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good idea or bad idea?

by matthewcressey
posted 01-31-2013 08:54 PM

28 replies so far

View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2286 days

#1 posted 01-31-2013 09:13 PM

Life’s too short to do something you don’t love. Tell your old man to become an electrician, but do what makes you happy.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3576 days

#2 posted 01-31-2013 09:16 PM

Hi Matthew
This is an age old problem where fathers want their sons to follow them in their trade or profession. It’s hard for someone your age to understand but even though your father my not put it so you like what he’s saying he’ wants the best for you. I have been a contractor and have owned my own woodworking business for 25 years and two of my son’s have worked with me. They both have decided to follow their own interest and I think that’s great. From my prospective becoming an electrician will make you a much better living than woodworking . I think the hardest part of your situation is that you work for your father. If you can be brave enough to get to the point were you can earn your electricians Licence then you can work for yourself and control of your own business. Electricians are always in demand but woodworkers are a dime a dozen. Once you have your licence and have been on your own you can do woodworking as a hobby and enjoy it much more than always having to only build what others want you to build with deadlines always pushing you. Work out a deal with your father to just have you try the cabinet making but that you can still help him with his jobs. The cabinet making job may pay more now but the electricians pay will be much better in the future. I know this may not be what you were hoping to hear but as a person who has been in the trades for years I think it may be the best way for you to go. Good luck on what ever you decide to do.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3158 days

#3 posted 01-31-2013 09:19 PM

If you truly have a choice, then do what you want. But I say there’s nothing wrong with pleasing your father…it’s honorable. Whatever you do now doesn’t have to be what you do when you grow up. Most people change their careers 4 times or more.

I will say that an electrician can make a much better life for himself than a carpenter, IMO.

-- jay,

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3334 days

#4 posted 01-31-2013 09:38 PM

I can’t say what is best for you, but do keep in mind that every job becomes pretty routine after awhile. Maybe you could try out the cabinet job for a limited time to see if you really like it. Your father might not be too stubborn if he knows it is just a trial.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2487 days

#5 posted 01-31-2013 09:43 PM

I have to agree with Jim this time.

I worked for an electrical contractor and got my Journeymans ticket. I could go anywhere and ask just about any wage I wanted.
I also hated it, but for me it was a means to an end. More on that in a bit.
I also worked as a framing carpenter, a finish carpenter and in a couple of cabinet shops.
I eventually got a license as a general contractor and did well and I could actually do the work that I would have had to pay an electrician to do.
I also had a plumbing ticket as a helper and I was legal to do plumbing work as long as it was signed off on by a licensed plumber.
This saved me and a lot of customers a lot of money because I was able to do legal simple installations while the contracted plumber did the heavy important work.

I worked in the shop with my dad and grand dad who were both master craftsmen cabinet makers. Back then I wasn’t interested in that type of work because I am somewhat OCD and also a lot ADHD.

Here is the bottom line:
A bit of advise from my dad that I’ll pass on to you, take it or leave it…....
Learn everything you can about every trade you can, even if you hate it. That way when the pickings get slim you can always find a well paying job in another skill.

Now as I get closer to 60 years old, and still feel a lt younger than I am, but am unable to do those things fast enough to make it economically reasonable to hire me any more, I am falling back on the fine wood working, re-learning the stuff dad and Grand pa tried to teach me back in the middle of the last century.

Your dad only wants the best for you. I don’t blame him, I just don’t agree with his methodology.
I believe that any time you have a chance to learn something, you should, prejudiced against the skill or not.

Print these posts out and show them to your dad, if you can prove your case, who knows, he may soften up a bit.

We’re pullin’ for ya, keep you stick on the ice!

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2997 days

#6 posted 01-31-2013 11:06 PM

All jobs have things that suck. With any of the skilled trades, you can do extremely well or limp along poor for the rest of your life. It is more of a matter of how well you run your business than how well you perform your trade. That said, as an electrician, you wouldn’t be underbid by people working for pennies an hour in factories overseas or being churned out by machines by the box car load. Electricians and Plumbers can’t get outsourced. Carpenters can.

Regarding the pay. There are two sides to that. (No offense meant, just straight talk) When you started at 13 or so you were not worth that much (probably costing them more than you were earning them). You make yourself valuable by the work you do. You say you were “bored.” That tells me you weren’t earning what you were given. You are on a job and have nothing to do? Man up and ask for more to do. Better yet, do it without asking. They are on a job to do work for a customer and not to keep you entertained. Even if it is cleaning up the truck, sweeping up the work site, or covering ditches, or hauling a pitcher of tea for the other people on the crew or anything else that needs to get done. It’s all part of the job. You make yourself a more valuable asset and then you ask for more money.

