August 8, 2020

Carpentry: A classic profession for the modern world


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Bush Carpentry – Hut at Hill

The evolution of technology, equipment and machinery has transformed the Australian construction and home improvement industry for the better. It has enabled even the most complex projects to be completed faster than ever before – improving working conditions and safety standards at the same time. But there are still those time-honoured skills that simply can’t be modernised or discarded.

Carpentry is a multi-faceted profession – one that includes the creation of a structural framework for a building and providing finishing touches to flooring and window frames. That’s not all, either. But it does highlight how carpenter remains the definitive ‘go-to’ tradesperson for any project where wood is involved. And, yet, it is a profession with a skills gap that Australia is reaching out worldwide to fill.

The origins of carpentry

The use of wood is integral to the history of human civilisation – and the development of Australia as a modern nation. One of its most important uses is the creation of homes and shelter. There’s even a branch of carpentry that is unique to Australia: bush carpentry. The skills and practices established by carpenters over the ages are perhaps borne out of necessity – but are no less relevant even today.

How has carpentry evolved?

Of course, technological advancement has touched all aspects of people’s lives – and carpentry is no different. From starting out as a rudimentary and essential construction method, carpentry now also has a decorative element to it. In terms of tools and practices, there have been strides forward too – automated and power-driven machines and utensils helping to speed up various woodworking tasks.

What are the essential tools for a carpenter?

In spite of these advances, the tools that a carpenter will often use have arguably changed very little. Tools such as hammers, squares, saws, planes, chisels and screwdrivers remain essential additions to any carpenter’s toolbox. Such implements may now come with powertrains to make the job easier – but there can be no doubt that there is no substitute for the precision that handheld tools provide.

The opportunities of carpentry…

Looking at carpentry as a classic profession in the modern age, there are still numerous opportunities for skilled tradespeople to take advantage of. In Australia, carpenters are always in demand but there aren’t necessarily enough. As of November 2018, government figures reported Australia had 134,600 carpenters – up 3.6% over the previous five years, with that number set to grow further.

With a certain level of qualification required to work as a carpenter in Australia, recruitment can be a challenge. But, for those working in the sector, it can lead to lucrative employment opportunities.

and the challenges [75 / 487]

The main challenge for carpentry in the modern age is perhaps the development of new materials or practices. As a natural resource, there is a pressure to ensure its sustainability. There is also a threat that ongoing technological advances could lead to a situation where automation renders the human carpenter obsolete. 3D printing, for example, could create scenarios where products are ready-built.

For as long as wood remains a staple of construction projects and an emphasis is put on skills, craft and workmanship, the role of the carpenter should remain unchanged in the foreseeable future. It should also continue to create employment opportunities – even in a contracting market or sector.

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