Occupation Profile for Sawing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Wood

Set up, operate, or tend wood sawing machines. Includes head sawyers.

 
 

Significant Points

  • Most woodworkers are trained on the job; basic machine operations may be learned in a few months, but becoming a skilled woodworker often requires several years of experience.
  • Job prospects will be best for highly skilled woodworkers who produce customized work, which is less susceptible to automation and import competition, and for those who can operate computerized numerical control machines.
  • Employment is highly sensitive to economic cycles; during economic downturns, workers are subject to layoffs or reductions in hours.

 

 
 
Overview
$24,280.00 Median Annual Wage 2,000 Average Job Openings Per Year
8.4 Average Unemployment Percentage 84.0 Percentage That Completed High School
65,000 Employment Numbers in 2006 14.1 Percentage That Had Some College
68,000 Employment Numbers in 2016 (est.) 0.0 Percentage That Went Beyond College Degree

Sample Job Titles
Automatic Bandsaw Tender
Backup Sawyer
Band Saw Operator
Band Saw Runner
Band Sawyer
Band Scroll Saw Operator
Bandmill Operator
Bead Cutter
Beading Sawyer
Bill Cutter
Billet Cutter
Block Bolter Mule Operator
Block Cutter
Block Saw Operator
Block Sawyer
Board Saw Runner
Bolt Machine Operator
Bolt Maker
Bolter
Bottom Saw Operator
Butting Saw Operator
Button Sawyer
Buzzsaw Operator
Casey Saw Operator
Chain Saw Driver
Chip-N-Saw Operator
Chop Saw Operator
Chucking and Sawing Machine Operator
Circle Cutting Saw Operator
Circle Saw Operator
Circular Head Saw Operator
Clipper Machine Operator
Clipper Operator
Cob Sawyer
Coping Machine Operator
Cordwood Cutter
Corner Brace Block Machine Operator
Corner Former
Corner Trimmer Operator
Cross Cut Saw Operator
Crosscutter
Croze Machine Operator
Crozer
Crozer Operator
Curve Saw Operator
Cut Off Saw Operator
Cut Off Sawyer
Cut Off Worker
Cut-Off Sawyer, Log
Cutter
Debarker Operator
Defect Cutter
Dimension Mill Worker
Door Cutter
Dowel Pointer
Drag Sawyer
Dragsaw Operator
Drum Saw Operator
Edge Runner
Edge Sawyer
Edger
Edger Feeder
Edger Operator
Edger Runner
Edger Saw Operator
Edger, Automatic
Edgerman
Edging Catcher
Edging Machine Operator
Equalizer
Equalizer Operator
Gang Head Saw Operator
Gang Rip Operator
Gang Saw Operator
Gang Sawyer
Gang Sawyer, Wood
Head Sawyer
Head Sawyer, Automatic
Heading Saw Operator
Heading Up Machine Operator
Hewer
Hoop Cutter
Jigsaw Operator
Jigsawyer
Kerfer Machine Operator
Knee Bolter
Knife Setter
Knot Cutter
Knot Saw Operator
Lather
Lathmaker
Log Chipper
Log Cut Off Sawyer
Log Cut-Off Sawyer, Automatic
Log Sawyer
Lumber Grader
Lumber Planer
Lumber Trimmer
Machine Operator
Machine Tank Operator
Manufacturing Assistant
Manufacturing Associate
Manufacturing Operator
Matcher Operator
Matching Machine Operator
Mill Worker
Miller
Mine Wedge Sawyer
Miter Operator
Miter Saw Operator
Miter Sawyer
Mitering Machine Operator
Packager, Head
Panel Saw Operator
Planer
Plug Saw Operator
Pocket Cutter
Pond Sawyer
Pony Edger
Pony Trimmer
Portable Sawmill Operator
Power Wood Sawyer
Prop Cutter
Prop Sawyer
Radial Arm Saw Operator
Radial Saw Operator
Ratchet Setter
Resaw Carriage Operator
Resaw Operator
Resawyer
Resizer Operator
Rip and Groove Machine Operator
Rip Saw Operator
Rip Sawyer
Ripper
Ripsaw Operator
Rough Mill Machine Operator
Sander Operator
Saw Operator
Saw Runner
Sawmill Hand
Sawmill Worker
Sawyer
Sawyer, Cork Slabs
Shake Cutter
Shake Maker
Shake Sawyer
Shake Splitter
Shaping Machine Tender
Shim Plug Cutter
Shingle Cutter
Shingle Sawyer
Shingle Trimmer
Side Sawyer
Slasher
Slasher Operator
Splitter
Stave and Bolt Equalizer
Stave Bolt Equalizer
Stave Cutter
Stave Hewer
Stave Log Cut-Off Saw Operator
Stave Log Ripsaw Operator
Stave Saw Operator
Stile Ripsaw Operator
Stock Cutter
Stock Grader
Stock Patch Sawyer
Swing Saw Operator
Tail Edger
Tail Sawyer
Tail Trimmer
Tenon Machine Operator
Tenoner Operator
Tie Sawyer
Timber Cutter
Timber Trimmer
Trim Saw Operator
Trim Sawyer
Trimmer
Trimmer Machine Operator
Trimmer Sawyer
Trimming Machine Operator
Turning Machine Operator
Two Pass Saw Operator
Unisaw Operator
Utility Operator
Variety Saw Operator
Veneer Clipper
Veneer Cutter
Veneer Sawyer
Whip Sawyer
Wood Cutter
Wood Sawyer
Wood Type Cutter

