Getting Back to My Passion for Woodworking #2: Apprenticeship #1

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Blog entry by Duff posted 07-15-2017 05:55 AM 1447 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: My Younger Years Part 2 of Getting Back to My Passion for Woodworking series no next part

I started working as a apprentice for Richard at Nautilus Woodworks in Riviera Beach, Florida after working at a car rental agency while trying to get out of nursing. It was a small shop that catered to Palm Beachers and that clientele. It was my boss Richard, Bob and I full time and a couple other guys that would come in if he needed some extra help. My first day on the job we were crating up a cocktail table that was being shipped to a country club in Connecticut. It was a mahogany table with a beautiful burl veneer inlaid top. This thing was absolutely gorgeous. This was 25 years ago and the invoice for the table was $1200! I couldn’t believe it. Seeing this table sucked me even deeper into woodworking. The first project I worked on seemed very simple. Ha! It was a long glass top dining room table with three large red oak squares for the base. I believe the oak was milled to 3” x 8”. The job of cutting and gluing up the base pieces was given to me. This was my first lesson on the importance of things being square! I figured I was going to make a great impression on the boss with my first assignment. I painstaking measured everything out and started cutting. I was feeling on top of the world. Ah, so not every piece was exactly the same length. What difference could a 1/8” here or there make in the scheme of things. I mean really. I also learned the importance of using a square along the line somewhere….at least once! Yep not once! I epoxied and clamped those three bases up and was strutting around the shop ready for another assignment. Richard asked me if I was done and I proudly said yes. I’m thinking he had to have been watching me because he asked “everything good and square?” Well of course it was, I cut 45s on everything. That’s 90 degrees each corner right? He grabs a framing square and I immediately realized that I never picked that up. I ASSUMED they were square. And you know what they say when you ASSUME. He called me to the assembly table and handed me the square. Well, after laying the square on the base pieces my heart started racing. In my head a little voice is saying, “You’re apprenticeship has just been terminated.!” I looked over at Richard and he says, “I will expect you to use a square from now on. Also if the piece on the left is 32” the piece on the right better be 32” as well, not 31 7/8.” He told me to take those pieces and put them in the back and start over. I couldn’t believe he didn’t let me go! I’m sure that was a expensive error on my part. Needless to say, the next three base pieces were square and all the same size.

-- You have to go on and be crazy. Craziness is like heaven - Jimi Hendrix

2 comments so far

View  woodshaver Tony C   's profile

woodshaver Tony C

7226 posts in 3991 days

#1 posted 07-15-2017 12:12 PM

Great story Duff! We all have to learn as we go we just hope it don’t cost us too much on the way there. Assumptions are good for somethings but we all know it’s best to leaving that thinking out of woodworking! We are like doctors practicing and improving our skills as we go. :)

-- St Augustine FL, Experience is the sum of our mistakes!

View SpaceAgePlane's profile


32 posts in 1072 days

#2 posted 07-15-2017 11:46 PM

I went through a similar apprenticeship awhile back. I had been woodworking for a long time already, had pieces featured in magazines, done commissions, etc. Nothing could have prepared me for “fine production woodworking” though. It wasn’t that I necessarily messed anything up, it was that I wasn’t used to working at a fast pace that the job demanded. I remember putting my first few pieces in the clamping rack to dry “overnight”. My boss was on my butt 2 hours later asking why I wasn’t pulling them out and getting back to work! It was an awesome experience and I remain great friends with my old boss to this day and in the end, it made me a better woodworker! Just like I’m sure you did, I learned things I never thought possible. Can’t wait to read more, keep typing, Duff!

-- Paul @ Space Age Plane Co.

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