What is the Difference Between Woodworking and Carpentry

Let’s discuss the age-old question: what is the difference between carpentry and woodworking? Ok so maybe not “age-old” but you get my gist. Over many years now, I’ve discovered a lot of people don’t actually know the difference between woodworking and carpentry. I have been part of several discussions about the matter and for years, I too was confused. I used to hear people say that carpenters didn’t do anything more accurate than 1/16 of an inch. But, I’ve known some extraordinary carpenters that would probably take offense to that. If you’re not more accurate than 1/16 of an inch, your joints are not going to fit together very well. If you’re trying to install molding, you want the corners to meet or it wont look good.

Having said that, I’ve also known some carpenters that felt the same way about woodworkers. They think they’re all art and nothing else. The fact is, there’s woodworking in carpentry even though they work on larger structures. Whichever you root for, they both take a lot of training and discipline. So, I thought I would write this article and take a look at some aspects from both sides of the equation. Hopefully, by the time this article is over, you and I will have a better understanding of carpentry, woodworking, and how they relate to each other. So, without any further delays, let’s delve right in and see if we can learn a little something and maybe even be able to pass that knowledge onto someone else.

A Look at Working and Carpentry


https://www.pexels.com/photo/blade-carpenter-carpentry-craft-461086/Woodworkers, in my opionion, is a more general classification. And is has a artistic connotation. It doesn’t matter if they are building a clock, designing a workbench, or slaping together a jig. Your typical woodworker is very inventive, but still use plans to guide them in the right direction. Woodworking tools include things like chisels, hammers, clamps, calipers, block planes, and saws. They use these tools and their imagination to shape wood into an object that can be used in everyday life or as a piece of art. Woodworkers will work on a multitude of different projects anywhere from a children’s toy to beautiful cabinetry. While some woodworkers focus on smaller items, there are those that still enjoying building the large projects.

Woodworking is starting to come back into the limelight. Many people are sick of buying mass-produced items from the major retailers. Particle board and instructions are for the birds. If you buy an item from a woodworker, although they follow a plan, not all items are going to be exactly the same. You can even add your own little flair to them. This is why woodworking is making a fast comeback. Hopefully, the trend continues because there are a lot of good woodworkers out there that can actually make a little money out of the shops. If you’re reading this, obviously you are interested in woodworking or carpentry. So let’s take a look at carpentry


By Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6720527Carpentry normally focuses on structures and functional items. Houses, framing, cabinetry, etc. Before we go any further let’s clarify something, there is a difference between a carpenter and a construction worker. Construction workers typically build the structure of the building. Carpenters are there to finish the inside of the building once the construction worker has built it. There are some construction workers that do carpentry as well, but they are typically different aspects of the building process. A good carpenter will install cabinets, shelves, stairs, and even flooring in some cases. The carpenter works with a designated plan so that they know where the customer would like the items. So, they have to be well-versed in construction plans and blueprints.

A carpenter may use many of the same tools that a woodworker does and a lot of carpenters do some woodworking. In many cases, this is what led to their interest in carpentry. A carpenter, however, is more about the shaping, cutting, and installation of whichever building material their working with. Many carpenters are highly trained in different areas of insulation. They may float from one area to another depending on where the need is, but most of them develop a specific skill that they will be hired for. Sometimes that is cabinetry, sometimes it’s shelving, sometimes it’s drywalling. whichever it is, a good carpenter can make the difference between a mediocre job and an excellent one.

Between Woodworking and Carpentry Which is the Best

The Merits of Carpentry

https://www.maxpixel.net/Wooden-Carpenter-Tools-Work-Wood-Tool-Carpentry-2271248If you’re asking yourself which of the two is the better discipline. The answer is not quite that simple. Many people like working with their hands, but they don’t want to work on structures and things like that. If this is you and you do like creative things or even art, then I would suggest woodworking would be for you. You get a lot of leeways when woodworking and it allows you to keep your creative juices flowing. As long as you’re staying up on the new processes and are able to produce quality products, this can be a good career path for you.

The Merits of Woodworking

By Fred the Oyster, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34813015On the other hand, if you’re the type of person that likes to be precise and follow plans, you might consider the other side. Carpentry in itself can be very gratifying, as long as that’s what you’re looking for. It can be a good career to get into and have a lot of benefits. There are many different aspects to carpentry and you can specialize in any of them, from installing cabinets, shelving or even sheetrock. Whatever you decide, carpentry can make a good career for you. As far as which one’s best, that’s a question that only you can answer.

