Am I insane?
March 23, 2015 9:43 AM   Subscribe

I am a 27 year old woman with a college degree who works in an office all day. Can I become a carpenter? Should I?

I've asked a lot of questions on here about job dissatisfaction. Long story short: I haven't ever been happy doing what I do, which is a mishmash of writing/editing, database management, website management, communications stuff... basically, typical liberal arts BA stuff. All along, though, I've assumed that the problem was the specific work environment, or my manager, or the mission. Because the idea of NOT working in an office is just not how I have ever pictured my life.

And then, recently, I was encouraged to do a little thought exercise where I pretended I could not work in an office, and think of what I might like to do then. And I thought of a few things, and discarded them, and then I hit on carpentry and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.

I have always been creative and good with my hands, and many of my hobbies have involved constructing or otherwise physically creating things that require precision and concentration (such as theater props/sets, sewing, cooking, detailed collage, etc). I enjoy and am good at DIY activities like putting up shelves, though I don't currently have much in the way of woodworking experience. And I'm good at math; I took two years of calc in high school and got a 710 on the math portion of the SAT.

Looking way, way back at this, in 2010, I describe my ideal job as "collaborative, research-intensive projects which involve a lot of creative problem-solving and some sort of concrete product at the end." And I've been trying and trying to figure out an office job that fits those requirements - advertising? grant writing? project management? - but it never occurred to me until now that carpentry just might be a perfect fit for my interests and skills.

It pays fairly well, and everyone is always saying that not enough Millennials are entering the trades. It seems like the sort of job that would allow me to move anywhere in the US. And there are so many interesting paths to take once you gain skills and experience - museum exhibit design, 'green collar' construction, custom cabinetry or deck-building, tiny houses...

But I just can't shake the idea that this is, well, a crazy idea I'm latching onto because I don't like my current office environment and want to make a big dramatic break.

I think what I need to do now is find some people in carpentry and other trades to speak to, and find a short night course I can take to see if I can really do this. I've emailed NYC's Nontraditional Employment for Women nonprofit as a starting point. But I'd like to hear more from all of you. Specific next steps? Advice from people who've tried this?
posted by showbiz_liz to Work & Money (42 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
You are totally not insane. Check out the site for your local Carpenter's Union, assuming you're in NYC.

I worked as a carpenter when I was somewhat older than you. I learned a lot by fixing up a rundown old house with my young kids as helpers and that helped me get jobs. I also read house building books. Like you, I was always good at math.

Carpentry takes a certain amount of physical strength, agility, and stamina. Do whatever you can to build those up. If you're more interested in cabinetmaking see if you can take a class or two at a local adult education program.
posted by mareli at 9:52 AM on March 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

The advantage of office work is that you show up at the same place every day and the external details are handled for you. Beside learning the craft itself, cabinet making requires that you market yourself unless you work in a shop for someone else who does that part (and keeps most of the income.) Similarly with construction work. Friends who do this kind of work tell me a lot of stories about bidding on jobs and discovering that they've underbid because of stuff they've discovered only after removing a wall, and about not getting paid in a timely manner when projects overrun their costs. Believe me that I'm not trying to dissuade you. Just to keep you from over-romanticizing it.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:03 AM on March 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would encourage you to take a woodworking night class to test the waters. We had family friends who did custom cabinetry, etc. One of their strengths (it was a couple) was in really being able to understand what the client was looking for and making it happen creatively. Note that this was in a part of the country with a low cost of living.

Things to think about since you're used to an office environment: how do you feel about sawdust all over you? The smell of varnish? Working outside in the cold?
posted by chocotaco at 10:07 AM on March 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

I actually just heard a story on NPR about someone who did this. Good luck, whatever you choose.
posted by veryhappyheidi at 10:08 AM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Of course you can! The major barrier you could be up against is that low-level carpentry jobs often require a decent amount of upper body strength. You don't say how big you are, but as a small female I definitely can't hang drywall anywhere near as efficiently as someone 50 lbs heavier, assuming same level of experience.

Also, Obscure Reference makes a great point. I was engaged to a carpenter/contractor with loads of skill and experience and that was the story of our lives.
posted by pintapicasso at 10:08 AM on March 23, 2015

Be aware that carpentry and cabinet making are two different and only vaguely related trades.

Trade workers can be pretty sexist and misogynistic. In all but the very best of workplaces you would have to be willing and able to deal with it. Either call it out all the time, ignore it, or embrace it. I've seen quite a few women quit when they couldn't handle it anymore.

