Being a woodsman — or woodswoman — is one of the most unique, rewarding careers you can experience. And it’s just that: an experience. While other employees put on a suit and tie and go through their 9-to-5ers, woodwoorkers wear the most comfortable clothes imaginable and spend their days outside. Of course, the weather’s not always agreeable, but there’s something about being paid to be outside that can’t be beat. However, not all woodworkers stay at their careers forever, so here’s a list of jobs related to that just for you.
Having worked outside for so long, woodworkers are keenly aware of how Mother Nature thrashes her weight around when she darn well feels like it. And on those days, there’s nothing you can do but get out of the way.
Unfortunately, a wildfire is one of the many harsh manifestations of nature, destroying everything in its path until it runs out of fuel. But before that point, firefighters do their best to try and contain the fire, such as choking it off with smaller ones or flying water-carrying helicopters. The hours are long and the job is more than dangerous, but woodworkers already know this.
Average Salary: In 2010, the starting wages for a firefighter with no experience was $11.95/hour and $17.93/hour for overtime. The USDA Forest Service also estimates that wildland firefighters work about 600 hours of overtime and hazard pay on top of that.
Possibly the opposite career of being a wildland firefighter — other than a logger — is to work in reforestation, or the practice of planting new forests. And if you think this sounds like a job for tree-huggers, think again. Your days will be 12+ hour long, stopping to eat lunch means losing pay because you’re paid piecework and not hourly, and will still have to show up to work no matter how sick you are or what the weather is like.
But suffer through the bad days, and you’ll be rewarded with good days that a regular employee couldn’t match in a year. All you have to do is wait for that one first day of spring, where the sun is out all day and the temperature is right, and you see a deer pop out into a clearing without shyness. Plus, once you get paid — if you’ve been working really hard — you’ll begin to see why reforestation can be such a lucrative career, even though you don’t work the entire year.
Average Salary: You get paid by the tree, which is usually 8 cents and up, depending on the time of year and harshness of the terrain. If you become a crew leader, you not only get paid for the trees you plant, but also a portion of what your planters plant. The number of trees planted in a day is upwards of 500, with really good planters able to put in 5,000 on even terrain in a 10+ hour day.
This is the job that makes woodwork come full circle, because if trees aren’t being planted or saved from burning down, they’re being cut to harvest their wood. Sawyers use chainsaws to cut, or “buck”, already felled trees into smaller pieces.
The main danger of this is widow-makers, or trees that are inches away from falling over and crushing you. They’re almost impossible to see until it’s too late, and working as a sawyer puts you in very close contact with them, especially if you’re working on forested slopes.
Average Salary: You’ll be making about $14 or $15 an hour to start off, but your rate will quickly rise with experience. Plus, like other woodworking jobs, the potential for overtime is almost always there.