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Differences between wood industries - advice sought!

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ByronBlack

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Hi,

As I might have already mentioned, i'm going away on a 14 day cabinet making course in october, this is to serve a number of purposes:

1. To gain basic skills in sharpening/honing
2. To understand wood, joints and basic wood-working
3. To see if I have the capacity to learn the skills to do this at a professional level.

So my question is this - Which wood-working industry would give a newcomer like me the best prospects in terms of employment and earning potential (not that i'm after a large salary, quality of working life is more important to me)?

And also, what exactly is the difference in Joinery, Carpentry and Cabinet Making ? I see cabinet making as sometimes referred to as kitchen fitting as well as bespoke furniture design, and carpentry seems to be more working on-site in build projects, so what role does joinery fill?
 

Chris Knight

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There are probably formal definitions in stuff like NVQ courses but the following that I found whilst surfing, embraces pretty much what I believe to be the differences between the branches of the woodworking trades

QUOTE
The following quotation is the opening two paragraphs of Timber Building in Britain by RW Brunskill which I was reading the other evening. They struck me as a typical piece of English arcane knowledge and practice; specially designed of curse to totally confuse.

This book is about carpentry, the craft which has been variously described as 'the theory and practice of framing timber' and 'the art of employing timbers in the construction of buildings'. Traditionally, carpentry involves timber and timber is not quite the same thing as wood. By timber is meant the material which was used for the construction and repair of the structural parts of a building, a bridge or a ship. In the case of a building this means such items as the roof members, the posts and beams of the wall and the joists and boards of the floor. Wood, on the other hand is the material used for furniture or tools or burnt as fuel on a hearth or converted into charcoal for a barbecue. The distinction between timber and wood was a very important one, enshrined in manorial customs and carefully set out in the lease which formed a contract between a landowner and a tenant farmer. Buildings, therefore, were constructed of timber though they may have been finished with woodwork.

Building in timber was the province of the carpenter though the joiner might be involved in the fitting-out of a timber structure and, in time, the cabinet-maker developed his craft in finishing it. The craft of joinery developed from that of upholstery but eventually the joiner took over the finer parts of working in wood. Thus screens and panels were joiner's work and as the production of doors and windows became more complicated, requiring specialist tools and a certain skill, they were made by the joiner rather than the carpenter. Fixed furniture, such as cupboards, might be made by the joiner but the cabinet-maker emerged as the specialist in loose furniture, often of a very delicate construction. But at all times structural timber was worked by the carpenter
UNQUOTE
 
A

Anonymous

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:? My son, who recently completed his apprenticeship tells me that the definition is pretty loose, but suggested the following:
Carpenter; Does all first fixing and second fixing i.e. fits skirting boards, door frame etc.
Joiner; Makes the doors and stairs etc for fitting by the carpenter, but in the case of stairs, these will often be fitted by the joiner that made them, particularly if the are of fine construction.
Cabinet Maker; Constructs fine, free standing furniture and would be mortified to be called either a joiner or a carpenter!

Not very scientific is it? I think that basically, the carpenter is the lowest paid of the lot, followed by the joiner, whilst the cabinet maker drives around in his Roller!!!!!
 

jasonB

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I think JacjL has it about right with the definitions though there is some cross over eg a cabinet maker may make a bespoke built-in unit but would not leave it to a chippy to fit, he will go to site & install.

As to who earns the most money, well a hard working chippy on pricework in london could earn a lot more than a the average cabinet maker.

I think to start with you should take whatever you can get with the exception of site work by which I mean new build as you would not be able to compete on price or speed. Aim at the domestic market, anything from fitting wardrobes & kitchens, making doors and when the option comes along make a nice piece of bespoke furniture. Once you have gained more experience and have a portfolio of work you can concentrate on the type of work you like the most.

Jason
 

tim

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JasonB":2xzg9llr said:
Aim at the domestic market, anything from fitting wardrobes & kitchens, making doors and when the option comes along make a nice piece of bespoke furniture. Once you have gained more experience and have a portfolio of work you can concentrate on the type of work you like the most.
Seconded.

Cheers

Tim
 

garywayne

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I was told at collage this week that a Cabinet maker makes, you guest it, cabinets that are usually fitted.

A furniture maker tends to make free standing furniture like, tables, chairs, and free standing cabinets like dressing tables, etc.

I believe that there is a definite difference between cabinets and furniture, but there are pieces of free standing furniture/cabinets that can also be called cabinets/furniture. Does that make sense?

ATB Gary.
 

Mdotflorida

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garywayne":2cjoh5ks said:
I believe that there is a definite difference between cabinets and furniture, but there are pieces of free standing furniture/cabinets that can also be called cabinets/furniture. Does that make sense?

ATB Gary.
Gary

I'll let you know when my head stops hurting :? :)

Jeff
 

Howjoe

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Hi Byron

The NVQ courses that I've completed, are promoted by the CITB (Construction Industry Training Board). The contents of the courses are aimed at 'Carpentry' and 'Site Work'. However they do spend a lot of time teaching the basics of joints, hand tools (and the care of) marking /setting out, wood / timber it's growth and make-up etc etc.

I decided to go down this route first of all, to learn the trade from the beginning and to get involved in that 'world'. I also intend to train in cabinet making and possibly some other specialist areas.

