Can You Ace This Carpentry Quiz?


By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

"Grandpa was carpenter/He built houses, stores and banks/He chain-smoked Camel cigarettes/And hammered nails in planks." Stephen King likes this ditty about the life of a carpenter so much he quoted it in his book "On Writing," where it was the the lead-in to a passage comparing the craftmanship of a writer to that of a carpenter. King makes some good points about the similarities, but maybe you're more interested in actual carpentry than in writing. Maybe you've worked in the field in the past, or want to in the future. (Or possibly right now, but if that's the case, isn't this kind of an odd way to spend your spare time?)

Some facts about carpentry: It's one of humanity's oldest professions. It's also one of the most male-dominated, to this day. In the United States, it's estimated that about 98 percent of carpenters are male. Which is unfortunate, because its many carpenters will tell you that making homes, cabinets, furniture and more from wood is a fundamentally satisfying job. Famous carpenters (OK, there aren't many) include Jesus Christ, who was specifically a shipwright, making boats for fishermen on the Sea of Galilee, and Harrison Ford, who worked as one while trying to make it in Hollywood.

Are you ready to test your knowledge of this venerable line of work? Give it a try now -- no hammer or nails needed!  (FYI: The lyrics quoted above are part of a song by John Prine, "Grandpa Was a Carpenter," if you want to give it a listen.) 

Creating the "skeleton" of a house is called _____.

Framing is a key part of the building process. It's also a term that has been borrowed by many other fields -- filmmaking, for example, in which screenwriters use "framing devices" to set up a story.


"Crosscutting" is a term for cutting wood against the _____.

Grain direction has to do with wood cells, and the way the wood grew when it was still a living tree. Experienced woodworkers know when it is best to work with or against the grain.


What is the decorative woodwork between the top of a wall and the ceiling called?

Crown molding was a big deal during the home-improvement and house-flipping crazes of the 2000s. You couldn't go to a dinner party without hearing someone talking about the difficult decision they were making about crown molding in the house they were redoing.


A wall that supports a building's roof is called _____.

A load-bearing wall might support the roof, or the upper stories of a building. It is important to know which walls are load-bearing when considering knocking some down to create an open floor plan.


"Pitch" refers to a roof's ______.

Don't be confused: While "pitch" can refer to a gluey substance that holds things together, that's not what this term is referring to. Here, it means the slant or steepness of the roof.


Screwdrivers usually come in Phillips or ____ versions.

A flat-head screwdriver has a straight-line tip, for inserting in a straight-line slot on the screw head. A Phillips screwdriver has four notches, for inserting into a cross pattern on the screw head.


Framing elements in a roof are called _______.

Outside construction, you most often hear this term used in describing crowd noise. A popular political candidate might be the recipient of cheers that "went up to the rafters."


What are wood screws made of?

Wood screws get their name from often being used to hold wooden elements together. They are NOT made of wood.


What is a "joist"?

Joists run parallel to each other and support floors and ceilings. "Joist" also gets our vote for one of the funniest-sounding words in carpentry.


What are vertical elements/planks in a frame called?

Even if you've only rented all your life, you're probably familiar with studs. Everyone who's ever wanted to hang a flat-screen TV or bicycle-mounting hooks has had to use a stud finder to do so.


Generally speaking, studs in a residential building will be ....

The standard in residential construction is that studs are 16 inches apart. This means that, when hanging something on the wall, you only need to find one stud to determine the location of others.


Creating an angle or slope on a piece of wood is called ______.

It isn't just wood that can be beveled. You'll often see glass tables with beveled edges (which prevents injuries when someone runs into them).


Which of these does a staircase NOT have?

Balusters are the vertical supports of the banister, a newel post is the heavy post at the top or bottom, and the landing is the flat place where the stairs end. But a gable is a shape of a roof, or a smaller strcuture in a roof, often making head space for an attic bedroom.


What is a "plumb bob"?

A plumb bob is simply a weight on a string, which uses gravity to indicate a straight vertical line. It's a cousin to the aforementioned spirit level.


