Furniture Apprenticeship

Has anyone ever done anything like a furniture/wood working apprenticeship? I have always been interested in furniture design and making furniture but besides a few classes in school never took it any further. I have a 9-5 design job that I am happy with but would like to be able to spend my spare time working with my hands. It’s part of ID that I miss from the school days.

How would you go about getting something like an apprenticeship. Im not looking for a job, just someone who can show me the way and could use an extra hand I guess. Im in Chicago so I feel like there are probably lots of hand made furniture designers.

I think you’re right that there’s lots of furniture shops you could work in, how many of them would train you while working is another question. Particularly if your only available evenings and weekends.
Continuing Ed / Community College classes are geared towards your needs at a cost. Many students are moderately experienced woodworkers with no shop of their own and are basically renting the facilities.
Unless you can flextime some 9-5 weekday hours to do basic grunt shop work someplace part time, I’d suggest taking classes.

You may want to take a look at the American Society of Furniture Designers or the Furniture Society websites. I remember seeing there were numerous furniture designers based in Chicago that you may be able to work with. It partly depends on what type of furniture you are interested in ie… Mass Produced vs. One Off Customs. But I think you should be able to find someone willing to let you tag along in their shop.

American Society of Furniture Designers

The Furniture Society

Hey mrtwills,

I did an apprenticeship when I was in school in Chicago back when I thought I was going to be a furniture maker. I was working for a guy who did japanese tansu and shoji screens. Really intense work. It was just him and me so actually got to contribute to the work, learn how to plan a project, run a shop…

We used these japanese woodblock planes (Block planes | Wood working tool, Japanese wood working tool shop) that would change with the humidity, so the tools themselves required CONSTANT upkeep, shaving the bottom off of the woodblock so its contact points were perfectly flat. The blades were only good for a handful of strokes until they required sharpening again. They had to be sharpened on ceramic blocks, which I found out, are very good at sanding your fingertips off. Whoo that takes me back.

It’s been about 2 years since then and there are days when I ache for the shop and other days when I’m happy to still have all of my fingers HA. I was also a shop rat in school, I really miss that stuff. It was a great experience, but it made me realize how much more i loved design over craft.

I would suggest looking up Jeff Miller’s workshops in Rogers Park. That is not the guy I worked for but I’ve heard really good things about beginners to intermediate craftsmen getting a lot out of their experience. It also seemed like participants were encouraged to explore their own designs.

Thanks, I will look into that.
I think I am just a little tired of designing and sending things off to China only. I would like to get my hands dirty and also just fool around with my own work.

I also found a workshop/studio co-op Im going to look into that has everything you need tool and space wise. I think like a lot of other designers I get an idea in my head and want to go full speed ahead on it… until i get the next idea.

I took a bunch of evening classes through this place, when it was still run by Berthold Schwaiger. It’s nice because you can use the shop on Saturdays for an hourly fee to work on independent study projects.

Thanks. What did you think of it? Would you do it again?

Try CFDA. I haven’t been to a meeting in quite a while and it looks like they went a bit more upscale in the meeting location, but it is a good group of people making wonderful studio furniture.