How Much Do You Actually Know About Carpentry?


By: Bambi Turner

6 Min Quiz

Image: sturti/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

You may not know it, but carpenters actually have a huge impact on your everyday life. A carpenter framed your house to create a solid structure that keeps you dry and protected from the elements. He or she used beams and lumber to craft the floors you walk on, the cabinets in your kitchen and the furniture you use as you go about your day. That desk you sit at, the bed you sleep in and the table where you dine were likely built or designed by a carpenter. Sure, some modern furniture is built by machine, but the design and techniques used to program that machine were learned over the centuries from carpenters as they perfected their craft.

If you're interested in a career that lets you enjoy the great outdoors, work with your hands, and steer clear of the cubicle farm, carpentry just might be the trade for you. Opportunities can be found in wood shops, furniture factories and throughout the construction industry.  Best of all, this trade is usually learned on the job, which means it's perfect for those seeking to make a solid living without a degree. 

Looking to transform your woodworking skills into a career? Start by taking this quiz to see how much you really know about the tools, terms and techniques used in the trade!

Which of these is a carpenter most likely to use a plumb bob for?

You probably know all about how levels are used to make sure flat surfaces, like a painting or shelf, are perfectly parallel to the floor. Fewer are aware of how carpenters use plumb bobs, however. These weights dangle from a string and are used to check whether vertical objects like door jambs are perpendicular to the floor.


What name do carpenters use to refer to thin sheets of wood used to build furniture, flooring and more?

Veneer is a very thin slice of wood, only a couple of millimeters thick, which is glued to a core made of plywood or a similar material. This gives you all of the gorgeousness of expensive woods with none of the huge costs or environmental effects.


Where would you be most likely to use a brad nail?

Made from much finer wire than regular finish nails, brad nails also have tiny heads. This makes them perfect for jobs where you don't want to have to look at nail holes (think wooden trim, window casing, furniture and molding). Use regular finish nails for jobs that need a bit more strength.


What is your carpenter buddy looking for if he asks you to pick up some more OSB on your way to the site?

Pro carpenters know that oriented strand board, or OSB, is one of the best sheet woods for subfloors, walls and ceilings. Thanks to strips of wood arranged for stability and joined with adhesive, OSB is tougher and more durable than plywood.


Trying to remove tough old finishes from a piece of thrift wood furniture? Which sandpaper grit should you start with?

The roughness of sandpaper is measured by grit, and lower numbers are coarser than higher numbers. When removing tough old finishes on a great curb find, start with 60-grit sandpaper and gradually work your way up to finer grits as the project progresses.


Building stairs from scratch? Better make sure the treads are at least this deep.

Building a set of stairs is a simple task for a skilled carpenter, but it requires knowledge of building codes. In the U.S., stair treads must be at least 10 inches deep so people have enough room to put a foot down safely. The risers between each tread can't be taller than 7-3/4 inches.


What is your customer looking for if they ask you to bevel the edge of that tabletop?

A request for a beveled edge means that you should cut or sand the edge at an angle. This type of edging is not only decorative but can also be safer and longer-lasting than a squared-off edge.


What's it called when you arrange two pieces of veneer so that they are a mirror image of one another on a piece of furniture or door?

Sheets of veneer allow carpenters to make objects from rare or expensive wood at a fraction of the cost of using solid hardwood. The way these veneer sheets are arranged is called matching. When the veneer forms a mirror image, this is known as bookmatch, and it's popular on things like doors or paneling.


Which of these would a carpenter be most likely to slip into a chuck?

That round part of a power drill that opens and closes is known as a chuck. By inserting different metal bits into the chuck, carpenters can do anything from drilling a hole to fastening a screw and more.


Which of these tasty terms refers to a circular piece of wood used in joinery?

Carpentry biscuits get their name from their round shape. These circles of wood can be inserted into grooves cut into two pieces of lumber to join them securely together. This type of joinery work requires a tool known as a biscuit joiner.


Which of these jobs would benefit the most from pressure-treated lumber?

Pressure treated lumber is treated with chemicals that give it superior resistance to insects and rot. While that's great for outdoor building jobs like a deck, it's not the best choice for interior projects due to the chemicals involved.


Which of these tools is a carpenter least likely to use to mark angles during layout?

While power tools and fancy gadgets have taken the place of many woodworking tools, there's nothing like a classic carpenter's square for marking angles during layout. Also known as a speed square or combination square, this tool makes quick work of layout and is simple enough for anyone to use.


Saws are a crucial part of any woodshop, but do you know what a miter saw can do that a circular saw can't?

Circular saws and miter saws look similar at first glance, but skilled carpenters know that there is a major difference between these tools. While a circular saw can only cut at a 90-degree angle to the table, miter saw blades can be tilted to cut at different angles.


What is the boss looking for if they ask you to construct a cased opening?

If the boss asks for a cased opening, you'd better get to building an opening for a door, just without the door. A cased opening is just like a doorway, including all molding and trim, but is left totally open, no door or hardware required.


Which of these floors is made from small blocks of wood arranged in geometric patterns?

Way back in the 16th century, the finest woodworkers would carve and arrange wooden blocks to form parquet floors. Today, this effect is often achieved using simple molded or pressed wooden tiles.


Which of these is true of every hardwood species of lumber?

