Why is Woodwork Called Carpentry?

When it comes to working with wood, there are so many different terms out there that can leave you wondering if the word discrepancies change the skilled practice.

The terminology can be dizzying, so this begs the question, why is woodwork called carpentry? 

Woodwork may not be exactly the same as carpentry, but the terms can be crossed because woodworking is a craft of carpentry. Woodworking is a skill that comes from making things of wood and carpentry is a specialized version that entails the construction of timber to create buildings or structures. 

Woodwork and carpentry are two terms that are often crossed.

This is because they have so many similarities and are very easily interchangeable when it comes to the roots of their work.

However, they are not exactly the same, therefore, some definition is required in order to understand what separates them from one another.

Continue reading to see the different things that make woodworking and carpentry the same, but also what distinguishes them. 

What Makes Woodwork and Carpentry the Same? 

There is one common factor in each of these professions that really puts a kink in things when it comes to distinguishing – wood.

For both woodworkers and carpenters, they each are working with the same exact material day in and day out.

There is no need for either of them to be skilled in welding, neither have to worry about the pressures of understanding electric wires, and no one is concerned with how the latest fashion trends will interrupt their business. 

Woodwork and carpentry are the same in the material that both skilled professionals work with (wood), the skills that they use to turn wood into a beautiful and functional piece, and the overall production methods via trade and marketing mechanisms they employ for their business success.

Woodworkers and carpenters are both working with a material that is something (at least at the purest level) only the Earth can produce.

Wood is a material that woodworkers and carpenters alike are most comfortable with and most familiar with.

Each of these professions is turning over this material like it’s their job – because it is.

They know the ins and outs of wood and are able to tackle even the most difficult of problems caused by it. 

Even more than the commonality they both share through the material they specialize their skills with, they are each performing a type of trade.

A trade is defined as a position that entails the use of your hands in order to create something.

Woodwork and carpentry are both two professions, hobbies even, that take hold of the skills their hands are capable of and create something that many are incapable of completing themselves. 

Just as well, both of these professions tend to overlap when it comes to what they are producing.

Many, although not all, woodworkers and carpenters are capable of creating beautiful trims for a historic home, can piece together a sturdy cabinet, and are capable of creating a beautiful nightstand.

They are both able to produce such products, but this does not mean that it makes them exactly the same. 

I know how to swim, but this does not make me a swim instructor.

Just because both a woodworker and a carpenter are capable of doing what the other can do, it does not make them one and the same. 

Even more, although much is shared between woodworkers and carpenters, there are skills that each keeps to themselves and performs on his or her own.

Although similar, there is enough difference between these two professions to allow them to have their own separate titles.

This inevitably has led to the natural end of the two having different names.

What Makes Woodwork and Carpentry Different? 

Before we delve into the black and whites of woodworking and carpentry, let me say that each of these professionals and hobbyists is wonderfully intertwined through their abilities to create beautiful and functional pieces with various types of wood.

There is a kind of bond that is shared between the two, but before you get all warm and fuzzy, there are a few things that separate these two sibling-type professions.

When it comes down to it, you will be glad to know the difference. 

That said, woodworking is more consistently focused on the natural beauty of wood and making it into a cherished piece. Contrarily, carpenters can take the same piece of beautiful wood and focus more on its functionality than its natural wood grain pattern.

So, while both woodworkers and carpenters could theoretically create a similar piece for a consumer, the thought process behind both types of work with wood will look different and result in consequently different types of woodworking or carpentry pieces.

Let’s take a closer look at what woodworking and carpentry really are to more fully understand what makes these two different from one another.

What is Woodworking? 

Woodworking is one of those things that just seems organic in and of itself.

It is like the type of venture that comes from the earth and emits a natural beauty that few other professions are able to provide.

I know, that may seem completely outlandish to say, but once you encounter an incredible woodworker, you’ll be able to relate.

There is something so intrinsically beautiful with this trade and it deserves to be distinguished. 

Woodworking is the skill and trade of creating different products. This means that a woodworker can create anything from kitchen tables, to tiny figurines, to totem poles, to instruments, to cabinets. 

The possibilities are endless when it comes to woodworking.

This is a more individualized setup and one that can change easily if the craftsman changes his tune and decides to pursue something a bit different. 

The main job of a woodworker is to create the exact item that a consumer wants.

This means, from start to finish, they are the ones completing the item.

There is no turning to the finest mass-producing machine and asking for an order, but they are responsible for creating something from nothing.

This is what takes up the majority of their profession – to create an item that others are not capable of whipping up on their own. 

This then points to the focus on the use of hands for the hobby or profession of woodworking.

They are using their hands to create, but they are also using their hands in a bit of a different way in order to use the tools that are provided for their specific area of work.

Due to the nature of this trade, woodworkers often use a few different tools than carpenters because of their needs to shape and perfect the product they are making. 

What is Carpentry? 

Carpenters are capable of creating as well, but this is not their main objective.

Carpenters are the ones you count on to get things constructed, installed, and repaired around your home.

No, this does not include calling on a carpenter to come and fix the iron gate at the end of your driveway that is no longer closing shut, but entails someone who is able to fix all things wood around your home – a skill more valuable than gold to some. 

I can think of a time when our wooden front door randomly started to warp.

I thought nothing of it, but over time, the door began to warp so badly that it would no longer close shut without some serious pushing and shoving (asking for a burglary, don’t you think?).

In this instance, I thought maybe a new door would solve the issue, but to be sure, I called a carpenter first.

Turns out, it was actually the door frame that was the problem, not the door itself. 

Because of this, that carpenter worked his tail off detaching old wood, sanding down uneven places, and reinstalling a door frame that was much more reliable.

I could have never done this on my own and I was so grateful to have someone who knew exactly what to do.

He was not making me a door from scratch but was simply repairing what was broken and reinstalling pieces that were absolutely necessary for the door’s function. 

This is what separates woodwork from carpentry. Carpentry, although capable of creating things from scratch, is a profession that is used to fix and install things rather than create. The goal of carpentry is to construct, repair, and install all sorts of different things. 

What ties these two professions together though is that everything a carpenter is handing is made from the same material woodworkers are handling – wood.

This is why there can be confusion at times.

The two can seem so similar in that they are both working with the same natural material and very similar power tools, yet their functional purposes and overall end goal can look a little different with their respective frameworks.