Carpentry is a skilled trade in which the primary work performed is the cutting, shaping and installation of building materials during the construction of buildings, ships, timber bridges, concrete formwork, etc. Carpenters traditionally worked with natural wood and did the rougher work such as framing, but today many other materials are also used and sometimes the finer trades of cabinetmaking and furniture building are considered carpentry. Carpentry in the United States is almost always done by men. With 98.5% of carpenters being male, it was the fourth most male-dominated occupation in the country in 1999, and there were about 1.5 million positions in 2006. Carpenters are usually the first tradesmen on a job and the last to leave. Carpenters normally framed post-and-beam buildings until the end of the 19th century; now this old fashioned carpentry is called timber framing. Carpenters learn this trade by being employed through an apprenticeship training—normally 4 years—and qualify by successfully completing that country's department of labour competency test in places such as the UK, USA and South Africa. It is also common that the skill can be learnt by gaining work experience other than a formal training program, which may be the case in many places.
A carpenter is one of the most necessary and most used of all building trades due to their specialised knowledge and the techniques that they use when working with wood. Here is what you need to know about carpentry.
Definition of Carpentry
Carpentry can be defined as the art of working with timber in order to construct and maintain buildings, furniture, and other objects.
Types of Carpentry
While the term carpenter is used to refer to anyone that works with wood, there are actually different types of carpentry. The two main types of carpentry include:
- Rough Carpentry – this is all carpentry work that doesn’t require a neat finish as it will be covered up by walls or other items. Structural carpentry is the most common type of rough carpentry and these carpenters are very skilled in quickly erecting the structural components of a building, such as beams, posts, and rafters. Rough carpenters commonly work in roofing and framing.
- Finish Carpentry – finish carpentry refers to all carpentry work that will be visible once a building has been completed, and as such, finish carpenters work to a high level of detail. The type of work that finish carpenters do includes decking, flooring, building staircases, installing windows and doors, erecting pergolas or other structures, install trim and moulding, and so on.
However, there are also other types of carpentry that you can find and these include:
- Formwork Carpentry – this type of carpentry focuses on erecting and dismantling the formwork that is needed for the pouring of concrete. The formwork is the “frame” that holds the concrete in place while it cures.
- Cabinetmaking – this is a specialised branch of carpentry that focuses on building cabinetry for kitchens, bathrooms, laundries, offices and so forth. Furniture making is also a component.
- Trim Carpentry – a trim carpenter is one that specialises in installing the trims and mouldings into a room such as mantles, skirting boards, cornices, architraves, ornamental trim and so forth.
- Green Carpentry – a green carpenter is a carpenter that is skilled and trained in the same way as a standard carpenter but they have a particular interest and skill set in using environmentally sustainable methods and materials in their projects.
- Scenic Carpentry – these carpenters specialise in the erecting and dismantling of scenery and sets that are used in films, television, and plays.
- Ship’s Carpentry – a ship’s carpenter is one that specialises in ship building, maintenance and repair techniques. They are needed on steel ships as well as wooden ships.
What does a carpenter do?
Carpenters are engaged in a variety of different kinds of construction from making kitchen cabinets to building highways. They build, install, and repair fixtures and structures made from wood and a variety of other materials. Most tasks involve the same fundamental steps such as working with instructions or blueprints and creating the layout of the projects. They measure, mark, and organize materials according to the required codes for building. They also cut and shape materials using a variety of different tools. They then join the materials and complete a final check to make sure the work is accurate and if necessary they make adjustments.
Some carpenters complete a variety of different tasks and others focus on one or two. Since carpenters are highly trained they can usually switch from a variety of different construction projects with no problems.
What kind of training does a carpenter need?
Some carpenters work their way up by starting as assistants to carpenters. Many vocational and trade schools and community colleges offer training in carpentry. Some employers offer apprenticeships, which are programs that combine classroom training with on the job training. These programs typically take 4 years to complete and students learn the relationship between carpentry and other building fields. Carpenters learn basic structure design and become familiar with the general carpentry jobs such as form building, layout, rough framing, and finishing. They learn how to read blueprints, safety and first aid procedures, basic mathematics, freehand sketching, and many carpentry methods. They also learn how to use tools, equipment, machines, and materials.