A carpenter is a skilled craftsman who performs carpentry -- a wide range of woodworking that includes constructing buildings, furniture, and other objects out of wood. The work generally involves significant manual labor and work outdoors, particularly in rough carpentry.

Since most of carpentry's required knowledge is gained through experience, the profession can be relatively easy to enter (this varies with the legal requirements from country to country), but the job may not pay well. Many people have become carpenters in order to make a living while pursuing other interests (for example Harrison Ford turned to carpentry while going through a lull in his acting career in the 1970s). Some people have become famous as carpenters, such as Norm Abram.

Carpentry is an old profession that is often respected for its importance in society throughout much of history. Joseph (husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus) and Jesus himself are often considered carpenters.

In British slang a carpenter is sometimes referred to as a "chippie".

American carpenters sometimes refer to themselves informally as wood butchers, and carpentry as the wood butcher's art.

Types of carpentry and carpenters

A rough carpenter is one who does rough carpentry; that is, framing, roofing, and other structural or other large-scale work that need not be finely joined or polished in appearance.

A finish carpenter is one who does finish carpentry; that is, cabinetry, furniture making, fine woodworking, model building, instrument making, parquetry, joinery, or other carpentry where exact joints and minimal margins of error are important. Some large-scale construction may be of an exactitude and artistry that it is classed as finish carpentry.

A ship's carpenter specializes in shipbuilding techniques (see also shipwright) and carpentry specific to nautical needs; usually the term refers to a carpenter who has a post on a specific ship.

A framer builds the skeletal structure or framework of buildings. Techniques include balloon framing, stick framing, or timber framing (which may be post-and-beam or mortise-and-tenon framing).

A roofer specializes in roof construction, concentrating on rafters, beams, and trusses. Naturally, a roofer must be good with heights and have good balance as well as carpentry skills.


Tradesmen in countries such as Germany are required to fulfill a formal apprenticeship (usually three years) to work as a professional carpenter. Upon graduation from the apprenticeship, he or she is known as a journeyman carpenter. Up through the 19th and even the early 20th century, the journeyman traveled to another region of the country to learn the building styles and techniques of that area before (usually) returning home. In modern times, journeymen are not required to travel, and the term refers more to a level of proficiency and skill. Union carpenters in the United States are required to pass a skills test to be granted official journeyman status, but uncertified professional carpenters may be known as journeymen based on their skill level, years of experience, or simply because they support themselves in the trade, and not due to any certification or formal woodworking education.

After working as a journeyman for a specified period, often ten years or more, a carpenter may go on to study or test as a master carpenter. In some countries, such as Germany or Japan, this is an arduous process requiring extensive knowledge and skill to achieve master certification. In others, it can be a loosely used term to describe a skilled carpenter.

See also

fr:Charpentier ja:大工 nl:timmerman


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