Resources Construction Ambassadors Matching Service Matching Service Cymraeg Go Construct - Industry led, funded by the CITB levy

Wood machinists are responsible for translating drawings into components by using machinery to process the timber accurately and efficiently.

Average salaries are in the region of £5,000.00 to £35,000.00. Salaries will vary depending on location / employer

Career Profile

Wood machinists are key members of the joinery team. Wood machinists need to understand wood as a material, and how to get the best from it.


They are responsible for translating drawings into components by setting up a range of machines and processing the timber accurately and efficiently. Wood machining skills are valued and are in high demand in Britain.  

Wood machinists work with a range of machinery including: 

  • Saws
  • Lathes
  • Planers
  • Morticers
  • Moulders
  • Routers

Increasingly, machinists use CAD/CAM design & manufacturing software and wood machinists receive training and operate CNC wood cutting/shaping machinery. The working day:

  • The work will be in a joinery workshop. The workshop environment will have dust extraction but tolerance of dust is needed for the job.
  • Wood machining involves standing at the machine and frequent bending and movement while setting up.
  • The working week is between 35 and 40 hours.

Typical tasks include

  • Reading and understanding technical drawings and templates
  • Selecting the right material and calculating the quantity needed for the job
  • Using CAD/CAM or CNC software
  • Preparing and using woodworking machinery to create required components
  • Basic maintenance woodworking machinery
  • Keeping working areas clean, safe and ready for work

Hours & Salary:

  • Apprentices can earn between £5,200-£15,000
  • Qualified wood machinists can earn from around £16,000 for those just finished their apprenticeship to around £35,000 for an experienced wood machinist
  • Wood machining apprentices are paid at least the national minimum wage for apprentices – many firms pay more. 
  • Wage rates vary according to your location, qualifications, experience and other factors; overtime and other allowances can increase wages.   

Learn more about construction careers – and some of the misconceptions surrounding them – with our Mythbusters.

You can also take our Personality Quiz to find out which construction career is right for you.

Case Study

I work for Houghtons. The work we do involves making high quality furniture including bedroom furniture for hotels, reception counters for hospitals and bar counters for pubs. We’ve also just started working for Centre Parcs as well.

Why did you choose your role and how did you get into it?

I started off as a labourer for Houghtons and then they offered me an apprenticeship in Wood Machinery.

What do you like about your role?

I really enjoy the variety of my work, no day is the same. For example, at the moment I’m cutting lots of panels and sheet materials for bedroom furniture for a hotel in Scotland. Tomorrow, I’ll be edging panels which involves finishing the edges off on furniture to make it look good using a piece of machinery called an Edge Bander. A few weeks ago I was working with solid timber and the Cross Cut and Rib Saw machines to make a bar counter for a pub. I also like to see the finished product after I’ve been working on it, it’s really rewarding.

What do you do in your daily job?

I work in a workshop using all different types of machinery to cut, shape and finish furniture for our clients/customers this includes working with:

  • The Beam Saw Machine which is for cutting sheet materials (a big sheet of material – MDF, chip board) to make various pieces of furniture.
  • An Edging Bander and Cross Cut machine to cut sold timber to the right length
  • A Rib Saw machine to cut materials to the right width.
  • A Four Sided Plainer machine to finish them off the materials I’m working with neatly .

Safety is really important. When working with machinery you need to make sure the guards (safety barriers) are set properly so you’re working safe. I also wear gloves, goggles, steel toe capped boots and ear defenders as well to be safe. In the past I used to go on site e.g. hotel, hospital, bar and fit the furniture but now I’m working more in the workshop.

Is there anything you do not like about your role?

Now and again it can get repetitive if I’m working on the same machine for a long period of time.

What skills do you need in this role?

You need:

  • Good knowledge of the Machinery - You need to know how all the machines operate and how to control them safely.
  • Good Measuring Skills - You also need to know how to measure well so everything is cut to the right size.
  • Communication and listening Skills – You need to be able to take instructions from your manager and be able follow them. My manager will give me a cutting list which tells me what I materials I need to cut and to what size, and I have to follow that cutting list correctly. You also need to ask questions when you’re not sure.
  • Reading Drawings – My colleagues who work in the office do drawings of the furniture we are making with all the measurements on, sometimes the drawings are in 3D. I have to be able to read and follow the drawings, set measurements on the machine so the materials are cut correctly to make the furniture.

What was your background before starting this role?

At school I stayed on in 6th Form and did IT and Business Studies. I then went to college to do sports teaching and coaching but I couldn’t find a job in this field and a labouring job came up with Houghtons who are local company on my doorstep in Baildon in West Yorkshire. My mate used to work for Houghtons and he recommended them.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I’m really proud of winning the ‘Apprentice of the Year’ 2013 award at Leeds College of Building. I got a trophy and a £60 cheque. I think I won this award because I did well in my exams and practical work. I achieved my Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship with CITB in Wood Machinery (attending Leeds College of Building) and I’m also really proud of that. When first started I didn’t really know what wood machinery was about but I’ve learnt lots and got there in the end.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years' time?

I would like to progress into the office using CAD/CAM (software used to do drawings) to do the drawings for the furniture we make.

What would you say to someone thinking about joining the construction industry?

I’d recommend it. The construction industry is now on the rise so I would say, "Go for it!"

Qualifications & Training

You will require 5 GCSEs at A*-C level including Maths and English, you may also choose to study A levels in the same subjects where you would require A*-C grades or you may opt for a Diploma in Manufacturing & Product Design.

Demonstrating your creativity and interest in wood, either through things you’ve made or school holiday working alongside a carpenter or joiner, will also interest employers.  

Full apprenticeship frameworks are available in wood machining at Levels 2 & 3.  Diplomas in Wood Machining at levels 2 & 3 are also available.  

College courses and NVQs in bench joinery and wood machining are likely to be of interest to employers in the joinery sector, as the skills gained are more relevant to the work.  

Other qualifications available include a Level 2 Award in Timber & Panel Products and their uses. 

Continuing your career, On-site Assessment and Training (OSAT) can add to your qualifications in the following areas:

  • Bench Joinery
  • Supervision & Team Leading
  • Management 

Want to find out more?

Try our Matching Service for work experience opportunities in your local area, with new opportunities being added on a regular basis. 

Looking for a vacancy?

Here are some construction vacancy websites you may find useful: 


Total Jobs

The number of job vacancies related to your preferred job role may vary daily, as these are external websites. Check regularly to see new opportunities as they are posted.


Career trends and forecasts

262,920 total people needed

According to the latest Construction Skills Network research (LMI), the UK construction industry will need a total of 262,920 wood trades and interior fit-out (which includes wood machinists) to meet demand every year between 2017 - 2021. The majority of this demand will be in Wales and the West Midlands.

Search other careers

Find out more about other roles in the construction industry and what they involve.

Find out more
Web design by S8080