Training
  • These occupations often involve using your knowledge and skills to help others. Examples include sheet metal workers, forest fire fighters, customer service representatives, pharmacy technicians, salespersons (retail), and tellers.
  • These occupations usually require a high school diploma and may require some vocational training or job-related course work. In some cases, an associate's or bachelor's degree could be needed.
  • Some previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience may be helpful in these occupations, but usually is not needed. For example, a teller might benefit from experience working directly with the public, but an inexperienced person could still learn to be a teller with little difficulty.
  • Employees in these occupations need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees.

Many woodworkers are highly skilled and require significant on-the-job training. Mathematics skills, especially geometry, are essential and computer skills are increasingly important.

Education and training. Employers seek applicants with a high school diploma or the equivalent because of the growing sophistication of machinery and the constant need for retraining. People seeking woodworking jobs can enhance their employment and advancement prospects by completing high school and receiving training in mathematics, science, and computer applications.

Woodworkers increasingly acquire skills through higher education. For many workers, this means earning a degree from a vocational or trade school. Others may attend colleges or universities that offer training in wood technology, furniture manufacturing, wood engineering, and production management. These programs prepare students for positions in production, supervision, engineering, and management and are increasingly important as woodworking technology advances.

Most woodworkers are trained on the job, however, picking up skills informally from experienced workers. They can learn basic machine operations and job tasks in a few months, but becoming a skilled woodworker often requires 2 or more years.

Beginners usually observe and help experienced machine operators. They may supply material to, or remove fabricated products from, machines. Trainees also do simple machine operating jobs while closely supervised by experienced workers. As beginners gain experience, they perform more complex jobs with less supervision. Some may learn to read blueprints, set up machines, and plan the sequence of the work.

Other qualifications. In addition to training, woodworkers need mechanical ability, manual dexterity, and the ability to pay attention to detail and safety. As the industry becomes more sophisticated, skill with computers and computer-controlled machinery is becoming more important.

Advancement. Advancement opportunities are often limited and depend on education and training, seniority, and a worker’s skills and initiative. Sometimes experienced woodworkers become inspectors or supervisors responsible for the work of a group of woodworkers. Production workers can advance into these positions by assuming additional responsibilities and attending workshops, seminars, or college programs. Those who are highly skilled may set up their own woodworking shops.

Nature of Work

Despite the abundance of plastics and other materials, wood products continue to be useful and popular. Woodworkers help to meet the demand for wood products by creating finished products from lumber. Many of these products are mass produced, such as many types of furniture, kitchen cabinets, and musical instruments. Other products are crafted in small shops that make architectural woodwork, handmade furniture, and other specialty items.

Although the term woodworker often evokes images of a craftsman who builds ornate furniture using hand tools, the modern wood industry is highly technical. Some woodworkers still build by hand, but more often, handtools have been replaced by power tools, and much of the work has been automated. Work is usually done on an assembly line, meaning that most individuals learn to perform a single part of a complex process. Different types of woodworkers are employed in every stage of the building process, from sawmill to finished product. Their activities vary greatly.

Many woodworkers use computerized numerical control (CNC) machines to operate factory tools. Using these machines, woodworkers can create complex designs with fewer human steps. This technology has raised worker productivity by allowing one operator to simultaneously tend a greater number of machines. The integration of computers with equipment has improved production speed and capability, simplified setup and maintenance requirements, and increased the demand for workers with computer skills.

