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Wood Machinist

Source of Information: Next Step / DirectGov / Careers Advice Service

Wood Machinist

The Work

As a wood machinist you would cut and prepare timber for builders’ merchants, DIY stores and the furniture making and construction industries.

You could make a range of timber products, for example:

  • floorboards and skirting boards
  • staircases
  • door and window frames
  • kitchen units and cabinets
  • fencing and pallets.

Your work would involve:

  • planning jobs following detailed technical drawings
  • selecting the right type of wood for a particular product
  • working out the amount of timber needed
  • cutting and shaping timber, using tools like saws, planes and routers
  • cleaning workshop tools and servicing equipment.

As well as hand tools, you may use computer numerically controlled (CNC) equipment, and you may also be trained to use computer aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) methods as part of your work.

Hours and Environment

You could expect to work up to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Overtime and shiftwork is common.

You would spend most of your time working in a sawmill or workshop. The work could be physically demanding, and you would use protective clothing and equipment to reduce the effects of noise and dust.

Skills and Interests

  • good practical skills and some mechanical knowledge
  • an understanding of the properties of wood
  • the ability to follow detailed instructions
  • good levels of concentration and attention to detail
  • a safety-conscious approach to work
  • the ability to work both on your own and in a team
  • good maths skills to make calculations and take measurements.


Construction employers tend to want workers with on-site experience. If you have not worked in construction before, you could look for work as a site labourer or timber yard worker to get this experience. Once working, your employer may be willing to offer you further training in wood machining.

You may be able to get into this career through an Apprenticeship in construction (wood occupations) or furniture manufacturing. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. For more information, visit

Alternatively, you could take a college course, which would teach you some of the skills needed before you look for work (though employers may still want to see some experience). Relevant courses include:

  • City & Guilds Certificate for Basic Skills in Construction (6217)
  • BTEC Introductory Certificate/Diploma in Construction
  • Intermediate Construction Award in Wood Machining.

You should check with local colleges to see what courses are available and what their entry requirements are.

For more information about working as a wood machinist in furniture manufacturing, see the Proskills website. The Know Your Place campaign aims to promote the construction trades as a career choice for women.


You would usually be trained on the job when you start work, and your employer may also encourage you to achieve the work-based qualifications NVQ levels 2 and 3 in Woodmachining (Furniture or Construction/Sawmilling).

The NVQs include units on:

  • making sawn and planed products
  • producing shaped, turned, jointed, sanded and bored items
  • using CNC/NC machine tools
  • machinery and equipment maintenance.

Contact Construction Skills or Proskills UK for more information about relevant work-based qualifications in construction or furniture manufacturing.


Typical employers include timber yards, sawmills, construction firms and furniture manufacturing companies.

With experience, you could progress to supervisory roles, or move into related work like bench joinery, shopfitting or kitchen and bathroom installation.

You may find the following useful for job vacancies and general reading (links open in a new window):

Directgov (Jobseekers page)
Timber Trade Federation (list of wood product manufacturers)
TTJ Online

We do not accept responsibility for the content of external sites.

Annual Income

  • Starting salaries range from £12,000 to £15,000 a year.
  • With qualifications and experience, this can rise to between £18,500 and £22,000.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Further information

If you would like to discuss your career options with a learning advisor at the Careers Advice Service advice line, call 0800 100 900 or use our online enquiry form.


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