Glossary Intro and Glossary Annexes


Working or shaping things of wood. Woodworker,

    (1) a worker in wood, one who makes things of wood;

    (2) a machine for working in wood (e.g., power planer)

    (3); woodworking, the action of working in wood, the manufacture of wooden articles

    (4) in forestry, Wood workman = woodworker
References from Oxford English Dictionary:
    1959 Iona and Peter Opie The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren 
    New York: New York Review Books, 2001 xvii. 362

    The gardening master is commonly "Spuds", the woodwork teacher is "Chips".

    1980 Edward Blishen A Nest of Teachers. London:  H. Hamilton 1980

    The woodwork master ... insisted that I come with him to his woodwork centre.

Historical References

    1659 Cecil George Savile Foljambe Liverpool, earl of. The registers of Edwinstow, in the county of Nottingham, 1634-1758. Printed by R. White, 1891 32

    George Wightman ... a woodworkman.

    1872 John Richards  A Treatise on the construction ... of Wood-working Machines
    London: Spon,, 1872

    With machine tools, and all machines to work metal, the men who build them are familiar with their functions; everyone connected with a manufactory is an operator of the machines built, but in woodwork machines it is quite the reverse. The men who work on them are as a rule quite ignorant of the purposes or functions of the machines.

    1875 KNIGHT Dictionary of  Mechanics. 418/1

    Cabinet-file, a smooth, single-cut file, used in wood-working.

    Wood-worker, a machine-tool having various attachments and adjustments for different kinds of work.

    1890 W. J. GORDON Foundry 71

    We stroll through the woodworking-shops, where nothing is done by hand that can be done by machine.

    1892 Labour Commission Glossary.

    In the coach-making trade wood-workers consist of wheel-makers, body-makers ..., and carriage-makers.

    1950 New Yorker 26 August 1971, page 1

    Woodworking firms are making a candid twelve-percent profit.

    Source: Oxford English Dictionary


in progress, 7-22-08

In most of its meanings, woodworking falls under the umbrella of Trade.

Besides Trade, another term that designates a pursuit followed as an occupation or means of livelihood and that require technical knowledge and skill is Profession

At the same time, the term Woodworking is complicated by its double meaning: Woodworking has a double meaning in the sense that woodworking can imply an occupation, where person are paid for doing woodworking. Woodworking can also be a nonpaid activity, something that persons engage in for pleasure, and this sense can be a Craft, a Handicraft, and an Art, but definitely not considered a Trade. Like Woodworking, Other terms, such as Craft, Handicraft, Art, are also complicated by a double-meaning,

Trade applies chiefly to pursuits involving a possession of skill, manual or mechanical, including and can include a capability of mananging machinery or tools:
    -- the trade of a carpenter

    -- a blacksmith's trade

    --he is a plumber by trade

Profession is, in general, applied only to a pursuit that requires extended study and training before one is ready to follow it as a means of livelihood;

the term also often implies that one has undergone tests of one's fitness and has won a degree or has given proof of one's qualifications and has been licensed to practice;

it often also implies devotion to an end other than that of personal profit or the earning of a livelihood: law, medicine, architecture, and teaching are professions;

by profession, a person may be a clergyman, a nurse, a civil engineer, or a dentist.

Craft's Meaning, Like Woodworking, Can Be Confusing

Craft is not always clearly distinguished from Trade, but it tends to be used of those pursuits that involve not only manual or mechanical labor but allow more or less freedom for the exercise of taste, skill, and ingenuity; many of the crafts were once or are still carried on independently in the small shop or home; thus, weaving, tailoring, and goldsmithing are often spoken of as crafts; the village shoemaker practised a craft, but the laster in a modern shoe factory follows a trade.

For example, in the post-WW II era, with the enormous bulge of home ownership, the word "craft" has often been the subject of a tug of war between two groups in the United States:

(1) enthusiasts who argue for craft as a nonhierarchical, democratic activity, open to all and necessary in a world supersaturated with impersonal consumables; and

(2) sophisticates who think that "craft" is a pejorative term, too often associated with kitsch, macrame, stoneware pots, and DIY (do- it-yourselfers).

Some of the latter dismiss craft entirely. Others believe that a certain class of craft worthy of recognition as art has emerged and should be recognized as superior to "mere" craft.

Source: Adapted from Edward S. Cooke, "Modern Craft and the American Experience", American Art Volume 21, No 1 Spring 2007, page 2.

Crafts -- and the craftsmen who mastered crafts -- were central to the economics of early American life.

Craftsmen comprised about twenty percent.

When our colonial ancestors spoke of a craft, they meant

a skill, an art, an occupation,

a calling requiring special training and knowledge;

a given trade or handicraft taken collectively. Craft always meant a trade or occupation, the "Art and Mistery" of which was acquired only after a long apprentice to a master craftsman.

England's happiness improved: or, An infallible way to get riches, encrease plenty, and promote pleasure.

Containing the art of making wine of English grapes ... The whole art and mistery of distilling brandy ... To make all the sorts of plain and purging ales ... To gather, order, and keep fruit, in all seasons. The art and mistery of pickling flowers, fruits ... The whole art and mistery of a confectioner. The compleat marketman, or woman ... Particular rules for good and frugal house-keeping and to destroy all sorts of vermin; with many other things very profitable and never before made publick.

