Older female looking to get into carpentry (UK)

Discussion in 'Carpenters' Talk' started by jjd, Sep 15, 2021.

  1. I-Man

    I-Man Screwfix Select

    also Charlie DIYte, Restoration Couple
  2. jjd

    jjd New Member

    many thanks for all the replies
  3. jjd

    jjd New Member

    would any of these intensive carpentry courses be worth doing? (Ableskills/YTA Training etc.)?
  4. Jord86

    Jord86 Screwfix Select

    No. Save your money and put it towards tools and Les Gorings Manual of First and Second fix Carpentry.
    Sparkielev and jimoz like this.
  5. jjd

    jjd New Member

    Even if it would give me some hands-on experience? Better than little/no recent experience?
  6. pppmacca43

    pppmacca43 Screwfix Select

    Cant beat hands on site experience in any trade
  7. rogerk101

    rogerk101 Screwfix Select

    Apart from anything else, you really need ought to try it for a few months to see if it's really something you would like to continue and to invest in.
    I have a good friend who was a teacher but decided to take a course in plastering. After weeks of hard slog as a trainee plasterer, he decided it wasn't for him, so went back to teaching.
    I'm not saying that would be true in your case, but it is a possibility.
    pppmacca43 likes this.
  8. Okoak

    Okoak Active Member

    I've been a fully qualified Carpenter for over 40 years, and in that time many people have said to me things like "ooh I'd love to be able to do what you do" or "it must be so nice to work with wood, I love the smell" or "I love doing woodwork, it must be so satisfying doing it all the time" etc etc etc.
    I have observed that many people have some rose tinted view of a Carpenters job as being wonderfully creative and using tactile and aromatic materials to create some form of 3 dimentional art form, of a romantic figure running a knowing hand over a beautifully smooth piece of exotic hardwood, or carfully sharpening a much cherished tool that was passed down to him through generations of fine craftsmen blah blah...... The reality is its a hard job, its dirty, dusty, backbreaking and often thankless, it's sweating your **** off trying to carry fire doors upstairs or having to quickly get your tools back in the van because it's bloody raining again.
    It's plywood and mdf, it's **** doors and bent timber, it's splinters and aching knees, crawling about on the floor or climbing ladders, and rather than that razor edge cherished tool it's nail guns and chop saws, it's lying awake at night thinking someone is trying to break into your van to nick the many thousands of pounds worth of tools you have to have to be commercially competitive.
    Very occasionally you might get something you really like doing, and if you are very good and have a very good reputation you might be lucky enough to get some work doing some restoration on a lovely old building, but mostly it will be fitting new worktops for someone who has had a go at fitting their own kitchen units.
    Once or twice in a lifetime you might get to carry out some repairs to a beautiful Georgian staircase, but more likely it will be changing the balustrade in a 70's semi or hanging some pressed hardboard doors they bought in the sale at Wickes last week.
    It's chasing money or waiting for materials, it's spending your entire life covered in dust and dirt and it's dealing with customers, some of whom are utterly charming, but many of whom are moaning nit pickers who will try to stitch you for money given half a chance.

    It's undoubtedly preferable to dying a slow death as an accounts administrator in an office in Slough, or living your life in a grey box on an industrial estate, but you should spend a few weeks doing it before you commit to any life changing decisions.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2021
    Zed1001, Paulie1412, Jord86 and 5 others like this.
  9. woodbutcherbower

    woodbutcherbower Well-Known Member


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  10. GrahamTaylor

    GrahamTaylor Member

    I recognise all of the Okoak's comments. I swapped into carpentry in my early 40's after a career in software. Now earn about 20% of what I used to. I had to bail out of the software because I could not stand the pressure any more as well as having issues with mild arthritis. Did that just as started a major extension on my own house (run by a very good contractor). I offered my labour for free as a way of getting fit again. In the latter stages of the project I spent a lot of time working with the carpenter doing second fix and then fitting out stuff. After a year decorating the resulting house I sat back and wondered what to do next and realised I had enjoyed the project. People in my own village were asking me to do things for them and I realised there was a part time job there that would keep me out of trouble. I enrolled in college courses to learn stuff - actually learned nothing of any use but gained just enough confidence to start with small stuff and then built skills, tools, confidence and customer base from there. Nearly 20 years later I am still doing it and got a long job backlog. A huge range of stuff from hanging doors and little mods in kitchens through to a rolling program of refurbishment in a large 18th century listed house. None of it more than 5 miles from my home.

    Like any job, there are days when I think "why do I have to do this, it's awful" but there are a fair number when I can look at something I've done with real pride and know that the customer is really happy.

    I earn enough to meet all outgoings but have the luxury of knowing that in a few years I'll be able to fall back on the pension that I paid for in my software days.

