Carpenters construct and repair building frameworks and structures—such as stairways, doorframes, partitions, and rafters—made from wood and other materials. They also may install kitchen cabinets, siding, and drywall.
Carpenters typically do the following:
- Follow blueprints and building plans to meet the needs of clients
- Install structures and fixtures, such as windows and molding
- Measure, cut, or shape wood, plastic, fiberglass, drywall, and other materials
- Construct building frameworks, including wall studs, floor joists, and doorframes
- Help put up, level, and install building framework with the aid of large pulleys and cranes
- Inspect and replace damaged framework or other structures and fixtures
- Instruct and direct laborers and other construction trade helpers
Carpenters are one of the most versatile construction occupations, with workers usually doing a variety of tasks. For example, some carpenters insulate office buildings; others install drywall or kitchen cabinets in homes. Those who help construct large buildings or bridges often make the wooden concrete forms for cement footings or pillars. Some carpenters build braces and scaffolding for buildings.
Carpenters use many different hand and power tools to cut and shape wood, plastic, fiberglass, or drywall. They commonly use handtools, including squares, levels, and chisels, as well as many power tools, such as sanders, circular saws, and nail guns. Carpenters put materials together with nails, screws, staples, and adhesives, and do a final check of their work to ensure accuracy. They use a tape measure on every project because proper measuring increases productivity, reduces waste, and ensures that the pieces being cut are the proper size.
The following are types of carpenters:
Residential carpenters typically specialize in new-home, townhome, and condominium building and remodeling. As part of a single job, they might build and set forms for footings, walls and slabs, and frame and finish exterior walls, roofs, and decks. They frame interior walls, build stairs, and install drywall, crown molding, doors, and kitchen cabinets. Highly-skilled carpenters may also tile floors and lay wood floors and carpet. Fully-trained construction carpenters are easily able to switch from new-home building to remodeling.
Commercial carpenters typically remodel and help build commercial office buildings, hospitals, hotels, schools, and shopping malls. Some specialize in working with light gauge and load-bearing steel framing for interior partitions, exterior framing, and curtain wall construction. Others specialize in working with concrete forming systems and finishing interior and exterior walls, partitions, and ceilings. Highly skilled carpenters can usually do many of the same tasks as residential carpenters.
Industrial carpenters typically work in civil and industrial settings where they put up scaffolding and build and set forms for pouring concrete. Some industrial carpenters build tunnel bracing or partitions in underground passageways and mines to control the circulation of air to worksites. Others build concrete forms for tunnels, bridges, dams, power plants, or sewer construction projects.
Woodworkers build a variety of products, such as cabinets and furniture, using wood.
Woodworkers typically do the following:
- Read detailed schematics and blueprints
- Prepare and set up equipment
- Lift wood pieces onto machines, either by hand or with hoists
- Operate wood-making and cutting machines
- Listen for unusual sounds or detect excessive vibration
- Ensure that products meet specifications, making adjustments as necessary
- Use hand tools to trim pieces or assemble products
- Remove and replace dull saw blades
Despite the abundance of plastics, metals, and other materials, wood products continue to be an important part of our daily lives. Woodworkers make wood products, using lumber and synthetic wood materials. Many of these products are mass produced, including most furniture, kitchen cabinets, and musical instruments. Other products are custom made with specialized tools in small shops.
Although the term “woodworker” may evoke the image of a craftsman who builds ornate furniture using hand tools, the modern woodworking trade is highly technical and relies on advanced equipment and highly skilled operators. Workers use automated machinery, such as computerized numerical control (CNC) machines, to do much of the work.
Even specialized artisans generally use a variety of power tools in their work. Much of the work is done in a high-production assembly line facility, but there is also some work that is customized and does not lend itself to being made in an assembly line. Woodworkers are employed in every part of the secondary wood products industry, from sawmill to finished product, and their activities vary.
Woodworkers set up, operate, and tend all types of woodworking machines, such as drill presses, lathes, shapers, routers, sanders, planers, and wood-nailing machines. Operators set up the equipment, cut and shape wooden parts, and verify dimensions, using a template, caliper, and rule. After wood parts are made, woodworkers add fasteners and adhesives and connect the pieces to form a complete unit. They then sand, stain, and, if necessary, coat the wood product with a sealer, such as a lacquer or varnish.
Many of these tasks are handled by different workers with specialized training.
The following are types of woodworkers:
Cabinetmakers and bench carpenters cut, shape, assemble, and make parts for wood products. They often design and create sets of cabinets that are customized for particular spaces. In some cases, their duties begin with designing a set of cabinets to specifications and end with installing them.
Furniture finishers shape, finish, and refinish damaged and worn furniture. They often work with antiques and must judge how to best preserve and repair them. They also do the staining and sealing at the end of the process of making wooden products.
Wood sawing machine setters, operators, and tenders specialize in operating specific pieces of woodworking machinery. They often operate computerized numerical control (CNC) machines.
Woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders, except sawing, operate woodworking machines, such as drill presses, lathes, routers, sanders, and planers.