How Much Do You Know About Carpentry?

Bambi Turner

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

History and literature are full of famous carpenters, from Jesus Christ himself to Gepetto, the creator of Pinnochio. Carpentry is a skill as old as civilization, from the first time a cavewoman looked around at the trees near her cave and decided that they would make a better house than a natural fissure in the rock. 

Even nowadays, when carpentry is an industrial scale industry, and many of the basic tasks within it are automated, it is still considered quite a talent to be able to work with your hands and fashion wood into furnishings, shelter, and artwork.

There are many specialties within carpentry, from joinery to cabinetry to parquet to inlay to finishing. Each of them belongs to a part of the process of creating out of wood, and has its own knowledge set and skills - but no matter how particular they get, they also have certain elements of the trade in common.

For example, any carpenter worth their salt knows how to measure correctly, how to identify certain woods, how to adjust their tools and their technique to the materials available, and how to use specific tools like a lathe, a saw, a vice, and so on. So let's see how familiar you are with the basics!

What do you call a wall that supports the structure above itself?

A bearing or load-bearing wall is one that provides structural support to things above the wall, such as a roof or the second floor. A non-load-bearing wall simply acts as a room divider, and does not provide structural support. When doing renovation work, it's critical that carpenters be able to tell the difference between the two, because removing a bearing wall can cause major structural issues.

What's the best saw to use to cut the correct angle into your crown molding?

Crown molding can be tricky to cut because it involves creating compound angles so that each section will fit perfectly with the next one. A compound miter saw allows you to create the right cuts and bevels to get the job done right.

What does the "d" in nails represent today?

Nails are often identified by their length using the letter "d." For example, a 2d nail is one-inch long, and every unit increase adds an extra quarter-inch to the nail's length.

Which of these is used to refer to the slope of a roof?

The pitch of a roof tells you the slope, or steepness. It can be calculated by taking the rise over the run.

What is the name for vertical framing members used to build walls?

Wall studs are 2x4 or 2x6 pieces of lumber used to frame the walls of a room or building. In the average home, they are made of wood, while commercial buildings may use either metal or wood studs.

Which of these screwdrivers has a tip shaped like a cross?

Old-school screws had a slot on the head that required a flathead screwdriver to install or remove. Today the Phillips screw, with its cross-shaped head design, is much more common. Hex keys, or Allen wrenches, are used to removed hexagonal fasteners.

What does it mean when something is plumb?

Plumb is carpenter speak for perfectly vertical. A plumb bob is a tool that consists of a weight suspended on a string, which can tell you if something is vertical. It can also be used to transfer measurements along a vertical plane.

What do you call the portion of your stairs that you step on?

Stairs consist of two main parts -- the vertical riser and the horizontal tread. Most stairs today are built to so that the tread extends beyond the face of the riser, creating an overhang or lip.

How far apart are studs in a typical house?

Most studs today are placed at 16 inches on-center -- that means 16 inches between the center of one stud and the center of the adjacent one. In older homes, studs may be placed 24 inches apart instead of 16.

What is drywall made of?

Drywall, also known as Sheetrock after a popular brand name, is made from pressed gypsum powder. The gypsum is coated with sheets of heavy paper to make it smooth and easy to work with.

What do you call framing where the studs extend from the sill plate all the way to the roof?

Balloon framing consists of long vertical studs that extend from sill to roof. This type of construction results in less weight than other types of framing, but does leave the structure vulnerable to the spread of fire if proper firestopping techniques are not used.

What name is given to a beam running horizontally above a door opening?

A header is a beam installed vertically above any opening in a wall, including a door or window. The header supports the weight of the structure above the opening.

What is another name for a raked wall?

A raked wall is one that is angled or sloped. This type of construction is common in homes with cathedral or vaulted ceilings.

Where would you typically find balusters?

Balusters are the vertical supports on a handrail or staircase. Depending on the application, they can be made from wood, metal or even plastic.

What supports the risers and treads on a staircase?

Stringers are the wooden structural supports used to form a staircase. Once they are firmly in place, risers and treads can be installed to make the staircase usable.

What kind of cut does a table saw make?

A table saw is used to cut wood parallel to the grain, which is known as a rip cut. Crosscutting is the opposite -- it's used to cut wood against the grain.

If your stair treads have rounded edges, they are ...

Bullnosed is carpenter-speak for rounded along the edge. This is common on stair treads, some countertops, furniture and even tile edges.

If you measure a 2x4, you'll find that it measures...

Any dimension you see on a piece of lumber is the nominal measurement, while the actual measurement is smaller. That means a 2x4 you buy at the store will actually measure 1.5 by 3.5 inches.

What name describes wood trim used in the middle of a wall?

Chair rail is installed around the mid-line of a wall. It was once designed to prevent chairs from rubbing up against the wall, but is now used primarily as a decorative element, or to serve as a transition between two different materials -- like paint and paneling.

Where might you find glazing bead?

A glazing bead is a wooden or metal strip of convex molding that's nailed in place to hold glass in a window or door.

How many hinges are on a standard wooden door?

A typical residential door has three hinges measuring 3.5 inches each. Commercial doors may have larger hinges, and doors that are taller or heavier than average may use four hinges instead of three.

Where are you most likely to find a transom?

A transom is an opening installed over a door or window. Some consist of clear glass, some are operable and others are simple vents to improve air circulation.

Where should you install wainscot?

Wainscot is a type of decorative wall paneling installed on the lower half of a wall. It can be made from wood or composite materials, such as sheets of heavy plastic used in some commercial kitchens.

What are you doing if you bevel a piece of wood?

A bevel is an angle added to a piece of wood or other material. For example, the edge of most doors is slightly beveled to allow the door to open and close within the frame.

How big is a board foot?

Lumber is often sold in board feet, an amount equal to the volume of a piece of wood one foot long, one foot wide and one inch tall. It's equivalent to 144 cubic inches.

What do you call parallel horizontal timbers that support a structure.

Joists are the parallel horizontal timbers used to support a structure. They are used to craft things like floors, roofs and ceilings.

What do you call a wooden half oval used to join two pieces of wood together?

A biscuit is a small oval-shaped piece of wood used to join two other pieces of wood together. To create the opener in the wood for the biscuit, you need a special tool called a biscuit joiner.

Dovetail joints are typically used to join wood at this angle.

A dovetail joint is a beautiful method for joining wood at a 90-degree angle. Using this method, the two pieces of wood lock together like interlocking fingers.

What are the vertical bars between panes of glass on a window called?

Mullions separate panes of glass on a window, or on a window within a door. The horizontal members separating the panes on a window are known as the sashes.

What is the name for a post at the foot of a staircase?

A newel post in the principal post at the foot of a staircase. If you've ever seen "It's A Wonderful Life," you may remember George Bailey struggling with the ball at the top of his newel post each time he used the stairs in his home.

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