Source: R. Clavill (London, 1697,)

In considering a craft, we must not fall into the common error of assuming that the term always implied handwork. It might, or it might not, according to conditions in a given trade. Clothworkers employed the spinning wheel, loom, and fuller's mill; the potter had his wheel, the turner his lathe, the ironworker his tilt hammer and mechanical bel­lows, and the printer had his press.

Not infrequently, too, wind, water, and horse power were harnessed to the machine to save labor. As early as 1622 the word manufacture was generally understood to include the making of articles by mechanical as well as by physical labor.

As the historian Carl bridenbaugh notes,

    "The craft system, then, was a method of producing articles used in daily life, and this activity, by its very nature, was at the same time artistic."

    "The sight of a skilled workman plying his trade is one of the experiences that sweeten life,"

Scholarship -- a point uppon which Bridenbaugh places great emphasis -- tells us that we can look back, with nostalgia, across two centuries at the man who, with apparent ease, skillfully synchronized mind, eye, and hand in fabricating a piece of Handicraft.

All of agree with Bridenbaugh:
    "We envy his opportunity to be 'creative'; we praise his 'pride in his work'."

Yet, Bridenbaugh argues "we must beware of surrounding the artisan with the haze of romance."

First, work "performed principally by hand is hard -- very hard -- and so long did it take to finish a good job that the workman must often have yearned to drop it and seek greener pastures."

Second, definitely worth remembering,
    "only the best of the eighteenth-century craftwork has survived to be dignified by inclusion in our museums or private collections."

( Think of how the word "Rustic" is given as a label for a particular piece! Does rustic refer to a piece constructed by a self-trained woodworker using primitive tools, or does get labeled "rustic" as an excuse for shody work? Either way, Cooke's sense of "craft" -- see above -- with its double meaning, comes into play. Although craftsmanship stimulated the creativeness of the individual, many inferior articles were produced -- inferior in utility, inferior in finish, inferior even in design and appearance.

) Source: Adapted from Carl Bridenbaugh, The Colonial Craftsman New York: New York University Press, 1950; New York: Dover, 1990, Chapter I, "Inroductory paragraphs for the chapter on "THE CRAFTSMAN OF THE RURAL SOUTH"

Handicraft implies handwork and usually suggests dexterity in manipulation of instruments or of materials; in comparison with craft it tends to imply more definite independence from machinery and it more often applies to an activity carried on for other than purely economic reasons; thus, basket-making, embroidery, lacemaking, and bookbinding are handicrafts when carried out with the use of simple hand tools whether the products are primarily a source of livelihood or not.

Art can be applied to an occupation and Art can be applied to nonpaid activities. In this sense Art implies activites that knowledge and skill, by the practitioner and often comes very close to craft in such phrases as the manual arts, industrial arts, household arts, practical arts.

If unqualified, Art as an activity designates creative pursuits (as woodworking painting or sculpture) that, whether practised as an occupation or an avocation, involve an elaborate technique, great skill, definite ends to be achieved, and the possession and exercise of highly personal creative judgment and taste.

Further, art is so freely applicable to the general principles or underlying system of rules, methods, and procedures on which a trade or craft, or a creative pursuit, or a branch of learning or doing, or an aspect of human affairs is based, that it is often difficult, apart from the context, to determine whether the word denotes a pursuit or a technique

What are the components of woodworking?

Can it be put it better than Stephen Shepherd?

    ... [H]alf of the art of woodworking is ... knowledge of the wood. The other half is knowledge of the tools and the ways of using them.


    From page 2 of Stephen Shepherd, Compleat Early Nineteenth Century Woodworker. Green River Forge G.S.L.C.,Utah, 1981

William Vroom was a prominent figure in Industrial Arts circles at the turn of the 20th century. I happened on this piece in the box by him accidentlally. Someday I want to contextualize Vroom's reasoning a little more definitely. His notions about how to distinguish woodworking from "cabinet-making" are dead-on. His focus in the piece, though, is "Constructive Design", a topic that I discuss in the entry, Design.

    THE term "woodwork" ... was selected as being more inclusive than "cabinet-making" or "furniture-making," for the principles enunciated are applicable to a much broader range of work, though, as already intimated, it is not the intention ... to treat specifically of those branches in which large timbers are used.

    Many general principles, it is true, apply equally in all wood construction, large or small; yet methods are considerably modified by the size and character of the thing designed. The framing of a house, for instance, differs materially from that of a bookcase, and the construction of a barrel has little in common with that of a chest.

    The difference in principles of construction between large and small work is due to various causes. The elements in the latter must be much larger in relation to the size of the structure, not only because the strength of a piece of timber diminishes as the square of its length (supposing breadth and thickness to diminish proportionately), but also because the smaller article is subject to relatively greater strains.

    No framed house, for example, of ordinary construction, would withstand the strains which a trunk has to bear at the hands of the gentlest expressman. The use of the brace, so common in house-building, is comparatively rare in smaller work, especially cabinetwork, where the relatively large framework and the use of glue render the article sufficiently rigid without it. Furthermore, the provision for warping and shrinkage is an object of much greater concern to both the cabinet-maker and joiner than to the carpenter, who constructs only the framework of houses, because in interior work the greater part of the framing is exposed and liable to close inspection, and the lumber used is in much wider pieces, relatively, than the carpenter has to deal with, and consequently requires greater skill in its disposal.

    Source: William F. Vroom. "Constructive Design in Woodwork",Manual Training Magazine 4 January, 1903, page 84