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PhilipKT

What defines a “journeyman” maker?

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 Morning folks! It’s a gorgeous day in Plano and I’m heading to a recording session. I am preparing an entry about journeyman musicians for my website blog, and I was wondering what defines a journeyman violin maker? I know that in the guild system, the term was specifically applied but I don’t know what the ranking was, nor what is required of a journeyman.

The term is still used. A friend who is a master electrician, once complained that he was having a hard time finding a journeyman electrician to hire as an assistant, and said that among other things to be a master electrician requires about 800 hours on the job. I don’t know what else he mentioned.

Anyway, my question for the crowd is what defines a “journeyman” violin maker, and is the term still used In violin ( haha another typo) making?

Edited by PhilipKT
Typo

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5 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

is the term still used In violent making?

There is no need to get violent, although if you get enough makers or players together, this is almost inevitable.

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Kind of an odd question... though I’m not unfamiliar with “journeyman” being used in different circumstances.

      [Many] years ago, I was hired to be a “journeyman” carpenter as a foreman for a small restoration company.  Figuring I’d just be the boss of a small crew of carpenters, I did what I always did... I’d have a plan and goal for my crew for the day and get to work, always working with my crew.  A week into it, the owner came by and said, “why are you working so hard!? I hired a journeyman, not a worker.” Befuddled by what I was actually supposed to be doing, I went home, literally drew up plans for the next day, made copies, returned the next day with my sense of dignity...

     A week went by and I figured that I had the concept of “journeyman” under my belt.  The owner came by pretty much right as I was thinking I had it figured out. “What the hell!? Didn’t I say ‘be a journeyman?’” he yelled.  I was fuming! Busting my butt everyday, drawing up visual plans... I decided to rebel.  Everyday, I’d just point, delegate, sit back and watch.  My crew was pissed!  “Aren’t you going get off your ass and help!!??” they’d beg. I brought a lawn chair to work.  Even headphones.  

       The owner unexpectedly came by one day and I thought, “yep... I’m getting fired today.” He saw me sitting in the lawn chair barking out orders, marched up to me and said these exact words: “hey buddy, I was starting to worry about you... looks like you’re settling in nicely!” 

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45 minutes ago, ClefLover said:

Kind of an odd question... though I’m not unfamiliar with “journeyman” being used in different circumstances.

      [Many] years ago, I was hired to be a “journeyman” carpenter as a foreman for a small restoration company.  Figuring I’d just be the boss of a small crew of carpenters, I did what I always did... I’d have a plan and goal for my crew for the day and get to work, always working with my crew.  A week into it, the owner came by and said, “why are you working so hard!? I hired a journeyman, not a worker.” Befuddled by what I was actually supposed to be doing, I went home, literally drew up plans for the next day, made copies, returned the next day with my sense of dignity...

     A week went by and I figured that I had the concept of “journeyman” under my belt.  The owner came by pretty much right as I was thinking I had it figured out. “What the hell!? Didn’t I say ‘be a journeyman?’” he yelled.  I was fuming! Busting my butt everyday, drawing up visual plans... I decided to rebel.  Everyday, I’d just point, delegate, sit back and watch.  My crew was pissed!  “Aren’t you going get off your ass and help!!??” they’d beg. I brought a lawn chair to work.  Even headphones.  

       The owner unexpectedly came by one day and I thought, “yep... I’m getting fired today.” He saw me sitting in the lawn chair barking out orders, marched up to me and said these exact words: “hey buddy, I was starting to worry about you... looks like you’re settling in nicely!” 

Oh, it's like a "lead engineer".  :ph34r::lol:

Here's what Wikipedia has to say, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journeyman

Given the unstructured nature of the violin business in general, I would doubt that the term has much application nowadays, except metaphorically, for a skilled craftsperson who is still learning different aspects of the trade.  An exception would, of course, be in localities where the trade is licensed and regulated. 

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Every craftsman whose journey to mastery is not finished. 

In some countries like Germany they have the funny idea that you can determine the end of the journey by an exam called Meisterprüfung. But I have massive doubts that this has any significance. After I passed that exam 23 years ago I continued my journey and now I am still wondering if it will be ever finished.

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My grandfather worked as a plumbing contractor before retiring and making violins. In his profession, there were three levels: apprentice, journeyman, and master. 

An apprentice was a beginning worker who worked exclusively with one company to get a basic understanding of the skills of the trade. He could move on to the next level after he had shown a certain amount of proficiency (I don’t remember exactly, but there may even have been a test). 

