During the Tour, if they make it all the way through, carpenters will create two objects. These are works that show the compagnons their motivation and aptitude – both technical and moral. These are often mistakenly referred to as masterworks; the appropriate terms are acceptance piece and induction piece. An apprentice carpenter first works on the acceptance piece, an initial work that, if successful, will allow him or her to be accepted into the Tour de France as an aspirant. When aspirants arrive in the city, generally in October, they are tested by the compagnons for three months. They are offered the chance to create a piece, of a type that may be freely chosen or assigned by senior carpenters. It must be created during the aspirant's free time in a period of six weeks. This requires both tenacity and mastery of some of the difficulties of roofing geometry. The piece must also have a perfect finish, something that carpenters are not always inclined to do, as they are more used to handling large, rough pieces of wood. If both the piece and the behaviour of the aspirant are deemed satisfactory, the intern is accepted during a ritual that is shared by all the various trades. During this impressive and exclusive ritual, the young people each receive a walking stick and a sash, as well as a special name.
The initiation process is a perfect illustration of Arnold Van Gennep's theory of the rite of passage.
In their presence, the initial brands are made on the guild scarf that they will wear around their necks.
The aspirant continues the Tour de France for five years, after which he or she can be inducted into the compagnons. To be worthy of this, the aspirant must, for several months, become a fox, i.e. voluntarily place him- or herself outside of the community to work on a second piece, which is much complex than that one for the acceptance piece. It can be a collective piece made by two or three compagnons.
Through the power of the ritual and the psychological testing that the candidate is put through; the induction becomes one of the high points in the life of a compagnon. The society gives the candidate a new compagnon name, presents him or her with a walking stick and brands new symbols on his or her sash, for example that of the cathedral, which is worn across the chest.
The initiation process is a perfect illustration of Arnold Van Gennep's early 20th century theory of the rite of passage, with its successive stages of isolation, marginality and finally aggregation into the social body.