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How do you become a craftsman without an apprenticeship?

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In industry you can't really be a craftsman without going through the recognised learning channels is the accepted wisdom. This doesn't apply to consulting, where there are all sorts of self-taught individuals - me included if you think about it as I've never had any formal 'training' as a consultant even though I'm highly regarded by my peers. So what is a self-taught woodworker, or mechanic, or plumber...or even a consultant? A craftsman by another name?

Not blowing my trumpet too hard I reckon I can produce some nice stuff in wood. There are also lots of things I can't do - like a hand cut dovetail, for example, but why would I want to do that when I've got power tools that can do it in a trice? However, what I do make sells and people like the designs and the quality of what I produce. I can always learn the bits I can't do when and if the need arises (there's lots of scrap wood under the bench) but a real craftsman would probably know how to do everything anyway. There's also a ton of advice in this forum. Is there real 'value' in knowing how to do things you're never likely to do, or could possibly be done more efficiently by other means?

After a long time working in wood I can produce quality every bit as good as some of the experts. Does that make me, or anyone in a similar position, a craftsman? Is self-taught any less valuable than someone who spent five years or more learning every aspect of the 'trade'? The self-taught could even produce better work - q.v. your average 'qualified' plumber!

So, what is a craftsman these days?
 

Adam

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White House Workshop":29yp2a48 said:
There are also lots of things I can't do - like a hand cut dovetail, for example, but why would I want to do that when I've got power tools that can do it in a trice?
I like to hand cut them becuase its fun (i.e. a challenge). I like it becuase they look hand cut. I like it becuase i know I hand cut them. I like it becuase it gets me out into the workshop and away from a computer. I like it becuase I don't have the router screeching away, given I'm making them for fun.


White House Workshop":29yp2a48 said:
Is there real 'value' in knowing how to do things you're never likely to do, or could possibly be done more efficiently by other means?
I think so, learning different techniques often overlaps into the things you are making. It can make you faster, make you realise you have the optimum method already, makes you realise what aspects you find enjoyable, and which are not "your thing". E.g. I hate upholstery, but a little knowledge of it, can make you woodwork designs factor in design aspects that makes it much easier for the upholsterer for example. i.e. leaving sufficient space for the nails etc.

White House Workshop":29yp2a48 said:
After a long time working in wood I can produce quality every bit as good as some of the experts. Does that make me, or anyone in a similar position, a craftsman? Is self-taught any less valuable than someone who spent five years or more learning every aspect of the 'trade'? The self-taught could even produce better work - q.v. your average 'qualified' plumber!
Yes, why not? You are able to produce things, for cash, using skills at a craft you have taken the time to master.

Adam
 

Waka

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Brian":1lipaboy said:
In industry you can't really be a craftsman without going through the recognised learning channels is the accepted wisdom.
Is this really the case? In my lifetime I have had many people do work for me who have gone through various means of recognised training and beleive me not all can be considered as craftsman.

Brian":1lipaboy said:
Is self-taught any less valuable than someone who spent five years or more learning every aspect of the 'trade'?
There are a lot of ways of mastering skills in any decipline without going through formal training and I think if you are really profficient in what you do then why not call yourself a craftsman.

Just becasue someone has spent 5 years learning about a trade does not make them a craftsman, the training is only the beginning of their long journey to profficiency.

I think this forum has tought us that there are many members out there who can produce the kind of furniture etc that would qualify them for the title of craftsman. And I'm sure that a lot of them have had no formal training in the art of woodworking (waits to be bombarded), but learn the skills becasue they enjoy turning theor hand to something that they have not been trained for.

Myself, like Adam, I do handcut dovetails becasue we want to, in my case I was practicing for my next project where I will use them. Yes I could have used a machine to do these, but I just want the satifaction of knowing that the piece of furniture was made by me with minimal use of machines and maximum use of hand tools.

I do not classify myself as a craftsman and probably never will, I think you need to be doing this full time to gain all the skills required to fall into that league. But I do know that I can produce some things as good as I've seen for sale.

So chin up Brian, if you think your work represents craftmanship then go ahead and call yourself a craftsman, after all it the product that speaks for itself.

Sorry for the long ramble.
 

SlimShavings

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Well I think that 40 years of making mistakes and 10 years on various wood forums counts as something :wink: :lol:
 

trevtheturner

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Interesting comments here, Brian, indicating that how you get there may not be that important. I believe it is the quality of the end product which determines whether or not one is a 'craftsman'.

Cheers,

Trev.
 
