When was the last time you built something with your own two hands? All over the world, carpenters earn their paycheck by construct things out of wood. They saw, hammer, sand, shape, fasten, construct, level, and erect things. It’s a cool, active way to make a living.
Wood is one of the basic building blocks of our worlds. Think about all of the things made out of wood – houses, buildings, playgrounds, bookcases, cabinets, doors, barns, mine shafts, ships, storage tanks, sheds, toys, and so much more.
Carpentry is one of the world’s oldest professions. They used wood to fix wagons, carts, and barns. Now their craft focuses on framing houses, constructing theatrical sets, finishing trim and cabinets, building ships, and doing custom woodwork.
Carpenters are the largest group in the busy construction industry – employing more than 1.2 million people in the United States. These professional craftsmen have an active, tough job that requires stamina, manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination, balance, strength, and an eye for accuracy.
Many carpenters work under a general contractor, but about 30% of carpenters are self-employed. A carpenter’s job consists of reviewing blueprints, ordering wood, and constructing projects. The project may start from scratch, be a remodel, or focus on detailed finish work. In order to be successful, carpenters need to be able to follow directions very well and ensure that their work meets local building codes. To make sure their bosses and clients are happy, the final product they create needs to match the blueprints and plans.
Carpenters usually specialize in rough or finish work. Rough work is at the beginning of projects and includes things like framing, scaffolding, building concrete forms, or laying plywood. Flooring, dry wall, or some type of finish work eventually covers any rough work. Finish work takes a keen eye for detail and includes doors, windows, molding, floors, cabinets, counters, shelves, paneling, furniture, exterior siding, toys, picture frames, and any custom woodwork – it includes any work that is seen.
Depending on what type of work they are doing, carpenters may work inside or outside. To complete their jobs they use all sorts of equipment and tools – some hazardous. Carpenters know how to use tools like hammers, saws, drills, chisels, nails, screws, bolts, glue, safety goggles, sanders, gloves, nail guns, plumb bobs, rulers, chalk boxes, pencils, and levels.
You can’t become a carpenter overnight. Most carpenters start by taking woodworking courses and math classes. Most professional carpenters complete a 3 to 4 year apprenticeship approved by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship Training, Employer and Labor Services that includes 144 hours of classroom instruction per year. This allows them to learn the craft by watching and working hands on with a seasoned pro.
Carpentry is an excellent way to make a living. It is a wonderful skill to learn for anyone that is handy with tools. Tune your TV into This Old House or New Yankee Workshop to learn more about this popular craft and career.
Carpentry requires mental and physical work. Think about all the building projects in your town – most of them require a carpenter. There is plenty of work for handy people. If you choose to make carpentry your career, you can plan to earn $16.90 per hour or about $21,000 to $60,000 per year. The average salary is $39,000 per year.
At the end of the day if you like to see what you accomplished and you don’t mind being covered in sawdust or occasionally smacking your finger with a stray hammer strike, then you should consider working as a carpenter.
Quick Facts About Carpenter Positions
Job Title: Carpenter
Office: Construction sites, remodels, factories, shops, lumberyards
Description: Saw, shape, and build things using wood
Certifications/Education: Courses in woodworking and math; Apprenticeships
Necessary Skills: Stamina, manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination, balance, accuracy
Potential Employers: General Contractors, Self Employed, Set Construction, Schools
Pay: $21,000 to $60,000 per year
United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
Associated General Contractors of America
US Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship Training, Employer and Labor Services
Home Builders Institute
National Association of Home Builders