You might consider volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. It would give you a good basic taste of what carpentry involves, at least at the residential level, at no cost and essentially zero commitment.
posted by Mitheral at 10:09 AM on March 23, 2015 [24 favorites]

Not Insane. Go for it. You will be more successful following your passion than working a traditional job based on perceived gender roles.

I am an electrical contractor. I have had a few female electricians, including one who was among the best workers I ever had. Females do have to push back sometimes, as construction is a male dominated industry, and some of the people in the industry lack education. But, females certainly can be successful - I have seen it.

Besides that, really success in construction involves not just your skill as a craftsman, but also on business and marketing sense. Office background will help with these.

Finally, the world has too many office workers - and not enough people in construction. Anyone familiar with the construction industry knows that there is a real shortage of skilled labor, and it is going to get worse as the highest skilled guys start retiring out from the bottom of the baby boom generation. Carpenters is an area of a particularly strong shortage. Not hard to find articles like this.

25 years from now, when you are at the peak of your skill and business, you will be killing it - because by then, the shortage of carpenters will have reached a critical breaking point.

Do it.
posted by Flood at 10:09 AM on March 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

bidding on jobs and discovering that they've underbid because of stuff they've discovered only after removing a wall

I'd imagine this sort of thing would happen less and less often with the passage of time, as experience and skill are built up. Like if you take out a bathtub or remove roofing shingles, you KNOW there's going to be water rot under there, requiring unanticipated board replacements.

As for people not paying in a timely manner, that's probably going to happen no matter what.

Go for it. If you don't like your job, take a few night classes as suggested above, volunteer for Habitat as suggested above, ask a carpenter you know (or contact someone in the union if you don't know any) to see if s/he'd let you do some job shadowing to see what's involved.
posted by tckma at 10:16 AM on March 23, 2015

I'm a hobbyist woodworker. I regularly attend my local woodworker's assocation, which has a number of professional furniture makers and cabinetry folks, and my across-the-street neighbor is an under-employed Union carpenter.

Based on what I've seen there, friends who are struggling as furniture builders, a few who are fairly successful, I'd suggest setting a path that leads to you a contractor's license fairly quickly, and then set up your business structures such that you're able to accumulate capital and build a business that goes beyond just your labor. The happiest folks seem to be the ones who manage to get a team working under them such that they still get to do what feeds their soul, but not blow their bodies out by their early '50s.

I think this basically means: Find someone in a similar business to what you want to do as a mentor, and essentially intern for them for two years. But at the very least, find that person and talk to them.
posted by straw at 10:17 AM on March 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I have a friend who, for the past 20 years, has been a postman for retirement benefits and insurance, and a master carpenter for the love of it. He is never without an order to work on. As soon as he retires, he will build full time.

You don't have children, you are relatively young and in good health, if you don't take a risk now, you never will. Start out slow by working weekends for another carpenter or, get a desk job with a contractor who understands that you want to learn the business.

It isn't crazy to want to live the life that you are meant to live.
posted by myselfasme at 10:20 AM on March 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

With the other skills you mention, an easier transition might be to a prop shop, of which there are many in the new york area. There will be carpentry, yes, but not like "make us a really fancy table with little experience"(more like "throw together a structure for this giant dinosaur head we're making out of these random scraps of wood"). It's a good place to hone your skills and get paid to do it.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:26 AM on March 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

I have a friend who got her undergraduate degree at Princeton and went on to study carpentry and preservation carpentry at the North Bennet Street school in Boston.

She worked as a carpenter in Vermont for several years after that, and at the time it seemed like she enjoyed it, though she did eventually give it up. (She went back to school again and is now working as a speech language pathologist.)

It's definitely possible, though.
posted by alms at 10:38 AM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not insane. I just took a traditional wood joinery class here in Toronto, taught by two young women who work in carpentry - read their bios for more inspiration!
posted by girlpublisher at 10:42 AM on March 23, 2015

Check your memail.
posted by josher71 at 10:44 AM on March 23, 2015

I describe my ideal job as "collaborative, research-intensive projects which involve a lot of creative problem-solving and some sort of concrete product at the end."

There are a bunch of really good answers above that answer the specific carpentry aspect of your question. I would add that your description of your ideal job is pretty much what I do every day, and it fits any number of "project management" type jobs with a focus on a physical outcome. You mentioned theater, and an answer in that earlier question mentioned architecture; every large project requires people who can see the big picture while also keeping all the little details together.

