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Forum topic by Duha posted 10-28-2009 06:14 PM 1071 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1 post in 3131 days

10-28-2009 06:14 PM

I’m looking to get a career started in woodworking. I have very limited professional experience but I have been able to get involved in some woodoworking projects through friends, family, etc…but I would absolutely consider myself a novice. I have a college degree but in a field completely unrelated. I’m trying to figure what my first step should be. In doing research online it appears as though it’s split 50-50 in regards to what others recommend. Some say go to school, others say learn on your own/apprentice. I’m looking for job opportunities and not finding many (to say the least) that do not require experience. I’m patient and certainly willing to start at a very low level in regards to both compensation and responsibility. Help me out…what should my first step be?

-- Chris, Boston, MA

7 replies so far

View patron's profile


13603 posts in 3339 days

#1 posted 10-28-2009 06:32 PM

if you are a novice ,
you probably don’t have much time in on the tools/techniques ,
or many tools , thus their uses .

go to a school , or adult class ,
or join a woodcraft forum and get some training .

i got a job in a cabinet shop once ,
and 2 years later was told by the foreman ,
that he and the 2 owners ,
were watching me that first hour at the tablesaw ,
to see if i knew how to use it properly and safely .

don’t try to bluff your way through woodworking ,
it can be very dangerous if you don’t know the proper use of the tools .

get some learning ,
and the best to you in this ,

and welcome to LJ’s .

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3576 days

#2 posted 10-28-2009 06:34 PM

Welcome to LJs
It makes a difference were you are , how your situated financially, and if you are willing to sweep floors and sand for at least a couple of years before learning any thing. If I had it to do over and had the funds to do so I would taken a three year course at North Bennett street school in Boston. This is were your location and funds come into play. If you don’t have that kind of time and funds consider a community collage program . If that’s not available in your area approach a local wood shop or cabinet shop for work as a helper. You will need to be persistent and keep stopping by to show your commitment. In addition to going to local shops you can enter into self study through books , DVDs , you tube ,here and any were they offer woodworking info. If you would like a list of books and DVD’s that I would suggest send me a PM and I’ll be glad to help.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3285 days

#3 posted 10-28-2009 10:36 PM

David and Jim have given great advice. One of the most important things to consider is how long it really takes to learn woodworking. I think a common misconception is that since so many people do it as a hobby and you don’t have to have formal training, that anyone must be able to make a living doing something that really is fun. As satisfying as woodworking is, it is not so easy to make a good living. Just on this site alone we have seen guys give up their professional shops because they couldn’t make it. Maybe a lot of that has to do with the poor economy, I don’t know.

If you’re really willing to start at the bottom, and can work for low wages, you’ve got half the battle won.
I would say, be careful the kind of shops you apply at. I own a production raised panel door shop that frequently hires inexperienced people. The problem with my shop is you don’t learn that much about overall woodworking. We are really a manufacturer when it comes down to it, not so much a woodworking shop. You would learn some basics, but wouldn’t leave well rounded by any stretch. So many people hate the repetition we have. I’ve had guys go to work for me, and become disappointed because they didn’t learn how to build everything under the sun the first six months.

Do you have a specific area of woodworking that interests you. If so pursue shops that relate to that field.
Even though I grew up working for my dad in shuuters and cabinet doors, I really learned more of my skill from
others. I was lucky to have grown up around residential consruction so I was able to learn from a lot of different people with many different skills as well as philosophies. You just have to find them. That’s easier said than done, but they are out there. My tool store offers classes sometimes. Seek those opportunities. If there are clubs in your area, get involved. Some of us experienced guys love to share with someone who really has a passion for woodworking, but I don’t really want to waste my time on someone who just wants to make a buck, and woodworking seems as good a way as any.

I’ll stop my rambling now. As you can see, LJ’s is obviously a great source of very valuable information, with a lot of guys (And girls—I always mean both when I say that here) who are willing to share from their experience. As long as I’ve done this, you might be shocked how much I’ve learned on this site.

Good luck, and keep us posted.


View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3666 days

#4 posted 10-29-2009 01:19 AM

If your going to commit, commit.
Can’t find work, move to another area that has the type of work you want to do.
Get paid, if your lucky, to learn the craft.
Find out what it is truely like to cut wood in a shop for 50+ hours a week.

The romance of woodworking can quickly fizzle once the relaxing past time becomes a “job”.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View davidpettinger's profile


661 posts in 3199 days

#5 posted 10-29-2009 02:54 AM

Your on the East Coast, Find one of the community colleges out there that offers a woodworking class. Find your self a job in your “related” field, gives you some money to help with your schooling and project costs. Learn as much as you can, then use their system to help you apprentice out to a shop. Even sweeping floors, cause everybody has to start some where. Just remember this, A job is what you wake up to and have to do to make a buck, but a career is something you look forward to get up to do everyday and the money is a great bonus.

-- Methods are many,Principles are few.Methods change often,Principles never do.

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3283 days

#6 posted 10-29-2009 03:06 AM

Kent really covered it well. If you are willing to work for less and willing to start at the bottom, then be careful of the shop you go to work for. A production shop will probably frustrate you if you want to learn woodworking in general. You usually do one thing and one thing only and it will be hard to learn the different aspects of woodworking. As a Custom Woodworking Shop, I’ve hired some help over the years and here might be a tip on getting a job in a custom shop. It was hard for me to find a good woodworker to work in a Custom shop, if they had experience, I (as the employer) usually spent more time trying to retrain them to get rid of bad woodworking habits. A production cabinet shop is alot different then a Custom Woodworking shop. That being said, I looked for the person with less experience and a higher desire to learn fine woodworking. I have a passion for my woodworking, so looked for someone with passion, not so much experience. Don’t be discouraged and don’t be afraid to tell the truth (about your experience or passion)
And like a1Jim said, any classes you can find to take will also be a big help. Community College or woodworking classes offered by Companies like Wood Craft, etc. It’s a never ending learning experience, so enjoy every phase of it. Good luck

-- John @

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10479 posts in 3427 days

#7 posted 10-29-2009 02:44 PM

You’ve read some outstanding advice from previous posters. These guys are really on top of it and know their stuff! Take heed.
I wouldn’t presume to add anything to their comments and advice. I’ll only add my welcome to the LJ community and to the wider woodworking community. Good luck and, above all HAVE FUN!

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

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