Carpentry, joinery, and woodworking are all distinct yet related skilled trades. Each relies on specific technical knowledge and specialty tools to provide essential construction and finishing services to customers. Professionals in these trades typically begin their careers as an apprentice.
Let’s dive in and discuss the differences between carpentry, joinery, and woodworking. We’ll also discuss woodworking apprenticeships, joinery apprenticeships, and carpentry apprenticeships, as well as steps you may need to take after you’ve completed your training.
What is carpentry?
Carpentry is the skilled trade of cutting and joining wood to create buildings and other structures. Carpenters use nails, glue, screws, and other fasteners during their construction process.
Carpenters typically work on construction sites. They might be a part of a new construction or assist in renovations or repairs of wooden structures. A carpenter typically uses handheld tools that can be easily moved around a site. Though they primarily work with wood, carpenters may also use other materials, such as drywall, fibreglass, or plastic.
What is joinery?
Joinery is a specialized type of carpentry that focuses on joining pieces of wood to create items such as windows, door frames, staircases, and furniture. Joiners often use special techniques to join two pieces of wood without the use of nails or glue, though these materials are used in some projects.
Joiners usually work in a workshop that can accommodate their specialty equipment. They use many small handheld tools and stationary machinery, such as table saws, lathes, and routing tables. Carpenters often install items that a joiner has made.
What is woodworking?
Woodworking is the art of making items from wood, which includes both lumber and synthetic wood materials. A woodworker might make a variety of items that people use in their everyday lives, including furniture, cabinets, instruments, dishes, and sculptures.
Woodworkers may work in a woodshop or a manufacturing space (if they are making mass-produced items). They typically use a combination of handheld tools and large automated machinery, depending on what they are making.
Becoming an Apprentice
Carpenters, joiners, and woodworkers will typically learn their craft through an apprenticeship. This is a paid training program that combines classroom instruction with real-world, on-the-job training. It typically takes three to four years to complete joinery apprenticeships, carpentry apprenticeships, and woodworking apprenticeships. At the end of that time, you will be considered a master of your craft and can apply for a carpentry license (if one is required in your state).
To apply for woodworking, carpentry, or joinery apprenticeships in the United States, you will need to meet some basic requirements. These vary from state to state but generally include:
- Being at least 18 years old
- Graduating from high school or obtaining your GED
- Passing a qualification exam
- Showing proof that you can legally work in the U.S.
After Your Apprenticeship
Apprentice joiners, carpenters, and woodworkers who complete their program are considered “masters” of their craft. You may then need to apply for a carpentry or general contractor license to work legally in your state or local area. It’s advisable to check the licensing requirements in your area before you begin working to make sure you are following the law.
As a professional carpenter, joiner, or woodworker, you may also need or want business insurance to protect yourself on the job. Some types of carpentry insurance (that is, policies designed to fit the needs of carpentry tradespeople) may be mandatory in your state. Other types of coverage may be optional but could provide useful protection for events such as your tools being stolen, damage to your workshop, and accidentally causing a customer to injure themselves.
Which trade will you choose?
Carpenters, joiners, and woodworkers all work in a similar space, but their trades are separate. Each requires specific skills and talents, and each places unique demands on the people who practice them. If you decide to pursue a joinery apprenticeship, carpentry apprenticeship, or woodworking apprenticeship, you may have a promising career ahead of you!
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