I am 19 unexperienced, driven, and looking to get into woodworking.


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My name is Tj and I am a 19 year old from PA. I am currently working construction in my home town with a good company. It's very hard work and I enjoy that aspect but I wanted to get into carpentry through construction. I am sensing now after about 6 months that creativity is not coming into play too much with this field. I am unique and have an artistic touch and eye and am pretty decent with basic hand tools. I tried college studying management for a year before this job and the money wasn't worth the piece of paper to me. I am more of a blaze my own path type of person. I am trying to find the best way to get into woodworking, learn the trade, and finally reach this potential I can feel inside me without expensive schooling. Apprenticeships seem difficult to find and are far and few between. I am trying to get out of my home town as well. Ready to pack up and head out. I am a hard worker. Early riser. None of that has phased me. I'm very determined and ready to make it happen. I figured joining this forum was a good first step seeing that most of the users are pros and experienced. Any suggestions,Tips, or Ideas? All and any are welcome and encouraged!! Thanks.

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Check and see if there is a state / community college near by that offers woodworking classes.

There are also many prestigious woodworking schools around the country.  I know in my state (CA) we have the college of the redwoods founded by James Krenov.  Here a few listed on Pop woodworking site for PA.      http://www.popularwoodworking.com/woodworking-schools#pennsylvania

I would also check out many of the woodworking content online.  I learned all I know from guys like Marc.  I'm just a hobbiest and was able to take my time with my progression.  Being that you want to make this your career, you probably need that education accelerated and a hands on type of education would probably be better as the primary source.  But the online content could certainly be a supplemental tool.

And of course if you have questions, forums like this are invaluable. 

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TJ, there is plenty of experience here to share, but Jussi is right. To make a career of this, you really need a more intensive learning experience. Have you tried any lical (or not so local) cabinet shops? An entry level job there would give you some good exposure, and a chance to learn some important facts about the materials. Maybe not so much about the techniques / tools you would use for custom furniture or studio pieces, but it might support you while going to school for that stuff.

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Welcome to the forum TJ ! IF it were me at 19 years old with the drive and goals you have there would only be one answer- go to school. If you are as driven as you say you are you could figure out a way to do it. There are some awesome schools  like College of the redwoods and the Furniture institute of Massachusetts. In my opinion, start there.

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Go on the woodweb forums, that might be a way to look for job postings dedicated to the trade. Where at in PA are you?

 

Here are my thoughts on the subject--coming from someone with very little experience of the professional field. You have the grunt guys that go to trade school to be a carpenter/cabinet maker. They then join their local union(typically) and go to work at a large manufacturing facility. Say, some place that makes laminate countertop blanks etc. Or a place that makes cabinets and does the millwork for local offices. I know and have spoken to several young guys(below 30) that work in these situations. It seems like steady work/pay, and pretty repetitive work, but they are woodworking. They also get to work with awesome machines if that means anything to you. The second type ive interacted with is the one-man-show. These guys do much more creative one off projects of much higher caliber. Im not saying guy #1 cant produce high end products, but his market is one of mass production/every day use. Guy #2 usually has a very barebones shop and works erratic hours. He goes through periods of being swamped and periods of being slow. He has to be a jack of all trades, because he meets with the client, prices the product, designs the product, builds the product, and deals with the customer service end of the product if things go south. I know 2-3 of guy #1, and I know 4-5 of guy #2. Not to be insulting, but guy #1 tends to be less educated/intellectual, and guy #2 is much more of a creative free spirit with higher education. Not sure where you fall, but the requirements for each drastically differ. You are so young, I think you have to go the guy #1 route at first. If you are starting out with zero capital, it will be difficult to go on your own with your own shop.

 

I should also note that one of the Guy #2 I know has an awe-inspiring shop, and takes home well over six figures. The others make do with ancient equipment and take their moderate earnings home to pay the bills.

 

 

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I also hate to be another negative voice but starting a company and running with it at 19 is not easy. You have a HUGE age hurdle to jump over with every client. A good friend of mine started his own IT company at 20, by 22 he was working for major corporations. He lost clients that found out he was the owner of the company at 22, eventually he hired a 60 something retiree to sit behind a desk to be the "owner" so he would stop losing clients that thought he was too young. Is that right no but be aware that while you may be the best if your 19 some people just won't take you serious regardless of your resume.

Work, get experience, get training, build your shop and fill it with tools on a steady paycheck. Start doing side jobs until you get too many to work full time and do woodworking. This is how I'd do it, but i can't walk away form my day job. It just pays too damn much.

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First, the advice I would suggest is if you are going to try, try while you are young. You have all the time ahead of you to learn and grow, and if you succeed early, great! If not, you have plenty of time to recover and try again, or try something else entirely. Your previous analysis of "guy #1/guy #2" comes down to general production versus custom work.

General production means that, generally speaking, you learn a narrow subset of skills and become quite proficient at it. Custom work requires a much wider array of skills, and for every one-off that is making six figures, there are folks just scraping to get by. Just like those weight-loss commercials, don't let one example set your expectations of how your results may be.

My second piece of advice, if you are "wanting to go pro" is to treat it as a business. I would strongly encourage getting an education in business, be it college or otherwise, and understand the fundamentals of business - because at the end of the day, be it you making things out of wood, plastic, metal or other, you are trying to sell goods/services to other people. That requires marketing, finance, cost-benefit analysis, regional trends, etc.

