A Guide to Carpentry and Joinery

A Guide to Carpentry and Joinery

Joinery is an important aspect of wood work, but strictly speaking it is not the same as carpentry. It is not unusual for a joiner to be referred to as a carpenter, and while this is an easy mistake to make, there are some differences between the professions. This article will look at this point in more detail.

Carpenters are usually employed to undertake work on site during the construction of a building.

Carpenters will typically take on the following:

  • Shuttering or form work for retaining wet concrete until it has set
  • Erection and fixing timber frames on timber-framed buildings (this type of construction involves creating the shell of a building, including the roof in timber then cladding the exterior in Brickwork. This is an increasingly popular method that is being used due to increased speed and less cost.)
  • Fitting roofing trusses, rafters, Joists, and fascia boards
  • Creating timber wall partitions, and laying flooring
  • Making or fitting internal door linings, architraves, and skirting boards
  • Fitting locks and door furniture

Joinery usually takes place in the latter stages of construction and is typically manufactured in a work shop then brought to site and fitted.

A carpenter doing what he loves best

A carpenter doing what he loves best

Joiners will typically take on the following:

  • Windows constructed of hard or soft wood
  • Stair cases
  • Wall panelling
  • Cabinets or fitted wardrobes

Regardless of the category, carpentry and joinery are both highly skilled jobs that require precise measurements and perfect fits. Both will need to be able to fit wood together accurately even on basic roles. Wood needs to be forged for a number of reasons, ranging from building a picture frame to creating a flush surface for a tabletop.

Carpentry and joinery are specialist trades that require real skill and years of experience to master. As this is the case, good tradesmen are becoming increasingly hard to find as fewer people are entering this trade. A quality construction company will have these professionals in their team. They can provide a high-quality joinery service at a competitive rate. Of course, searching “how to” do a certain task is always an ideal, but as these are skilled professionals it is probably best to leave it to them.

Timber Windows

Timber windows are usually created for properties undergoing building refurbishments, but more commonly are being used for new builds. Generally constructed using hard wood combined with high spec double glazing and modern draught proofing, they provide an equal alternative to UPVC or Aluminium. With regards to building refurbishments, bespoke windows are used to tie-in with the character of the property. Many of these buildings are older, and are simply not suited to the generic and modern look that is associated with mass produced windows. With regards to new builds, bespoke timber windows are often used to provide a unique look and a sense of style that cannot be matched. However, the benefits do not stop there. Many benefits come with quality timber windows, but ultimately these vary due to their design.

However, it is not unusual for casement or sash bespoke timber windows to have the following features.

  • Storm proof designs
  • Double glazed argon filled glass
  • Primed as standard and then finished using a high spec stain or pain
  • Excellent draught seals
  • Brass, chrome, or stainless steel fittings
  • High levels of sound insulation
  • Minimal heat loss
  • Hardwood sills for maximal durability

These are just a few design characteristics that can be incorporated into any custom-made timber window. This type of window offers both style and practicality, which is then tailored to your properties requirements. This is an opportunity that should not be overlooked, but unfortunately, bespoke joinery is an art that is declining. Few companies offer this ‘expert’ service nowadays, but there are refurbishment companies that still offer specialist staff members. It is advisable to get in contact with them if bespoke joinery and timber windows could benefit your property.

An example of equipment carpenters used to use

An example of equipment carpenters used to use

Joints Commonly Used for Joining Timber

Creating precise and accurate wooden joints is a major part of a joiner’s job. Wooden joints are vital for creating rigid structures and connecting timber. Without this, the structure of a property wouldn’t exist, let alone any wooden finishing’s that may be fitted throughout the home. We can see that a joiner plays an essential role in any construction company’s workforce, but to illustrate the detailed nature of their work, this article will assess a few of the common joints they may have to create in more detail.

All wooden joints fall into one of two categories; mechanical and non mechanical. The first example of joints uses nails or screws to make a connection, whilst the latter are held together by other pieces of wood. Creating a non-mechanical joint requires a lot of skill, as the wood has to be cut precisely for it to create enough tension to support an additional piece. Examples of these have been listed below:

  • Tongue and groove – these are commonly used in flooring and wall covering. A groove is cut into the long edge of a piece of wood, which is then connected to another piece of wood that has a similar groove.
  • Dovetail joints – these are hard to create as they require a series of triangular shapes (tails) to be precisely cut into a piece of wood. These grooves are then connected to another series of grooves (pins) at 90 degrees. Typically, these will be used on boxes, furniture or the corners of rigid structures.
  • Splinted miter – to create a splinted miter, two pieces of wood will need to have their ends cut at a 45-degree angle. When these ends are connected, a 90-degree angle will be made, which is ideal for edging and creating frames. To get these pieces of wood to connect, a groove is cut in the back of them, where a separate piece (called a spline) is created to fit inside of this groove. It is the spline that holds them together.
  • Mortise and tenon – to create a joint using this technique, one piece of wood will need to have a hole cut into it (mortise), whilst another piece of wood will require a projection (tenon). The tenon must be able to fit snugly into the mortise, as this will be the basis of the joint. A wedge is then hammered into a hole in the tenon for additional support.

