What is the difference between a carpenter, a woodworker, and a joiner? For most people, these terms are often used interchangeably, and many believe they describe the same thing or type of work. However, this isn’t the case. While these are related skill trades, they are all distinct and require different skill sets, tools, and expertise.
Carpentry work occurs in a field setting using mobile tools to tackle larger wood-based projects such as decks, pergolas, and houses. Woodworking focuses on producing smaller high-quality wooden items such as furniture and cabinets in a shop setting. Joinery is the process that connects two or more sections of wood using various joinery techniques, also in a shop setting.
The problem is there is a lot of overlap between these terms or definitions. So, for those of you interested in learning more about how these trades differ and the skills and techniques required for each type of job, read on! We will go over the subtle differences between carpentry, woodworking, and joinery and learn many interesting things along the way.
Carpentry is a skilled trade or occupation that involves making, installing, and repairing things, usually by cutting and joining timber.
Carpenters are tradespeople that usually work in the field or at construction/job sites, both indoors and outdoors. They carry mobile tools to help them build, repair, refurbish, and renovate large structures made out of wood and other materials on-site.
Carpenters can help build houses, decks, patios, staircases, sheds, pergolas, fences, windows, doors, ramps, and much more. The list is endless but predominantly involves the construction of a structure that is stationary and built to last a long-time.
Carpentry can further be broken down into many different sub-categories and specializations. Some carpenters only work on projects that involve framing up new houses, others only install interior fine trim in homes and offices, while some are extremely specialized and work on just building frames for pouring concrete, for example.
While looking for a carpenter, it is important to understand what their specialty is and whether they have the right skill sets and experience for the project at hand. A carpenter that specializes in building patios or installing drywalls, for example, would struggle with making fine trim and furnishing for your home and vice versa.
Carpentry is also closely associated with the construction industry, with many carpenters working on large-scale residential, commercial, and industrial projects. As such, carpenters are usually trained in a wide variety of tasks and are involved in most construction projects from start to finish. Carpenters are also the people you would call for building and repairing wooden structures such as window frames, doors, and stairways. They are also adept at all types of woodwork installations for cabinets, floors, shelving, and other fixtures.
Here is a list of tools (in no particular order) that all carpenters frequently use to carry out carpentry tasks:
These mobile tools allow carpenters to take on a wide variety of tasks, from framing the structure of an entire home to working on window and door trim.
Woodworking is an art form that involves using premium wood to create exquisite pieces of furniture and other innate wooden objects that are usually smaller in size and can be moved by hand.
Just like there are many types of carpenters, there are also many types of woodworkers who use lumber and other types of synthetic wood materials to manufacture a wide variety of products. Woodworkers are craftspeople that include engravers, luthiers, furniture manufacturers, framers, carvers, and turners.
Engravers specialize in wood engraving. Luthiers specialize in making musical instruments from wood, and turners are skilled at operating the lathe to create all sorts of turned items such as bowls, dishes, table tops, etc. Some woodworkers also specialize in just the operating of different types of woodworking machinery.
As there is a lot more use of specialist tools, equipment, and machinery in woodworking, almost all woodworkers work out of a shop setting where they have access to everything they need to produce small high-quality products made out of wood. They excel at creating custom pieces for those who want something built by skilled hands and not mass-produced.
When you think of a woodworker, you should think of a person who is skilled at making custom furniture, stylish cabinets, exquisite lamps, tables, clocks, and much more.
To create these wooden masterpieces, woodworkers use a variety of handheld and automated tools, many of which are also used by carpenters. However, while some tools, such as chisels and planes, can be carried around, other essential heavy tools, such as joiners and drill presses, are hard to move. That is why many woodworkers prefer to work in a shop setting rather than on the job site.
Woodworkers are the professionals to call if you are looking for a custom and beautifully crafted end table, lamp, high-end furniture, or other intricate objects made of wood. They are highly skilled professionals who spend years if not decades mastering the woodworking trade.
Joinery is the process of physically attaching or joining two pieces of wood using various techniques to give the structure added strength and durability. Joinery can also be used as a term to collectively define all types of fine woodwork in a building, including stairs, doors, and window frames.
A joiner is a person that has mastery over the various techniques of joinery in woodworking and predominantly works on frame and panel construction in a shop setting.
Joiners are neither carpenters nor woodworkers. They have a highly specialized skill set that allows them to join wooden frames in a workshop so carpenters can easily install them at the work site.
There are many types of joinery techniques, and a skilled joiner usually has mastery over them all. Some of the most common types of joinery techniques include butt joints, dovetail joints, tongue and groove joints, finger joints, biscuit joints, dowels, scarf joints, and pocket hole joints to name a few.
