The wood products we use every day— furniture, kitchen cabinets, musical instruments, and more— are produced by highly skilled woodworkers. Woodworkers make wood products from lumber and synthetic wood materials. The modern woodworking trade is highly technical; while some continue to work with traditional methods in small workshops, most woodworkers use automated machinery, such as computerized numerical control —or CNC—machines, working in high-production assembly line facilities. Machine woodworkers set up the equipment, cut and shape wooden parts, and verify dimensions. They apply fasteners and adhesives and assemble the parts into finished units. To complete a piece, they install hardware, and fit products for glass, metal trims, electrical components, and stone. Finally, they sand, and apply finishes. Cabinetmakers and bench carpenters make wood pieces, and design custom cabinets to customers’ specifications, then build and install them. Furniture finishers do the finishing work of staining, sealing, and top coating wooden products. They also refinish furniture, and may work with antiques to preserve and repair them. Workers may handle heavy materials and be exposed to noise and dust. Injuries occur at a higher rate than in many other jobs. Protective gear, including safety glasses, respirators, and hearing protection devices, are worn for many jobs. Most woodworkers work full time during regular business hours. A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required for woodworkers. Full proficiency may take several years of on-the-job training.

Woodworkers manufacture a variety of products such as cabinets and furniture, using wood, veneers, and laminates. They often combine and incorporate different materials into wood.

What Do Cabinetmakers / Furniture Makers Do?

Duties

Woodworkers typically do the following:

  • Understand detailed architectural drawings, schematics, shop drawings, and blueprints
  • Prepare and set up machines and tooling for woodwork manufacturing
  • Lift wood pieces onto machines, either by hand or with hoists
  • Operate woodworking machines, including saws and milling and sanding machines
  • Listen for unusual sounds or detect excessive vibration in machinery
  • Ensure that products meet industry standards and project specifications, making adjustments as necessary
  • Select and adjust the proper cutting, milling, boring, and sanding tools for completing a job
  • Use hand tools to trim pieces or assemble products

Despite the abundance of plastics, metals, and other materials, wood products continue to be an important part of our daily lives. Woodworkers make wood products from lumber and synthetic wood materials. Many of these products, including most furniture, kitchen cabinets, and musical instruments, are mass produced. Other products are custom made from architectural designs and drawings.

Although the term “woodworker” may evoke the image of a craftsman who uses hand tools to build ornate furniture, 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 with great accuracy.

Even specialized artisans generally use CNC machines and 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 performed on an assembly line.

Woodworkers set up, operate, and tend all types of woodworking machines, such as saws, milling machines, drill presses, lathes, shapers, routers, sanders, planers, and wood-fastening machines. Operators set up the equipment, cut and shape wooden parts, and verify dimensions, using a template, caliper, and rule. After the parts are machined, woodworkers add fasteners and adhesives and connect the parts to form an assembled unit. They also install hardware, such as pulls and drawer slides, and fit specialty products for glass, metal trims, electrical components, and stone. Finally, workers sand, stain, and, if necessary, coat the wood product with a sealer or topcoats, such as a lacquer or varnish.

Many of these tasks are handled by different workers with specialized training.

The following are examples of types of woodworkers:

Cabinetmakers and bench carpenters cut, shape, assemble, and make parts for wood products. They often design and create sets of cabinets that are customized for particular spaces. In some cases, their duties begin with designing a set of cabinets to specifications and end with installing the cabinets.

Furniture finishers shape, finish, and refinish damaged and worn furniture. They may work with antiques and must judge how to preserve and repair them. They also do the staining, sealing, and top coating at the end of the process of making wooden products.

Wood sawing machine setters, operators, and tenders specialize in operating specific pieces of woodworking machinery. They may operate CNC machines.

Woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders, except sawing, operate woodworking machines, such as drill presses, lathes, routers, sanders, and planers. They may operate CNC machines.