Apprentice's Projects

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In reading in the history of mechanical fine technology, one comes across a number of references to near-legendary projects done as demonstration pieces by apprentices back in the Good Old Days. Though at times these are called "journeyman's" projects, they are not the frequently elaborate "masterpieces" created by journeymen to demonstrate sufficient skill in their craft to qualify for status as a master. Rather, they are pieces of a more mundane nature (such as a sufficiently good cube) created at a much lower level to demonstrate proficiency in basic tasks. As common as these stories are, though, it turns out to be remarkably difficult to pin down specifics about these projects. Certainly some of these projects were really done, but others may be no more than legend.

Here, within the Notebooks on Fitting, I'll collect all of the references I can find to apprentice's projects involving only the use of hand tools.

For apprentice's projects involving the use of machine tools, see ../../ Machine Shop -> Curricula -> Apprentice's Projects.

For apprentice's projects of a specifically horological nature (regardless of tools used), see ../../ Horology -> The Literature of Technical Horology -> Curricula -> Apprentice's Projects.

There will of course always be reasonable differences of opinion as to what might constitute a project appropriate for inclusion here. One might, for example, include many of the basic tools that apprentices might commonly have made (and then continued to use throughout their lifetime). Generally, though, there seems to be a feeling that a project of this sort is an impressive, but nonfunctional, showpiece. For example, filing a near-perfect cube is such a project because nobody really needs perfectly filed cubes in general machine work. It's true function is to show that the apprentice can, indeed, file flat, square, and parallel. But hand-scraping a near-perfect cube would be simply something that a qualified scraper hand would be expected to do, and such a cube would have many uses in practice.

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First Tasks

Well, of course the first task of an apprentice is to sweep the floor. But ignoring that, here are some tasks for acquiring basic skills.

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Shape and Plate

The archetype of this is the "cube and plate," but there are variations with other shapes.


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