Those jobs go by a gazillion titles, and exist in every state and federal agency, many non-profits, and countless for-profit companies. You can't build a bridge, refurbish a playground, rehab a historic building, or restore a wetland without people performing this function. If you can manage a budget while supervising people, timelines, and subcontracts, as well as handle all of the paperwork and compliance issues around permitting and community meetings, then you can do the work; backfilling the technical skills is a lot easier than trying to handhold someone who can't run a project.

If what you want is to swing a hammer, then go that route. But if you really want to be involved in bigger projects and with a more directive role, then I would suggest capitalizing on your education and previous work and stepping sideways into a field that is focused on creating physical, concrete outcomes.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:45 AM on March 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

One positive will be when you're bidding jobs: You'll have a benefit in residential (and possibly other small-ish) jobs because, for example, a homeowner who's acting as their own GC will probably implicitly trust you more as a female. Hard to explain but when you've hired a lot of contractors you'll understand. :)
posted by resurrexit at 10:45 AM on March 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yes, why not? It's satisfying to actually see the results of your work. I guess there are different kinds; a friend's partner is a carpenter, he makes a good living installing kitchens, but I'm sure there's space for people who do custom and high-end work.

(With that said, like a lot of people here, I'm familiar with your posts, and I am seriously surprised you're not already a comedy writer or other variety of paid humourist. I think you could do that if you put your mind to it [and wanted to]. JMO.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:46 AM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd say a good way to try before you buy is doing some builds with Habitat for Humanity. I've been on a Women Build site and it was completely cool.

In my neck of the woods, the go-to resource for women in trades is Oregon Tradeswomen. You might shoot them an email and ask if they have sister organizations near you.

A fair bit of my working life has been in traditionally-male workplaces and fields. You'll have to figure out the best approach for yourself but for me the best route was to just keep a thick skin and do the work. I go to work to work not to socialize or be an activist. Men males who get twitchy about women in non-traditional roles aren't going to respond to debate. They are more likely to respond to concrete proof of ability to do the job.

Good luck!
posted by Beti at 10:47 AM on March 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

My father was a carpenter. He seemed to like it, but in my family it caused a lot of instability because there would be big gaps between jobs with no money coming in. He often worked on bigger projects, and they'd do stuff like just lay off 1/4 of the carpenters with no notice because they decided they didn't need them or something. He made ok money, but not enough to comfortably ride out the big gaps (or maybe my parents just weren't good enough at managing their money to make that happen -- I was a kid so I didn't have visibility into the banking account). I'm sure how much of a problem this is depends on the type of carpentry job you have. I do know that later in his career, my dad transitioned to being a cabinet maker (working for a company that made cabinets, in their shop), and he made more money and it was much more stable.
posted by primethyme at 10:49 AM on March 23, 2015

Definitely think about the distinction between framing carpentry and finish carpentry, and which you're actually interested in. Based on the strengths and interests you mention I'd think finish carpentry would be a better fit (which is good because it's better paid and requires less upper body strength than framing, a job that requires a lot of muscle and not so much finesse.) There's also furniture building and cabinetry which overlap some with finish carpentry but are jobs unto themselves.

As a woman on a construction site you will definitely be seen as an anomaly; I'm on big residential job sites regularly, and everyone looks up when they hear a woman's voice because it's almost invariably the homeowner or the interior designer (two people you need to be on your best behavior for.) There just are not any other women around, as a general rule, and you will therefore be upsetting the status quo just by being present. I think most people in the industry are mature enough to handle the challenge of having a coworker of a different gender, but you will have to deal with a continuous barrage of assholery and misplaced "chivalry" from the rest, and people will look at you like you have two heads a lot. Union, government and commercial work will probably be a little better in this regard, but the reality is that you will have to put with a fair amount of hostility and bullshit based on your gender if you go into the mainstream trades.

On the other hand, you can play up your gender as a selling point if you're comfortable doing so. There's definitely a market for handywomen and you can probably get business by marketing yourself to people who are more comfortable being alone in the house with a woman, or just people who want to support women working in the male-dominated trades. You might also consider joining the staff of a museum, theater, university or other large progressive employer that maintains its own facilities. My own job-specific training was as an assistant technician under a woman senior tech at my university, and while she was only woman in our small unit, she was respected and had to put up with minimal workplace gender bullshit, probably much less than a typical office job.
posted by contraption at 10:55 AM on March 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

I don't think you are insane at all. I think the most difficult part will be getting started. You will face some challenges getting work as a woman. Construction industries can be incredibly sexist, and, unless you limit yourself to very progressive job sites, you will very likely be directly discriminated against with little to no recourse. This will be exacerbated by the fact that, especially at the beginning, most of the work apprentices do is fetching heavy objects. You'll be paid and treated at the same level as 18 year-olds right out of high school, some of whom will have more experience than you because they have been working since they were kids. That will be difficult socially, as well as technically since even a very strong woman isn't as strong as a moderately strong teenage boy.