I'll be trading as a 'carpenter' shortly, and serving most of my first year(s) with a friend of mine, who's an experienced carpenter, joiner and cabinet maker - he covers the majority of wood trades. You could go it alone to start with and only take on work you know you can do well, but experience and guidance as you work is worth it's weight in gold

This is good advice from Jason.........

I think to start with you should take whatever you can get with the exception of site work by which I mean new build as you would not be able to compete on price or speed. Aim at the domestic market, anything from fitting wardrobes & kitchens, making doors and when the option comes along make a nice piece of bespoke furniture. Once you have gained more experience and have a portfolio of work you can concentrate on the type of work you like the most.
........and what I'm learning to do.

The quality of working life was an important issue for me too, although I know I'll face different types of stresses along the way, compared to the stresses I have now!

Very best of luck if you do decide to pursue it as a career.
Cheers

Howard
 

Alf

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From the OED:

Carpenter: 'An artificer in wood'; one who does the framework of houses, ships, etc.' as opp. to a joiner, cabinet-maker, etc.

Joiner: A craftsman who constructs things by joining pieces of wood; a worker in wood who does lighter and more ornamental work than that of a carpenter.

Cabinet-maker: One whose business it is to make cabinets and fine joiner's work. (1681)

Cabinet: A case for the safe custody of jewels, letters, documents, etc.; and thus a piece of furniture, often ornamental, fitted with drawers, shelves, etc., for the preservation and display of specimens. (1550)

I think, on that basis, kitchen fitting is probably more often a joiner's work than a cabinetmaker's.

Cheers, Alf
 

simuk

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If you did decide to go the carpentry way, then working on site as long as your working under an experience person is a great place to start.

It gets your speed up.
gives you a idea of the whole construction process.
Great for networking.
Lets you see other carpenters at work so your be able to pick up the tricks of the trade.
Learn the latest materials that are being used.
 

ByronBlack

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wow, this is some seriously useful information, thanks to everyone who took the time to post. I now have a better understanding of the various roles.

Working 'on-site' on a build isn't something that really appeals to me, I think its because of the over years most builders i've got to know aren't particulaly pleasent people so not sure I want to go into that arena.

Whereas Kitchen fitting seems to be a nice balance of on-site but with more joinery and to a lesser degree 'cabinet-making' which ideally is what I would love to do.

So from your info, I think what I will do is approach all the local cabinet-making and kitchen fitting firms to see if I can get a job as a 'helper-boy/lacky' to begin with and then see where that takes me.

One thing I don't want to do at the moment is work for myself straight away, one of the reasons why I want to get into the wood-working industry is to work for someone else and take away the stresses that I currently deal with in running my business and just enjoy the job and then do the fun-stuff in my workshop in my free time, at the moment working for myself at home there is no distinction so I get very little free time.
 

simuk

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Word of warning most of the bread & butter work i get joinery & carpentry comes from builders which i have found to be hardworking down to earth people just trying to make a living like everybody else.

So you are more than likely going to come in contact with builders in this buiness anyway.

Anyway goodluck and i hope it all works outwell for you :wink:


Simon
 

ByronBlack

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simuk":vgx4c7nk said:
Word of warning most of the bread & butter work i get joinery & carpentry comes from builders which i have found to be hardworking down to earth people just trying to make a living like everybody else.

So you are more than likely going to come in contact with builders in this buiness anyway.

Anyway goodluck and i hope it all works outwell for you :wink:


Simon
Simon, i'm sure they are mate, i'm not putting anyone down, just working on-site on a build isn't me cup-of-tea and I suppose i'm slightly erred away because of my experience of the 'not-so-nice' builders i've come in contact with. But who knoes what direction i'll end up in, I'll just have to keep an open mind.
 

Colin C

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Now I would like to throw a spanner in the works as I am an Antique restorer/ Cabinet maker :) , so where do I come :? :D .
When it comes to job titles they are no hard and fast rules. as I have seen some carpenters that I would not let loose on furniture ( please take no offence, just saying it as I have seen it ). I have also seen some so called restorers that should not have tools at all.
Once you have learned the basic, you can go on from there eg like me I can Carve, Turn, Marquetry ( making pictures with wood or veneer) and a few more, but some of it is self taught. It also helps that I have worked with some very good makers (21 years in the trade :shock: )
So what ever you end up doing good luck.
 

Nailer

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Alf":3d9ehdpf said:
Carpenter: 'An artificer in wood'; one who does the framework of houses, ships, etc.' as opp. to a joiner, cabinet-maker, etc.

Joiner: A craftsman who constructs things by joining pieces of wood; a worker in wood who does lighter and more ornamental work than that of a carpenter.

Cabinet-maker: One whose business it is to make cabinets and fine joiner's work.
Errr.......what do you call yourself if you do all three :D

I suppose it depends which part of the country you come from.......in my part of the world (north west) you'd call yourself a joiner and i do the first two and everything in between......i also make furniture as a hobby but as my skills in this area have improved there is a certain amount of crossover from hobby to work.

But essentially your right......well that was the way i was taught and the basic hand skills are the same .......just depends what you want to do with them.

Or more to the point .......which pays the most :D
 

Alf

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Nailer":21bbg0al said:
Errr.......what do you call yourself if you do all three :D
Depending on how good you are, either "confused" or "adaptable" I should think. :wink:

Cheers, Alf
 
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