Specializations: Creating your niche as a woodworker

There are many facets to the woodworking trade, each requiring specialized skills and training. Wood is involved in a number of industries from construction to home décor and furnishings to art and music. Here are some of the common specializations for woodworkers:

Artists: Wood has been used as a medium for artistic expression throughout history. From carvings to sculpture, wood is a commonly preferred expressive medium for artists because it is relative common and inexpensive compared to other materials such as stone or bronze. Contemporary and classic art made from wood are highly sought after by art collectors, museums and galleries throughout the world. Woodworking artists may have formal training at a college or they may be hobbyists who decided to develop their passion into a career.

Carpenters: They possess technical skills in construction and repair involving wood. A carpenter’s job ranges from building frameworks for houses such as partitions, windows and doorframes, install hardwood floors, stairs and cabinetry as well as interior and exterior finish work.1 Because of their wide range of skills, carpenters make up the largest trade workers in the construction industry. Moreover, carpenters are not limited to the construction industry, as there are a number of these specialists working in marine carpentry which involves the building and repair of boats as well as marine structures.

Furniture Designers: These are specialists who apply a combination of technical knowledge of wood as a building material and creative passion for design to their work. They often work with furniture manufacturers or as independent designers. Experienced designers also become faculty members in art colleges.

Machinists: Wood machinists work in lumber mills, furniture and cabinet manufacturers. They are responsible for transforming wood into finished products used in construction, interior and exterior décor. These specialists possess technical knowledge in the different types of wood as well as the tools required to create the required products.

Musical instrument craftsmen: Instruments such as violins, guitars and pianos are all made of wood. Not only do these experts have technical competency in woodworking, but they may also have formal training in music to understand how the quality of wood affects the production of sound. These craftsmen often go through apprenticeship programs to fine-tune their skills and depending on their interests, they may work with a mass manufacturer of musical instruments or they may be involved in custom design work.

Construction Management: Construction managers often have a background in carpentry because of the work involved in exterior and interior building framework. However, in addition to the technical knowledge involved in wooden building structures, these specialists are required to understand how to read and interpret blueprints as well as construction building codes. Depending on their specialization and experience, construction managers work on a wide range of projects.

Choosing which area to specialize in woodworking depends on a number of factors including your skills and interests. While the salary range varies in each specialty, it is important to go into an area in which you are most interested. When you are working in an area you are passionate about, you are most likely able to develop a niche that separates you from your peers. It is this niche that will generate demand and eventually greater income from your customers.

1 State of Wisconsin. Department of Workforce Development. http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/apprenticeship/trades/carpentry_cabinetmaker.htm

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