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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2002 12:19 am 
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Some time not so long ago, it was suggested that Michael Grinter might be using an apprentice to make (all?, most?) of his whistles. As I recall, JessieK came up with some evidence that seemed to confirm this hypothesis strongly.

Although nobody commented in detail about this possibility, I thought I detected an undercurrent of disapproval. (I might be wrong about that.)

Initially I was a bit surprised. The more I thought about it, however, the more puzzled I was about why it would be thought especially noteworthy. The apprenticeship system is the traditional way for new craftsmen to get a training. Unless apprentices get to make actual products, they don't get trained. When I buy hand made items of other kinds, say guitars, I expect that an apprentice will have done some of the work, especially if the maker is a relatively large concern for handmade instruments. Furthermore, I don't expect to get an inferior instrument just because of this. Obviously, many whistle makers run businesses that are far too small to justify the hiring of apprentices. But some don't.

What is your attitude to the use of apprentices in the way that Michael Grinter is alleged to have done?

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Wombat on 2002-12-02 01:27 ]</font>


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2002 12:37 am 
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While it's important for apprentices to get experience making instruments, I think that apprentice-made instruments should be indicated as such, and priced appropriately below the work of a journeyman or master instrument maker.

An apprentice is, by definition, a student. You don't pay as much to have your hair cut by students at a beauty school as you do to have your hair cut by a certified stylist. You don't pay as much to have your teeth worked on by students at a dental school as you do to have them worked on by a licensed dentist. In both cases, you may get perfectly fine work done, but you pay less because you're allowing a student to "learn on you."

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2002 12:46 am 
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An apprentice's work will be just as good as the master's if the latter does approve of it by signing (branding) it. It may even be better (this being the master's ego problem, not our).

In many arts (like painting) or craftsmanships, apprentices very often do most of a work, or its whole, and the master checks and signs. I don't find this shocking (as long as it does not turn into slave-labour, but here is not your question)

Beside, I may be wrong, but had the impression that Colin Goldie did start precisely as Bernard Overton's apprentice...

Typically, this demonstrates the worth of apprenticeship to the public. If a craftsman does not form apprentices, then his craft will disappear with him.
In France, there are old forms of craftsmanship which disappear every year precisely because so many old masters could not get youth interested in the long, tough, learning of their lore, and prefer get money for unemployment...
Here's an example : no one in France can make any more real good linen sails.
Another ? Gone are those oak-tanned leather luggage that were totally rainproof, for camera equipement, horse and motorbike touring, etc. Ten years ago, I wrote a story on the master, who was ready to give away his shop in downtown Paris, customers list , tools, jigs and rigs to anyone who'd stay one year to learn the trade.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2002 12:46 am 
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On 2002-12-02 01:37, Redwolf wrote:
While it's important for apprentices to get experience making instruments, I think that apprentice-made instruments should be indicated as such, and priced appropriately below the work of a journeyman or master instrument maker.

An apprentice is, by definition, a student. You don't pay as much to have your hair cut by students at a beauty school as you do to have your hair cut by a certified stylist. You don't pay as much to have your teeth worked on by students at a dental school as you do to have them worked on by a licensed dentist. In both cases, you may get perfectly fine work done, but you pay less because you're allowing a student to "learn on you."

Redwolf


I think there's a strong case for this when the apprentice does *all* the work and (as with hair and teeth) mistakes are irreversible. But I think with guitars and other instruments like them, the apprentice would not do all, or even most, of the work and one would hope that nothing leaves the factory until it's been thoroughly checked out and passed by a fully qualified craftsman.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2002 12:59 am 
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To me, in art the mind is unique,
the sweat may stay anonymous.

Beside, no master controls 100% of his product. There is some part which is external. Say, tubing for instance, but also tools or control equipment.
This is the difference between apprenticeship and plain labour. Artwise, the apprentice evolves to become an extension of his master's eyes and hands.

Anyway, I don't care to know who exactly drilled which hole, as long as I get the sound I expected from the maker. Of course, with our whistles, my opinion may be contested. But if we were into concert pianos ?


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2002 1:07 am 
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On 2002-12-02 01:46, Zubivka wrote:


Beside, I may be wrong, but had the impression that Colin Goldie did start precisely as Bernard Overton's apprentice...




So did someone else well known around here .... snigger, snigger.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2002 1:11 am 
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In principle, I don't see anything wrong with the apprenticeship system. It all boils down to the integrity of the master, at the end of the day. An ethical master would make sure all the stuff made or partly-made by apprentices (esp. if they carry the master's own name instead of the apprentice's) are fully checked/finished by him and meet his own standards.

If you trust the master's integrity, and if word of mouth and your own experiences show his track record so far is ok, then I don't see a problem. I'm sure quite a few respected whistle makers have apprentices. I thought I read that Michael Burke does.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2002 1:15 am 
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On 2002-12-02 02:07, Wombat wrote:
So did someone else well known around here .... snigger, snigger.