There is a lot difference between woodworking for enjoyment and doing it for a living. It will take many more years to be good enough at woodworking to be up to the skill level to make as good a living as one of the licensed trades. Now, doing woodworking for yourself at home? I can see no reason against it as long as you don’t leave a mess for everyone else in the household. Get good enough at it, it might work into something great.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4931 posts in 3960 days

#7 posted 01-31-2013 11:22 PM

I started at a piano shop as a “gopher” doing what needed to be done.
Learned a BUNCH about WWing and finishing. Wouldn’t trade the experience at all.
Best thing is learning to communicate well, and be precise.
Not tryin’ to be a butt, but (is that redundant) your writing/spelling skills really need improvement.
Hone ALL your skills to succeed in any trade you might choose.
A well spoken and well written candidate will always succeed.
Remember that even sanding is a skill, building is a form, and finishing is an art.
I hope that you will accept these comments as a positive help.


View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3284 days

#8 posted 01-31-2013 11:31 PM

Hey Matthew, I think everyone has given you some great advise. I can only add to it from the side of a woodworker that has made my living doing so for the past 27 years. I can see your fathers side and truly believe he only wants the best for you, but I also understand your frustration from not enjoying what you’re doing now. Making $12.00/hr working in a cabinet shop compared to $7.00 working with Dad sounds like a big deal right now as a 16 year old, but from what I’ve seen in the two trades over the years, the typical electrician usually ends up making more then the typical woodworker. After saying that, I made my career choice as a professional woodworker and never regretted doing so. As a young man, learning both trades could serve you well in the future. I’m not sure how you can convince your Dad to let you learn woodworking also, other then let him know you would like to be open minded to both careers and hope he would be too. You have plenty of time to decide which path you would choose and who knows, it could be neither. Like Cosmicsniper said; most people will change their careers a number of times before settling on whats best for them. Just keep learning and you’ll do fine. Good luck.

-- John @

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2969 days

#9 posted 01-31-2013 11:49 PM

It’s a difficult choice but I think you need to find out what you can expect to be earning in 5 years time and make your decision on that, not the difference on what you could be earning now.
As far as ‘skilled trades’ are concerned, drain cleaning would probably earn you more than being a sparky or a cabinet maker put together. It comes down to supply and demand.

View whitebeast88's profile


4128 posts in 2190 days

#10 posted 02-01-2013 12:05 AM

i agree with what everyone else is saying that the electrician job will help you earn more money in the jim said you can always do ww as a hobby.

but sometimes you have to do what you love,cause as they say money’s not everything.i think that saying came from someone very well off!!!

keep in mind your father has your best interest’s at heart and also paying you $7 an hour is not bad for learning a skilled trade.hope this helps.

-- Marty.Athens,AL

View RichCMD's profile


393 posts in 1940 days

#11 posted 02-01-2013 12:22 AM

Just a few random observations:

1. This is not meant as an insult, so please don’t take it that way. Most folks end up doing work completely different from what they thought they would when they were sixteen. You will likely be neither a cabinet make nor an electrician.

2. Somebody once told me that the secret to happiness is finding something you like to do and then figuring out how to get somebody to pay you to do it.

-- Ride the bevel!

View Don W's profile

Don W

18715 posts in 2567 days

#12 posted 02-01-2013 12:34 AM

Ask anybody over 40 if they are doing what they wanted to do when they were 16. No matter what you chose now, there is probably a 95% chance you’ll change your mind before you’re through college. If your not considering college, change your mind right now.

Next, your 16, so its difficult to understand what making a living means, but think about what a carpenter/woodworker makes. I did it for 15 years and just got tired of struggling.

Its very important you like what you do, but when your struggling to make a living, its hard to like what you do. Your going to find you’ll like doing a lot more than you know now.

Its also ok to change your mind. Learning is a good thing. Keep Lear Ing no matter what and you can’t fail.

As a father I’ll say one more thing. It sounds like your dad just wants what’s best for you. That’s what good dads do, so keep that in mind, no matter what you decide.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Wiltjason's profile


56 posts in 1962 days

#13 posted 02-01-2013 12:45 AM

i have been an electrician in columbus ohio for 20 yrs. if i had to do it all over again i would do neither. personally i wish now that i had gone to collage to become an engineer, architech, or constrution management. here in ohio the skilled trades are being gutted by people hiring cheap labor and underbidding jobs. even the IBEW is have problems right now, its a damn shame ( i did go threw a 4 year apprenticeship ) luckily for me i landed a job with the city of columbus but those jobs are hard to get. as a side note i do make alittle bit if money out of my woodshop and for me personally when someone else determinds what i build and when it will be done it sucks the fun right out of it, just my 2 cents, good luck to you

View LoydMoore's profile


105 posts in 1956 days

#14 posted 02-01-2013 12:57 AM

Make real sure you do not miss any school classes.

