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skidmatic 06-04-10 06:03 PM

Looking for an apprenticeship
Hello All,

My name is Stephe, I am a recent grad of the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign in Industrial Design. During my tenure as a student there I took a few metals classes and learned how to silver solder along with other fine fabrication techniques. I am interested in getting connected with a builder and undertaking an apprenticeship or the like.

Ill soon post up a link to my portfolio. In the mean time you may look at to see a few ID things.

Thank You,


NoReg 06-07-10 03:04 PM

Just look into building a bike, and take it from there. There are lots of people without your background who are building bikes. Or consider working for bike friday out west. They do run people through a process. Possibly look into the european scene since some of their laws require apprenticeship. Japan still has quite a few apprentices in various crafts. You can find quite a few interesting reports online.

Apprenticeship in the traditional sense is basically broken in the manual arts, and it was never strong in the US to start with. The old arts aren't doing so darn well, and apprenticeship is a whole other demand for which the economics no longer exist. Traditionally it involved spending 4-7 years in what amounted to near slavery, for the privilege of learning a craft. There is 4-7 weeks of learning in there, the rest is payback for the terminal economics. Most people these days don't want to do that kind of thing, from either side. The alternative is learning by doing, either working for someone else or figuring stuff out for yourself.

skidmatic 06-14-10 02:23 PM

Thanks for the reply!

I'd imagine in the states that it would be a lot like an unpaid internship, then if things worked out maybe step up to a minimal salary (like 1,200 to 1,600 a month more if the area called for it). I'll look around at the areas you had pointed out. I'm in the process of picking up some tubes and doing some things on my own. Thanks

NoReg 06-16-10 01:07 PM

It's like anything else, you can be told it can't be done, and then there is that one person who is willing to give you a shot. But it isn't a generally available thing. Also I know a guy, I tease him as being a skills leech. Back when we were coming up in the 80s, this guy could move anywhere and get taken on by anyone. He would just stick to whoever he thought would be able to help him along, and people helped him. Unfortunately that was his great gift. He wasn't gifted in any particular thing he took up... Unfortunately for a lot of people, getting people to reach out to you can be for reasons you don't want.

The problem with the unpaid stuff is people think that giving of their valuable time is a gift to the people they want to work for, as it can be. But a lot of small business people find the months where their staff are learning, even if unpaid, are very very costly to their businesses. The person doing the learning feels they are paying for it by donating time, or working for low wages. They then leave after the learning is over, at just the time when the repayment would be starting to happen. I just mention it because knowing a bit about the economics is key to inserting yourself. People often don't want to help because they assume the person coming to them doesn't understand the costs to them, and it is just easier to say no from the outset. So the trick is to get creative about it from the outset. Since I like the whole self-taught part about crafts, I don't really know the answer, but it could be trading something you already know for the exposure, rather than trying to get taken on as an apprentice. Give tax advice or work in reception!

unterhausen 06-16-10 02:47 PM

I know of 2 "apprentices" It's very rare, and for a lot of good reasons.

lotek 06-17-10 12:57 PM

contact Doug Fattic, not sure if has apprentices but he does quite a bit of teaching (as do some
other framebuilders, i.e. David Cheakas), you can find Doug over at CR list (subscribe here: ).
The other place I'd post this is to the Framebuilders List (subscribe at same location as above).


unterhausen 06-17-10 03:19 PM

I can't imagine anyone taking on an apprentice that hasn't built a frame and shown some skill at it. That at least means a full course with Doug Fattic, Dave Bohm, UBI, or others.

Pretty sure this question is ignored on the framebuilder's list. Actually that is the best case.

skidmatic 06-21-10 10:19 AM


Originally Posted by unterhausen (Post 10978471)
I can't imagine anyone taking on an apprentice that hasn't built a frame and shown some skill at it. That at least means a full course with Doug Fattic, Dave Bohm, UBI, or others.

Pretty sure this question is ignored on the framebuilder's list. Actually that is the best case.

