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Industrial Woodworker


When most people think of woodworkers they think of carpenters or carvers. However, there is also a group of woodworkers called industrial woodworkers. They work with wood like traditional woodworkers but on a much larger scale. Industrial woodworkers set up, program and operate woodworking machines to make or repair wooden parts for furniture, fixtures and other wood products.

Industrial woodworkers interpret plans and drawings of articles to be made and they prepare specifications accordingly. Besides making furniture and wood products industrial woodworkers also recreate existing pieces. Someone may have an antique chair they need to fix and a woodworker must be able to match the design of the original piece to make a new one. This job takes an eye for design, the ability to visualize three-dimensional objects, good hand-eye coordination and someone who loves working with their hands to create objects. Industrial wood workers are responsible for creating our tables, doors, chairs, fences and toys.
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  Interests and Skills  
Industrial woodworkers are mechanically inclined and enjoy making something from start to finish. These workers are skilled at interpreting blueprints and plans and they are able to visualize three-dimensional objects that they are creating. They need to have an eye for detail and be methodical in their work. Industrial woodworkers must be able to stand, kneel or bend for long periods of time when working. Finally, these workers take pride in their work and the customer satisfaction of a well-made product.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Read and interpret blueprints and construction drawings,
  • Select materials
  • Set up, program, and operate one or more computerized or manual woodworking machines such as saws, routers, planers, drills, and sanders
  • Fabricate or repair wooden parts of furniture, fixtures or other wood products
  • Operate gluing machines and presses to affix wood veneer to wood surfaces, clean equipment, repair and restyle wooden furniture
  • Trim joints and fit parts and subassemblies together to form a complete unit
  • Use glue and clamps and other fastening equipment such as nails and screws
  • Sand wood surfaces
  • Apply finishing materials such as stain or polish, and then rub, buff and polish the finish
  • Industrial woodworkers typically work indoors. They are generally in industrial settings that can be noisy and potentially hazardous. Their day involves a lot of lifting and carrying heavy objects as well as standing on their feet while working. They will also work maintaining machines and finishing materials by buffing and staining. Industrial woodworkers tend to work a five-day workweek with 40 hours a week being standard.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Industrial woodworkers are employed by manufacturing companies that make furniture and other wooden objects. They may also work in construction firms and millwork companies or some work for household furniture stores and office furniture makers. With the right tools and experience some woodworkers may decide to become self-employed.

  Long Term Career Potential  
There is some room for advancement in this field. Once individuals have completed their training with experience an industrial woodworker may become a foreperson or a supervisor, start their own business or work in related occupations.

  Educational Paths  
Industrial woodworkers receive their training either through informal, on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship program. Trade certification can be obtained either through an apprenticeship program or after several years of work experience. While trade certification is not mandatory to become an industrial woodworker, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction. A pre-apprenticeship course may also be available which takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education. While some apprenticeship programs may not require a high school diploma, it is important to note that employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates.

Apprenticeships can vary, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position, however wages are about 50 percent of what an employer pays the journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their industry training and apprenticeship office awards the industrial woodworker a certificate of completion.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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