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trade concerned with constructing wood buildings, the wooden portions of buildings, or the temporary timberwork used during the construction of buildings. It comprises the larger and more structural aspects of woodwork, rather than the delicate assembling, which is the province of cabinetmaking and joineryjoinery,
craft of assembling exposed woodwork in the interiors of buildings. Where carpentry refers to the rougher, simpler, and primarily structural elements of wood assembling, joinery has to do with difficult surfaces and curvatures, such as those of spiral stairs, with
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. The craft dates from the earliest use of tools. Though no actual examples of carpentry survive from antiquity, many remains of the earliest known stone architecture exhibit forms that are undoubtedly imitative of still earlier constructions in wood. This is especially apparent in most Asian architecture, and certain details of Greek temples are suggestive of carpentry prototypes. Some monumental wood buildings of the 7th cent. still stand in Japan, a country where intricate, beautiful carpentry has prevailed throughout its history. In the United States, expert carpentry has existed ever since the construction of dwellings by the colonists in the first half of the 17th cent. Rough carpentry refers to the "framing" of a wood building, namely, the erection of the structural frame or skeleton composed of the vertical members, or studs, the horizontal members of foundation sills, floor joists, and the like, the inclined members, or rafters, for the roof, and the diagonal members for bracing. Finished carpentry is the setting in place, over the rough frame, of all finishing members of both exterior and interior, such as sheathing, siding, stairs, the casings of doors and windows, flooring, wainscoting, and trim. The amount of permanent carpentry required in many modern buildings has been greatly reduced by the use of such substitute materials as concrete and steel. However, the large amount of concrete used has resulted in a great increase in the amount of carpentry performed to make temporary forms in which the concrete can be cast. See centeringcentering,
the framework of wood or of wood and steel built to support a masonry arch or vault during its construction. The centering itself must be rigidly supported, either by posts from the ground or by trusses when piers are available to receive their ends.
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See J. Capostosto, Basic Carpentry (2d ed. 1980); W. P. Spence, General Carpentry (1983); W. H. Wagner, Modern Carpentry (rev. ed. 1987).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



work connected with the construction and installation of wood structural elements and parts, as distinguished from cabinet work, which requires a greater degree of care in working with the wood. Carpentry includes work to install wood foundations (including pile foundations), walls, partitions, and floors, as well as such elements of the frames and sheathing of buildings as posts and beams, decking, and subfloors. Carpentry also includes the assembly of trusses and sheathing for wood roofs and the construction of the wood elements of engineering structures, such as bridges, dams, trestles, mine timbers, and power transmission line towers, as well as of temporary structures, such as the scaffolding, erecting frames, and casing that are used. The assembling of ready-cut houses refers to carpentry.

In modern construction work the wood is precut and the basic structural elements and parts for large construction jobs are prefabricated by machine at wood-products plants. These plants are equipped with high-production equipment for sawing, drying, planing, drilling, mortising, and other operations. On small-scale jobs, wood is worked with power tools or by hand, using saws, axes, planes, and chisels. Parts are joined by three basic methods in carpentry: by the use of notches, pins, and waterproof glues. These methods are used to splice, scarf, joint, and join wood elements at various angles and to make other types of connections.

Carpentry involves work with wood, primarily from coniferous species, in the form of logs, squared timbers, boards, planks, plywood, fiberboard, and particle board. To avoid warpage and rot, carpentry parts must be made from wood that is relatively free of such flaws as knots and crossgrainedness and has a moisture content of not more than 15 percent.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A building trade which includes cutting, framing, and joining the timbers or woodwork of a building or structure.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. the art or technique of working wood
2. the work produced by a carpenter; woodwork
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005