hiring a woodworker

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Forum topic by eaglewrangler posted 08-19-2012 04:10 PM 2520 views 0 times favorited 39 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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64 posts in 2500 days

08-19-2012 04:10 PM

Topic tags/keywords: hiring workers help wanted

I am in Central Va, and having trouble finding a helper. Plenty of out of work “carpenters” but my project will require someone with a real interest in woodworking. I had hopes on my framing helpers, but they just don’t have the attention to detail needed for finish work. It is frustrating, because it is really a cool opening. I don’t know everything, but have worked at most museums in Va and lots of fancy vacation houses over the last 20 years. Now I am leaving contracting and building a B&B and finally have a chance to just go wild with custom work and creative designs. The floor plan has more angles than anything and that is just the start. I am making doors from trees I cut from the same spot where the door is and have many details. I blame Jefferson for the octagons, King Ludwig for the tower, and Disney for the curved layout.
I get that carpentry is not glamour or well paying and that when you tell a girl you’re a carpenter they imagine your a drug using laborer. I had to sort through some laborers before finding two that were not on drugs and had all their teeth, but still think they are in the trade for lack of other options.
Do you think there are young people out there that like wood working enough to want to work in it, learn and show off their skills? It will be about a year of work next to a national park and just up the road from several microbrewerys and wineries.

39 replies so far

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2438 days

#1 posted 08-19-2012 04:22 PM

Perhaps you would have more success if you advertise that you are seeking a woodworker for custom work. If you advertise for a carpenter that is what you will get. Of course the wage has also a lot to do with it.

On the other hand seems to me what you want judging from your last paragraph is an apprentice. Maybe you should advertise for that too.

Funny that it seems no matter what country you are, carpenters seem to be notoriously unreliable.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View eaglewrangler's profile


64 posts in 2500 days

#2 posted 08-19-2012 06:11 PM

the work is unreliable, different projects start and finish. Contractors go bankrupt. The weather in unreliable, reliably so. It makes the people in business either love saw dust or don’t have other options.

View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3048 days

#3 posted 08-19-2012 06:13 PM

We have a few custom woodworking shops here, and I have met some young men who were working in
them. Very nice talented men making good items. Never asked about the hiring process, as I was a little
past the apprentice age. Most of them are also hunting and fishing type people, so do not think they would
want to move from here. Try craigslist and ask for a woodworking apprentice, you might get lucky.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View Loren's profile


10244 posts in 3611 days

#4 posted 08-19-2012 08:03 PM

If you want talent you need to put an offer on the market that
attracts talent.

Appeals that might attract younger and more talented woodworkers
to your large project would be:

- room and board included
- opportunity to work on their own projects in your professionally outfitted shop under your guidance.
- fair pay
- permission to claim the work as part of the apprentice’s portfolio.
- quality-oriented verbal and experiential mentoring in the craft.
- clearly defined schedule for the job and a clear offer to keep the workflow
steady through the whole job.

View eaglewrangler's profile


64 posts in 2500 days

#5 posted 08-19-2012 08:25 PM

Ouch, never been to Illinois, I worked in the North, and projects were seasonal, even if we suffered in the snow things were varied to the weather, same out west, hard to get 40 year round. I pay above average for the area, but low wages are not my doing, just the overall economic outlook, since in 20 years I see people making roughly the same rates I started at, and prices have tripled on most things, that tends to deter the attraction to carpentry. But the same hold true for many jobs out there.
The no teeth thing is reality in many areas, as Crystal meth went through about 6 years ago, now it is bath salts. We built million dollar homes, and I would guess in 2006 about half of new hires had a drug problem and didn’t last, not counting pot use or alcohol. The no teeth is a side effect, and while I used to believe in second chances, those people all ended up getting back into drugs (5 from 5) I would prefer not repeating this again.
Having lived up North, I appreciate your little buddy tough guy thing, though I am more of a fat big former wieght lifter. I have a crown on one tooth. I don’t plan to be a contractor anywhere, as the bussiness is changed for good.
I treat people fair, they all like me and know while I expect good work, I understand how long things take. I still want to find someone interested in finish work. More a workworking nerd, than framing tough guy. They are a rarer type. It is more a question of interest than skill. Preferably someone with some art ability. An example would be, I made a door with reposse copper panels of bear foot prints. I had to learn reposse, design the prints from the nearby bear tracks, and I never did much copper work, so it took some trial and error. I do some carving, timberframing, furniture. I have a frame crew now, I do all the lay outs, there is just too much geometry and odd angles for anyone else to understand it. They will be good framers, but not interested in door making or cabinetry. I guess I need to look for an artist minded woodworker and have been looking in the wrong area for what I want.
Sometimes it helps to explain things to others to see the problem in a new light, thanks, even for the insults.

