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Thread: Perplexed...

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Wales, UK

    Default Perplexed...

    I am taking another intern this year. His internship should last for 5 months. I can only take him for 3... Up until now, everyone I know in the business has turned down the opportunity to have a third hand componenting up for stock! Just cannot believe how short-sighted people in my industry can be Some of the excuses are:
    • I'm not set up for it
    • My workshop is too small
    • I'm not going to train someone who will steal my ideas
    I'd say these people are completely missing the point of an intern...

    I got so far ahead when I had my last intern that upon graduating, I employed him. My output has tripled as a result of it and in 4 months my 2 year back order book has been reduced to 6 months! I am in a great place to develop work and make for stock thus doing away with waiting lists. Hallelujah!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Big Island, Hawaii


    The old European model of apprenticeships is something that we here in the US have never really taken to. I have had many offers from budding luthiers, mostly European, that have expressed an interest in working for me. But personally, working alone has so many advantages to me. I like my own pace and want to be able to work as little or as much as I want during the day. If I have a whim to go to the beach on a moment's notice, I can. I can listen to whatever I want to on the radio. That freedom is priceless to me. I also can't think of one job that I would leave to an apprentice or employee; not sanding, joining, spraying...anything. I take great pride in knowing that I alone am involved in every step, from start to finish. I have very high standards and have not met anyone that I would trust to do anything but sweep the floor. Having anyone around me for 8 hours a day (outside of my wife) would drive me buggy. And I'm probably not the easiest guy to work for. At the end of the day one of us would be dead. And it wouldn't be me! My object is not to make more ukes. I want to build better ones. Speed is not important to me, doing things correctly is. If I was a "serious" shop cranking out 100 or more ukes a year I might consider it, but large volume production has never been my thing. I'm really happy that it works for you. I just wanted to give you another perspective since you think that some of us are "short-sighted".
    Last edited by Moore Bettah Ukuleles; 01-04-2016 at 02:08 PM.
    Chuck Moore
    Moore Bettah Ukuleles

  3. #3


    I believe we here in the states have laws and such a litigious society that taking on an apprentice isn't as practical at it might be. Got to have workmans comp policy, $3K to get started here in CA. Must pay mimimum wage, close to $15 per hour in my area. Let the experience be your pay? You might get away with that for a week or two here in the states but Labor Board would rule against you. You will also be in violation of workman comp rules. They audit frequently. Breaking Labor Board Laws in my state can quickly get you a vicious fine, at times equaling 5 times and more amount deemed owed. I believe unpaid internships are only allowed for non profit organizations which I realize many luthiers are close to.
    Last edited by Michael Smith; 01-04-2016 at 02:51 PM.
    Michael Smith
    Goat Rock Ukulele

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    JoCo, NC (near Raleigh)


    There's more than one way to skin a cat, er, make ukuleles. For Chuck the perfect team size is 1, for Pete sounds like it is 2, Mya Moe is still a team of 3 AFAIK.

    As far as the "stealing ideas" comment, musicians and builders have been stealing ideas since the beginning. If you're not comfortable with that, I'd suggest you're in the wrong business.
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Cairns, Australia


    I grew up with the apprentice model And did my 5 years, going off to school for 5 weeks for more training, assessment and tests every year until I earned my papers. Then spent another 30 years getting good at what I do. So I do appreciate the training you get from that system. I've had dozens of apprentices under me over the years that I helped become qualified.

    However Australia is even worse when it comes to apprentices / interns in terms of entitlements and workplace safety etc. than Canada or the US. There isn't a chance in hell that I'd go into an arrangement like that, even though I get asked all the time.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Hood River, OR


    At Mya-Moe we have three luthiers, two woodworkers making parts and two support staff. We put out 200-300 a year. We could ramp up, hire folks, build a bigger shop and meet the demand, but we don't want to for many reasons. We have had up to a 2 year backlog at times, but we don't want to change what we do because we want to keep a hold on quality. I envy Chuck working slowly by himself. I celebrate Pete finally getting ahead and making some $. I support Allen putting in the time to feel like he is doing his best work. I give a shout out to Jake McClay and Beau out there on their own. We all just make it work and keep making.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Little River, California


    Quote Originally Posted by aaronckeim View Post
    but we don't want to change what we do because we want to keep a hold on quality.
    Maybe you don't want to become a mere factory worker churning out massed produced ukuleles (product). Maybe you want to still take pleasure in life as a craftsman? Maybe the economics of scale don't pay off in the end? I would like to ask the question though: How many ukuleles does the world really need? If we become knee deep in ukuleles, should't they be of the highest quality? I think the answer is: I hope the one I make is the highest quality one I can produce. I mean really, other wise what is the point? A living? Money?

    If you want to make money with wood working, be a cabinet maker. I made good money in kitchen cabinets. But if you want to be an artist, make musical instruments. Prepare to starve. I don't think anyone in his/her right mind would embark on lutherie to make a decent living. Antonio aside. But he was the exception and Bob Taylor isn't exactly poor, but they are the exceptions to the rule. There are others of course. But ALL OF THEM were artists first and businessmen second. Actually some of them were artists AND businessman. Sorry, but I struggle with this dichotomy.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Wales, UK

    Default Eevn more perplexed!

    Apprenticeship? Don't think I ever mention the word. This is an INTERNSHIP. Intern= free labour from someone part trained and in my experience, part trained as a luthier - something very rare

    My liability insurance covers his time in the workshop and his college insurance further cover him. He gets NO WAGES and is completely SELF FUNDED. He keeps my hours and is only going to do repetitive grunt work that anyone can do using mainly hand tools.

    So he will prepare, slot, dimension, bind, dot position and fret 100 fingerboards; prepare dimension, bandsaw profile and install barrel bolts on 100 necks/neck blanks; mark out from a measured drawing and glue in go bar decks ready prepared bracing for instruments in production... None of these jobs require 4 years of training and all can be minimally supervised after initial instruction. I also have an assistant who like me, has a teacher training qualification so is well qualified to direct and supervise. I have also thought out the tasks that will be given him and carefully structured them using tools and jigs enabling me to be secure in the knowledge that he isn't going to make too many mistakes.

    To answer the next point - nearly everyone I approached publicly talks of making 20+ instruments a year, three were guitar making companies whose main activity is selling to stores. I understand perfectly Chuck's position - I doubt anyone would 'learn' anything of value working with an artist whose work is so individual as to put it into a category of its own. However, the responses I got, and all requests were made by phone to people I know either personally or by recommendation, were expressed without curiosity or vision. The idea was not going to be entertained... sad because Tommy my assistant who was my intern 2 years AGO prepared a year's worth of parts for me, the last of which I am using this month. It was great going to the drawer and picking out a completed fingerboard or to the shelf and picking up a perfectly profiled neck (all my necks prior to carving are machined using accurately made jigs).

    I hope this clarifies some apparent misunderstandings generated by my post. As an afterword, I would never employ an apprentice for all the reasons given in the above posts about apprenticeships.
    Last edited by Pete Howlett; 01-07-2016 at 12:03 AM.

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