The initial tasks assigned to a new apprentice would generally be as a labourer working with rough, quarried stone. As the apprentice became proficient with his current tasks, he would be assigned more detailed and technical work.

The knowledge required to be a master mason involved much more than just working with stone. To design and build large structures required a thorough understanding of science, math, and geometry. The stone mason profession combined the intense physical labour required to work with tons of stone, with significant intellectual capabilities. This would have created an extremely challenging environment for the new apprentice, but it also would have drawn some to the craft.

At the time, education was mostly limited to the very wealthy and religious leaders. Stone masonry was a notable exception. This fact very well could have been one of the reasons men who were not operative stone masons wanted to join stone mason guilds, which led to modern speculative Masonry. To elevate himself to the next level(that of “journeyman” or “fellow of the craft”), the apprentice would have to serve his master for the minimum time specified in his contract and also display sufficient proficiency in the required work. It was not enough for the apprentice to “know” how to perform his work; he had to actually “do” the work in a satisfactory manner.
Freemasonry, like operative masonry, is an active craft. It requires work, effort, and struggle. The true benefits of Freemasonry are realised when we are able to find practical applications of Masonic lessons and tools within our own lives. The labours of the apprentice were evaluated and judged by his master. Extra attention would have been focused on areas deemed less than stellar. As we apply the tools of Freemasonry, our attentive, personal evaluation allows us to identify areas within our life where we can grow, develop and make changes for the better - thereby moving from the rough, toward the perfect ashlar.