    In the meantime I work full time and then spend pretty much all my 'spare' time doing the endless deskwork, trying to work out what on earth the customer wants, sourcing material, juggling enquiries, prevaricating about submitting my accounts and all the other fun filled things in the life of a self employed carpenter.
  11. jjd

    jjd New Member

    Thanks. I appreciate where you're coming from and take it on board. I just need to figure out how I can even get to the 'spend a few weeks doing it' stage. In other words, try to figure out how I can get that experience.
  12. rogerk101

    rogerk101 Screwfix Select

    Do you have any friends that could use a handywoman to do some odd jobs, like fitting doors, changing skirting boards, replacing windows, redoing kitchen, etc.? Try your hand at some of those smallish tasks to build your confidence, and guage your abilities and interest.
  13. JOMEL

    JOMEL Screwfix Select

    How nice to read those inputs by JJD & OKOAK how true.
    I was formally a plumber full 5 year appentiship + 6 more years after National Service
    I got out of this at 30 years old. As you both say its hard work bad knees and crawling under floors.
    But the Building experiance is still with me Its a wonderful skill.
    I can turn my hand to most of the skills. And smile when neighbours say how much they have paid for what
    seems a small job. I dont just say "I will help you out with it"
    But going the other way White Collar to one of the trade may give you a shock.
    Yes I still have Dads Claw hammer and his wooden handled wood chisels.
    But good luck to you. It can be satisfying to walk away from a job and feel its done correctly.

    Johnny M
    Sparkielev likes this.
  14. WillyEckerslike

    WillyEckerslike Screwfix Select

    Beautifully written.
    pppmacca43 likes this.
  15. Sparkielev

    Sparkielev Screwfix Select

    Bang on, I would say this applies to most trades
    pppmacca43 likes this.
  16. longboat

    longboat Screwfix Select

    Ahh, the joys of parenthood.:D
  17. Okoak

    Okoak Active Member

    I've spent my entire life around the building industry and have worked across the spectrum of jobs and employers, I've worked on castles and cottages, new builds and historic Manor houses, office blocks and the Albert Hall, turned buses into cocktail bars and pretty much everything else you can think of, I've worked alone, worked in a small team, and worked for large companies, I have given your question some thought, and my not ill considered opinion is as follows :
    You are a woman with no tools, no experience, no transport and no relevant training.....not a good start but I'm firmly of the opinion that you can do whatever you want if you want it enough.

    Forget new build site work like the big house building developments you see everywhere, you need certain minimum training to even get on site and it's a cutthroat game with everyone working on price with no time to mess about training a newbie.

    You might possibly get lucky and happen upon a small independent builder that does extensions and refurb etc that might give you a chance helping out and giving you the chance to carry out some simple work, but in all honesty it's unlikely in the extreme as he will have enough on his plate trying to juggle plates and keep on top of everything else while trying to make a profit.

    You won't get a look in at a Joiners shop as its full of highly dangerous machinery that will take your arm off in a heartbeat, and no employer is going to let you anywhere near a piece of expensive timber to practice on.

    You can't really just start doing work for people as you have no knowledge to begin with, and are people going to want to let you have a practice on their house? Probably not.

    The only scenario that I can imagine is somewhere that is slightly outside of the building industry but using similar skills..... Maybe a place that builds summerhouses and cabins perhaps? They might be able to set you off doing something fairly simple in a workshop after a day or twos tuition. Maybe somewhere that makes sheds and gates? Maybe a place that knocks out kitchens and bedroom furniture in an industrial unit or farm somewhere? If you can identify some places like that in your area you could approach them and see what they say, they are quite likely to be interested in anyone that can display a level of enthusiasm and intelligence and offer reliability, and are likely to be understaffed right now.
    Think slightly outside of the box and have a look round for places that you may not have thought of previously, and good luck!
    Sparkielev likes this.
  18. jjd

    jjd New Member

    Thank you. I have actually been looking into such jobs, as what you said makes a lot of sense to me. The only thing I was thinking was that if I were to get into something like that, I might have trouble getting an NVQ later on without the right experience...(although, better to be in that line of work than not in the field at all).
  19. Okoak

    Okoak Active Member

    I'm fully qualified, time served apprenticeship, got additional qualifications in building science and surveying and to be perfectly honest it has never made a jot of difference whether I'd done all that or picked it up as I went along, nobody has ever actually been remotely interested in any qualifications of any sort that I may or may not have.
    I've worked with some great people that have never been near a college, and worked with some people with a degree who are the stupidest people imaginable.
    The construction industry doesn't revolve around formal qualifications, it's more about doing a good job, being super reliable and hard working, getting on with people and getting known.
    Builders are very practical people working in difficult conditions, they absolutely detest anyone who doesn't turn up, who calls in sick, who doesn't fit in with the team, they will not tolerate idiots or smart arses, but they do like people who are keen and enthusiastic, who can have a laugh but work hard.
    It's not about getting some qualifications and searching the job ads, there aren't any..... Its about putting yourself out there and getting known and people then phone you to see if you want some work.
    Maybe, just maybe if you can find somewhere like I've suggested, not only will you get a feel for the job (on your feet all day, covered in dust, the constant barrage of noise etc etc) and learn something, it will give you the gateway to have conversations with people about what you'd like to do and how you'd like to learn, and if people like you and can see your keen you might get a chance to do something a bit closer to what you want to do.
  20. chillimonster

    chillimonster Screwfix Select

    +1 to summerhouses etc. Not making them but assembling them in customers'
    gardens. The standard of work(wo)manship is appalling at the moment and there
    was a six month wait last time I talked to a customer.

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