-- Loyd, San Angelo, TX

View RockyTopScott's profile


1186 posts in 3478 days

#15 posted 02-01-2013 12:58 AM

You are young enough. Try the woodworking for a few years and see if it really is what you want.

Learn some electrical skills too along the way, just in case.

Never stop dreaming…never.

-- “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.” ― Thomas Sowell

View Manitario's profile


2630 posts in 2882 days

#16 posted 02-01-2013 12:59 AM

I joke that I do my current job in order to pay for my hobbies (mostly woodworking). A stable job with a steady income will provide a lot of time and money to put towards woodworking…

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2354 days

#17 posted 02-01-2013 01:07 AM

AS an electrician’s helper you are probably already pulling wire, running daisy chains and maybe not doing home runs, that’s cool. But as a helper in a cabinet shop, you’re gonna start out getting really familiar with the workings of that age old tool the broom, lifting boards, sanding, mundain not so fun stuff. You basically have to prove that you have the apptitude to do woodworking before people are going to start teaching you important stuff, and honestly you may not even be allowed to sand yet at your age, weird rules about power tools and what not….

I’m just telling you this so you know when you start out you won’t be being taught to do dove tailed joints, splined mitres and all of this right away, that may be way down the road depending on the employer. But it’s better so that you can make a more informed decision.

And as a cabinetmaker/furniture maker/trim carpenter/artisan carpenter I take huge offense to your dad saying my work is not skilled work… perhaps he’s thinking of framers, and honestly, that requires some degree of skill to.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2354 days

#18 posted 02-01-2013 01:17 AM

oh. and if you don’t do well in geometry class, then well, I dunno that’s kind of our bread and butter…

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View exelectrician's profile


2327 posts in 2427 days

#19 posted 02-01-2013 01:19 AM

I started my electrical apprenticeship when I was 16. My dad wanted me to go to college, I looked him in the eye and said no! I never regretted it.

Right now there are hundreds of licenced electricians out of work at my local 46 (Seattle) I loved being an electrician when I had work, and hated it when there was none.

Be a Man and tell your dad what you truly believe is right for you in your heart. Then do it!

-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

View juniorjock's profile


1930 posts in 3765 days

#20 posted 02-01-2013 01:21 AM

I know you don’t want to hear this, but please, before anything… get an education. It will be hard to survive without one. Good luck, I hope you continue your dream.

View bwoods's profile


41 posts in 1941 days

#21 posted 02-01-2013 01:24 AM

Wish I had the opportunities to learn 2 different trades when I was as young as you. I’m just now getting into it. Also just a quick tip… spend a moment to spell check your posts and anything you put out into public, it greatly affects the way people see you.

View Doodle's profile


3 posts in 1941 days

#22 posted 02-01-2013 02:13 AM

Greetings, Matthew. You say that you are 16, and that you “worked as an electricion for the last 3 or 4 years”. If you don’t mind me asking, where do you live? I can’t begin to imagine a place that allows a TWELVE-YEAR-OLD to work with ELECTRICITY! I don’t mean to sound judgmental, but I just find it inconceivable that your father would refuse to let you do what you wish with YOUR OWN life, yet is perfectly willing to to allow his minor child to work with high voltage! Having gotten that out of the way, remember that it is indeed your life to live, but as long as you’re doing it under his roof, his wishes should at least be respected, if not strictly obeyed. You say that you have not yet chosen a career path, but it would seem to me that you first need to decide what really matters to you; do you need great wealth to buy lots of fancy things in order to enjoy life? Or can you be happy with the simple joy and satisfaction (and maybe not much else) that comes from creating something of your very own? This is just my opinion, but I’d say you really need to think about these things, perhaps make a list of pro’s and con’s for both professions, and then sit down and discuss them calmly and fairly with your father, if he is willing to listen. Either way, soon enough you will be an adult, and thus able to make your own life choices, but try to remember that the things we to do today can have lasting consequences (both good and bad) for years to come – so whatever you choose, make sure it is the right choice for you, and only you! Good luck to you, Sir, and may your future always be bright!

View Loren's profile


10401 posts in 3647 days

#23 posted 02-01-2013 02:56 AM

Woodworking is surely creatively interesting and if
you have a flair for design it can be an interesting career.

