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Hello all! I'm a new apprentice carpenter from Canada, hoping to get some advice from the experienced pros, especially if you've worked with a few new guys.

My apprenticeship required a year of trade school, which went really well for me. In terms of work quality I was always near the top of the class, and in terms of speed I was usually somewhere around the middle, neither the fastest nor the slowest.

I've now been officially on the job for about three weeks, and I'm finding myself very discouraged by speed requirements. This is my first professional carpentry work, so to be honest, I don't really know what's expected of an apprentice with little to no experience. For example, on my second day we were installing wood siding. I was cutting the siding to length and painting the cuts for two journeymen who were installing it. Even though I was working as fast as I could I kept getting told that I couldn't let them run out of material, I had to go faster, it wasn't time to stand around and scratch my rear end, etc.

I knew from the start it was going to be tough work, and I'm fine with that. I also understand that to be profitable a team has to work diligently, but with my skill set am I supposed to be as fast as a journeyman in my first couple of weeks? I enjoy and understand the subject matter, but the constant stress and rush, rush, rush makes me feel incompetent. I looked forward to every day of trade school, but now I dread every day of work. Is this an indication that I'm going to make a lousy carpenter? Should I get out now?
 

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Well for one, very few people are going to respect the fact that you went to school.... Anything but the going to school for 2 months at a time while working thing isn't well received on jobsites especially by guys with no formal training.

You're going to feel overwhelmed by the speed things move at. You really need to go "balls to the wall" until you can't go any more.

I remember my first day as a professional after high school, I had some training from a few highschool programs so I had some idea about how things work. I worked on a production framing crew. In the morning we were waiting for material, everyone was working slow at a few little things to keep us busy, my boss had me build a tiny wall I guess to see if I could use a nailer. I thought everyone was a bunch of slackers and I would be running the damn company in a year (I was a bit of a hothead) then once the lumber arrived, holy **** I couldn't believe how fast things were going, felt like that for about 2 months then I got a good hang of it and I was working at the same pace. Don't get me wrong I was still learning but I felt like I was moving at the same speed without being frantic.

Also being a big mean bastard helps with keeping the older guys from yelling at you. When I got yelled at I'd yell back and made people other than my boss (the owner) say please if they asked me for something.
 

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Whenever I get a new guy with no experience I really look more at how hard they are trying than how good they are at that moment.

Keep in mind that its damn near a journeymans job to give you a hard time. That doesn't necessarily mean youre doing a bad job. They just want to see what youre made of really.

Your ahead of the game for having the year of schooling. Now just keep your head up and keep putting in the time and effort. Eventually you will become more proficient and your speed will increase with more hands on time and as your confidence rises.
 

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I enjoy and understand the subject matter, but the constant stress and rush, rush, rush makes me feel incompetent. I looked forward to every day of trade school, but now I dread every day of work. Is this an indication that I'm going to make a lousy carpenter? Should I get out now?
Get your head together - there aren't any participation trophies. Don't expect anyone to admire and appreciate what you do besides yourself. A lot of the important parts of life involve adapting and over coming, and if you need a cheer leading squad to help you out, you're going to have to learn to be your own cheer leading squad.

If you're dumber than the board you're cutting, yes, get out now.

As for stressful situations, perhaps you played hockey, or at least understand it. The correct response to a stressful game situation isn't getting stressed, it getting aggressive. When you're on the ice, you don't focus so much on what you did wrong, you focus on what you're doing now and what you're doing next and maybe how to do something better. Sure, you'll get yelled at if you aren't skating as fast as needed, but if you aren't skating as fast as you can skate people are really going to be pissed. Just give it your all.
 

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Whats happening is almost standard on most job sites. You wont be able to keep up with these guys and they will give you crap about it. Thicken that skin up and just keep at what your doing and you will speed up. You will then start to fit into their setup better as time goes on. In no time you will be giving the new apprentice crap about not keeping up.
 

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Greenhorns get guff from everyone. Thats how it works. You have to earn your spot. As the boss I'd expect my guys to stay on top of you. If they didn't I'd be more worried about your slower speed lowering the bar for production expectations. Framing has smaller profit margins, that means I'm going to hire the guys who can do it right the first time and quickly. I'm not so much upset by someone being slow, rather by someone who isn't doing their best and still expecting to get paid for their best. Spend your mental energy trying to find ways to be more efficient rather than worry about what others are saying about you. That pressure they're putting on you is meant to strengthen you and toughen you up.
 

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I'm more middle of the road. I'm experienced enough that I'm definitely not a greenhorn but I'm not at a journeyman level yet. I don't have anyone giving me too hard a time anymore except the boss. It's now my job to be hard on the labourers.

Starting out a few years back I was slow and green. I felt like I'd never get better at it. Given a few months I did though. Just keep with it. It's your superiors job to work you under pressure in order to strengthen your abilities. It's all part of the experience.

Sent from my Nexus 5 using Tapatalk
 

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I find it helps a lot to not dwell on being slow. If you keep working as fast as you can without worrying about being a bit slow you will be faster than if all you can think about is being slow

What part of Canada are you from?
 

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Being the cut man means you're always going to be too slow. Just do the best you can. There are all kinds of simple tricks and tips for being a cut man - setting up stops or story poles for standard lengths, running the tape as a scribe instead of measuring and cutting, not drawing a line when a crows foot will do - maybe all things you already know and are doing. You also need to figure out that actual accuracy standard - you may be wasting time cutting to within 1/64th.

You'll figure it out. If you weren't feeling overwhelmed something would be wrong.
 