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I hope I didn't give the impression that I don't value the skills in doing things by hand - or the pleasure that some people can get from doing just that. Far from it. I think a hand cut dovetail done professionally is an amazing piece of real craftsmanship to look at -- but that doesn't change the fact that I don't cut them that way and am happy to use a router. When the earmuffs are on I can't hear it anyway :lol:

I think there are different routes. This post was prompted by a 'discussion' I had some time ago in a pub in Sheffield - I was daft enough to have this discussion in a pub in Sheffield of all places! It centered around whether a time served fitter was really an engineer or not, my argument that if you consider Brunel an engineer you aren't comparing like for like. The other party had agreed prior to my argument that Brunel was, in fact, an engineer. Anyway, the whole thing degenerated into a silly politcal muck-slinging match against Maggie (they have long resentful memories up there don't they) and there was no intelligent discussion at all. Ended with me being called a university educated snob! First time I've ever been called a snob I think - I quite relished it at the time 8)

The responses in here are far more what I expected, and from people who really can call themselves craftspeople (deliverate gender neutrality there - I lived in the USA for far too long!).

Thanks for indulging me...
 

PowerTool

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I hold a Craftsman's certificate in Agriculture (Mechanized operations) - whereby you get tested and assessed,but it is all based on practical ability - there is no theoretical/written part to it.
Does this make me a craftsman ?

Personally,I have always perceived a craftsman to be someone who can make something,rather than just assemble something (so based on quality and practical ability,rather than qualifications)

And the best measure of that is other peoples opinions - so if you make goods that people want to buy,then I would say that you were! :D

Andrew
 

PowerTool

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White House Workshop":109szso6 said:
Anyway, the whole thing degenerated into a silly politcal muck-slinging match against Maggie (they have long resentful memories up there don't they) ...
Yes,they (we) do..
I work on Teesside,and when I was young,it was nearly all manufacturing industry (ICI,British Steel,British Shipbuilders etc.),and the accepted thing to do was to leave school and get an apprenticeship.
This has obviously declined enormously with the almost total reduction of primary industry - the "modern apprenticeship" that exists now is more of a means to keep kids off the unemployment figures rather than a route to a trade.

Andrew (Still haven't forgiven British shipbuilders for closing the last shipyard on the Tees :evil: )
 

Chris Knight

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Discussions of this type are continually derailed by problems of definition and in recent years by the huge inflation in job titles in workplaces. Whereas offices used to be packed with clerks and typists, the same people became secretaries and the secretaries then became personal assistants etc. Pretty soon there were more managers than PAs and so it goes on.

In the same vein, the term engineer - still valued in some countries was hijacked by anyone who had a vaguely technical background, especially if they had a degree to boot, although neither qualification would necessarily encourage you to ask them to build a bridge or an aeroplane.

Of course the increasing specialisation and fragmentation of the sciences is partly to blame and even the great polymaths of yore we think of when trying to define, say the greatest engineer, would have a hard time trying to shine in the multiplicity of disciplines around today.

Safest then, to let results speak for themselves when possible and if a piece of work displays skill in the making, then I reckon the maker can call himself a craftsman since this is not a term reserved to a particular trade or occupation or guild.
 

garywayne

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Hi everyone.

There seems to be two kinds of craftsman in woodwork these days. You have the hand tool craftsman, and the power tool craftsman.

I may be a little old fashioned, but I think, in woodwork one needs to learn the basics, and be able to size and dimension wood, and do the joints by using hand tools before progressing onto power tools, just so you get the feel of wood and how it acts to certain tool actions which you wont know about using power tools.

Power tools without power are no longer tools. If you are unable to do the basics using hand tools you are nackered.

You can't beat bass knowledge.

Note: The word you is used in general.

ATB Gary.

PS: I'm an expert, I started my collage coarse yesterday and done a half-lap joint using hand tools. :lol:
 

ByronBlack

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I think the whole training compared to self-tuition is a discussion that will always go on. I've always been self-taught in everything I do, the reason I do this is because: A. I don't always feel the tutor has my interests at heart and B. I learn a lot more by doing things myself.

For the last 4 years i've run a small web company, and throughout running that i've self-taught myself on many subjects, buying books and doing things for youself will teach you more than any tutor (unless your talking about practical workshops). Whenever i've interviewed a 'computer-science' degree graduate to do some basic web-work, i'm amazed at their total lack of common sense and knowledge around the subject. They are tought a very specific set of stuff to pass a test that is based on a text-book, outside of that they are lost.

So in my experience, if you're self-taught and you can produce quality work that is accepted as quality by your clients, then you are as much of a 'craftsman' than someone who trained for 500 years at the knee of a japanese god.

However, I would say that to be a craftsman in woodworking, you should be able to achive quality results by hand aswell as power-tools. This is why i'm going to be making a lot of emphasis on learning all the basics by hand before relying on power-tools. This will also allow me to work at 4am without disrupting the neighbours with noisy machinery :)
 
A

Anonymous

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I don't think the 5 year training or apprenticeship has anything to do with craftsmanship per se.

