Apprenticeship beginnings

8 Feb

Two days into my apprenticeship and I’m quite pleased. I wasn’t sure if this apprenticeship would be a good fit. I was to make mainly high-end custom built-ins made out of veneered sheet-stock, but also stand alone furniture. I really didn’t know how sheet stock factored into high-end furniture, but it does. I realized in two short days that not only was my apprenticeship boss, Tim Timberland, a good personality  fit with myself, but that there would be a lot of skills and tricks to learn.

Customer service for one. We’ve done two site visits in two days, with more on the way. I haven’t had much experience with high end clients, and amazingly enough I found them to be sweethearts. Tim says about 2/3 of his clients are. What a delight to work for people that care. Tim and I stayed a bit longer than necessary after measuring a wonky alcove (that was to receive a custom fit desk top) keeping the exchange warm and fuzzy. Those same clients have other custom work to be done and may be calling for bigger projects soon, Tim says.

Build a network to succeed. I’ve been introduced to about five woodworking related people in the building that swing by to talk with Tim about projects, to ask favours or just to say hi. And we’ve dropped in on a few too. There are some antique restorers, finishers and renovation pros. This was great to see in practice, today Tim could honestly recommend the work of his finisher friend to complete a sale. He also gets work from his network. The clients we visited today were a product of Tim meeting them at a benefit that his wife was throwing, and networking got him in the door.

Do good work and word of mouth will follow. Tim, as I said, does high end work. He’s slow by industry standards (his own words) and focuses more on the quality of his work. Tim said that most of his work comes from word of mouth. He started up shop in his landlady’s basement and slowly established himself through is work.

Use the appropriate amount of precision for the task. Being in business for yourself means accounting for all of your income, expenses and time. Being freshly out of school I have less of a sense of this. Tim broke it to me lightly that there are times to be super accurate and there are times to be less so, and you can approximate sometimes rather than rely on measuring tools. Similar to adjusting a crooked picture frame by eye instead of whipping out the level. There are some tasks that make more sense without bogging them down with unnecessary tools or steps.

I was pleased to learn that Tim had set aside a small table design for me to work on. It seems that every hour that passes also reveals a new task or projects that I’ll be involved in over the course of my six weeks with Tim. I can’t help but feel lucky to have a diverse amount of work. It’s all very hands-on which takes a bit of trust on Tim’s part. So in short a lot of my worries have been eased. In Tim’s shop, I don’t have to work at unsafe speeds, but I do have to prioritize my time better. I’m also not expected to be anything more than an apprentice which is a great load off of my shoulders. All this makes me feel stress free about the weeks to come and probably will help me to do better work.

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