A journeyman was a proficient Workman who would work for several businesses for a certain amount of time or work hours in order to expand his knowledge and skill through exposure to other methods and ideas. Once he had acquired enough skill and understanding of the trade to be ready to work for himself, there was a test to take to prove it.

A master was someone who had passed all the prerequisites and showed a comprehensive understanding of the trade and how to operate independently. A master had permission from the guild or union to establish his own business and begin hiring apprentices or journeymen.

This is how I understand the guild system. Obviously there are more details and smaller steps along the way, but I think that’s the gist. Everyone can continue to learn throughout a lifetime, however the title master is conferred as a result of showing proficiency at a specified level. It’s not intended to signify an end of learning and improvement, but to show that the craftsman is ready to operate on his own. 

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16 minutes ago, The Violin Beautiful said:

My grandfather worked as a plumbing contractor before retiring and making violins. In his profession, there were three levels: apprentice, journeyman, and master. 

An apprentice was a beginning worker who worked exclusively with one company to get a basic understanding of the skills of the trade. He could move on to the next level after he had shown a certain amount of proficiency (I don’t remember exactly, but there may even have been a test). 

A journeyman was a proficient Workman who would work for several businesses for a certain amount of time or work hours in order to expand his knowledge and skill through exposure to other methods and ideas. Once he had acquired enough skill and understanding of the trade to be ready to work for himself, there was a test to take to prove it.

A master was someone who had passed all the prerequisites and showed a comprehensive understanding of the trade and how to operate independently. A master had permission from the guild or union to establish his own business and begin hiring apprentices or journeymen.

This is how I understand the guild system. Obviously there are more details and smaller steps along the way, but I think that’s the gist. Everyone can continue to learn throughout a lifetime, however the title master is conferred as a result of showing proficiency at a specified level. It’s not intended to signify an end of learning and improvement, but to show that the craftsman is ready to operate on his own. 

Thanks that’s part of what I was wondering. I was also wondering if there were any categories beyond the three you mentioned.

back in the day, the guilds were pretty strong and I was wondering how powerful they were in the violin industry, and if so,  what did-and does- define the category of journeyman. 

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2 hours ago, ClefLover said:

Kind of an odd question... though I’m not unfamiliar with “journeyman” being used in different circumstances.

      [Many] years ago, I was hired to be a “journeyman” carpenter as a foreman for a small restoration company.  Figuring I’d just be the boss of a small crew of carpenters, I did what I always did... I’d have a plan and goal for my crew for the day and get to work, always working with my crew.  A week into it, the owner came by and said, “why are you working so hard!? I hired a journeyman, not a worker.” Befuddled by what I was actually supposed to be doing, I went home, literally drew up plans for the next day, made copies, returned the next day with my sense of dignity...

     A week went by and I figured that I had the concept of “journeyman” under my belt.  The owner came by pretty much right as I was thinking I had it figured out. “What the hell!? Didn’t I say ‘be a journeyman?’” he yelled.  I was fuming! Busting my butt everyday, drawing up visual plans... I decided to rebel.  Everyday, I’d just point, delegate, sit back and watch.  My crew was pissed!  “Aren’t you going get off your ass and help!!??” they’d beg. I brought a lawn chair to work.  Even headphones.  

       The owner unexpectedly came by one day and I thought, “yep... I’m getting fired today.” He saw me sitting in the lawn chair barking out orders, marched up to me and said these exact words: “hey buddy, I was starting to worry about you... looks like you’re settling in nicely!” 

That’s a great story.

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I am not a luthier or a skilled tradesman, but the way it was explained to me was that there is only one master worker in a shop (the boss), any other person working in that shop is a journeyman or an apprentice, even if a journeyman were just as skilled as the master. 

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3 hours ago, ClefLover said:

      [Many] years ago, ...

Reminds me of my first good office job out of college.  My most recent experience had been in a factory.  The first time in the office I ran out of things to do I found a broom and started sweeping...  Boss came in and said we have people who do that... 

P.S. I think "journeyman" is supposed to mean somebody in a trade who's finished his training.

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The Frontispiece in "Violin Restoration, A Manual For Violin Makers," by Weisshaar and Shipman is translated thus:

"Everyone is an apprentice 

A journeyman is he who has acquired an ability

A master is he whose ability has become creative"

(I guess that would apply to "she's" too.)