Above we have listed a few examples of non-mechanical joints that all joiners will be familiar with. The list below looks at their mechanical counterparts:

  • Butt Joints – these joints are created by placing one end of a piece of wood against the side of another one. Long screws are then drilled into the side of one piece, so that they go through to the end of the other one. This creates a simple joint that is useful, but it can be quite weak
  • Lap Joint – lap joints are created by making two pieces of wood overlap each other (hence the name). Where this wood overlaps a screw or a series or screws are inserted to create a strong joint
  • Biscuit Joint – a special tool is required to make this joint, which cuts grooves into the side of two pieces of wood. These sides match up, and an oval-shaped piece of wood (known as a biscuit) is glued into these grooves. As the glue dries the biscuit swells to create a solid joint. These are extremely popular in contemporary wood work

This article has briefly looked at a few joints that are commonly used in the building trade. If you want to know more or have any questions, speak to a contractor who will be able to provide you with some invaluable advice in this field.

Wood is a vital material in many modern homes

Wood is a vital material in many modern homes

Biscuit Joints

One of the most common joints used in construction is a biscuit joint. These are accurate and strong and are favoured by joiners throughout the country. To create a biscuit joint, a special tool is needed to create a groove which is then filled in by an oval-shaped piece of wood called a biscuit. When the biscuit is glued in it expands inside the groove to create a solid fit. Biscuits generally come in three sizes; small, medium and large. The dimensions of these are listed below.

  • 5/8” x 1-3/4” Small
  • 3/4″ x 2-1/8” Medium
  • 1” x 2-3/8” Large

The smaller size will be appropriate for creating smaller joints, but as a general rule, larger biscuits should be used wherever possible as these provide better strength and durability. Arguably the most common biscuit joint is an edge to edge. An edge to edge joint is usually used to create a frame or a rigid structure, but the list of uses for them is virtually endless.

To create a biscuit joint you will need to decide what you are creating. Once you know, you will need to choose an appropriate biscuit size compatible with your design. As previously mentioned, the biggest size should be used if possible.

Now that you have a plan, set the biscuit cutter to the appropriate size. Place the pieces of wood into the desired position and mark the area you want to cut. Proceed to make the incision by pressing the biscuit cutter against the marks on the wood. This will cause the internal blade to cut out a perfect biscuit shape. Then, repeat this until you have finished.

On one side of the piece of wood, apply a small amount of glue to the slots and insert the biscuits. Make sure that this is done perfectly as you do not want the glue to dry. Once this has been done repeat it on the other side, but this time insert the biscuits into the remaining grooves. Press the wood together to ensure a tight bond and wipe off any excess glue before it dries. The glue inside of the slots will then make the biscuits expand, which creates a stronger connection.

If you have followed our how to DIY instructions above, you should now be looking at a solid joint. If not, then don’t be alarmed because joinery is an art that takes years to master. In this case, you may want to enlist professional help and fortunately, there are plenty of construction companies offering quality work at competitive prices. Get in contact with them today for all of your joinery needs.

american oak table and benches finished

american oak table and benches finished

Finding a Good Carpenter or Joiner

Carpentry and joinery are both skilled roles that take years to master due to the precise fittings and exact measurements. In any case, this is not something a DIY enthusiast can mimic. It is an expertise that requires talent and ability, but unfortunately not every self-appointed joiner possesses these traits. This article will explore how a distinction can be made between a legitimate tradesman and a less than talented carpenter or joiner.

Carpenters and joiners will be needed for a number of tasks in the building trade. They are an essential member of any team, but before they are considered, it is a decent idea to do a background check of the company you are selecting. If the company has a permanent place of residence, then this is usually a good sign that they are a registered business. If they do not have a place of residence, this may is a cause for concern. Have a look at the list below and see if the joiner in can answer yes to the following questions:

  • Do they have good references?
  • Do they have the necessary insurance to carry out work?
  • Are they experienced?
  • Does the company that they work for have a permanent address or a place of residence?
  • Are they qualified? However, a college certificate is not everything. College courses now are not a stringent as they used to be. A tradesman that has been in the business for years will probably be better than a new one with a qualification

Assuming that the company can answer yes to the majority of these questions, this is a good indication that they will be able to provide you with a good service. Be aware that some carpenters and joiners may offer cheaper quotes as they know that they can’t match these credentials. It is likely that a significantly cheaper quote is a sign of somebody that will rush a role that needs time spent on it.