In Germany an apprentice learns a trade with a company, so you really do learn on the job. It is great because a lot of young people learn a trade, but I’m hugely disappointed how much a carpentry apprenticeship here is about speed, money and feeding machines, not skill and love of woodworking.
I’m in a minority of one on this, so my goal now is to finish the apprenticeship, get my certificate, and look for some extra training in traditional carpentry. Meanwhile I’m getting as much practice as I can and currently that means making a bed for Youngest Son with simple mortise and tenon joins.
Last week a horrified colleague asked why on earth I was working with Japanese saws, chisels, and a drill inherited from my grandfather when there is a hall full of expensive and complex machines a few metres away. I replied that when my son sleeps on this bed I wanted the knowledge it was me who made it and not a machine, and because I wanted to build a future in working with wood, using my hands, not a computer screen. The joins aren’t perfect, but if you want perfect you can go to IKEA and get a perfect, soulless bed. This one is full of imperfections, and full of love.
Then with impeccable timing, the bedpost split.
Anyway, soon after this conversation, the tutor at a woodworking school I’m interested in posted a particularly passionate article on his blog about educating people in traditional woodwork, I commented and told him the story above. He replied:
So discouraging and yet I know it’s true.. …Hang in there, what we are doing is making a difference… …your letter just won you a free nine-day course here at the school. Just let me know when you want to come by choosing a date on the scheduled classes.
So at some point in 2015 I’ll be off to this school in North Wales.
Even a feeding chipboard into a machine for eight hours didn’t stop me grinning for a day afterwards…