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7 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

 

P.S. I think "journeyman" is supposed to mean somebody in a trade who's finished his training.

Yes, of course. And there is Wikipedia, as well. My point being that the term is regularly used in a variety of meanings.  In my story, it was used as a mid-level manager that thinks and delegates more than physically works. Whether it be a misuse due to misunderstanding of the original term, or an attempt to create some kind of “new speak” using the word in part (i.e. “journeyman-ing”), I always find the use of words fascinating, especially with disregard to their actual definitions.

3 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

I'm sure somewhere the term is "journeyperson".

As it should be -_-

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11 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

Reminds me of my first good office job out of college.  My most recent experience had been in a factory.  The first time in the office I ran out of things to do I found a broom and started sweeping...  Boss came in and said we have people who do that... 

P.S. I think "journeyman" is supposed to mean somebody in a trade who's finished his training.

The way I understand it is a journeyman is one who has completed apprenticeship training and is qualified to work in the trade unsupervised, wherever and for whomever they choose. Historically, they were a qualified individual  free to travel seeking work, or opening their own shop, being able to take on apprentices of their own.

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8 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

I'm sure somewhere the term is "journeyperson".

I am actually in the camp that would have preferred that we just continued to use 'man' - as in mankind - and not turned it into an unnecessary battle in the gender war...

I think I ruffled feathers the last time I chaired a meeting and told the well-meaning folks NOT to call me a chairperson or a chairwoman.

Chairman (is perfectly acceptable for ANY gender :rolleyes:)...or chair...

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55 minutes ago, Rue said:

 

I think I ruffled feathers the last time I chaired a meeting and told the well-meaning folks NOT to call me a chairperson ...

Of course feathers were ruffled! Chairs are people too, just like couches and stools.

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1 hour ago, Rue said:

Well, I should be grateful they didn't call me stool...

I've been called worse at some meetings I've chaired, and returned the compliment, in spades, but not in a way where those seated along the wall would catch it.  :ph34r::lol:

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2 hours ago, Rue said:

I am actually in the camp that would have preferred that we just continued to use 'man' - as in mankind - and not turned it into an unnecessary battle in the gender war...

I think I ruffled feathers the last time I chaired a meeting and told the well-meaning folks NOT to call me a chairperson or a chairwoman. 

Chairman (is perfectly acceptable for ANY gender :rolleyes:)...or chair...

It's usually to win favors or validation.  The big exception is ppl looking for any excuse to go off.

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14 minutes ago, Bill Merkel said:

It's usually to win favors or validation.  The big exception is ppl looking for any excuse to go off.

I've attended no few meetings which had chaircreatures:lol:

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9 hours ago, Bill Yacey said:

The way I understand it is a journeyman is one who has completed apprenticeship training and is qualified to work in the trade unsupervised, wherever and for whomever they choose. Historically, they were a qualified individual  free to travel seeking work, or opening their own shop, being able to take on apprentices of their own.

That would make sense for my position at the time... my boss (the owner) tended to think it meant “creative control manager,” and discouraged much physical work at all. Looking back, I still think the crew would have been just fine without me, however I spent 5 years there. The owner loved my lawn chair use so much he bought me a new one on my birthday every year. Now I’m the journeyman of the house, my wife the master. 

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I think the distinctions between master and journeyman are less clear in the U.S. than in Europe, at least in our trade.

When you look at old instruments from European countries, you can often ascribe them to certain schools and styles. In Italy alone there were many distinct characteristics that could be readily identified because the guilds were more rigid and dogmatic. Luthiers were expected to work along a progression to eventually be independent shop owners, and the distinctions were made quite clear.

Looking at historical American violins, it’s not quite as easy to nail down a school, and the approach of many makers was less structured. So many of those makers taught themselves or learned from correspondence courses or books, and a good number of luthiers were able to establish their own businesses without working for other makers first.

I think we tend to judge the level of mastery of American makers by the numbers (e.g. how much an instrument typically costs, which famous player owns one, how many the maker sells, etc) rather than reviewing credentials.

In recent decades, the violin making schools have grown to be major training centers for the workforce, so perhaps one could argue that there is a trend toward following the European model more closely now. There are shops now that refuse to hire apprentices without a violin making school education, and associations have been developed to recognize certain masters, and these organizations require members to pass certification standards similar to those of the guilds. 

I’m not trying to claim one method as superior; I just find it interesting to compare different approaches to the craft and the ideologies that go along with them. 

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