Friday, November 11, 2011

It’s a power tool, not a tailed apprentice

I hear a lot about “tailed apprentices” online.  I don’t like the term.  I don’t like cutesy terminology when there is already a perfectly good word, (ie, power tool), and I don’t like what is being implied.
Let me start with the fact that these tools do not do what an apprentice would do.  One, people use the term for everything powered in there shop, not just the jointer, planner, etc.  But more importantly, when was the last time you gave a rough sawn board to a power jointer and it gave you back a tried and true board at dimensions?    Your powertools are just that, tools.  I think people sell them self short when they call them tailed apprentices, or more importantly when they view them as such.  You are still doing milling the stuff, your just using power.
I have seen others mill boards much faster, with much more ease than I do.  Now I’m no scrub plane hack, but others sling it a lot better than I.  You know what that means to me?  It means I am not a master craftsman yet, I have not earned the right to an apprentice.  Now I don’t mean I haven’t earned the right to use power, it a hobby, I could use a CNC if I had the room to put one, you don’t have to earn the right to use any tool in a hobby.  But what I mean is people imply this is the simple, boring tasks that the apprentice would do.  I have a feeling not everyone using that term is quite the master they seem to think.  I am not yet as good at milling by hand as I want to be, I get the end product, but I want to get there better.  Now you may suck at milling by hand and not give a crap, you don’t want to mill by hand, you want to cut dovetails and make thin wispy shavings.  Cool, rock on with your 220 volt board flattening machine, but there is no need to imply that milling by hand is under a master such as yourself.
Now, do I think people read this much into the term, that they are carefully choosing the words to make the greatest impact?  Nope, they just think it’s funny, but my favorite subject is philosophy and I read way too much into everything, especially words and the subconscious meanings.


  1. My first thought when I read the post title is that the tailed apprentices don't learn anything new and eventually go on to become masters themselves, which is one of the major goals of an apprenticeship. So if anything, they're more like tailed low-wage labor workers.

  2. Ha, I personally think that is a much better term. It starts here, from now on no more "tailed apprentices" it is now "tailed low wage laborers"

  3. Personally, I think I will just call 'em what they are, power tools. :)

  4. Just a little background. It really originated on the oldtools mailing list. It was specifically forbidden to discuss power tools and it was a way to sneak in a reference to the power tool side. From there it kind of leaked into rec.woodworking and it's use spread. Much like Galoot.