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!
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.
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.
Carpenters also make furniture, as well as boats. Someone who makes a boat from wood in a traditional way is called a "shipwright."
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.
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.
What exactly is "grain?" Funny you should ask ...
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.
Sounds violent, but this is the common term for cutting with the grain. Experienced carpenters know when to cross-cut and when to rip.
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!
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.
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.
Green lumber usually needs to be air-dried or kiln-dried before use. Working immediately with green lumber is unwise.
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!
You hear the word "joist" less often than stud. This is probably because it's rarer to mount things on joists than on studs.
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.
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."
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.
"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."
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
A miter joint connects two angled pieces of wood. In an ecclesiastical setting, a miter is a bishop's hat.
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!)
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.
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!
This important part of the frame has several names. "Midnight sill" is another that you might hear.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!