I like working with my hands and woodworking tends to be a little more artistic. Yet, that doesn’t take the merits away from carpentry. Whichever you select, give it all your heart and make sure you do the best you can. Once you’ve made your decision, you can always test it for a while and see what you think. I think that most people may trend towards woodworking because it gives you a few more freedoms than carpentry does. As I’ve said before it tends to be a little more artistic. It does depend upon your point of view. And, you will need to spend some time actually creating a brand and selling your items. Maybe you’ll find a good Carpenter that can use the items you build in their business. Either way, I think woodworking is awesome.

Between Woodworking and Carpentry Which discipline has better income

A Woodworkers Salary

Depending upon how good you are at your craft, there are many different variables that may feed into salary. Everything from where you live to the type of woodworking or carpentry that you do. This can also depend upon how well-known you are. While most people don’t get into this type of work for money, it has been proven that there is a slight difference in income. I was kind of curious myself to find out what the pay range was for woodworkers. I came across some statistics that were provided by the Bureau of Labor. Woodworkers annual income range is anywhere between $19,177.60-$39,192 annually. They can make anywhere from $9.22-$17.40 an hour. This can depend upon your level of expertise and if you’re working from your own wood shop or working for a big business.

Personal freedoms are the main reason why I’ve always loved woodworking. Not to mention the fact that you get to be more artistic. In a situation like this, you have more freedom of expression rather than just completely following a design to the T. I’ve always loved working with my hands and working out of my own shop tends to fit my personality. On the other hand, if you’re the type of person that needs structure and the 40-hour week, you may consider going into a different type of woodworking or carpentry.

A Carpenters Salary

If you’re talking about a carpenter, it can make a marked difference in salary. Most Carpenters are highly trained in their perspective area according to the Bureau of Labor. The average carpenter salary in the United States is $53,722 a year. This salary can depend upon a wide range of factors and varies from $46,392-$61,915 a year. Carpenters can bring in a very good salary yearly depending upon which discipline they are. Cabinet makers seem to do very well. As do fine furnature makers. However, having said that, even though the woodworkers tend to make a little less money, they can still bring in a decent salary and they have more personal freedoms than most carpenters do.

A woodworker/carpenter that is able to work out of their own shop will be able to set their own hours. They will know when they can take off or not and when they need to buckle down to bring home the bacon.

Which Job is harder Woodworking or Carpenter

This can depend upon your skill level and various other factors. Some people like the freedom provided by woodworking, which tends to be more open to interpretation. Many of the designs they use can be customized to fit builder and buyer. Some people like this aspect of woodworking. However, setting your own hours is not for everyone. To become any kind of success, you have to have a lot of structure in your work. Don’t let things distract you and become a issue. If you start letting people take your attention away from what you’re supposed to be doing, it can become a problem. You need to compartmentalize, treat your projects as your job, and give them your all and then you will succeed.

If you’re wondering which one is physically harder, this can also depend on your skill level on either side of the equation. When you first start out, there tends to be a lot of problems because you are learning techniques and it takes longer for you to finish tasks. As your skill level grows and you are able to work more efficiently, this will ebb off. These problems tend to apply to either side of the argument. Neither one is really any harder than the other as far as skill level or physicality, it just depends on your frame of mind and rather or not that discipline is the right fit for you.

In Conclusion

There are many opinions out there about the topic in this article and mine is only one. However, I have been doing this for quite a while and I can tell you that I prefer woodworking over all else. I love the freedoms it affords you in your life and in your art. Having said that, if you are passionate about working with wood and you do not like this aspect of it, try something in the carpentry field. You never know where your abilities will lie or which side of the pendulum that you will like. However, I think you will like woodworking. It is a wonderful trade to know and it is very fulfilling. I have spent a while now researching the different aspects of this topic.

While I do still prefer woodworking, I can tell you that I have a greater respect for carpenters now. Having learned about all the different skills and trades that they have to choose from is amazing. I have come to realize that neither side is really any better than the other, it just depends upon the person. So, if you don’t like one, try the other, you’re bound to find something you like in one of them. I think I have rambled on for long enough now, so if you are interested in one of the areas, look it up online and see if it will fit what you are looking for. Gather all the information that you can to help you choose a path.  Here’s to hoping that you find your niche in life and become that next master in your field.


  1. Thanks for your time and efforts while explaining this topic. I am newish to carpentry and woodworking but have recently rebuilding my wooden fence, which was originally built with quality jointery, dado tracks, beveled ends etc. I have recognized while rebuilding my fence the carpenter or contractor has incorporated expertise in the details of his work which made all the difference between a common slat fence and a unique and beautiful fence that not only is functional but is visually appealing.

    At the same time I have been fence building, I have the task of moving in and setting my garage as a shop and laying out the tools and woodworking equipment I accumulated over 40 years. This led me to what I consider to be more closely to woodworking while building tables, benches, cabinets, shelving, etc.

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