Woodworkers: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more

Education Required
Because of the growing sophistication of machinery, many employers are seeking applicants who have a high school diploma or equivalent. People seeking woodworking jobs can enhance their employment prospects by getting training in computer applications and math.
Training Required
Education is helpful, but woodworkers are trained primarily on the job, where they learn skills from experienced workers. Beginning workers are given basic tasks, such as placing a piece of wood through a machine and stacking the finished product at the end of the process.
Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: 2% (Slower than average)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
Although not required, becoming certified can demonstrate competence and professionalism. It also may help a candidate advance in the profession. The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America offers a national certificate program, with five progressive credentials, which adds a level of credibility to the work of woodworkers.
Median pay: How much do Woodworkers make?
$30,180 Annual Salary
$14.51 per hour

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 Woodworkers do?

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:

Careers for Woodworkers

  • Architectural wood model makers
  • Backup sawyers
  • Band scroll saw operators
  • Bandmill operators
  • Buzzsaw operators
  • CNC wood lathe operators
  • Cabinet builders
  • Cabinet finishers
  • Cabinetmakers
  • Chop saw operators
  • Circle saw operators
  • Curve saw operators
  • Cut Off saw operators
  • Furniture finishers
  • Furniture refinishers
  • Furniture sanders
  • Hardwood sawyers
  • Headrig sawyers
  • Marquetry workers
  • Panel saw operators
  • Piano refinishers
  • Rip saw operators
  • Roof truss builders
  • Sawing machine operators and tenders
  • Speed belt sanders
  • Stave saw operators
  • Tenon operators
  • Trim saw operators
  • Wood boring machine operators
  • Wood cabinet finishers
  • Wood die makers
  • Wood dowel machine operators
  • Wood furniture assemblers
  • Wood lathe operators
  • Wood planers
  • Wood sawing machine setters, operators, and tenders
  • Wood working assemblers
  • Woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders
  • Woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders, except sawing

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