What Are Carpentry Skills? (And Tips To Improve Them)

Updated March 10, 2023

A carpenter examines planks of wood in a workshop, with two people working at a table behind him.

If you want to work as a carpenter, you can develop several skills to be successful. Some of the most important carpentry skills include specific technical knowledge in addition to physical strength. Learning how to develop and improve these skills can help you excel in a carpentry career.

In this article, we discuss what carpentry is and its different types, what carpenters do, carpentry skills you need to succeed, and tips to improve and highlight the carpentry skillset you already have.

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What is carpentry?

Carpentry is a trade in which the majority of the work being done involves shaping, cutting and installing various materials as part of a construction project. Professionals use carpentry to build ships, houses, bridges and concrete formwork. While this profession once focused mostly on working with wood, carpentry now involves working with various materials including engineered lumber, metal and factory-produced elements. Tasks that may involve carpentry include installing ceilings, walls, staircases and beams.

Related: How to Become a Carpenter

What does a carpenter do?

Carpenters often have the following duties:

  • Create and reference blueprints throughout a project

  • Construct various frameworks for structures, including walls, ceilings and floors

  • Install fixtures such as cabinets, windows and furniture systems

  • Use machinery, such as cranes, to perform duties

  • Cut and shape various materials

  • Ensure structures, framework and materials are up to code and undamaged

Types of carpenters

Different types of carpenters specialize in a particular field of carpentry, including:

  • Scenic carpenter

  • Restoration carpenter

  • Preservation carpenter

  • Residential carpenter

  • Industrial carpenter

  • Commercial carpenter

  • Log builder

  • Cabinet maker

  • Trim carpenter

  • Finish carpenter (joiner)

Read more: Learn About Being a Carpenter

Carpentry skills

Most carpenters need several skills to be successful in their positions, including:

Math skills

Carpenters use basic math skills to calculate accurate measurements when building structures. A carpenter must determine how much material is needed to complete a project, and often will monitor expenses in order to stay within their budget. Common types of math that carpenters should be familiar with include algebra and geometry.

Physical strength

Carpenters need physical strength because they spend much of their day lifting, using various tools and moving heavy materials. They are also often required to climb, stand or bend for extended periods of time.


Carpenters often work as part of a team to complete a project, and communicating effectively is essential. Carpenters may also work directly with clients to identify their requirements and then relay those instructions to team members. Good communication skills for carpenters include written and verbal skills as well as active listening skills.

Attention to detail

Carpentry requires extreme precision to make safe structures that are permanent. Carpenters must measure precisely and cut items to the exact measurements they determined in their blueprints. Being detail-oriented ensures that carpenters build structures according to specifications without the need to make major alterations, saving time and money.


Since much of the work carpenters do involves repair, being able to solve the problem of broken parts or fixtures is crucial. Carpenters must maintain a problem-solving mindset at all times so that the structures they work on are complete in form and function.


Working on intricate parts and connections requires a carpenter to have physical dexterity, with nimble fingers that are capable to easily move with great precision.

Mechanical skills

Carpenters rely on a variety of machines and tools to perform their work, including power saws, cranes and drills. Being comfortable using machinery and tools ensures that carpenters can safely complete their duties. The ability to work with multiple types of tools can make a carpenter a more qualified candidate for different jobs.

How to improve carpentry skills

These steps can help to improve your skills as you prepare for a job in the carpentry industry:

1. Get comfortable with measuring

Carpenters must be excellent measurers, so getting familiar with the basics of measuring and how to implement this ability in your work is a good way to improve your carpentry skills. There are several measuring tools you can use, including a metal square or tape measure. Use the same tool for the duration of a project to avoid slight differences in measurements.

2. Learn about wood grain

Knowing how to cut wood is one of the first steps to becoming a carpenter. When working with wood, you need to work in the direction of the grain. This means you will cut and sand along the wood grain. Doing so will make for smoother cuts and less chance of tear-outs.

3. Practice using different tools

Carpenters need to use a variety of tools throughout a project, such as miter saws, sanders and chisels. Practice using any carpentry tools that will be required for a project and get comfortable with how to use each one.

Related: How to Develop Your Skillset to Advance Your Career

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How to highlight carpentry skills

You can highlight your carpentry skills in many ways when applying for a carpenter position, including on your resume, in your cover letter and during a job interview. Here are ways to ensure your skills stand out in each situation:

On your resume

When writing your resume, include a skills section that focuses on your carpentry and related skills that match the job description for the position you are seeking. Include your skills as a bulleted list, and follow each skill with one or two examples of how you have used the skill in the past. You can also mention your skills in the work history section of your resume by referencing them in the descriptions of your previous jobs.

In your cover letter

Highlight your carpentry skills in your cover letter by elaborating on two or three relevant skills that demonstrate your qualifications for the position. For each skill, provide an example of how you used it in your previous or current position. Make sure that your cover letter is concise and free from spelling or grammar errors.

In an job interview

A job interview is a great time to discuss your carpentry skills and why your craftmanship and knowledge make you a great candidate for the position. Reference the skills that are most related to the job and expand on each skill to effectively convey your experience. Before the interview, practice describing your carpentry skills so that you can be prepared to discuss them confidently with the hiring manager.

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