Becoming A Carpenter

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by KevBotWorkshop posted 09-13-2018 04:26 AM 981 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View KevBotWorkshop's profile


27 posts in 1152 days

09-13-2018 04:26 AM

Topic tags/keywords: carpentry carpenter job union career

Hey there,

This one is aimed towards any carpenters in the group. I am currently working as a videographer and editor. The job has become super tedious, not great hours, bad pay, no insurance or benefits. I am considering in making a career change and becoming a carpenter as I like working with my hands and I woodwork for fun. I understand that carpentry can have long hours and is hard work, but I would much more prefer that then sitting in an office all day.

As a worker I am very hardworking, don’t cut corners, and work until the job is done right.

I have friends trying to encourage me to join pipe fitters because that is what they do, however I feel like I wouldn’t find it interesting and I much rather do something I would like. I have experience with most tools and I think a carpentry transition would be a lot smoother than pipe fitters. I am really just looking for some thoughts on this.

Any carpenters out there have advice? Pros? Cons?

If there any Chicago Land carpenters I would love to hear about the process. I tried to get information about apply online but it almost seems like you need to know someone to get in.

Thanks for any information

-- Kevin Johnson, Chicago IL, Instagram - @KevBotWorkshop

23 replies so far

View ArtMann's profile


1480 posts in 1590 days

#1 posted 09-13-2018 02:20 PM

My best advice to you is go to work for a master carpenter for a while and learn from the experience. As an alternative, you might want to go to a trade school. There is more to it than just being good with tools. Some stuff you will never learn on your own. I learned carpentry from building a couple of houses for myself and working on many Habitat for Humanity houses with really good retired carpenters. I can get buy but I am too slow to earn a living at it.

View bandit571's profile (online now)


25901 posts in 3457 days

#2 posted 09-13-2018 02:49 PM

Sometimes, the Local Carpenter’s Unions will have an apprentice program set up…

I was lucky, had a couple uncles that were very good Carpenters. I spent 5 years learning the trade.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View MrRon's profile


5913 posts in 4017 days

#3 posted 09-13-2018 04:03 PM

My suggestion would be to attend a trade school or community college and get the fundamentals of woodworking,. Then get a job as a helper for a building contractor to get the experience and learn the things not taught in school. Like anything else, it takes time. There is no quick and easy way. You must be committed. There is a big demand for craftsmen for all disciplines now with the economy on the rise. Good luck.

View mahdee's profile


4291 posts in 2541 days

#4 posted 09-13-2018 04:22 PM

If you like the outdoors and want to make a decent wage, become an industrial welder.


View Fresch's profile


489 posts in 2694 days

#5 posted 09-13-2018 06:46 PM

Union pipe fitters make more money, welding.

View waho6o9's profile


8908 posts in 3350 days

#6 posted 09-13-2018 07:17 PM

View DrDirt's profile


4614 posts in 4516 days

#7 posted 09-13-2018 07:24 PM

Ditto on the trade schools…

Will say that a lot of carpenters are hired as Millwrights… and don’t have great hours, insurance or benefits either.

Talk to some master carpenters about the pathway and what to expect… and don’t quit your day job until this is getting well established.

As Dave Ramsey would say – - get the boat closer to the dock before you jump.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View jonah's profile


2121 posts in 4072 days

#8 posted 09-13-2018 07:25 PM

If you work hard, show up on time, and think logically about things, you’re already better than 75% of carpenters out there.

View therealSteveN's profile


5762 posts in 1348 days

#9 posted 09-13-2018 07:35 PM

This would probably be your best 1st step. Unless you already have family in the trades.

-- Think safe, be safe

View JCamp's profile (online now)


1182 posts in 1324 days

#10 posted 09-13-2018 08:52 PM

I agree with Jonah. Just showing up and being there when you are suppose to is a big part of the job that most “contractors” won’t do.
A few things to think about before u jump in:
Working capital or line of credit- not sure what ur savings account looks like but it takes money to make money and you’ll need some cushion in case someone screws u over.
Health insurance- I knew a contractor a few years ago that was paying $900 a month for health insurance on just him self.
Insurance- a lot of the better clients will prefer to hire someone that has some version of insurance in case they screw up and have to pay out to fix a mistake= additional costs per month.
Certifications- if u are in Chicago and half the stuff I hear is true you’ll have to be state licensed for just about everything you’d do….. or move.
Help- it truly amazes me as a solo worker how fast 2 guys that work well together can do the work of 3 single men, so I’d recommend trying to find someone who is reliable that can help u. That’ll raise what you change per job but will also require some start up money to pay them till you start making money
Lawyer- because accidents happen and some folks are just jerks and will try to screw u over.
I’m not trying to talk you out of it as much as trying to bring up some stuff that mayb u haven’t considered. If u really wanna do it I’d suggest getting a part time (mayb full time depending how bad u hate ur current job) job with a established contractor and work for them for a few months to not only see if you really want to do it but also to make sure u know how to do some of it. Help them figure out costs or design and stuff like that. Then make a buddy with someone u work with and steal them when u start your own business.
Pipe fitters make good money tho so that might be worth pursuing tho

-- Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might

View Craftsman on the lake's profile (online now)

Craftsman on the lake

3337 posts in 4211 days

#11 posted 09-13-2018 09:12 PM

If you have skills, or get them someway. Just telling the clients that you will be there every day and not leave till it’s completed goes a long, long way. Most people’s experiences are carpenters that work sporadic hours and never quite finish.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View corelz125's profile


1342 posts in 1750 days

#12 posted 09-13-2018 11:34 PM

If you can get into the pipe fitters go for it. You will enjoy it more than working in an office. It might not be carpentry but you will be working with your hands and tools. Then you can be like the rest of us and be a woodworker on the side. If you can get into an apprenticeship program that would be your best bet. Most programs your working as an apprentice and going to school. That way at least your being paid while going to school instead of paying to go to a school.

View TravisH's profile


717 posts in 2709 days

#13 posted 09-14-2018 12:55 AM

The job has become super tedious, not great hours, bad pay, no insurance or benefits.
- KevBotWorkshop

So you want to be carpenter? I think you described carpentry for many.

Starting out not really that great of job from what I have been told by most guys but I guess that depends on where and how you start out. A lot of competition as carpenters range from some guy that is unemployable that just got released from jail to some true craftsmen. The few craftsmen I knew ended up closing business and getting a job with a factory as pay, benefits (the kicker), and hours just ended up being much better and consistent.

View AlaskaGuy's profile (online now)


5801 posts in 3083 days

#14 posted 09-14-2018 01:09 AM

Union pipe fitters make more money, welding.

- Fresch

Dentist make more money than welders but most of them couldn’t build a doghouse.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View Aj2's profile


3083 posts in 2571 days

#15 posted 09-14-2018 01:21 AM

+1 Show up on time every day. Rain or shine.

-- Aj

showing 1 through 15 of 23 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics