Learning the trade

How to approach a woodworking firm about becoming an apprentice. November 7, 2000

I have had a full-time job in the medical field for 25 years, and have a good nest egg built up. Years ago I did general construction and I've done hobby woodworking throughout my adult life. I would like to learn cabinet and furniture making from a professional.

In order not to burn bridges, I may be able to work five hours a morning at my present job, and three to four hours an afternoon in a shop until I know that cabinetmaking is the direction I want to take.

Would it be reasonable to ask a cabinetmaker for a job with those limited hours? I could offer low wages (maybe no wages) and no benefits for a time (six months?) as a way to get my foot in the door. There are no schools around; your suggestions or alternatives would be helpful.

Forum Responses
The approach you are taking is right on track. I have a small (six man) manufacturing company that fabricates wooden aircraft components. My most-recent employees are a retired military doctor and a retired physicist. Both have always wanted to "play" in a woodworking shop.

When work becomes pleasure, it ceases to be work.

You should consider no wages, payment to the shop owner of the insurance he will have to pay to cover you, signing an education contract for six months so the shop owner can somewhat depend on your showing up and then, taking the teacher and spouse out to dinner once a month. You're getting a valuable education and you should offer value in return.

The last response was a bit carried away. But it does cost an employer to hire non-skilled help and train them. Try going to work for the very best operation in your area. Read all you can on the subject, and go to the Atlanta IWF show when it is held.