Production woodworkers set up, operate, and tend all types of woodworking machines. In sawmills, sawing machine operators and tenders set up, operate, or tend wood-sawing machines that cut logs into planks, timbers, or boards. In manufacturing plants, woodworkers first determine the best method of shaping and assembling parts, working from blueprints, supervisors’ instructions, or shop drawings that woodworkers themselves produce. Before cutting, they often must measure and mark the materials. They verify dimensions and may trim parts using handtools such as planes, chisels, wood files, or sanders to ensure a tight fit.

Woodworking machine operators and tenders set up, operate, or tend specific woodworking machines, such as drill presses, lathes, shapers, routers, sanders, planers, and wood-nailing machines. New operators may simply press a switch on a woodworking machine and monitor the automatic operation, but more highly skilled operators set up the equipment, cut and shape wooden parts, and verify dimensions using a template, caliper, or rule.

After wood parts are made, woodworkers add fasteners and adhesives and connect the pieces to form a complete unit. The product is then finish-sanded; stained, and, if necessary, coated with a sealer, such as lacquer or varnish. Woodworkers may perform this work in teams or be assisted by helpers.

Precision or custom woodworkers, such as cabinetmakers and bench carpenters, modelmakers and patternmakers, and furniture finishers, often build one-of-a-kind items. These highly skilled precision woodworkers usually perform a complete cycle of tasks—cutting, shaping, and preparing surfaces and assembling complex wood components into a finished wood product. Precision workers normally need substantial training and an ability to work from detailed instructions and specifications. In addition, they often are required to exercise independent judgment when undertaking an assignment. They may still use heavy machinery and power tools in their everyday work. As CNC machines have become less expensive, many smaller firms have started using them.

Work environment. Working conditions vary by industry and specific job duties. In logging and sawmills, for example, workers handle heavy, bulky material and often encounter excessive noise, dust, and other air pollutants. However, the use of earplugs and respirators may alleviate these problems. Safety precautions and computer-controlled equipment minimize risk of injury from rough wood stock, sharp tools, and power equipment.

In furniture and kitchen cabinet manufacturing, employees who operate machinery also must wear ear and eye protection. They follow operating safety instructions and use safety shields or guards to prevent accidents. Those who work in areas where wood is cut or finishings applied often must wear an appropriate dust or vapor mask or a complete protective safety suit. Prolonged standing, lifting, and fitting of heavy objects are common characteristics of the job.

Related Occupations

Sources: Career Guide to Industries (CGI), Occupational Information Network (O*Net), Occupation Outlook Handbook (OOH)
Earnings

Median annual wage-and-salary earnings of cabinetmakers and bench carpenters were $27,010 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $21,350 and $34,290. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,660, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $43,060.

Median annual wage-and-salary earnings of sawing machine setters, operators, and tenders, wood were $24,280. The middle 50 percent earned between $19,620 and $29,930. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $16,290, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $36,220.

Median annual wage-and-salary earnings of woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders, except sawing were $23,940. The middle 50 percent earned between $19,460 and $29,480. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $16,410, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $35,950.

Median annual wage-and-salary earnings were $25,010 for furniture finishers and $22,580 for all other woodworkers.

For the latest wage information:

The above wage data are from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey program, unless otherwise noted. For the latest National, State, and local earnings data, visit the following pages:

  • Cabinetmakers and bench carpenters
  • Furniture finishers
  • Model makers, wood
  • Patternmakers, wood
  • Sawing machine setters, operators, and tenders, wood
  • Woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders, except sawing
  • Woodworkers, all other
  • Job Outlook

    Overall employment of woodworkers is expected to grow slower than average. Opportunities should be good for skilled applicants.

    Employment change. Overall employment of woodworkers is expected to grow by 3 percent during the 2006-16 decade, which is slower than the average of all occupations. This slow growth will be a result of increased automation in the wood products manufacturing industry. Technology is becoming increasingly important to this industry, and automation has greatly reduced the number of people required to produce a finished product. Furthermore, international competition—especially from China—has led to a significant decline in domestic employment of these workers.

    Employment of sawing and woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders is expected to grow more slowly than the average through 2016. Import growth will lead to job losses in the U.S. industry. To remain competitive, some domestic firms are expected to move their production processes to foreign countries, further reducing employment. Firms that stay are increasingly using advanced technology, such as robots and CNC machinery. These developments will prevent employment from rising with the demand for wood products, particularly in the mills and manufacturing plants where many processes can be automated.