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Do your best, the new guy always has to eat a little sh!t.

If you get canned in a couple weeks it means you are actually useless and should probably seek a different career. If you are still around getting yelled at chances are you are doing pretty well.
 

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The Dude
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For me, it's all about being systematic. Having a procedure that is fast and within accuracy tolerances, and keeping that going. The saw can only cut so fast, it's how few steps you can take to get a mark on the next board, and get the blade spinning and on the line that makes the difference.

It's also a safety thing for me. I do the same thing the same way every time. I have very little patience or tolerance for changes to that procedure. I've worked with other guys that get all bent because I don't hold boards in the air to cut, or go balls to the wall throwing stuff everywhere ... but in the end my result is faster, and more accurate than theirs - and all my fingers stay attached.

Find your groove and work the hell out of it. Don't cut your fking fingers off.
 

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A long time ago,a master mason I respected and eventually was my mentor and dear friend told me this early on "do not ever be ashamed to get fired but if you do,make sure you get fired because your boss thought you did not give him enough work,not because your quality was not there.


When Bob told me that train of thought I could not resist asking him,how many times were you fired? Bob laughed till tears came to his eyes,he then answered,not a once,I always did good work and gave them plenty of it. I do readily admit,my live is much richer having known Bob + he set the bar for quality that has helped me become the mason I "am.


Thank you Bob Taylor,I still miss you dearly!
 

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Do your best, the new guy always has to eat a little sh!t.

If you get canned in a couple weeks it means you are actually useless and should probably seek a different career. If you are still around getting yelled at chances are you are doing pretty well.
This is the best answer Ive read.

Construction in general is not made up of polite people. Get some thick skin. Give them some OCCASIONAL **** back until you have earned their respect.

One of the main right of passage on any construction crew is taking **** as the new guy especially if you are a newbie. If you show them that you can take it and still do your job they will give you the time necessary to get the pace down.

If you do your part and they still dont respect you, dont give up on the trade, especially after a year of schooling for it. Give up on the crew and find one with some decent guys on it.
 

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The Dude
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If you do your part and they still dont respect you, dont give up on the trade, especially after a year of schooling for it. Give up on the crew and find one with some decent guys on it.
Right on! There's a bunch of crews out there churning out a ton of half ass work at breakneck speed. Those crews SUCK to work with.

They don't give 2 ****s about safety, or pacing themselves, they burn themselves out not eating and balls to the wall GO GO GO GO MOVE MOVE MOVE!!!

You can't build a quality product like that, and it's not a safe working environment. If you work with them for too long that saw with no guard will end up getting away from you and running up your thigh. Or maybe you get off easy and it only takes a few fingers.
 

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It's all about making each motion as efficient as possible, that's how you become faster. Don't ever walk from one end of the job site to the other empty handed - use the opportunity to grab that extra 2x4 or tool. In other words, don't waste time and energy with misused steps.
 

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The Dude
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It's all about making each motion as efficient as possible, that's how you become faster. Don't ever walk from one end of the job site to the other empty handed - use the opportunity to grab that extra 2x4 or tool. In other words, don't waste time and energy with misused steps.
Yes - THAT!!! That is an important part of any system!

When I'm cutting siding, I have a square, a tape, and a pencil. They are all in the same place when I reach for them. When a measurement gets called out, the tape and pencil is already in my hand, and the board is already on the block. I mark a crows foot on the blade edge, put the pencil behind my ear the same time the tape goes in the bag - and on its way up my left hand is bringing the speed square up, and the right hand the saw off the hook. Saw on hook and square in bag at the same time. While they're hanging that piece, I'm throwing the block under the next piece, and getting out the tape and pencil.

I use the square as a fence for the saw - I don't eyeball anything, and it makes it such a thoughtless skill-less action that any idiot can do it quickly and accurately no matter HOW tired their saw arm is. Besides, I've got to caulk and paint my own work :laughing:
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thanks for the numerous responses. The general consensus seems to be take some mandatory crap (within reason) and power through. Keeping quality and efficiency on my mind, hopefully a higher speed with come with experience.

Thanks
 

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RuralGuy said:
Thanks for the numerous responses. The general consensus seems to be take some mandatory crap (within reason) and power through. Keeping quality and efficiency on my mind, hopefully a higher speed with come with experience. Thanks
Speed will ALWAYS come with experience. I like to think of it like racing... If you go out the first time trying trying to be the fastest guy on the track -your gunna hit the wall. Just follow the guy in front of you, watch for his mistakes and eventually you'll catch up, pass him and then you get to follow the next guy in line.

If you slowly prefect each step the speed will come without even thinking about it. I just hired a votech student - he's a great guy and very ambitious. He's not fast but he is focused and that really can't be taught. Concern for quality is all that matters when you're starting out.

Stick with it!
 

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I would have canned those two dildos in a heartbeat. What kind of journeyman puts the weaker link(no offense) where speed is needed the most. The apprentice should have been up nailing with a journeyman and the other journeyman should have been cutting in that scenario. No brainer man. The apprentice needs cutting experience but not in a situation that allows two well experienced guys to stand there with their thumb up their a$$ then to turn around and talk ****e to him pisses me off. You folks who treat apprentices like crap are pathetic. Would you treat your wife or your mother that way? So why would you treat the next generation that way. IMO its guys like you that give contractors a bad name. Do you not think homeowners over hear you trashing your workers? Just because someone treated you like trash doesn't mean you pass it on. Rise above it and show people respect. When I was an apprentice I personally dished out two humility beatings to foremans who crossed the line. Guess what? Today they treat people with respect...
 
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