If you have a passion for being creative and don't want to "sell things to people" then let it just be a fun hobby. Sell some pieces at art shows if you like, but don't let commission work kill your passion for your hobby. There is a difference between engaging your creative spirit and someone else wanting you to make something you really don't enjoy making.

A good example would be Geek Chic; they found a niche market and filled it and marketed it well. So much so, that the latest guild project reflected their popularity. They know IT millennials are nerds, and make good money in the IT industry - so they cater to them. Doesn't hurt they got a jump-start on Shark Tank.

TL;DR: Work hard, save money, buy tools, learn woodworker skills, make a portfolio and study core small business competencies.

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I started off working at the local hardware store. I started doing repairs for clients after work and built up my tool collection along the way. Eventually I was making more doing the handyman work and left the hardware store. My first big step was leasing some space to set up my shop, I outgrew my parents basement. I ran a small yellow pages ad and word of mouth references from clients usually got me more work than I could keep up with. I read books & magazines constantly to learn and keep up with new tools and techniques. Sometimes this trade can be feast or famine so managing your funds is crucial .

If I was starting out today I would start a website and update it constantly. I took pictures of my work and showed clients a photo album when I went to bid a job. Now my album is on an IPad . Learning to bid jobs is hard. If you underbid the possibility of loosing money on a job is frightening. Overbid and someone else gets the work.

Maybe you can get a job helping a handyman or remodeling contractor and learn more while earning a living too. Lots of these jobs are not advertised. Word of mouth at lumberyards and supply houses could lead to a job. 

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All the threads have something in common, education, I know going to school at 19 sounds like WTF,  and you would like to start out in the field. You may be lucky and find a mom and pop shop who are willing to pull you in, but if you look at any one who has been in the field you will find many years of experience behind them. Going to workshops, and learning as much as they possibly can, This field has many avenues, with just as many skill sets, Kutzwown University in PA. has a good arts program you may want to check it out, also there is several small Mennonite shops around there that may take you in as an apprentice, This is a great field to be in either as a professional or weekend hobbies. good luck in your decision making, don't be discourage like any great adventure it all starts with the first step,  

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Im going to be the voice of Decent. Want to be a professional wood working as an outlet for your creativity?

Go get a Business degree. Take side classes or wood work on the Side as a means for an outlet for creativity. 

As a 39 year old professional, with no degree. GO GET a degree, Finance or business, That will enable you to do what ever you want.

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I agree with others that an education is good, for some people, but not everyone is college material or wannabes. If you're as driven as you say you are, if I had 15 employees like you, I'd be a rich mofo. Good luck to you whatever path you take and welcome to the forum.

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Having some business knowledge is essential to making a living in any endeavor.

I don't care how good a welder you are, if you don't run the business properly, you will never keep the shop doors open.

I dealt with a lot of mechanics and auto body guys that were very good at what they could do but went broke because the financial/time element of running a business escaped them. (time is money you know) 

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40 minutes ago, Janello said:

That was actually some very solid advise, Collin. And, although you mentioned "that word" you did it without making a photography analogy. Sounds like words of wisdom to me. ;)

I agree! Hopefully op is still around to take heed. 

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Working in production shops will suck the creative life right out of you. But, this is a huge one, there are extremely valuable lessons to be learned in this type of environment. Learning how to be efficient, reading plans, troubleshooting skills, the experience/knowledge of other employees, learning how to make/use various jigs... The list goes on and on and on. But again it just depends on the shop (Guy 1 or 2). If you could go back to school, why not, you'll make more with a degree and of course the girls. If I could go to a WW school it would be North Benett St. in Boston. A close second would be the College of the Redwoods , it's hard to beat Northern California.

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11 hours ago, Janello said:

That was actually some very solid advise, Collin. And, although you mentioned "that word" you did it without making a photography analogy. Sounds like words of wisdom to me. ;)

What wrong with being a photographer? I was a professional one for 30 years, cut me to the quick. lol

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Woodworking aside, just general life advice: never put all your eggs in one basket. Get a degree if for nothing else to have something to fall back on. You can learn woodworking on the side and when you get out of school youll be able to get a job making the money it takes to get all the cool/nice tools youll want as a woodworker. Then if you can build up a business and make it profitable you can ditch the day job and do the woodworking company full time if you still want to by then.

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It's really difficult to build up a shop and your skills while relying on them to pay the bills.  I would suggest to stick with the construction job for the time being until you are in a position where you know how the bills are going to be paid through woodworking.  Otherwise you're going to be trading one uncreative job for another uncreative job that has worse hours and pays less not leaving you the time to keep developing.  You'll get there faster with the freedom to develop without having to do what has to be done to pay the bills.  If you ever get into doing built-in work for customers that carpentry background is going to be beneficial, both in terms of what you learn and the people you make connections with.

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On 2/17/2016 at 6:51 AM, ncfowler said:

What wrong with being a photographer? I was a professional one for 30 years, cut me to the quick. lol

I drew too many analogies over the last month or so.  Had some people spooked.

Film is Fun. Especially the big sheets. :-)

modelportrait.jpg

nufsaid.jpg

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4 minutes ago, collinb said:

Film is Fun. Especially the big sheets. :-)

I'd love to shoot the big sheets some day but can't really make the jump into buying that much more gear. For now I'll settle with my 500 C/M. Which is by no means disappointing.

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