What does one use a shop elf for? Maintenance tasks like:
- Polishing hammer faces, stakes, other tools
- Mixing up new pickle
- Mounting or tightening hammer handles
- Sweeping and Vacuuming the Shop
- Cleaning pieces you have just finished polishing and are covered in polishing compound. This is using soap, water, soft brushes, ultrasonic cleaners and such.
- Making plier, hammer, stake stands via drilling, screwing, staining, painting to your specifications.
- Setting up and changing out gas tanks
- Buying equipment like a drill press, belt sander, ultrasonic cleaner, etc..
Step One - Choosing your Shop Elf
The best shop elves come from your significant other. That can be your partner, husband, wife, or the person you spend time with. If that is not what you want, then go with someone you know who wants to help. Make sure whom ever your shop elf will be make sure they do not want free lessons. Why?? The shop elf is there to help and go off with a task you need done that you really don't have time for or don't want to do. (see types of tasks above)
Step Two - Shop Elf in Training (Level 1)
Start their training with a set of simple tasks. Of course you will have to show them what has to be done, that is part of their training. I started mine off with mixing pickle, removing items from the pickle and rinsing and drying, and cleaning items with the ultrasonic cleaner, vacuuming the shop floor but not bench work surfaces. These should be easy tasks where they can't destroy you, a piece you are working on, or themselves. This introductory period is to see if they can take instruction and if you can really work together.
Note: Always praise them if they do a good job. If you need to give them some form of correctional instruction to help them to the job better then next time, do that AFTER a thank you and praising what they did correct; and lead into it with - "and next time... " this is so they know there will be a next time. BUT if they take it upon themselves to do you a favor and THEN do something wrong; they must either be given a sock and told they are no longer a shop elf (this get's rid of them) or they have to start all over with acquiring responsibility. Oh, and make them feel very, very, very guilty but never ever yell at them.
Step Three - Shop Elf Apprentice (Level 2 a, b, c...z)
Level two is the TRUE training program. Start with polishing hammer faces, stakes, chasing tools, etc. and make sure they follow proper safety precautions. Then move to tightening loose hammer handles with wedges and with time teach them about changing polishing wheels, cleaning the residue off of metal after it is removed from the pickle. Each new task moves them up a minor level until they can do 26+ tasks; what they are up to you, or if you want to follow an traditional apprenticeship program, SEVEN YEARS.
Note: Much more praise is required at this level. Maybe having a meal or drink together after some especially well completed tasks help reinforces jobs well done. BUT using epoxy to tighten a hammer handle with an "I thought this would really prevent it from loosening again" could be cause for dismissal or being set back a level. This is up to you but I think you get the idea.
Step Four - Shop Elf Journeyman (Level 3)
Level 3 means that they have completed their apprenticeship. At this point they can take it upon themselves to do any task that they have been trained in (see apprenticeship) and take on more advanced new types of tasks that are assigned by you; as the master, do not show them how to do it but ASK - how would you do this?? Then a discussion might follow or the shop elf is told that their answer is correct and they can proceed. Such a task would be asking them to make a plier stand based upon one you have, purchasing buffing wheels for the polisher. The first offense is noted, the second offense gives them a warning, the third resets their Journeyman clock. Taking 3 months to finish a task resets the clock too.
At the end of three years of good work (with no set-backs) they can now submit their some work as their "masterpiece" - yes this is where the term comes from. They have taken it upon themselves to make you something that you can use in your shop and the have done it all on their own and thought about YOUR needs, not how they would use it.
Note: Before they can move on being a Master, they have to have completed at least 3 years of work at this level. Yeah, if you work it right you can keep them helping you forever! During this time you can call them either jack or knave as these are sometimes used as informal words for journeyman.
Note: But if the masterpiece was not accepted by the masters, the journeyman is not allowed to join the guild possibly remaining a journeyman for the rest of his life. (HINT HINT)
Step Five - Shop Elf Master (Level 4)
A master level Shop Elf means that they have submitted their masterpiece, forms in triplicate and paid the fee to The Most Masterful Guild of Shop-Elves AND they have been accepted. This classification allows them to move freely about the studio and help.
Note: First tell them you are waiting for the forms, that they must submit in triplicate and that you will send them in as there is an evaluation that you have to fill out; and lastly their acceptance to the guild will come to you and you will present them with the results.
Note: There is NO such organization known as The Most Masterful Guild of Shop-Elves at this time so you can stop worrying.
And remember - never ever give them a sock or apron of their own, only promise it. If you do they won't be YOUR (shop) elf anymore as they will now be free. Free elves are called a DOBBY. It should be noted that handing a sock to a shop elf and telling them to put it on a hammer head to protect it IS NOT GIVING the elf the sock you are only telling him what to do with the sock. "A house elf can only be freed when their master presents them with clothes."