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Do Apprenticeships Still Exist?

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Do Apprenticeships Still Exist?

Old 09-26-19, 12:34 AM
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RamAlaRag 
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Do Apprenticeships Still Exist?

I'm sure this has been said before, but my search turned up random posts mentioning apprenticeships.

Do framebuilder apprenticeships still exist?

Perhaps I am at the mercy of luck, and I am not in the right place(s) at the right time(s), but I have never seen nor heard of a framebuilding apprenticeship advertised, or open for applicants for that matter. Being in Washington, and not too far from Portland, there are a fair number of professional framebuilders still around here. I was recently chatting with a framebuilder who admitted he didn't want to 'waste his time' on apprentices. I understand apprentices can be a drag, and I'm sure most 'applicants' or interested individuals are rarely fruitful in their skill or ability, but avoiding apprentices altogether seems like a sad way to go, especially when there are people out there who want to continue this trade and art.

I am one who would love to find an apprenticeship with a framebuilder.

So, if you are a framebuilder, would you take in an apprentice? If not, why?

Yes, I have never posted on the framebuilder subforum, and spend most of my time on the C&V side, so my apologies!

Cheers
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Old 09-26-19, 04:21 AM
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Most professional framebuilders are one man shops and their only source of income is from building frames for customers. If they are not building a frame for a customer, they are not making money. Developing an efficient process and workflow allows them to make the most of their available shop time. Adding an apprentice into that mix throws off the workflow and also takes away some of the control that the builder has over every part of the process.

Some framebuilders take on students who want to learn to build frames or just want to build a frame for themselves. Those builders charge a fee for for those classes, in order to make up for the income lost from not building customer frames during the classes.

The only framebuilder that I have recently seen take in a apprentice was Sean Burns of Oddity Cycles.
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Old 09-26-19, 09:08 AM
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If you change the word "apprenticeship" with "employee" and you might find a frame shop that will hire you. Some of us here have gone through this path. But the position would likely be that of a job with all the expectations and limits that apply to a paid helper. Rarely will a frame shop advertise, this year one did via BRAIN (an industry news publication). The very few hires are often word of mouth sourced. Andy
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Old 09-26-19, 09:31 AM
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there aren't that many frame shops that have employees. I think the closest thing to an apprenticeship I have seen is someone that has a friend that is a framebuilder and got them to teach them how to build a frame. The old apprenticeships were really just underpaid employees. Sweep the floor for a long time, then promoted to filing things, then much later cut some tubes, etc. It's a very slow process with a lot of unrewarding work. OTOH, you can learn in a school in 3 weeks. Problem is after you leave the school, you still have to amass the tools needed. My tool budget is small, and I wouldn't want a newbie to use the ones I have. Another complication is that most pro framebuiders have day jobs.
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Old 09-26-19, 09:43 AM
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I know one person in particular that got his start in a frame building company (not a one man show Framebuilder).. I suppose he already had experience welding, but honed his skills with that company... I think it also helped that he has a structural engineering degree.
If you really know your way around a bike, understand its geometry.. its a good start.
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Old 09-26-19, 04:48 PM
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How about teaching yourself? Start with lugs and work your way into tig, presuming you have a bit of experience with tig as it is more difficult to do well than brazing lugs.

Mistakes happen as an apprentice or self-taught, so why not? Mistakes are a very good way to permanently learn something.
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Old 09-26-19, 04:56 PM
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Bringing an apprentice into your shop would expose you to liability risk. Pretty sure if they got hurt, for example, you would be responsible even if they volunteered to work there for free.
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Old 09-26-19, 06:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Nessism View Post
Bringing an apprentice into your shop would expose you to liability risk. Pretty sure if they got hurt, for example, you would be responsible even if they volunteered to work there for free.
Which is why the employee path is the only realistic (however few the openings are) one to expect. Andy
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Old 09-26-19, 10:51 PM
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Originally Posted by dsaul View Post
Most professional framebuilders are one man shops and their only source of income is from building frames for customers. If they are not building a frame for a customer, they are not making money. Developing an efficient process and workflow allows them to make the most of their available shop time. Adding an apprentice into that mix throws off the workflow and also takes away some of the control that the builder has over every part of the process.

Some framebuilders take on students who want to learn to build frames or just want to build a frame for themselves. Those builders charge a fee for for those classes, in order to make up for the income lost from not building customer frames during the classes.

The only framebuilder that I have recently seen take in a apprentice was Sean Burns of Oddity Cycles.
That is the reason that makes the most sense to me, like any small one/two person artisan trade, time is money, as are resources. I appreciate this. Thanks.

Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
If you change the word "apprenticeship" with "employee" and you might find a frame shop that will hire you. Some of us here have gone through this path. But the position would likely be that of a job with all the expectations and limits that apply to a paid helper. Rarely will a frame shop advertise, this year one did via BRAIN (an industry news publication). The very few hires are often word of mouth sourced. Andy
That would be a cool way to go, I'll keep my eyes open.

Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
there aren't that many frame shops that have employees. I think the closest thing to an apprenticeship I have seen is someone that has a friend that is a framebuilder and got them to teach them how to build a frame. The old apprenticeships were really just underpaid employees. Sweep the floor for a long time, then promoted to filing things, then much later cut some tubes, etc. It's a very slow process with a lot of unrewarding work. OTOH, you can learn in a school in 3 weeks. Problem is after you leave the school, you still have to amass the tools needed. My tool budget is small, and I wouldn't want a newbie to use the ones I have. Another complication is that most pro framebuiders have day jobs.
For sure, I was considering one of the classes in Ashland or Portland, IIRC they are the same company. There's definitely some huge appeal to this route, although I like the idea of learning from an "old soul."

Originally Posted by Oli_Aponte View Post
I know one person in particular that got his start in a frame building company (not a one man show Framebuilder).. I suppose he already had experience welding, but honed his skills with that company... I think it also helped that he has a structural engineering degree.
If you really know your way around a bike, understand its geometry.. its a good start.
The geometry side I understand to some degree, that's likely where I would need the most work, welding and fab I have more of a background in. Cheers.
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Old 09-26-19, 11:00 PM
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Originally Posted by TiHabanero View Post
How about teaching yourself? Start with lugs and work your way into tig, presuming you have a bit of experience with tig as it is more difficult to do well than brazing lugs.

Mistakes happen as an apprentice or self-taught, so why not? Mistakes are a very good way to permanently learn something.
This is likely the most realistic option. I have welded with TIG, off and on for a few years. I usually weld stick or MIG though, for the projects and work I've done.

Self teaching would be great. The idea of passion/hobby and work colliding into the same is a fantasy, usually, but there's also benefits to keeping them separate.. 😊

In the future I intend to finish a shop space and expand into some frame building.

Originally Posted by Nessism View Post
Bringing an apprentice into your shop would expose you to liability risk. Pretty sure if they got hurt, for example, you would be responsible even if they volunteered to work there for free.
There's liability, sure, but I don't think you're responsible in full, especially with proper paperwork and such. There is the issue of an L&I claim raising your per employee L&I contribution though. I previously owned a business with some mild to dangerous equipment, after talks with a decent lawyer the solution was paperwork and release forms. I think it could be done for any shop, I can't imagine shipyards, boat builders, logging, etc. But.... Then again they would have to be willing to do that. A good point for sure, thank you.

Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
Which is why the employee path is the only realistic (however few the openings are) one to expect. Andy
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Old 09-27-19, 06:06 AM
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As already mentioned, having an apprentice does not make economic sense for a master builder making one-off custom frames. It takes a lot of time to teach someone and then bring them up to the level quality that is expected of today’s builder. And not everyone can reach that level no matter how long they train. Learning involves mistake making and those can be costly. How is the apprentice going to pay back all that time he has been given and cover the expenses of his mistakes? A customer is not going to want some beginner doing anything significant on his new expensive frame. There are things that take a lot of practice to get right. And then there is the issue of getting along well with someone you have to work with every day. That is not guaranteed and involves risk too.

I was a high school teacher before I went to learn from a master in England in the 70’s. That opportunity was one of the best things to ever happen to me. My objective was to document the process so I could teach it back here in the States (where at the time the craft had been mostly lost). For years I mostly taught classes so someone could be able to make a frame instead of buying it. But about 15 years ago I switched gears a bit because there was a demand for a more in depth class so students could make more after class was over. As an educator I realized that this group needed more time than 10 days of class and extended the training to 17 days over 3 weeks. I also spent hundreds of hours writing and rewriting my 150 page class manual that explains how to put a frame together and details the basics of brazing and filing. It is easy for students to forget a lot that is crammed into a few weeks and need reminders. Frame building concepts are more complicated than one might think. My objective has always been to give my students a competitive advantage over those that travel a different path.

I’ve also created a program where one can practice what they’ve learned and at the same time help make another part of the world a better place. We do a charity project to provide bicycles to Ukrainian pastors. On a college campus just west of Kiev we have a frame/bicycle shop. Their dorms and cafeteria make it a convenient to live in another country for a couple of months and build transportation frames. That repetition makes a huge difference in refining skills.

Learning how to build frames well takes a lot of time and money no matter what road a beginner takes – especially if you are trying to figure it out on your own. Some roads are better than others of course and those that want to be the best need to study their options carefully so they aren’t wasting their resources trying to catch up with the quality level of the masters.

Last edited by Doug Fattic; 09-27-19 at 06:10 AM.
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