How to Become a Carpenter at Any Age — It’s Never Too Late!
There’s a certain satisfaction one gets when a job is done just right. Few people experience this as tangibly as carpenters, who get to see and touch the physical structures that result from their labor firsthand.
As you might imagine, a very specific set of skills is required to conduct this work. Further, one needs to be fairly fit, as the craft can involve extensive bending, kneeling, and lifting. The successful candidate will also be in possession of good hand-to-eye co-ordination, as well as suitable computational abilities.
With all of that in mind, here’s how to become a carpenter.
What Carpenters Do
Carpenters tend to operate independently — even when functioning as a member of a crew charged with building a complicated structure. This means you must take the work very seriously both to be safe and successful. It also makes carrying carpenter insurance a critical aspect of operating as a builder. A general liability policy will protect you in the event your operations cause accidental bodily harm or property damage to a third party. A professional liability policy will protect you financially against lawsuits related to the quality of your advice or services.
By and large, carpentry falls into one of two categories — residential and commercial.
Residential carpenters can be responsible for framing various aspects of a home. Some specialize in walls, while others focus on windows and siding. Still others are primarily concerned with flooring. Carpenters who focus on residences also work on what’s known as the “finished” areas of a home — these include doors, cabinets, moldings, baseboards, and decks.
Commercial carpenters tend to be more specialized. One area of expertise is operating wood shop machinery. Another is installing doors, windows, cabinets, and built-in furniture. Formwork is also key to commercial carpentry, since wood structures need to be crafted to hold concrete in place until it hardens.
A functional understanding of mathematics and geometry is important, as a lot of measuring and angles are involved in this work. Before you’re put off by that however, please know many of the best carpenters perform complex mathematical operations on a daily basis, even while thinking they aren’t good with numbers. The key is having a practical application for the thought process.
The ability to read plans and blueprints is vital to being good at this work. You’ll also need an eye for detail and the diligence to be precise. The ability to solve problems on the fly comes in handy on a daily basis for carpenters too.
Where to Train
Lots of community colleges offer courses in woodworking. This is a great way to “get your feet wet” to determine if the craft is really for you. Many carpentry jobs are Union, so contacting the local office and expressing interest in an apprenticeship can get you training as well.
Another option is to ask an experienced carpenter to take you on as a helper. Be honest about what you know and don’t know if granted this opportunity. Always show up for work on time — ready to go — and do everything asked of you. Anyone willing to allow you this opportunity is inviting considerable risk. Injuries and even fatalities can result from the briefest moment of inattention. Further, one wrong measurement can throw an entire structure off. This is why it’s so important to build a strong foundation by learning through the proper channels rather than going to town with a hammer, unlicensed, right out of the gate.
The good news is everybody around you was a beginner once. If you’re eager but not obnoxious, open to learning without being a know-it-all, and — most of all — a person of your word, you’ll find people will be glad to help you learn how to be a carpenter.