I'd recommend either entering through one of the programs aimed to train women in the trades, or by apprenticing with someone you have a connection with and is willing to train you.
posted by fermezporte at 10:58 AM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not to dissuade you, but it's a tough time in the US for a lot of cabinetmakers. My brother had a very profitable shop for a decade and then, when the recession hit about 7 years ago or so, his shop went from 10 people (men and women, so being in this field isn't a boys-only club), to 5, then to 2, then to just him, and then he went bankrupt. It's very hard to find work in custom cabinetry unless you have a ton of really expensive equipment or you're hired by a shop, where the work is pretty spotty.

But! Fortunes and trends change every day, so if it's a passion you want to explore, it's easy enough to start with classes and apprenticeships and such.
posted by xingcat at 11:00 AM on March 23, 2015

Not insane, but I was told by a older guy working carpentry when I was a teen that the idea of the companies that hired carpenters was simply to "use up the carpenters body" with a lot of tough work schedules. Have you thought of perhaps renovating a "basket case" house that needs a lot of carpentry work? I know of at least one woman who thrived on this kind of work.
posted by telstar at 11:47 AM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

You might try to hook up with a local Habitat for Humanity group, and talk with the site lead about wanting to learn as much as possible about the rough carpentry aspects of the build. That would at least have the potential to put you in touch with the right people and get your hands into the work.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 12:06 PM on March 23, 2015

I've always found (my fairly simple) carpentry fun. You should take some classes and see if you enjoy it too. If I was going to do it for a living I think I'd look for a niche like kitchen remodelling where I could combine it with some design and be my own boss. I don't think working on a house construction site with tight schedules and no creative freedom would be as much fun.
posted by w0mbat at 12:20 PM on March 23, 2015

In my neck of the woods, the go-to resource for women in trades is Oregon Tradeswomen. You might shoot them an email and ask if they have sister organizations near you.

There are apparently some places like that near you:
Hammerstone School
NEW (Nontraditional Employment for Women)
Women's Committee of the NYC District Council of Carpenters,
posted by aka burlap at 12:22 PM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

My brother flips houses and does upscale renovations in Pittsburgh. He says he can't find enough good carpenters, and he'd be happy to train someone if they'd stick around a while. I can't imagine he's the only carpenter who'd say that.

I grew up being used to work zones, but I wouldn't want to be in them all the time. The noise, the dust, the injuries, the chemicals, the random objects on the ground, the vibrations and piercing sounds of power tools... but it can also be really quiet and meditative at times. That's the life for some people. If you're not sure it's for you, why not see what you can do to spend time in that environment? Go for it. You can always change your mind in six months.
posted by zennie at 1:09 PM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

You seem quite sane to me!

One thing about trades -- they are physically wearing. You should plan for what career #2 might be. My relative who is in trades is now working an inside sales job for an equipment manufacturer after his knees quit.
posted by Dashy at 1:23 PM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, as some have pointed out, make sure to distinguish between carpentry (framing houses, remodeling structures, builder rougher and usually less "finished" work) and woodworking (making cabinets, furniture, windows, complex joinery, etc., or more "finished" work) as you make inquiries.

There's some overlap of course (e.g., building, framing out, and hanging a door!), but it's an important distinction as you're looking for training.
posted by resurrexit at 2:17 PM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I graduated from tech school in 1977 in drafting; there were two of us "chicks" in the class. The women in the heavy-workboot trades endured constant, demoralizing harassment: dead animals in their locker, an almost-finished engine rebuild trashed with sand, constant sexual "teasing" including hands-on. It got worse when they got their first jobs.

Get references from the NY-based resources and talk to women who've been living it. I hope hope hope things have improved, but I'd verify before leaping.

The female carpenters I know now either switched careers because their bodies wore out or are sole proprietors doing custom furniture/store interiors.

