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What is a Carpenter?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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A carpenter is a craftsperson skilled in woodwork. There are several categories of carpentry, each involving a different skill set, so this person might be adept at only one or several types of woodworking skills.

Rough carpentry: A rough carpenter performs work that does not require a finishing touch. Framing and roofing are two of the most common examples, so roofers and framers are rough carpenters. They are skilled in quickly erecting skeletal structures of buildings, including beams, rafters and other large-scale work.

Finish carpentry: The opposite of rough carpentry, a finish carpenter might be skilled at making items like fine furniture, inlays, architectural models, or finely crafted wood instruments. He or she excels at extremely fine measurements and intricate, beautiful woodwork.

Cabinetry: Many craftsmen specialize in cabinetry. A cabinetmaker will have a skill set that combines an element of rough carpentry with an element of finish carpentry, all aimed towards creating cabinets. This person can design and build a completely unique, functional and stylish set of cabinets for any kitchen, galley or office.

Trim carpentry: A trim carpenter specializes in moldings and other trims to spruce up a room. This includes baseboards, window trims, ceiling trim and mantles. It can also include cabinetry.

Ship carpentry: A ship’s carpenter is skilled at nautical carpentry and familiar with all phases of shipbuilding. A yachtsman might hire a this professional to remodel a stateroom or repair a hull. Freighters or cruise ships normally keep a one employed as a permanent hand in case repairs or maintenance is needed at sea.

A skilled carpenter can be the answer to a poorly designed room with too little closet space, or a kitchen with too few cabinets. A homeowner who would like a cedar dresser with deep drawers might consider hiring carpenter to design one for to the exact dimensions of the available space. In some cases, the cost of hiring this professional is comparable to buying ready-made products from an outlet that are lesser in quality.

If a homeowner is hiring a woodworking professional to frame an addition or do any substantial building, he or she should be aware that city building permits might have to be obtained, and inspections might be called for. Before agreeing to a job, the person would be wise to get the quote in writing and ask for a business license and local references.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By gravois — On Oct 16, 2012

What is the process for getting carpentry training? I am good with my hands and pretty handy, but I couldn't build a house. How do those men and women get the skills they need to do the job that is asked of them?

By vigilant — On Oct 16, 2012

Would you guys recommend becoming a union or non union carpenter? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each course and where am I more likely to find a job. Thanks for the info guys!

By chivebasil — On Oct 15, 2012

My dad worked as a carpenter for most of his career. He never got rich, but he had steady rewarding work that put food on the table for my mom and my two brothers.

I thought about following in his footsteps and going into the trades myself but he really encouraged me to use my mind rather than my body. He had a lot of health problems late in his life and I think he blamed a lot of them on the work that he did.

I ended up becoming an engineer, and even though I get restless behind the desk sometimes, I think I made the right choice.

By Nepal2016 — On May 22, 2011

@bigjim - Agreed. Carpenter employment is kind of an indicator for the economy, because the jobs come and go with the amount of building or renovating being done.

A smart carpenter will learn more than one of the different types of carpentry, so that they are available for more kinds of work. A rough carpenter who can also do trim and finish work has a wide range of job options compared to someone who can only do one type of work.

By bigjim — On May 19, 2011

If the economy keeps picking up, there should be a lot of carpenter jobs available as things get rolling again. You really can't build anything without good carpenters.

By KLR650 — On May 17, 2011

When I was little I really wanted to become a carpenter. I love how some people can just look at a blank space and know exactly what should be there, and then go ahead and build it. I can do basic things, but apparently my talents lie elsewhere.

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