Having mastery over so many different types of joint techniques is what sets joiners apart from woodworkers and carpenters, who are often skilled at just one or two types of joinery techniques.
By using specialized tools, techniques, and skills, joiners can join different pieces of wood without the use of any nails or glue, which results in a more premium finish and can make any piece of furniture or frame look that much more aesthetically pleasing.
Joiners like woodworkers prefer to work in a shop setting as the trade requires the use of several types of specialty equipment such as combination squares, bevels, hand saws, mortise chisels, smoothing planes, marking knives, sanders, compass saws, porta-nailers, staplers, tackers and stationary machines such as table saws, routing tables, and lathes.
A carpenter might not be able to do the same job as a woodworker. In the same way, a professional joiner won’t necessarily dabble in woodworking or carpentry. Knowing who to call based on the project you may have on hand can save you time, money, and potential headaches. Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences of each type of trade.
Carpentry Vs. Woodworking
Woodworking and carpentry are often terms that are used interchangeably as they have many overlapping features. Many carpenters dabble in woodworking, and many woodworkers also take on carpentry jobs. However, that doesn’t mean a carpenter and woodworker are the same.
While both professions work with wood and timber, carpentry involves the use of more hand-held tools and the ability to be mobile. Woodworking, on the other hand, is more machine-operated and requires the use of specialized equipment and tools that can’t be moved about. That is why almost all woodworkers work in a shop setting.
The other key difference between the two is that carpentry involves constructing large-sized wooden structures that are built to last for generations. Whereas woodworking is all about making ornate wooden objects, trinkets, and furniture that are often small enough to be moved by hand and are beautifully crafted.
As such, woodworking is considered more of an art form, while carpentry involves the more mundane and less creative woodwork jobs such as assembling wood fixtures such as stud work and fitting floors and roofing.
Carpentry Vs. Joinery
Carpentry and joinery make up the two main trades required in architecture and construction and are two terms that are also often used interchangeably. However, while they are similar, they aren’t the same.
Joiners are artisans and tradespeople that typically join pieces of wood in a workshop that are then installed by carpenters on the job site. Joiners focus on creating a range of timber products that are designed to be easy to install at a work site using only basic tools. They also use their skills to create ornate pieces of furniture or construct solid wooden frames to assist with the construction and architecture of the structure or project at hand.
Essentially, they are responsible for providing carpenters with all the wooden components they would need during the construction process. The finished wooden components are shipped out to the job site, where the carpenter then installs them using only basic hand-held tools such as a hammer and nails.
Joinery Vs. Woodworking In many ways, a lot of what woodworking entails is joinery work. However, a woodworker is involved with the entire manufacturing process, whereas a joiner specializes in joining pieces of wood to facilitate and speed up the manufacturing process.
You can say that joinery is a specialization within woodworking that focuses more on frame and panel construction and the fabrication of wooden components and fittings required in the construction of buildings and homes. Whereas woodworking is more of a craft aimed at furniture and cabinet-making.
Q1) When Should You Call A Carpenter Vs. A Woodworker?
Carpenters are the best people to call if you want something large and sturdy, like a deck or shed built on-site. They are also the professionals to call for any repair or renovation work that you might need involving wood. Woodworkers are most suited to making custom furniture and working with premium wood materials to create exquisite wooden objects. Find a woodworker if you need a custom furniture piece like a tabletop or an ornate lamp or a sculpted wooden decoration.
Q2) What Is The Difference Between A Carpenter & A Contractor?
Many people also get confused between these two terms. Simply put, a carpenter is someone who physically does all the carpentry work required on-site, whereas a contractor is someone you hire to overlook the entire construction process to ensure the project is completed on time and within budget.
Q3) When Should You Call A Joiner?
You wouldn’t call a joiner as often as a carpenter or woodworker. This is because most of the work that joiners do is related to the construction industry. As such, most of their clients are contractors or carpenters. However, in certain instances, you may need the assistance of a joiner. For example, for those looking to create structures such as staircases and cabinets without wanting to use any nails or glue to join the wood together (to achieve a stronger, more seamless, and aesthetically pleasing finish), a joiner is who you should call.
Carpentry, woodworking, and joinery are all crafts that can take years to master. The skills, training, and knowledge required for each trade vary, as does the type of woodwork involved.
We hope our breakdown of each trade has helped alleviate any confusion you may have had about these terms and has provided you with a better idea of what apprenticeship you may be most interested in undertaking or who to call for different types of wood-related projects.
Popular Contracting Inc is Boston's go-to reliable contractor for commercial and residential projects. Contact us for a free quote today.