Fine cabinetry is an “optional” purchase and you can either
top-out at whatever pay a big shop will pay you, or
strike out on your own and be a marketer AND a
cabinet man.

There is a lot to it. There are lots of careers that are
more lucrative and easier on the body.

If you want options, go to college.

View matthewcressey's profile


76 posts in 1984 days

#24 posted 02-01-2013 03:17 AM

Ok so reading though the comments it seems very mixed. To David it’s not that I had nothing to do it’s that running wire, wiring up switiches or outlets or lights is boring. Or in the case of fishing wire in an attic that 110 degrees frustrating and annoying to the extreme. On the other side of the page though i’ll have a more steady job and will most likley make more but if I follow in my father foot steps and own my own business I wont have time to do any woodworking. Altho who knows I may not care about any of this in a couple of years I could decide to be a plumber.

View derosa's profile


1577 posts in 2835 days

#25 posted 02-01-2013 03:49 AM

Doodle- child labor laws have different standards when you’re working for family. If you’re in school with proper attendance and grades most places don’t care that you’re working if its for family.

Matthew- money isn’t everything and happiness is, life can be a balance of the one with the other. I started roofing at 14, actually didn’t mind the work till I nearly took a ride off a third story roof at 18, like you it was for a family business, in my case 3 generations. My grandfather has 6 zeros in his checking account after 45 years as a roofer and running his own family company and replying on my grandmother to run tight accounting. Roofing in the summer, gutters to fill the spaces in the late fall and early spring and repairs all winter. For him it was a good life, what he liked to do and allowed him to dabble in gardens and crafts on the side; he is happy. My dad left it for painting, he isn’t rich but he’s very happy with his life. His bill are paid and he’s content, his checking account isn’t much.
Me, I left it for college, spent 10 years slumming around the world as a contract archaeologist. I was very happy and it paid the bills but isn’t a real career and gave it up with marriage. During that time when I filled in at other jobs it was amazing how many people would get this far away look in their eyes and tell me that they always wished they could have done that (the archaeology); my response was always “me too”. They always had more money but never seemed happier and always wished they could do what I had done. Now I’m a minister, bit of a ways from roofing. It pays the bills and a little extra; I’ll never be rich since I’m honest and believe what I preach, but I’m very happy. It affords be time with the kids, a flexible schedule during the week, lots of interaction with people. It isn’t what my parents wanted for me, that’s for sure and I already have plans for a couple of PhD so I can move into teaching at the university level when I’m about 50-55 and not worry about having to retire, don’t really want to, just have long summers off to travel the world.
What does all this matter to you? It is your life at the end of it all and you have a lot of it before you. Live it how you want, as fully as you want and seek your dreams. There will always be time in a couple decades for you to change course if you need to but find what makes you happy, figure out how you can make a living at it without removing the fun from it and go enjoys yourself.

-- --Rev. Russ in NY-- A posse ad esse

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2354 days

#26 posted 02-01-2013 04:22 AM

Yeah derosa, he’s still in the U.S, and I’m pretty sure there are some federal labor laws against 12 year olds playing with electricity there somewhere to, just saying.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View ChuckC's profile


828 posts in 2934 days

#27 posted 02-01-2013 05:07 AM

Don’t even worry about a career now. Start thinking about college. By the time you are 22 you will have a better idea of what you want to do and it may have nothing to do with a trade.

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2997 days

#28 posted 02-01-2013 06:13 AM


Ok, it was just a mix up in choice of words. I do understand the downsides of working as an electrician. I worked for an electric company for a few years when my head wasn’t on straight for college myself. They said go get your hand tools and I picked up the shovel and pick. You think attics are bad up in Maine, try down here in south Texas when it is 110F outside. Don’t even think about the attic. I will say it was a great attitude adjustment and made sitting in that air conditioned classroom and studying a lot more attractive.

This is the time you will try different things and find how you want to make your way. Sometimes, it is just a process of elimination to find what you are suited for. It will most likely change as you do as well. Whatever you do doesn’t really matter. All that matters in the long run is that you give it your best and do quality work in return. Just don’t get hung up on the idea that somewhere out there you will find some job that doesn’t have things that are awful. Every job has its faults. That’s why they give you money to do it. One thing you might notice from these people that are all interested in woodworking here on Lumberjocks: It can be done and it can be successful. They also all agree that it is a really hard way to make a living. You will also not be working on things you want but rather what someone else wants. Not nearly as much fun.

If you really want to do woodworking for yourself badly enough, you will make the time regardless of the job you end up in.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

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