Carpentry is a skilled trade in which the primary work performed is the use of wood to construct items as large as buildings and as small as desk drawers. Carpentry is also used to construct the formwork into which concrete is poured during the building of structures such as roads and highway overpasses. While the primary material used is wood, the construction of walls with metal studs, and concrete formwork with reusable metal forms, is a carpentry skill.
Professional status as a journeyman carpenter in the United States may be obtained in a number of ways. The most formal training is acquired in a four year apprenticeship program administered by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, in which journeyman status is obtained after successful completion of a 12 weeks of pre-appenticeship training, followed by 4 years of on-the-job field training working alongside journeyman carpenters.
There are two main divisions of training: Construction Carpentry and Cabinetmaking. During pre-apprenticeship trainees in each major division spend 30 hours a week for 12 weeks in classrooms and indoor workshops, learning mathematics, trade terminology, and skill with hand and power tools. Construction carpentry trainees also have a daily calisthentics period to prepare for the physical aspect of the work.
Upon completion of pre-apprenticship, trainess who successfully pass the graded curriculum (taught by highly experienced journeyman carpenters) are assigned to a local union, and to union carpentry crews at work on construction sites or in cabinet shops as First Year Apprentices. Over the next four years as they progress in status to 2nd Year, 3rd year, and 4th Year Apprentice, they periodically return to the training facility for one week every three months for more detailed training in specific aspects of the trade.
Less formal methods of obtaining Union Journeyman status exist, such as working alongside carpenters for years as a laborer, and learning skills by observation and peripheral assistance. While such an individual may obtain journeyman status by paying the union entry fee and obtaining a journeyman's card (which provides the right to work on a union carpentry crew) the carpenter foreman will by necessity dismiss any worker who presents the card but not demonstrate the expected work skill.
Carpentry skill of a varying degree may gained through non-union vocational programs, such as high school shop classes.
The word "carpenter" is the English rendering of the Old French word carpentier (become charpentier) which is derived from the Latin carpentrius , "(maker) of a carriage. The Middle English and Scots word (in the sense of "builder") was wright (from the Old English wryhta), which could be used in compound forms such as wheelwright or boatwright. In British slang, a carpenter is sometimes referred to as a "chippy".
Carpentry in the United States is almost always done by men. With 98.5% of carpenters being male, it was the fourth most male-dominated occupation in the country in 1999.