/exit, voice of doom
posted by Jesse the K at 2:37 PM on March 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I don't have any specific advice, but I think this might be something you want to watch to show you that this is not crazy. I hope you go for it and you love it.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 2:50 PM on March 23, 2015

I'm posting this under my sockpuppet id. My boyfriend is a carpenter (contractor - big subdivision contracts with units in the hundreds per contract and luxury homes) in a major North American city. My father was a tradesman who dabbled in building luxury residential homes and commercial buildings on the side (as a favour to friends at low cost).

If building homes (specifically framing and roughing in) is the sort of carpentry you are looking into I would not recommend it.

1) It requires an insane amount of toughness and strength. My father and boyfriend have taken splinters and nails to all body parts including eyes getting pierced, and have endured several storey falls and awful crushing injuries. And they've seen people have horrible amputation injuries with saws and falls including death. The job is very hard on your body no matter how many safety precautions you take which is why it pays well. You'll have backaches after three years. If your only experience is office work and you do not have crazy strength already most people who hire you on to the team will let you go after the first job because you aren't pulling your load

2) as others have pointed out, there is a lot of misogyny on the job. The women who do work in the field successfully are either well connected thanks to male family members in the industry (usually working with their family or their family member is getting a trusted friend to hire them on) or they are massively powerful bundles of pure muscle

3) pay can be extremely unreliable. You will get paid but sometimes it takes months for the person who hired the contractor to get around to sending the payment. This then trickles down to the employees. I witness this happen every year at Christmas - my boyfriend's crew did not get paid for a couple months and there was a lot of unhappiness. Winter work is bad enough but the instability of the pay really underscores how seasonal this job is

4) be aware that contrary to all common sense there are crews next to you (or even members of your own crew) that will be drinking heavily and its not the most comfortable environment for a female (or any safety conscious man) to be in. The excuse is it builds strength or keeps them warm in cold weather, and for some crews it is a bonding or cultural thing. So it's hard to avoid if it's in your midst

5) if you're interested in carpentry taking a bunch of courses is not the best way to get in (unless you are wanting to start at the top). My boyfriend and father never finished highschool. Some of their crews were just strong people who needed a job - and though they lacked experience they had the physical ability to pick up the basic tasks easily. A lot of it is showing up at a site looking big and showing willingness to work hard, or having a friend / family member to get you in and show you the ropes. A popular complaint on the construction site is the people with degrees and no serious practical experience who create major problems by their lack of hands-on knowledge (which causes delays in the timeline and financial losses because work has to be ripped out and redone).

6) it's hard on the family because you are working very long hours when you have a job, and when you get home you're exhausted. It is difficult to cook, clean or help your partner out with tasks at home because you're physically drained. If your partner does not have a physical job it could be hard for them to understand.

Woodworking in terms of furniture and fine goods may be a better field for you if you are passionate. A lot of the best in the business started this as a hobby and made it into a career. My uncle is an artist that works with wood and supplies most tourist gift shops in his country which is a lucrative deal (but soul sucking creatively because all the tourists want the same stupid thing). That said you must have that passion and innate talent because, like any artist, the field is swamped with part-time hobbyists, retirees trying to earn extra income etc.

I cannot say much about cabinetry as I do not personally know people in the trade.

Hope I was able to help you. Sorry I was not more positive. I personally would love to do carpentry but I don't have the physical ability and even if I developed that toughness I don't think I could do something with such awful injuries being so common. On the up side the money is phenomenal if you have the ability to work hard and do a professional job.

Edit - I wanted to add there are a ton of under 25s in the industry but they probably are not getting polled. There are a lot of people coming and going (just doing it for a month or a week for fast money) and some even working illegaly under the table.
posted by Shoggoths in the Mist at 6:47 PM on March 23, 2015 [8 favorites]

Are you planning on kids? Cause if you are, consider the following:
- you will need to be off work during pregnancy sooner than for other jobs
- you might not like being exposed to chemicals, aerosols, etc during pregnancy and breast feeding
- it's hard to pump at a job site
- there are early starts at some sites, sometimes earlier than day cares will open
- changing job sites can make it hard to coordinate travel to/from day care
- usually less flexibility in sick days, can never work from home

