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A woodworker is someone who builds a variety of products, such as cabinets (cabinetmaker) and furniture (furniture finisher) that are made out of wood and synthetic wood materials. Woodworkers can also be called carpenters.
Despite the abundance of plastics, metals, and other materials, wood products continue to be an important part of our daily lives. Many of these products are mass produced, including most furniture, kitchen cabinets, and musical instruments. Other products are custom made with specialized tools in small shops.
Woodworkers typically do the following:
Although the term “woodworker” may evoke the image of a craftsman who builds ornate furniture using hand tools, the modern woodworking trade is highly technical and relies on advanced equipment and highly skilled operators. Workers use automated machinery, such as computerized numerical control (CNC) machines, to do much of the work. Even specialized artisans generally use a variety of power tools in their work. Much of the work is done in a high-production assembly line facility, but there is also some work that is customized and does not lend itself to being made in an assembly line.
Woodworkers are employed in every part of the secondary wood products industry, from sawmill to finished product, and their activities vary. They set up, operate, and tend all types of woodworking machines, such as drill presses, lathes, shapers, routers, sanders, planers, and wood-nailing machines. Operators set up the equipment, cut and shape wooden parts, and verify dimensions, using a template, caliper, and rule.
After wood parts are made, woodworkers add fasteners and adhesives and connect the pieces to form a complete unit. They then sand, stain, and if necessary, coat the wood product with a sealer, such as a lacquer or varnish.
Working conditions vary, depending on specific job duties. Often, workers have to handle heavy, bulky materials, and they encounter a lot of noise and dust. Workers must often wear earplugs, gloves, and goggles to protect themselves. Most work full time during regular business hours.
Many employers seek applicants who have a high school diploma or the equivalent. People seeking woodworking jobs can enhance their employment and advancement prospects by completing high school and getting training in computer applications and math. Some woodworkers obtain their skills by taking courses at technical schools or community colleges. Others attend universities that offer training in wood technology, furniture manufacturing, wood engineering, and production management. These programs prepare students for jobs in production, supervision, engineering, and management, and are increasingly important as woodworking technology advances. Some woodworkers become Certified Custom Woodworkers or Master Custom Woodworkers through certification.
Education is helpful, but woodworkers are primarily trained on the job, where they learn skills from experienced workers. Beginning woodworkers are given basic tasks, such as putting a piece of wood through a machine and catching the wood at the end of the process. As they gain experience, new woodworkers do more complex tasks with less supervision. In about one year, they can learn basic machine operations and job tasks. Becoming a skilled woodworker often takes three or more years. Skilled workers can read blueprints, set up machines, and plan work sequences.