What Woodworkers Do
Woodworkers manufacture a variety of products such as cabinets and furniture, using wood, veneers, and laminates.
Most woodworkers work in manufacturing plants. Although working conditions vary, some woodworkers may encounter machinery noise and wood dust.
How to Become a Woodworker
A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required to become a woodworker. Although some entry-level jobs can be learned in less than 1 year, becoming fully proficient generally takes several years of on-the-job training. The ability to use computer-controlled machinery is becoming increasingly important.
The median annual wage for woodworkers was $32,690 in May 2019.
Overall employment of woodworkers is projected to decline 4 percent from 2019 to 2029.
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.
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.
Woodworkers held about 263,500 jobs in 2019. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up woodworkers was distributed as follows:
|Cabinetmakers and bench carpenters||112,200|
|Woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders, except sawing||79,300|
|Sawing machine setters, operators, and tenders, wood||54,500|
The largest employers of woodworkers were as follows:
|Wood product manufacturing||39%|
|Furniture and related product manufacturing||38|
|Specialty trade contractors||3|
Working conditions vary with the specific job duties. At times, workers have to handle heavy, bulky materials and may encounter noise and dust. As a result, they regularly wear hearing protection devices, safety glasses, and respirators or masks.
Injuries and Illnesses
Woodworkers are exposed to hazards such as harmful dust, chemicals, or fumes, and must often wear a respirator or mask. Others may be exposed to excessive noise and must wear hearing protection devices.
Most injuries involve sprains, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and hernias. These injuries or illnesses come from excessive amounts of awkward bending, reaching, twisting, and overexertion or repetition.
Most woodworkers work full time during regular business hours.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of woodworkers.
|Occupation||Job Duties||Entry-Level Education||Median Annual Pay, May 2019|
Carpenters construct, repair, and install building frameworks and structures made from wood and other materials.
|High school diploma or equivalent||$48,330|
Computer programmers write and test code that allows computer applications and software programs to function properly.
Craft and Fine Artists
Craft and fine artists use a variety of materials and techniques to create art for sale and exhibition.
|See How to Become One||$48,760|
Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers
Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers design, construct, adjust, repair, appraise and sell jewelry.
|High school diploma or equivalent||$40,870|
Machinists and tool and die makers set up and operate machine tools to produce precision metal parts, instruments, and tools.
|See How to Become One||$45,750|
Sheet Metal Workers
Sheet metal workers fabricate or install products that are made from thin metal sheets.
|High school diploma or equivalent||$50,400|
Ironworkers install structural and reinforcing iron and steel to form and support buildings, bridges, and roads.
|High school diploma or equivalent||$53,650|
For more information about woodworkers, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Woodworkers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/woodworkers.htm (visited ).