Miconceptions between carpentry and woodworking

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Blog entry by Rustic posted 09-25-2008 03:04 PM 1332 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The other day a friend of mine called me and asked if I could help out a lady friend of his whose front door frame had rotted out and caused the entry way floor to collapse. Well he told the lady that I do carpentry and plumbing and all that. I politely told him that I am a woodworker, a carpenter builds homes and the like. I am not very knowledeable in carpentry nor am I a licensed carpenter. Well, I told hom that I would help the lady out as best I could. So it is not all bad, I will be learning how to replace a floor, which I need to do in my shop. My point is, that people need to know the difference between a woodworker and a carpenter.

--, Rick Kruse, Grand Rapids, MI

9 comments so far

View romansfivefive's profile


302 posts in 3795 days

#1 posted 09-25-2008 04:28 PM

My friend (an engineer) says that carpentry is a science and woodworking is an art. I am sure that there is plenty of overlap in each area, but perhaps the most telling difference I have noticed between a woodworker and a carpenter is that a carpenter has a reasonable expection that their craft can provide them a good paying job while so many woodworkers need good paying jobs to support thier craft.

-- The CNC machine can either produce the work of art you imagined, or very decorative firewood.

View dsb1829's profile


367 posts in 3649 days

#2 posted 09-25-2008 04:33 PM

Need to know? That is the question. It is a funny thing. I am, like you, by no means a carpenter. However for the last decate my projects have all been skillsaw, sawzall, deck screws and the like. Coming back over to shop-made craftsman work is truly a different world. I don’t think anyone who hasn’t tried woodworking can truly appreciate the difference between building a deck and building a nice piece of furniture. We can keep trying to educate, but I don’t have high expectations on comprehension from the recipients.

-- Doug, woodworking in Alabama

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3915 days

#3 posted 09-25-2008 04:57 PM

I’ve always pretended ? that the ladder of woodworking skills development started at

Master Carpenter
Cabinet Maker
Master Cabinet Maker

and lastly

Master Joiner. ...........the word “Master” cannot be self appointed but rather given to them from a group/Guild that “Juries” their work.

“Woodworker” is just a word.


-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Quixote's profile


206 posts in 3660 days

#4 posted 09-26-2008 05:14 AM

I prefer to think of the skills as different branches of the same tree.

Think of dentist, a heart surgeon, a neurologist, and a pshycologist.

All share some common elements, Doctors, but each requires a different skill set.


-- I don't make sawdust...I produce vast quantities of "Micro Mulch."

View gusthehonky's profile


130 posts in 3764 days

#5 posted 09-26-2008 05:48 AM

I hope this link is allowed. I had trouble getting it to work. This site is for pro tradesmen only and the first tread is their take on this topic. Please be respectful of this forum and its members, its not much of a woodworker site but a pro tradesman’s. Thanks in advance.

-- Ciao, gth.

View gusthehonky's profile


130 posts in 3764 days

#6 posted 09-26-2008 08:13 AM

- ” i’m looking to become a master carpenter (":http://- i’m looking to become a master carpenter (

Here is another take

-- Ciao, gth.

View James Lango's profile

James Lango

186 posts in 3556 days

#7 posted 09-27-2008 07:15 AM

I have to agree with Romans55, I consider woodworking (as it relates to me) as an ART. At leasts thats what It feels like when the finishing touches are being put on a piece. Feels even morso when you created something without plans, and the deisgn is graceful and proportioned.
I think of the differences between carpentry and woodworking to be this:
Carpentry- rough in, tolerances of probably 1/4 inch.
Woodworking- very delicate, (not rough) tolerance 1/32” to 1/16” Usually I build within 1/16”


View Richforever's profile


757 posts in 3742 days

#8 posted 09-28-2008 06:58 AM

I’ve done lots of finishing work and trim work around the house. I asked my uncle one day if Grandpa (who was a carpenter) would be proud of me and what I’ve done.

“No”, he said. “Grandpa was a framing carpenter who could not tolerate the details. If a miter joint didn’t fit tightly, he’d pound another nail into it.”

That was a wakeup call for me. I value quality work whether framing or trim. I like the ability to do whatever gets good results in a particular situation. I probably would not like doing woodworking or carpentry as a “job”.

“Science” and “art” should be co-existent.

-- Rich, Seattle, WA

View tooldad's profile


660 posts in 3737 days

#9 posted 09-28-2008 07:09 AM

In the state of Missouri educational system, Shop is considered a “Practical Art”. Fine art consists of “art” and music classes. Home Ec also falls under the practical art label. Being a shop teacher who has taught both vocational carpentry, and general woodworking, I would consider woodworking an art. Carpentry is a vocation.

Not to sound like I am bragging, but I can do both. However I learned to do woodworking before I learned construction. What I am getting at is that I learned to be detailed and accurate first. Then learned carpentry. Often when I am building a deck for a friend, they tell me not to be so worried about it, just screw it down, or just cut it.

Carpentry has larger tolerances, woodworking has tighter tolerances.

Think about it this way. Someone that builds a table out of 2×4s and plywood would be called a carpenter. Someone that builds a table out of quarter sawn white oak is a woodworker or a skilled carpenter. However they both are functional tables.

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