An electrican or woodworker/cabinet maker/ plumber/builder is not neccesarily a craftsman despite having gained a certified qualification and being able to perform their job satisfactorily

In my opinion, craftsmanshoiup is personified by the skill and care put into a piece. I do not think that craftsmanship can be exhibited in machine made furniture - anyone with enough money to buy decent quality machines can easily make decent furniture, but, clearly that is not a sign of a craftsmans work

Traditionally, craftsmanship is associated with hand skills, whether in woodwork or any other creative endeavour. A good example of this would be metal work. An engineer may make a fantasic and impressive item on a milling machine but not be thought of by the public at large as a craftsman, whereas an artist or blacksmith might beat and bend a piece of steel using a hammer and forge and everyone cries out that the work is that of a craftsman.

It is all linked to the skill exhibited in the work, not the training before the creation of the piece.


The person who personifies craftsmanship to me is Chrisitan Becksvoort who uses machines to rough out but then cuts all joints and finishes the piece by hand

http://www.chbecksvoort.com/welcome.html

I make most furniture etc with about 50% hand tool work and although it is pretty good stuff in my opinion, I would not class myself as a craftsman

At the end of the day, it is as Matt said - customer perception
 

CHJ

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To me a craftsperson is someone who can consistently produce with their own efforts an object that is better or at least as good as their peers can produce.

But everybody’s perception/assessment of the quality of craftsmanship is based on their own knowledge or expectations of the subject, so what is wonderful to Aunt Sally is nothing special to Cousin Ted.

There is no comparison with the finesse of detail required to build a high status horse drawn carriage or a chronometer, but if they have both been made of the appropriate materials and are finished to the satisfaction of his/her peers in the subject then I would consider the maker to have been a craftsperson, and both items will probably be capable of continuing their intended function in 80-100 years time.
 

houtslager

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craftsman [Show phonetics]
noun [C]
a person who is skilled in a particular craft:
The plates are hand painted by our finest craftsmen.

as per the Cambridge Dictionary.
In my words -
a person that can carry out a task be it in any of plumbing/carpentry/glassmaking/silkweaving/cabinetmaking/shipwright/
wheelwright etc............
AND DO IT compentently and to a HIGH standard of workmanship.

It don't matter how you does it, but what it looks like in the end.For every ex-pert has made a mistake along the way , and if the end user is happy with the product/service then the person offering said item could be called a craftsman.

In Bayern, where I had to sweep the floor and clean the machines for 3 months BEFORE allowed to USE any handtools, a 3 year apprenticeship,
learning the skills was consdered a "short apprenticeship"I've spent the following 20 years trying to make things BETTER and QUICKER, but never the TWO at the SAME TIME.

HS back in A'dam. :)
 

simuk

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craftsman [Show phonetics]
noun [C]
a person who is skilled in a particular craft:
The plates are hand painted by our finest craftsmen.

as per the Cambridge Dictionary.
In my words -
a person that can carry out a task be it in any of plumbing/carpentry/glassmaking/silkweaving/cabinetmaking/shipwright/
wheelwright etc............
AND DO IT compentently and to a HIGH standard of workmanship.
That sums it up lovely, but would i still be called a craftsman if it took me 2 days to hang a door even though i had done it to a high standard and compentently?
 

ByronBlack

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simuk":2wwoded7 said:
craftsman [Show phonetics]
noun [C]
a person who is skilled in a particular craft:
The plates are hand painted by our finest craftsmen.

as per the Cambridge Dictionary.
In my words -
a person that can carry out a task be it in any of plumbing/carpentry/glassmaking/silkweaving/cabinetmaking/shipwright/
wheelwright etc............
AND DO IT compentently and to a HIGH standard of workmanship.
That sums it up lovely, but would i still be called a craftsman if it took me 2 days to hang a door even though i had done it to a high standard and compentently?
For me a craftsman is someone that does their profession/task to a high degree of skill that laymen can't approach, hanging a door in 2 days therefore IMO isn't really a sign of a craftsman as this is a task that a laymen would complete equally well - if given 2 days.

However if a craftsman took 2 months to create a mind-blowingly good wardrobe then I think the craftsman status still stands as it would be beyond the skill level of a layman.

There is IMO a difference between low-skill tasks (such as hanging doors) to high-skill tasks - such as creating a carved wooden spiral staircase (for example). This is what would seperate a laymen to that of a craftsman.
 

simuk

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Hello ByronBlack

Not sure that i put my point clearly!

Point i was trying to make was if you cant complete the task in a certain amount of time then you wont be considered a crafsman, as to do it compentently and to a high standard of workmanship are not the only governing factors, I am talking from a purely carpentry view.

There is IMO a difference between low-skill tasks (such as hanging doors)
Sorry got to disagree with this statement, shooting a door into a irregular shape frame which is what it can be in some cases and keeping a even consistent gap is not a low - skill task. You have only got to look at the doors hung in most houses to see, is that gap consistent?.

Simon
 

ByronBlack

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Simon

Sorry if I offended you by saying hanging a door was a low-skill task, I didn't mean to downgrade, what I was trying to do was point out the differences of what a laymen could achieve in two days compared to what a craftsman could do.
 
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