Woodworking vs Carpentry (What’s The Difference?)

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While working with wood, an interesting question that pops up regularly is the difference between woodworking and carpentry. Is there a difference? If so, what is the difference? What are the various aspects of these two seemingly similar disciplines?

It is fascinating to work with wood. It is why you can find so much information about the different aspects of woodworking…and carpentry? Are they different? You may wonder! In this brief post, we attempt to put everything on the table to clarify things once and for all!

Woodworking vs. Carpentry

Woodworking and carpentry both involve working with wood. However, it is the only common factor. Here is the simplest explanation about the two different entities:

Work Done In Carpentry

We call carpenters tradespeople. Carpentry involves working on construction sites moving from place to place and often visiting individual commercial and domestic establishments to conduct maintenance and repairs. A carpenter’s work may vary and includes wood framing, joisting, and a lot of trim work.

A carpenter does not have a lot of say in the selection of the material. The contractor or client provides the material, and the carpenter uses it with various tools. They have to follow many standards during the execution of their work. These standards establish safe practices in carpentry processes and usage of materials.

A carpenter has to follow the standards and procedures laid out strictly working within those procedures’ guidelines. The purpose of procedures is to create a universal way of doing things safely and efficiently.

Types Of Carpenters

We can divide carpenters into the following different categories:

Rough Carpenter

A rough carpenter executes roofing, framing, formwork, and tasks related to structural operations. He is the best example of a “jack of all trades.”


As the name suggests, a joister works on the joists that we use on roofs and ceilings. The joister must be familiar with the various aspects of wooden load-bearing structures.

Trim Carpenter

When the main frame and body of a structure ends, the trim carpenter steps in to add ornamental work. The trim carpenter adds “trims” (carved wooden borders) and moldings to the edges and corners of the structure to enhance the overall appearance.

Ship’s Carpenter

This category of carpenter works on ships and boats. A ship’s carpenter often works on the interiors of vessels.


The framer is the first person to work on a building, once the foundations have been laid. The framer works closely with the architectural drawings to build the frames that give it shape.


Here again, the name is quite apparent. The roofer works on roofs. The job of a roofer involves installing shingles and tiles on roofs.

Work Done In Woodworking

Woodworkers are the artists in the world of wood. They use wood as a medium of expression. In woodworking, the woodworker can take a piece of reclaimed wood and make it into a masterpiece. Attention to detail is paramount. A woodworker may design a project from scratch or add something to an existing design.

Woodworkers need to acquaint themselves with the characteristic of different species of wood. Unlike carpenters, woodworkers usually select their wood and spend considerable time obtaining material to their satisfaction.

Types Of Woodworkers

Here are some of the major categories of woodworkers that work with wood in different capacities:

Cabinet Makers

Redwood cabinet
Redwood cabinet (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

We call the work of a cabinet maker cabinetry. Cabinet makers have to be familiar with the characteristics of wood. They will be able to determine the probability of wood warping and know how to prevent or rectify it. A cabinet maker’s job involves extensive work with wood veneers and finishing processes using stains, paints, and varnishes. A cabinet maker is also specialized in smoothening and sanding wood surfaces.


A sculptor does to wood what an artist does to a canvas. Sculpting can be developed to some extent, but it is a God-given gift most of the time. A sculptor will take a block of wood and visualize the final result in their mind. Then they breathe life into the wood that they carve. The work of a sculptor is quite conceptual.

Furniture Makers

A furniture maker is an all-around woodworker who is very skilled in joining different wood components to make furniture. A furniture maker’s work is to create chairs, tables, dressers, sideboards, beds, couches, and a variety of different household items that look good and are comfortable to use. As a cabinet maker, a furniture maker must also be familiar with the various techniques of wood finishing.

Wood Engravers

Engraved wood
Engraved wood (Image: PhilGONDAS)

Wood engraving is a specialized branch of sculpting, but the subjects are small in size and intricate – almost microscopic. The work of an engraver involves using magnifying equipment and fine tools.

Wood Burning Artists

Wood burning is an art that involves burning the wood to create intricate designs, patterns, and images. Here again, a wood-burning artist needs to possess the requisite talent, but it can be developed to some extent.


We have established the difference between these two wood-related disciplines. The carpenter is a tradesman, whereas the woodworker is an artist. Carpenters go from place to place, carrying the tools of their trade with them. Woodworkers, on the other hand, works at a fixed location. A woodworking workshop contains some extremely specialized equipment.

Moreover, you will find some woodworking workshops dedicated to a specific category of woodworking. For example, a sculptor’s workshop (often referred to as a “studio”) will contain mostly hand tools like mallets, wood chisels, and gouges. But a furniture maker’s workshop will have heavy machinery like power tools, bandsaws, wood lathes, jointers, and power saw machines.

Hence, there is a clear-cut differentiation between woodworking and carpentry. If you are a carpenter, it is most likely to be your chosen full-time profession. If you are into woodworking, you are likely to be engaged in that activity as a part-time amateur. Of course, that is not to say that you cannot be a full-time professional woodworker. It is quite possible to take your art to the next level and that too, on a professional basis.

So, woodworker or carpenter, professional or amateur; part-time or full-time. Which one are you?