What would you use a spirit level for?

A spirit level uses a bubble in a fluid-filled tube to indicate when a surface is level. The bubble should be centered in the tube.


A mortise-and-tenon is a kind of _____.

This is a simple way of joining wood. A slightly oversimplified explanation is that this joint fits a square peg (sometimes called a "tongue") into a square hole.


True or false: Mortar is commonly used in carpentry.

Mortar is used in bricklaying, which is a field "adjacent" to carpentry, but not carpentry itself. Fun fact: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill enjoyed bricklaying, which he considered a relaxing pastime.


An opening or window over a door is called a _____.

A transom is often a decorative glass window over a door. In years past, more of them opened, which is why old-fashioned detective stories have a PI listening through, or peeking over, a transom.


How many hinges does an exterior door usually have?

This differentiates them from interior doors. Interior doors are lighter in weight, and usually only need two hinges.


Which of these is a subcategory of carpentry?

Joining is a kind of carpentry that involves connecting smaller pieces. It tends to be more decorative than overall carpentry.


A carpenter who has completed an apprenticeship is called a/an ______.

After "journeyman" comes "master." Geeks of a certain age might known these terms best from Anne McCaffrey's "Dragonriders of Pern" novels, where they were used in the Harpers' Guild.


A home under construction in which many sections arrive on site pre-assembled is called a _____ .

Don't confuse a modular home with a mobile home, though they can look alike. A modular home is built to different standards, and some of them can be quite stylish, in a minimalist way.


What is flashing?

Flashing might run around chimneys, or between rain gutters and the rest of the roof. It's a fairly sexy name for such a basic, workhorse element of construction.


True or false: The making of wood furniture is not considered carpentry.

Carpentry is most associated with the making of buildings. But traditionally, carpenters also built carts, carriages and ships -- according to the gospels, Jesus was not just a carpenter, but specifically a builder of ships. Nowadays, with more construction involving metals and synthetic substances, carpenters are turning to specialty areas like fine furniture.


The point where two slopes of a roof meet is called the ______.

Kind of a poetic term, isn't it? Likewise, the highest point of a sloping roof is called a "ridge."


A cripple stud is also known as a ____ stud.

You'd most commonly find these under doors and windows. (We're also #sorrynotsorry about "differently-abled"-- a little political-correctness humor never killed anyone).


What kind of construction is mostly seen in rural and vacation homes?

A-frame houses have simple, long-timbered roofs. They resemble Swiss chalets and are popular for part-time or vacation homes.


True or false: Shingles are only used on roofs.

Shingles are sometimes used in siding, often unpainted, and only lightly stained. This kind of siding was popular in the 1970s.


The opposite of a modular home is a ______ one.

"Stick-built" just means it was built with traditional methods, with every part framed on the site. Though we have to admit, "stick-built" sounds very primitive, like a forerunner to even a log cabin.


Which of these would a carpenter be unlikely to use?

A multi-meter is very useful in general -- it tests batteries to see how much energy is left in them. But it doesn't have anything directly to do with woodwork.


What is "baseboard" called in the UK?

"Skirting board" is so named because it skirts the edge of the room. Fun fact: It's one of the small things that was changed between editions of "Harry Potter" books in the UK and in the US.


Where on a construction site would you find "stringers"?

Stringers are strong wooden supports for the individual steps of staircases. Not to be confused with the use of "stringer" as a freelance reporter for a news-wire service.


The low horizontal element of a wall to which vertical parts attach is called the ____ plate.

Some builders drop the "plate" and just refer to the "sill." Others might call it the "ground plate" (which sounds like it has to do with electrical wiring).


What issue are balloon-frame houses susceptible to?

In balloon-frame construction, the studs are full height, running from roof to ceiling. This leaves empty space for flames to run straight up the insides of the walls.


What is a pale?

You don't hear this term much anymore. But it survives in the phrase "beyond the pale." Today, this means that someone's behavior has crossed a line of acceptability. But back in the day, it meant they'd gone past a territorial fence of sharpened spikes.


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