    Employment of furniture finishers is expected to decline slowly. Since furniture is largely mass-produced, it is highly susceptible to import competition; the percentage of imported furniture sold in the United States has steadily increased over the years, a trend that is expected to continue. Labor is significantly less expensive in developing countries, so these forces will likely affect the industry for quite some time.

    Employment of bench carpenters and cabinetmakers is expected to grow more slowly than average, while modelmakers and patternmakers are expected to decline rapidly. Other specialized woodworking occupations will experience little or now change in growth. Demand for these workers will stem from increases in population, personal income, and business expenditures and from the continuing need for repair and renovation of residential and commercial properties. Therefore, opportunities should be available for workers who specialize in items such as moldings, cabinets, stairs, and windows. Firms that focus on custom woodwork will be best able to compete against imports without transferring jobs offshore.

    Job prospects. Despite slower than average employment growth, prospects should be good for qualified workers. Many experienced woodworkers will soon reach retirement age, and this will create a need for new workers. In general, opportunities for more highly skilled woodworkers will be better than for woodworkers in specialties susceptible to automation and competition from imported wood products. The need for woodworkers with technical skills to operate their increasingly advanced computerized machinery will be especially great. Custom workers and modelmakers and patternmakers who know how to create and execute designs on a computer may have the best opportunities. These jobs require an understanding of wood and a strong understanding of computers—a combination that can be somewhat difficult to find.

    The number of new workers entering these occupations has declined greatly in recent years, as training programs become less available or popular. Competition for jobs is expected to be mild, and opportunities should be best for woodworkers who, through vocational education or experience, develop highly specialized woodworking skills or knowledge of CNC machine tool operation.

    Employment in all woodworking specialties is highly sensitive to economic cycles. During economic downturns, workers are subject to layoffs or reductions in hours.

    Employment

    Woodworkers held about 370,000 jobs in 2006. Self-employed woodworkers, mostly cabinetmakers and furniture finishers, accounted for 12 percent of these jobs.

    Three out of 4 woodworkers were employed in manufacturing. About 2 out of 5 worked in establishments manufacturing household and office furniture and fixtures, and 1 in 3 worked in wood product manufacturing, producing a variety of raw, intermediate, and finished woodstock. Wholesale and retail lumber dealers, furniture stores, reupholstery and furniture repair shops, and construction firms also employ woodworkers.

    Woodworking jobs are found throughout the country. However, lumber and wood products-related production jobs are concentrated in the Southeast, Midwest, and Northwest, close to the supply of wood. Furniture-making jobs are more prevalent in the Southeast. Custom shops can be found everywhere, but generally are concentrated in or near highly populated areas.

    Knowledge
    • Mathematics — Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
    • Engineering and Technology — Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
    • Sales and Marketing — Knowledge of principles and methods for showing, promoting, and selling products or services. This includes marketing strategy and tactics, product demonstration, sales techniques, and sales control systems.
    • Medicine and Dentistry — Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
    • Physics — Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub- atomic structures and processes.
    Skills
    • Equipment Maintenance — Performing routine maintenance on equipment and determining when and what kind of maintenance is needed.
    • Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
    • Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
    • Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
    • Troubleshooting — Determining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it.
    Abilities
    • Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
    • Stamina — The ability to exert yourself physically over long periods of time without getting winded or out of breath.
    • Explosive Strength — The ability to use short bursts of muscle force to propel oneself (as in jumping or sprinting), or to throw an object.
    • Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
    • Hearing Sensitivity — The ability to detect or tell the differences between sounds that vary in pitch and loudness.
    Tasks
    • Supplemental — Cut grooves, bevels, and miters, saw curved or irregular designs, and sever or shape metals, according to specifications or work orders.
    • Core — Adjust bolts, clamps, stops, guides, and table angles and heights, using hand tools.
    • Supplemental — Unclamp and remove finished workpieces from tables.
    • Core — Sharpen blades or replace defective or worn blades and bands, using hand tools.
    • Core — Adjust saw blades, using wrenches and rulers, or by turning handwheels or pressing pedals, levers, or panel buttons.
    Activities
    • Monitoring and Controlling Resources — Monitoring and controlling resources and overseeing the spending of money.
    • Guiding, Directing, and Motivating Subordinates — Providing guidance and direction to subordinates, including setting performance standards and monitoring performance.
    • Assisting and Caring for Others — Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
    • Repairing and Maintaining Electronic Equipment — Servicing, repairing, calibrating, regulating, fine-tuning, or testing machines, devices, and equipment that operate primarily on the basis of electrical or electronic (not mechanical) principles.
    • Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
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