Apprenticing is alive in young Denmark

Apprenticeships and young people


Today was an inspiring day filled with many hopes locked in aspirations where young men and women apprenticing in their Danish towns and cities live. The came to visit me to talk about their callings as apprentices in different crafts such as organ building, furniture making, joinery and carpentry. Their contribution smiled back at me as they expressed their hopes  for a better future in craft. Sadly of course one major issue was that training in their fields  had somehow managed to dismiss elements of their craft work to pursue mostly  processes of mass making even for the simplest of tasks, paying only a token nod to true woodworking skills. I proved my perspective on the art of true woodworking in just a few minutes of demonstrating and listened to their awe at the simplicity they saw. Suddenly they believed. They could see how what I showed and explained could lead them to an alternative reality in their chosen field and we discovered a true transparency in objectives, hopes and ambitions. We talked of training of course and then though, we moved into developing individuality, becoming maker designers transcending the status quo to new levels of discovery. DSC_0001 Watching the glow of aspiration replace despondency and even cynicism was truly inspiring for me and I knew that my craft would not die because of youngsters like these. Imagine 25 people like this, young, aspiring artisans, organising a four-day trip to the North-west of Britain to search out inspiration. Imagine them investing their time and energy into something because they feared their craft could die. Doesn’t that stun you? It certainly was stunning to me. I mean you should have seen the activity of minds, heard the questions, the honesty and transparency was visceral. Who could do anything but give him and herself to such inspired young craftspeople?


I suppose in some ways what thoroughly thrilled me was that they were young and saw their craft as important. As a group I felt that they could become coopted as businesses and that they could easily reshape societies to balance out the imbalances established toward academic study and university for all where students often have no sense of direction or accountability. I mean these people had consciously placed themselves into a discipline of training and studying that required accountability. They weren’t avoiding the future, responsibility and such but hitting smack on. I shared about the reality of lifestyle woodworking as a real thing and not just something many have latched onto from my blog as term but a lived possibility—a reality as mine has been. They are taking hold of their futures, working though systems, yes, but then they are also anticipating a beyond that for them may well be uncharted territory. A future reaching that is no less a new frontier as it was for those who traversed the globe, went west, crossed deserts and conquered mountains. It was refreshing to me to see young workers not taking selfies, not full of themselves and not self seeking but sharing like interests. I never saw it elsewhere in the last 30 years, but I know it exists. These were true amateurs in the fullest sense of the word and it was wonderful to behold.

Was my lecture and demonstrating inspiring? Well, they said it was and I have no reason to think differently. But more than that, THEY were inspiring. They filled me full of hope. 


  1. You just put a big smile on my face. If you can inspire those of us close to fifty you certainly left a wonderful impression with a group with plenty of time to understand the true meaning of handwork.

  2. Paul,

    You are succeeding. Young people use technology much better than older folks. I shared an office with a 30 year old who said to me. “we don’t use the yellow pages like you old people.” LOL! It is a point though. I have had interest in wood and in making radios as a kid. You remember vacuum tubes? LOL! What I want to suggest is, woodworking is alive and well, beyond old folk. 50 somethings. The integration of “hands on, and advancing “high tech,” suggests a future evolution. The schools today are shooting for “high tech.” The manufactures are as well. The problem is it replaces the hands for the machine even more than the industrial revolution. They are also teaching entrepreneurial skills as there may not be a job when they graduate.

    Disposable income is what drives the market for “hand crafted” along with the character of the person that made it. It is more artistry than craft at this point, but craft is the foundation for artistry?

    Keep on doing what you do, calmly inspiring one person at a time. They will inspire others.

    You may know about Stumpy Nubbs? Although a hybrid woodworker, he loves the craft and its history. He is one of your biggest fans.

  3. Most of the workshop photos I see from other schools have a bunch of old guys. You on the other hand consistently have a bunch of young guys (and gals). You must be doing something right – keep on doing it 😉

  4. Yes, they may be old guys but only on the outside. Speaking for myself I feel as young and curious as I ever was. I say never lose your desire to learn.

  5. Of course there’s nothing wrong with old guys (I’m 55, if that counts as old). But it’s good to see young people interested enough to take a workshop.

  6. Paul, you obviously get as much pleasure, from the people you train and who come visit, your life is certainly fulfilled, what you have shown us, and the inspiration you give us, must be good for your well being, thank you

  7. I agree with you Marty, it is exciting to see young motivated folks in the craft.

  8. We’re lucky here in the States to have quite a few schools for people who want to do serious craftsmanship, like the Connecticut Valley school and others. The disappointing part is that these schools are little known unless you’re already into the craft. Kids sure aren’t pointed in that direction, just stuffed into college. It’s a real shame because truly I believe that some of the best opportunities left in the United States to be “self-made” and achieve what we call the American Dream is in the trades and craft work, to own your own business, work with your hands and mind, and create something that can be passed down to your kids. I think we definitely took a wrong turn trying to stuff everyone into college and looked down on craftsmanship and the trades.

  9. Wow, what a great post. I happened upon your youtube videos completely by accident and was drawn in immediately by your passion and soulful approach. I’m 45 and have been a working musician, touring , recording and teaching for 28 years. I’ve made a living with my hands and my mind, much as yourself. I’ve never built anything without pocket screws and 2×4’s, but i bought your book and have been devouring your videos. I am now committed to finishing all the projects in your book and moving beyond. Your love of what you do has been incredibly inspiring and has ignited a new passion in me that I did not know was there. Thank you.

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