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What Is Bespoke Joinery?

By J. Finnegan
Updated May 16, 2024
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Bespoke joinery is a British term for custom-made interior wooden furnishings. Bespoke refers to custom-made items individually crafted to a buyer's specifications, and joinery is a type of carpentry or woodworking. The United States uses different terms for the same thing such as custom cabinetry, custom furniture, and custom carpentry. Some carpenters, or joiners, specialize in one area of woodworking such as making bedroom furniture or kitchen cabinets. Others produce a broad range of bespoke joinery products and designs.

The term finish carpenter is preferred in the United States as the traditional term joiner is no longer used. The US designation differentiates finish carpenters from other types of carpentry. Finish carpenters build cabinets, furniture, and other types of fine woodworking. Trim carpenters make and install interior moldings that go around windows and doors and between floors and walls, which is typically called baseboard in the US and Canada, and skirting board in the UK.

A luthier is a woodworker that builds musical instruments. Cabinet makers specialize in building storage items like kitchen cabinets, wardrobes, dressers and more. Furniture makers specialize in making interior and exterior furniture. Framing is a type of carpentry that builds the structural parts of buildings, and it is sometimes called rough carpentry. In the UK, carpentry generally refers to the US equivalent of framing, but can also mean ship's carpentry, which is a term that's also used in the US and refers to shipbuilding.

Both the terms joinery and carpentry can be applied loosely to a broad range of woodworking skills. In the UK, carpentry typically implies on-site structural construction and joinery involves more decorative interior items made in the joiners workshop, then transported to the job-site. Generally, bespoke joinery refers to custom-made interior furnishings, but can also apply to custom-built outdoor furniture as well as custom-made interior and exterior moldings, decks, and flooring.

The types of bespoke joinery services offered are unique to the individual craftsman. Joinery and carpentry apprentices learn the fundamentals of the craft, then move on to specialize in one or more areas of woodworking. General joiners offer the broadest range of work, and can produce almost any type of bespoke joinery items. Regardless of the chosen specialty area, apprentices in the woodworking trade begin by learning joinery techniques such as making basic butt joints, dove-tail joints, tongue-and-groove joints and more. After they have learned the fundamentals, apprentices must choose and master their primary specialty area before expanding into other areas of joinery.

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