Carpenters know that the terms hardwood and softwood have nothing to do with hardness, and everything to do with what type of tree produced the wood. Hardwoods come from broadleaf trees and include oak, elm, maple and hickory. Softwoods come from conifers and include fir and pine.


Which of these wood types be the wrong material to use as exterior wall sheathing?

Drywall is the most widely-used choice for interior walls, but carpenters know better than to use it outdoors where it could get wet. For exterior sheathing, builders can choose from sheet wood options like plywood, chipboard or OSB.


Uh oh! You've finished installing a new door, and the owner hates the frame. What kind of frame could you buy to easily replace it without a lot of extra work?

Once a frame has been installed in a wall, installing a new one can cause significant wall damage. Knockdown frames make this process easier because they come in three pieces that can be slipped into place without damaging the existing surfaces.


Which of these slender pins of wood would be the best option for reinforcing a butt joint?

Butt joints, where two pieces of wood are butted together, are simple to make but also inherently weak. To boost durability and help these joints hold together, carpenters can insert wooden pins called dowels into holds carved into each piece.


When did carpenters switch exclusively to machined nails and stop using nails forged by hand?

Are you looking to build a period piece or restore an old piece of furniture? Better use the right nails. Those made before 1890 were mostly made by hand and had rectangular or square shanks. Modern machined nails made since 1890 have round shanks.


Got a door frame that's a little off-kilter? Which of these materials could you use to make small adjustments to square it up?

Wooden or plastic shims are small scraps of material that can be used to even out a crooked cabinet, door frame or window. They are also useful for silencing a squeaky floor by inserting them between the joists and the subflooring.


What's the biggest reason that old-school balloon framing has been replaced by platform framing for houses?

Just half a century ago, most homes were framed using a balloon technique, where studs extended all the way from the ground to the roof level. Today's carpenters know that balloon framing does little to contain a fire, so platform framing is typically used instead.


Which of these would be the most tedious to use to cut a moderately sized hole in a piece of wood?

There are so many tools that make it easy to cut holes in wood that only someone with no tools on hand would try to use an awl to complete the job. Hole saws, routers and spade bits all make quick work of hole drilling.


Which of these names is used to describe an Allen wrench?

An Allen wrench is a common carpentry tool used to work with bolts that have hexagonal heads. This wrench comes in a variety of sized to fit different bolts, and is also known as a hex key.


What shape is the hole made when using a countersink bit?

Installing a regular screw on a piece of furniture can really mar the finish because the head of the screw will stick up above the surface. Countersink bits create conical holes that accommodate countersunk screws, causing the head of the screw to sit flush with the surface instead of protruding up.


Which of these saws uses a push-pull action to make quick work of cutting?

Many power saws used in a wood shop feature large round blades that spin through lumber. Jigsaws and other reciprocating saws are different between they use a push-pull motion to move a straight blade through wood and other materials. This makes them ideal for carving shapes into a sheet of plywood or cutting through a stud you're trying to remove.


Which of these creations would you be most likely to make using a lathe?

A wood lathe isn't designed to cut wood on its own. Instead, it holds the wood in a spindle and turns it as a carpenter molds, cuts and shapes it by hand. You can also use tools and bits to carve objects like pencils, baseball bats, or table and chair legs.


Wainscot can fancy up even a modest home. Where are you most likely to find this finish?

Wainscot is just a fancy name for wall paneling, and it's typically installed on the lower portion of interior walls. While carpenters can carve these panels by hand, many are sold pre-formed and cut for quick and easy installation.


If you get a request to chamfer the edge of the table, what should you be prepared to do to that wood?

A chamfer is just a fancy type of bevel. While a standard bevel results in the entire edge being angled, a chamfer is a 45-degree angle between two flat surfaces, which means that only part of the edge is angled while the other part is flat. A chamfer is visually appealing and can make edges safer in terms of bumps or bruises.


What would a carpenter be most likely to use an awl for?

An awl is an old-school tool that's particularly useful for carpenters who prefer hand tools to power tools. The tool is used to pierce a hole in wood, breaking the fibers, which helps prevent splitting when inserting a nail or screw.


Has rot created a hole in the wood trim outside your windows? Which of these materials could restore its condition?

Epoxy wood fillers are ideal for replacing rotted or damaged material in wood. Simply remove the rotted wood, mix the resin and hardener components together, then fill and shape before allowing it to dry. Don't forget to follow up with a sealer to prevent future damage.


Which of these carpentry must-haves are measured using pennyweight?

The term pennyweight comes from an ancient Roman coin called denarius, meaning penny, which gives the modern penny its "d" designation. A 2 penny, or 2d nail measures an inch long, while a 10d, or 10 penny nail measures 3 inches long.


Which of these carpentry techniques always involves cutting wood against the grain?

There are two basic ways to cut a piece of wood. Cross-cutting involves cutting against or perpendicular to the grain, like cutting a 2x4 across its 4-inch width. Rip cutting is when you cut parallel to the grain, like if you cut a length of lumber from end to end.


Which of these is not an effective form of sealer for wood?

Battens are narrow lengths of wood used to reinforce joinery. Varnish, urethane and linseed oil are all sealers used to protect wood from things like moisture and staining.


Which of these wood species is known for a pattern known as bird's eye?

Maple is the most common wood species to offer a grain pattern known as bird's eye, which is so-named because it resembles a bird's eyes sprinkled across the wood's surface. While maple is more likely than other woods to offer this desirable finish, it can also be found on some varieties of ash or yellow birch.


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