office life has its perks when it comes to child rearing and work life balance. Seriously consider that.
posted by crazycanuck at 6:49 PM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sorry I forgot to add another important thing in carpentry (framing). It's politically incorrect to point out but a lot of the crews are composed of single ethnic groups or related ethnic groups, and even if English is the first language they will sometimes switch to the secondary language for ease of communication (or if they don't want a team member who can't understand the language to be in the loop). In my city the construction field is a split between Mediterranean people (Italian and Portuguese - who sort of understand each other's languages) and Eastern Europeans (Russian and Polish - again they sort of understand each other's languages). So you need to keep in mind that being unfamiliar with the non-English languages spoken by the groups in your area that dominate the industry will put you at a slight disadvantage. Some of the crews when they need a member and can't get a recommendation from an existing worker on their team will take out an ad in their local non-English cultural newspaper. So this is a point that has less to do with gender and more to do with cultural background that may put an aspiring carpenter at a disadvantage.
posted by Shoggoths in the Mist at 7:55 PM on March 23, 2015

Not insane. I think you should look into joining a union. That way you'll get paid training and they can send you to suitable work.

Can't speak to carpentry, but I took welding classes in a tech school where the ironworkers trained and was heavily recruited to join the union. I am a small woman and in the recruiting, they were steering me towards jobs that would be a fit for me, so that would be intricate work in tight spaces (say, welding inside a big pipe) or getting certified to perform inspections (uses several techniques including x-ray type imaging), and less towards things like bridge repair that may require more heavy lifting. I ended up moving out of the jurisdiction of the union and not following that path is a huge regret for me that I hope to correct as my stupid corporate office/ warehouse job is laying me off this year.

Anyway, as far as sexism, I didn't have any more issue there than i did in other mixed gender jobs. Some guys assumed I was a lesbian (a fair portion of the women already in the union were butch style lesbians) which didn't really bother me and some guys who had daughters actually said things like "I told my daughter about you and she thinks it's cool that girls can do the same things that daddy does!" which was nice. Some sort of ignored me but i actually didn't get any creepy comments much less groping.

Some other union trades to consider are sheetmetal work and elevator repair.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:01 AM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I could reiterate zennie's comment above: in the upscale(ish)-renovation business (downtown-ish, vintage-ish) there are opportunities. You could get hired with a good attitude and aptitude more than plain experience. My reno crew boss said: "If we could hire more women, our clients would really like it." It's true. Our clients would love to see better gender parity in our crews, and I would like to see that if someone was working on my house, and you probably would too. It's a selling point.

And on the downside, much of reno is often lifting heavy tools and materials. And the vast amounts of dust involved is infuriating.
posted by ovvl at 10:04 AM on March 24, 2015

I work in architecture, and I would strongly encourage you to explore the cabinetry side. High quality cabinetry is in demand, both in residential and commercial settings. You could be making people's kitchens (residential/custom millworkers) or making fixtures for retail stores or offices (fixture companies). As someone in architecture, I really really love working with good millworkers/fixture vendors, because they bring a ton to the table in design expertise and ability to make cool stuff happen. I am often sort of jealous of their jobs, it seems pretty fun to make interesting new things each day. I suggest working on fixtures for you specifically because as a woman, the scale would be easier to handle physically. I think this could be a great change for you. I second the recommendation of spending some time working with Habitat for Humanity - I've volunteered with them a lot and you can learn a ton about carpentry.
posted by annie o at 7:39 PM on March 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

I just came across a book on this very subject! Haven't read it but it sounds interesting.
Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter
By Nina Maclaughlin
posted by exceptinsects at 11:57 AM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: exceptinsects - By awesome coincidence, after talking about this new ambition of mine of Facebook, I was told last week that the NYC launch of that book was happening that very week. I went, got a signed copy, and asked the author a couple of questions! It was almost spooky how good the timing was there.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:10 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: So, baby steps, but I've decided to actively explore this. I took the entrance exam for Nontraditional Employment for Women and passed it; now I have an interview, and if I pass that, I will enter a free nine-week evenings-and-weekends pre-apprenticeship program. After that, if I so choose, NEW will help me find an apprenticeship in the trade of my choice.

I am still very apprehensive, and my parents think I'm crazy, but hey. I might as well give it a fair shot.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:41 PM on April 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

Yay, good luck to you! Please report back on how it goes.
posted by alms at 5:53 AM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Well... I'm in! NEW accepted me after an interview. From June to August, I'll be a pre-apprentice! That's the part when my parents hope I will change my mind after experiencing the work, but if I don't, after that I can start looking for jobs with the help of NEW.

Since I initially had this idea, I haven't stopped being excited about it, and I haven't thought of any obstacles that are more severe than in any other career change I might make.

I just spent an hour looking at designs for library ladders...
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:43 AM on April 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

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