Can You Answer These Questions a Master Carpenter Should Know?

Torrance Grey

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About This Quiz

Carpentry is one of humanity's oldest lines of work, dating back to the times when homo sapiens stopped sleeping in caves or out in the open, and looked at trees as a a potential building material. Of course, humans didn't have power saws in those days, or even effective methods of metalworking that would make hand saws. So the first wooden homes were probably built from fallen logs and from branches that could be broken off trees. In a sense, we recall these early days when we call houses built from scratch "stick-built." (This means as opposed to prefab homes, where the building arrives on the job site in sections, which then need to be assembled).

Carpentry has grown in leaps and bounds since then (though it's still one of the more male-dominated professions in the modern world). Carpenters are well-educated these days, with a system involving apprenticeships, then journeyman status, then the level of master. How familiar are you with the things that master carpenters need to know? We've crafted a quiz to help you find out. Our quiz might seem easy at first, but don't be lulled into a false sense of confidence - it gets harder. Are you ready? No tools required; just your wits!

If a wall is "load-bearing," what does it do?

As you'd probably expect, a load-bearing wall holds up the roof. A wall doesn't need to be load-bearing to support art or a flat-screen TV.

A roof's steepness is called its what?

Though "angle" also sounds right, the correct term for this is "pitch." Among other things, a roof's pitch allows it to shed snow that might otherwise accumulate and put strain on it.

True or false: Carpenters make buildings, and only buildings.

Carpenters also make furniture, as well as boats. Someone who makes a boat from wood in a traditional way is called a "shipwright."

Putting up the basic "skeleton" of a house is called which of these?

The basic wood skeleton of a house is its "frame." Framing was a big part of old-fashioned "barn raising," but that's actually a New England term for a community effort, putting up most of a new barn in a single day.

The vertical timbers (planks) of the frame are called what?

You're probably familiar with the term even you've done even a small amount of home decorating. Finding the studs in walls allows you to hang heavier pieces of art or a rack to keep your bike indoors.

If you cut wood against the grain, it is called which of these?

What exactly is "grain?" Funny you should ask ...

What exactly is "grain"?

Wood, like meat, has "grain," a result of the natural way the tree (or animal muscle) grew. Butchers, like carpenters, either cut with or against the grain.

What is cutting parallel to the grain called?

Sounds violent, but this is the common term for cutting with the grain. Experienced carpenters know when to cross-cut and when to rip.

Where would you find crown molding ?

Crown molding is ornamental woodwork between the top of a wall and the ceiling. Why can't the wall and ceiling just, you know, meet? We're not sure!

Which of these tools comes in "flat" or "Phillips" types?

This isn't just something that carpenters would know. The difference between a flat and a Phillips screwdriver is one of the first things people learn when they're learning about home repair.

Okay, what *is* the difference between a flat and a Phillips screwdriver?

A Phillips screwdriver is meant to fit into a plus-sign-shaped notch on the screwhead. If the notch is narrow and straight across, you need a flat screwdriver.

If lumber is "green," what is it?

Green lumber usually needs to be air-dried or kiln-dried before use. Working immediately with green lumber is unwise.

Which of these tools does a carpenter not really need?

A Geiger counter detects levels of dangerous radiation, named for Hans Geiger. If you're a carpenter and you need this tool, ask for a raise -- you're working under dangerous conditions!

What is the name for framing elements that run horizontally?

You hear the word "joist" less often than stud. This is probably because it's rarer to mount things on joists than on studs.

What differentiates a screw from a bolt?

Bolts require nuts on the other side of the building material to be correctly fastened. Screws embed themselves directly in the material, and do not require a nut; in fact, they usually don't emerge from the other side of the wood.

How far apart are studs in most houses?

This reminds us of our favorite parody of ghost-hunting shows and the tech they use. In it, a ghost hunter turns a stud seeker into a "spectre detector" and is shocked to find there's a spirit "every 16 inches!" His partner sighs sadly and says, "There usually are."

An interior door usually has how many hinges?

Doors between rooms tend to be lighter than ones between the building and the outdoors. That's why interior doors need only two hinges, usually, while exterior doors commonly have three.

In carpentry terms, what is a "plane"?

"Plane" is a broad term in carpentry, and related to the same term in geometry. Instruments used for determining whether a plane is level are called, not surprisingly, "levels."

What is the term for work on the parts of the building visible to its owner and residents?

It's not interior carpentry, because it's also done on the outside of the house. Essentially, this kind of work is the opposite of "framing," which is vital but hides under the plaster and drywall.

What is the handrail of a staircase called?

The other terms are also the names of staircase parts. But "banister" is probably the best-known one, because of the joy kids take in "sliding down the banister."

What is "beveling"?

Beveling can be ornamental; you'll see it in crown molding, for example. It can also soften the edge of wood that people might come into contact with often -- like the edge of a dining table.

Where would you find a "gable"?

A gable is a triangular section of roof. You'll see smaller gables jutting out from the roof of a house with an attic -- they provide extra head space. This is especially useful when the attic is used as living space, like a bedroom.

A level which uses a bubble in fluid, inside a clear tube, is called what?

The "spirit" is the fluid inside. When the bubble of trapped air is completely in the center of the tube, the surface the level is resting on isn't slanted.

Which of these carpenter's tools has "bore"?

The term "bore" refers to the diameter of the drill bit, and the size of the hole it makes. You hear the same term in the engineering of tunnels.

"Riser" and "tread" are terms used in relation to what part of a house?

The riser is the vertical part of the step. The tread is the horizontal part, on which the foot lands. The "going" refers to the distance in feet the staircase covers from the first step to the top landing. (It helps to visualize this as a line drawn along the bottom of the staircase.)

Which of these carpentry terms recalls a priest's clothing?

A miter joint connects two angled pieces of wood. In an ecclesiastical setting, a miter is a bishop's hat.

Which of these names is a type of roof?

Gambrel roofs are common to New England, and appear with clockwork regularity in the work of Rhode-Island-born horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. (Bonus points if you recognized the other words as three of Lovecraft's favorites as well!)

True or false: "Hardwood" does not actually refer to the density or hardness of the wood itself.

Generally speaking, a "softwood" comes from a conifer tree, like a pine. Hardwoods come from deciduous trees like oak. Within those categories, there is a varying degree of actual hardness.

The part of the drill that holds the bit is called what?

We're not sure why this needed a specialized term, but there it is. Don't mark yourself as a novice by saying you inserted the drill bit "into the drill." Amateur!

What is the lowest framing element of a building called?

This important part of the frame has several names. "Midnight sill" is another that you might hear.

What is an "architrave?"

Architraves are molding that hides where the door frame meets the wall. Seriously, what's with builders not wanting people to see where surfaces join?

Which of these food-related terms is used in carpentry?

A "biscuit" is an oval disk of wood. It has several purposes in woodwork. Putting gravy on this sort of biscuit is not recommended, and you'd be wasting jam on it, as well.

What is a nail set used for?

When nailheads are lower than the surface of the wood, things look nicer. But it's a pain if you're a homeowner trying to remove a nail with a simple claw hammer.

"Flush," "proud" and "shy" all refer to what?

You've probably heard the term "flush" for pieces of any material that fit perfectly together. Rarer are "proud" and "shy"; they are terms for the piece that sticks up and the piece that's lower down, respectively.

What nation is IKEA headquartered in?

IKEA is actually the enemy of carpenters everywhere, what with their meticulously assembled furniture kits. However, thanks to the complexity of the directions to assemble said kits, a lot of carpenters have lucrative side gigs assembling IKEA furniture!

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