See J. Capostosto, Basic Carpentry (2d ed. 1980); W. P. Spence, General Carpentry (1983); W. H. Wagner, Modern Carpentry (rev. ed. 1987).
A carpenter (builder) 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 all of carpentry's required knowledge is gained through experience, the trade can be relatively easy to enter (this varies with the legal requirements from country to country). It is possible through dedication to have a prosperous career in carpentry.
The word "carpenter" is the English rendering of the Old French word carpentier (become charpentier) which is derived from the Latin carpentrius [artifex], "(maker) of a carriage. The Middle English word (in the sense of "builder") was wright (from the Old English wryhta), which could be used in compound forms such as wheelwright or boatwright.
In British and Australasian slang, a carpenter is sometimes referred to as a "chippie". The German word for carpenter is "Zimmermann" (room-maker, literally room-man), and hence is the source for the surname of many people in German and English-speaking countries.
Carpentry in the United States is almost always done by men. With 98.5% of carpenters being male, it was the fourth most male-dominated occupation in the country in 1999.
A joister is a carpenter that puts in the floor joists. Floor joists are the horizontal boards connected to the frame of a structure at the level just below the floor. They give the floor strength for holding weight. Also, they give a position to which the floor may be fastened. Joisters also put on the joists for the decks of a building. Joisters need good balance to install the beams and joists on buildings, considering the elevation involved.
A finish carpenter (South America) or joiner (traditional name now obsolete in North America) 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, maintenance, and repair 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. Steel warships as well as wooden ones need ship's carpenters, especially for making emergency repairs in the case of battle or storm damage.
A roofer specializes in roof construction, concentrating on rafters, beams, and trusses. Naturally, a roofer must not be afraid of heights and must have good balance as well as carpentry skills. In Australia this type of carpenter is called a roof carpenter, and in that country a roofer is someone who puts on the roof cladding (shingles, tiles, tin, etc.). (On many jobsites in the United States, roofer also has this connotation.)
A luthier is someone who makes or repairs stringed instruments. The word luthier comes from the French word for lute, "luth".
In Japan, Miya-daiku (Temple carpenter) performs the works of both architect and builder of shrine and temple.
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 Germany, this tradition of traveling carpenters has survived the 20th century on a small level (also done by bricklayers, roofers and other traditional crafts) and is experiencing growing popularity again in the early 21st century. 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 certification or formal woodworking education.
After working as a journeyman for a specified period, a carpenter may go to study or test as a master carpenter. In some countries, such as Germany or Japan, this is an arduous and expensive process, requiring extensive knowledge (including economic and legal knowledge) and skill to achieve master certification; these countries generally require master status for anyone employing and teaching apprentices in the craft. In others, it can be a loosely used term to describe a skilled carpenter. In Canada Carpentry is a Red Seal trade requiring a formal apprenticeship and an interprovincial exam. While each province sets its own standards for exactly how long the apprenticeship takes the average is about 4 years of both on the job instruction and college based training.
In the modern British construction industry, carpenters are trained through apprenticeship schemes where GCSEs in Maths, English and Technology help, but are not essential. This is deemed as the preferred route as young people can earn and gain field experience whilst training towards a nationally recognized qualification.