View bruc101's profile


1200 posts in 3505 days

#6 posted 08-19-2012 08:38 PM

We try to offer a kid a summer job every year. Sometimes we get a good one and then sometimes we get a dud.
The ones that want to work and learn are usually the ones that come from low to mid income families with or without their teeth.

The ones that just want a job and a paycheck could care less if they learned anything or not and usually come from higher income families with all their teeth.
These are just our experiences over the years and yours could be different.

One of the most sort after carpenters in my area has an 8th grade education and finally got dentures last year. It’s always been his skilled work that keeps him in a high paying position, not having his teeth. He built his family a beautiful home about 15 years ago in one of the nicer neighborhoods in our area. He’s well respected because of his skilled work and the contributions he makes to our community. He will give you the shirt off his back if he thinks you need it. Having just an 8th grade education and not having teeth have not hurt him in any way during his career as far as anyone that knows him goes.

I’ve had dentures for 10 years, I have 8 employees that have dentures and only one of them wear their dentures when we’re working, their choice.

My personal opinion having or not having teeth has nothing to do with how skilled a person is.

But, I understand what you’re saying so no pun intended.

-- Bruce Free Plans

View eaglewrangler's profile


64 posts in 2500 days

#7 posted 08-19-2012 09:29 PM

The toothless reference was purely about Meth, not the dentally challenged, former ufc fighters or hockey players, or other reasons for dental issues. My crew is all former jocks to some degree, one played in college on a sports scholarship. It is a theme I would prefer to less noble conversations.

View rance's profile


4255 posts in 3123 days

#8 posted 08-19-2012 09:37 PM

PM sent to you eaglewrangler.

Hey look, an up and coming carpenter:

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View pierce85's profile


508 posts in 2525 days

#9 posted 08-19-2012 10:08 PM

Gee Whiz, a complete mystery to me why you can’t find reliable, young talent… Clearly you need to increase the condescension because that’s what people look for in an ideal employer. That and low wages. Or did you have something else in mind besides wages?

View eaglewrangler's profile


64 posts in 2500 days

#10 posted 08-19-2012 11:05 PM

The rates here are low, relative to the North. We get under bids from North Carolina crews that still work for barely minimum wage and run with no insurance. I don’t set wages. Top carpenters are making around 15-18, helpers 10-12, guys running a excavator, $15, To crack $20 an hour you had to run a crew and project manage, then you might make a bonus on the over 20% profit, which was subject to much creative math, not ususally in the managers favor. This was at top builders on custom high end homes. The tract homes were built by lower payed guys. If I look back, I made about the same starting out as people do today, 20 years later. Now I never worked in Illinois. I have worked all over in my early years, and Virginia falls about average, out west was very low, the North was higher, but at the time housing costs were much more. I do know the cost of living is about three time than 20 years ago. I think gas was around a dollar, bought a house for $50,000, health insurance was $25 a month, It has all tripled at least, while wages are the same. I made $14 as a helper and $20 running a crew some 18 years ago.
If you think I need to offer more to attract in Northern guys, I can match what you get up there for the right guy. Give me a hint as to the range, if an extra couple dollar will get talented guy or gal, I will be glad to pay Illinois wages.
Anyone from Colorado, Florida or California have any insight as to what a good wage is? I would guess that they are hit still by the housing slow down.
Anyone in their 20s have a thought on the subject?

View bhog's profile


2236 posts in 2653 days

#11 posted 08-19-2012 11:32 PM

Im in my thirties,a carpenter and didnt care for your comments.Pretty ignorant.

-- I don't drive a Prius.

View madts's profile


1855 posts in 2303 days

#12 posted 08-19-2012 11:43 PM

Now we have to ban Teeth! I thought that politics and religion were enough.

-- Thor and Odin are still the greatest of Gods.

View eaglewrangler's profile


64 posts in 2500 days

#13 posted 08-20-2012 12:20 AM

ok I give up it was a flippant comment. I don’t have a pic of the guy I got rid of, but it might clear up my over generalizations. It is hard with a small business hiring and firing. I doubt his type make it to sites about carpentry. Clearly the great lakes region is the place to look. I know the truck drivers from this area help you unload in snow, were as other areas will stay in the truck in good weather.
I was more interested in learning what other people do when looking for specific help and what other areas pay for various levels of skill.
I think I feel a cavity coming on.

View bhog's profile


2236 posts in 2653 days

#14 posted 08-20-2012 12:53 AM

Eagle I know the types your referring to.They are also tapers and roofers etc.Work cheap and do crap work,uneducated ,wouldnt know how to cut a hip rafter,forget a stair stringer.

I can relate,good help is hard to find.Hope you find yours.

-- I don't drive a Prius.

View Dusty56's profile


11819 posts in 3651 days

#15 posted 08-20-2012 12:57 AM

I think I feel a cavity coming on. LMAO !

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

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