask for an apprenticeship and he has to turn you down because he has no places. You’re disappointed, naturally, and of course it’s understandable. What can you do? . Lots. There’s lots you can do. Don’t give is one thing. But you know, probably you should consider the likelihood that an apprenticeship isn’t going to altogether work for you. Fact is you don’t really need one, but what you do need is a vehicle through which you can progress your development, sell what you make and get the hands-on practice you need to develop your skills through. It will take a few years but that’s what you need and that should be what you want. You do not want a microwave mentality to working wood. Leave that for the machines and the machinists. That’s what they do exceptionally well. Remember to that what muppet politicians call “apprenticing” has become jargon to feather their own cap and make a voice that sounds caring. It’s about stacking supermarket shelves not craft training. Talk to any politician or educator and it’s unlikely they will understand terms like lifestyle craft worker, entrepreneurial craft design work, or even creative worker in lifestyle of any kind. For them it’s units in places they can count you not staying under their radar and living real life outside of a system they can’t comprehend. Remember that they cannot even see what I am talking about let alone understand how anyone can want to work with their hands and produce skilled and creative work. To them it’s about conveyor belts and robotics, bottom line statements make more noise than hammers and saw strokes. Fact is I am just not sure they could ever get it and therefor support it. But want to work from home and make furniture for private clients on your own or with a friend and, well, such a thought just doesn’t compute for them.
Going it alone starts with you. You are the alone . Go to a bank for a loan and you’re on your alone. Make a business plan and you will quickly find you are on a whirlwind tour of bank policity, political strategy and very much on your alone. Fact is the last thing you need is a loan. If they can’t put you in some bricks and mortar paying rent or a mortgage to them somewhere long term then your are on your alone.
But being on your own-some isn’t necessarily a bad place to be when you start out learning your trade. You gotta start thinking aloud. That’s you in the workshop doing alone, thinking aloud and working, feeling, thinking. Tools need restoring and you don’t know how. You gotta fancy new tool for Christmas or your birthday two years ago and you don’t want to mess it up or chamfer the sole or recut the teeth to make it do what it needs to do for you. That’s ok. Buy some on eBay and get stuck in. That’s when thinking aloud in your workshop begins and it means risk taking and where better than on something old or secondhand and, AND, with ready-made, built-in issues to reconcile. It’s not the shaving you’re looking for. Forget perfect planes and such, saws and so on. Start thinking about the problems, look for them, and start reconciling them and you are on your way to critical thinking and that’s craftsmanship is. Working with your hands demands what you let go if on your computer keyboard. Forget virtualism and playing games and get into the real. All of the senses immediately kick in and at first you miss sensing three of them but then you taste something on your tongue and smell something in the air and your realise pine smells different to oak and doesn’t quite cut the same. You’re in the risk zone again. Not safety risk, that s for the machine employee not the craftsman or woman. Your moving in a totally different zone here. You’ve taken a rusted saw and made it trusted. The plane feels like it’s yours and flies like a supersonic jet cause it’s not too heavy and the surfaces start feeling like silk cos you took the risk and placed it in your hands and mastered something you never thought you could. This is real woodworking not nostalgic stuff that doesn’t pay the bills. Your not standing there for two hours watching shavings as thin as silk anymore and thinking how much you love the shaving even though you still do. You passed that point and now your levelling what you couldn’t level before and your hands trace the surface to check for flaws and the planer marks from the machines are all gone. You reshoot and reboot then re scoot the plane and suddenly you’re all in love with your wood and you feel your brain whirling like you just danced a hora. Before you know it there are no more Monday mornings and you look forward to embracing the day at the side of your bench and in front of the vise no matter how tired you are from punching the keyboard.
Mike above is a surgeon and a personal friend and he works wood with his daughters when he can.
Bobbie Is another friend who loves woodworking too.
Yes, woodworking’s for everyone and of course we know how dangerous machines are for family. Hand tools has suddenly opened up a new door. You’re there with the kids and your husband and you suddenly soar. The gloves are off and you no longer fight against each other but with each other in a common cause. You fall in love with craft and the work before you. A coffee table needs making for a wedding gift or a new crib for a newborn baby. Together the deadline suddenly seems possible. You turned the spindles and he’s making the frames to hold them. The kids are scrapping and then suddenly a letter is dropped and they are scraping and shaping and they won’t give up and you find you’re working on their characters and encourage them to carry on when things get tough and then the thing suddenly looks like you can really make it; this thing called love emerges stroke by stroke in what you make and in the people you are with and then the gift is done and you love your day’s work and your kids and your spouse and you look for the next project that you can work on together.