C'mon! I left that other name out, just to keep your thread out of trouble :roll:


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2002 1:20 am 
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On 2002-12-02 02:15, Zubivka wrote:
Quote:

C'mon! I left out .. [censored] ... just to keep your thread out of trouble :roll:


Ooops! Sorry.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2002 7:48 am 
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Any craftsman understands that there is a learning curve involved in doing any particular step in production. After the basics are learned and are mastered it is a mater of finesse and speed that are developed. The only danger as we see so often people today it the urge to get to the final stage with out going thru all the hours of drudgery needed to get the basics. Then there is tying of all steps in the process together and making them seamless.
Boy this sound like the effort put into learning to play the whistle also.
Talent is some times born with in us but it still needs to be refined and developed. Even those amongst us who feel their intellect surpasses the need to develop their talents eventually find that you never have enough of working on your scales because you continue to improve.
It is only when thing flow effortlessly and seem so natural that you are getting close to being a true craftsman.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2002 1:58 pm 
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Hi Everyone!
I just saw this thread and thought it a good idea to write some comments regarding this subject.
I have never kept it a secret that I have help in making my whistles. No one person could produce the hundreds of whistles we produce each year. However, no one person produces anything, including myself. An intelligent division of work is the key to maximum efficiency and also to the very best quality in each instrument.
The parts for my whistles are produced by my Brother, John's company, Burke Tool Inc using the most advanced CNC equipment available. Bonni, an experienced journeyman machinist runs the machines. Burke Tool has dedicated several machines just to make our parts. Bonni loves idea of making parts for whistles and has made it a labor of love.
But in spite of the fact that we hold tolerances to half a thousanth of an inch, we custom hand fit each part together to form the whistle bodies, after the parts are given an initial polishing. This is done by my Step Father, Les Mainer an excellent mechanic, who has been a river boat engineer, auto body tech and barber his whole life. He is very good with his hands and takes a special pride in his work too. He has learned his job from me and has 4 years experience.
At this point in the process, the whistles will play, but not sound like a Burke should sound and may not be in tune in both octaves. The finished whistle bodies are now given to Steve Morris, my main apprentice. I really don't like to call Steve an apprentice any more, though, but instead a master tuner and voicer of whistles.
Steve is an accomplished musician on the guitar,which he has played for over 20 years including a number of years professionally. Steve has a wonderful ear for both tuning and tone and is an innovative thinker and very talented, mechanically. In short, he is a fine artist and with his 4 years experience tuning and voicing whistles, he should be thought of as a master whistle maker and voicer in his own right. I find that having a man of Steve's qualities working as a partner in my goal of making great whistles, we stimulate each other with new ideas on how to better voice whistles for the little things that make a big difference like dynamic ranges and transient response and tonal color. I bounce new ideas off him and have him help with some of the research, too.
Finally, I play and final voice each and every whistle that goes out before I date and sign it. Sometimes my part is very small, because Steve is just that good, and sometimes I have to spend some time on a whistle that is not quite up to our standard in some way.
Far from making our whistles less in quality, this team approach, I am sure, makes it possible for us to make not only more whistles, but to constantly improve our standards for excellence. Everyone on our team is an artist and cares very deeply about his work. I am proud of them all and for their contributions, I am very thankful.
I am sure that all the makers that have helpers or apprentices, or whatever they call them feel the same way if they have found people of these qualities to share their passion for excellence. None of us do our work alone for long without the support of others, even if it be the loyal and loving support of our spouses and friends, without which we would accomplish very little.
Happy Holidays to you all from the Burke Whistle Family!


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2002 2:45 pm 
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Burkes are indeed fine whistles and priced quite reasonably (I've got one!), but that's the point! The whistles are priced to pay for ALL the overhead, material, equipment, personnel, time and skills necessary to produce them, with a reasonable profit thrown in. All that is known up front. If they were advertised as "made by Mike Burke" and cost $500 a piece, that'd be a whole 'nother kettle of fish!

If I pay full price for a "master" class whistle, I want a litle bit of the glamour attached to knowing it was lovingly hand made or at least had major work done by the master himself. Not a whistle that "looks like and plays as good" as one by the master himself, "branded" or not.

On the other hand, I've got a sweetone, er, I mean "Copeland" I'll sell real cheap! Hand designed by the Master himself...at least the fipple... :lol:

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: curioso on 2002-12-02 15:47 ]</font>


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2002 7:36 pm 
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I had never really thought of Mike Burke contracting out/having apprentices do much of the work on his whistles. But, y'know what? It doesn't make a bit of difference to me. Nor does knowing that Michael Grinter doesn't do all the work on his whistles. Paul Busman mentioned on the board once that the metalwork on his whistles is done at a local machine shop. I wouldn't be surprised if Paul's mentor, Glenn Schultz, has some work done by others.

The bottom line is that those are most of my short list of the finest whistles available. I buy the way the whistle plays, not the knowledge that suchandsuch filed every burr, polished every blemish, etc., all by himself.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2002 8:14 pm 
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I think there's real value in having apprentices. There are lots of "rough" steps in most instruments. Do we consider power tool use as lowering quality? Probably not. So if a human being does some of the rough work, why should we consider that worse?

Something else to consider is that in getting ready to teach and pass on your skills, you really need to clarify your approach to things. This clarifying can really allow you to improve your process and your output.

Done right, you can get more instruments of higher quality out in less time per instrument. That's good for everyone, builder and player alike.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2002 1:28 am 
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Thanks very much Mike Burke for giving us a better picture of the amount of team work involved in making quality whistles. I know personally several very fine makers of hand-made, high-end instruments and none make a secret of their need for teamwork, including the use of apprentices. They also would never foist inferior craftsmanship on an unsuspecting customer—their reputations were too hard-won, and their integrity far too great, for that. So it was no surprise to me that making whistles was the same—they might be simple instruments but they are not all that simple. I'll continue to buy from makers of whistles who use teamwork when their whistles are as fine as Mike's, and sometimes even when their whistles aren't quite as fine as Mike's.


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