Well I took several metals classes at one of the best schools for that field on the planet. I'm well educated, in general and in bicycles/ fabrication. What do you mean ' Actually that is the best case.', are you trying to say that people are going to talk smack about someone showing interest in pursuing a career?

erik c 06-21-10 11:28 AM

I'd look at talking to Doug, but not for the reason of classes, rather if you have the time and ability, participating in the Ukraine bike project, nothing like possibly brazing up 50 identical bikes to get you rolling on how to build a bike.

I think you are going to find most builders couldn't afford to have an apprentice and wouldn't want one if they could for other reasons.

skidmatic 06-21-10 12:12 PM

I'll look into it. Actuality I'm going to look into everybody who has been mentioned on this thread. My goal in posting was to get some names/ leads as to who to talk to. Thanks.

unterhausen 06-21-10 01:37 PM


Originally Posted by skidmatic (Post 10994958)
What do you mean ' Actually that is the best case.', are you trying to say that people are going to talk smack about someone showing interest in pursuing a career?

I wish you all the luck in the world. However, I think most builders realize they know something that a lot of people are willing to pay for. Framebuilding is a subsistence living for most people. I can't imagine taking on someone that I don't know that has not taken advantage of all the learning opportunities that are out there. Simply asking the question shows that you haven't really done that, because you would have found out that what I say is true. In fact, there is a good thread about it on BF itself. Amusingly enough, it's called "looking for apprenticeship" I have to admit I found that through google, the site search isn't the best, to say the least.

Actually, reading the framebuilder's list and BOB list on this subject is a hoot. I'm going to do the search again later when I have more time. Sorry if I come off as insensitive, I'm conflicted about participating in this thread because I don't like giving people bad news.

Again, I hope you have success at this. There are people that get apprenticeships, but it's mainly through personal contact. You will be so much better off in any case if you take Doug's class, Dave Bohm's class, or a class at UBI or any other class of similar length.

Doug Fattic 06-21-10 02:11 PM

I'll respond since I've been on every side of this question. I had to ask to become an apprentice in England (where the knowledge was in the 70's) and have had a few apprentices over the years. Every one has been because I personally knew them. And I’ve taught framebuilding classes since 1976. Peterpan1 gave an excellent answer as to why the best framebuilders don't take on apprentices except in unusual cases. Fundamentally it is because they take more effort than the value they can return in a reasonable amount of time. Framebuilders typically don’t possess enough resources to cover this deficit long enough to make them worthwhile.

The most common way to begin framebuilding is to take a class. This allows you to explore the subject under an expert’s guidance and find out if you really have the skill, dedication and resources necessary to continue. It really shortens the learning curve. Just like desire alone can’t make you a major league baseball player neither can it prove you will be a worthwhile worker. Prior instruction and a well made frame to show what you can do is a much better calling card than only enthusiasm and promises of good work. I think this is what Unterhausen was referring to when he said “this is the best case”. A frame you’ve made shows people what you can actually do – like a portfolio. Framebuilding is a crowded field and those that have taken classes (sometimes multiple classes – I’ve had a number of students that have taken classes at UBI or Yamaguchi before taking one of mine) and have good results will obviously get preferential treatment.

I teach these classes on a regular basis. I’m fortunate to have some serious qualifications. I was a full time teacher with both a bachelor's and master’s degree in education (meaning the specific study of how to teach) when I went to apprentice in England. There are some other really good schools too – as well as some opportunists who want to fill the vacancy because their business is slow. Teaching is an art and not everyone that has skill with their hands knows how to explain what they are doing to others. Over time I’ve organized methods and developed techniques to compensate for beginners typical tendencies. I’ve written a pretty extensive class manual on all aspects of building but it especially covers brazing and filing techniques. I usually get the most serious students because they are the ones that do the most research online looking for blogs and comments from past student experiences at various schools. I haven’t put up the website I’ve had designed because my classes are always full. However if anyone wants more information on scheduling or costs, I can send it to you personally. This isn’t really a place for advertising.

In every class I make many little corrections in the way a student is working on his frame that keep him from making bigger mistakes. I often wonder what would happen if they were left on there own and how long it would take by trial and error to realize how to make improvements.

Doug Fattic
Niles, Michigan

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