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Woodworking Machine Operators and Tenders

Woodworking machine operators and tenders operate drill presses, routers, sanders, lathes, shapers, planers and wood nailing machines.

By Julia Mann
Posted 2012

Woodworking machine operators and tenders regulate cutting devices or machine tables and set controls on machines to produce specified cuts or operations. They make adjustments to correct problems and ensure specification conformance. Woodworking machine operators and tenders select knives, saws, blades, cutter heads, cams, bits, or belts, according to work piece, machine functions, and product specifications.

Woodworking machine operators and tenders also examine finished work pieces for shape, smoothness, angle and conformity to specifications. They verify dimensions using rules, hands, calipers, templates or gauges. They use hand tools and rules to install and adjust cutterheads, blades, boring-bits, or sanding-belts.


  • Woodworking machine operators and tenders start machines, amend controls and make trial cuts to confirm that machinery is operating properly.
  • They manage work methods, product specifications and materials, and machine setup requirements.
  • To produce desired components, woodworking machine operators and tenders feed stock through feed mechanisms or conveyors into shaping, planing, boring, mortising, or sanding machines.

Work Environment for Woodworking Machine Operators and Tenders, Except Sawing

Depending on job duties, work conditions as a woodworking machine operator and tender vary greatly. Workers have to use heavy, bulky materials and often work in excessive noise and dust. Workers typically wear gloves, earplugs and goggles to protect themselves. Since woodworkers spend much of their time using power tools, these occupations tend to have relatively high non-fatal injury rates. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that sawing machine operators had a work-related injury and illness rate that was much higher than the national average.

Education, Training and Licensing

Because woodworking jobs call for extensive use of computer skills, math and geometry, woodworkers need to have a high school diploma before joining the profession. Those interested in the profession can enroll in a degree program from any vocational or trade school. Several universities offer training in wood engineering and technology, furniture manufacturing and production management.

Most woodworkers learn their skills working under experienced co-workers. It might take years for someone to become an established, skilled woodworker.

Employment Figures, Projections, Outlook and Earnings

Woodworking machine operators and tenders held 72,569 jobs in May 2009, according to research published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Some positions in this field include sander operator, lathe operator, molder operator, boring machine operator, computer numerical control operator (CNC Operator), machinist, knot saw operator cabinet maker and custom shop worker.

The Occupational Information Network (ONET) expects employment in this field to increase up to 13% from 2008 to 2018, which is average growth as compared to all occupations.

BLS reports indicate that the median annual wage for woodworking machine operators and tenders was $25,470 in May 2009. The middle 50% earned between $20,750 and $31,360. While the lowest 10% had an annual income at or below $17,600, the top 10% earned upwards of $37,820 per year.

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