Add to your skillset with this foundation course in carpentry. Ideal for tradesmen, builders, home renovators, landscapers, or handymen. Learn the basics of cutting, joining and finishing timber and apply to landscape projects.

Course CodeBSS100
Fee CodeS1
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Carpentry skills and knowledge are advantageous for landscapers

Landscapers do  need to use wood, and understand how to use it properly and appropriately; whether they actually do the carpenty themselves or not.

Wood is used in a wide range of landscape applications including decking, pergolas, trellis, furniture, garden sheds, fencing, window boxes and planters. 

Although much of this carpentry course is concerned with using timber inside buildings, there are parts concerned directly with outdoor uses. Also, the knowledge and awareness you can gain here can be applied to outdoor scenarios. 

Study Carpentry at Home

Carpentry skills are useful to many occupations - this course provides an understanding of most aspects of carpentry that are important for developing practical skills as a:
  • Handyman
  • Gardener
  • Landscaper
  • Property manager
  • Farmer
  • Home renovator
  • Backyard enthusiast

There are practical projects built into this course so you can put what you learn into practice.

Learn about working with wood in landscaping, building construction, furniture making, fencing or any other application.

This course is not a substitute for the practical instruction one might obtain over a long apprenticeship, internship or other such experience; but it does provide a balanced and broad understanding of wood work; exploring the broad range of applications; and in doing so, complements and enhances the development of your knowledge about carpentry.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Scope and Nature of Carpentry
  2. Carpentry Tools, Equipment, Materials and Safety
  3. Cutting and Joining Timber
  4. Small Carpentry Projects
  5. Outside Construction
  6. Constructing Small Buildings
  7. Understanding House Construction
  8. Handyman Repair Work
  9. Finishing Wood
  10. Planning and Setting Out a Project

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Describe the scope and nature of carpentry; differentiate between different timber products, and discuss the appropriate use of each.
  • Describe all significant carpentry tools and identify appropriate uses for each. Identify and manage risk in a carpentry workplace.
  • Describe a range of different techniques for cutting wood in a variety of different situations.
  • Describe and compare different techniques for joining wood.
  • Undertake a small carpentry project.
  • Explain construction of different things in an outdoor situation with wood; including fences, furniture and retaining walls
  • Explain the construction of different types of small buildings which are constructed mainly with wood; including garden sheds, gazebos and cubbies.
  • Explain a range of common carpentry tasks that a handyman may need to undertake in routine maintenance and repair work.
  • Explain a range of different techniques for finishing wood.
  • Determine an appropriate approach for planning a timber construction project.
  • Explain how a site should be set out in preparation for a construction project.



Timber is an organic material.  It can shrink, swell and change colour in response to environmental conditions, and it can be prone to damage from pests and wood rots. Therefore, timber for use in outdoor projects needs to be carefully selected.

Some timbers are more weather or pest-resistant than others. Timber that is vulnerable to termites, boring insects, and fungal rots should be raised off the ground or treated before going outdoors. 

Timbers which are suitable for contact with the ground include:

• Jarrah
• Merbau
• River red gum
• Turpentine.

Timbers that can be used outdoors without being painted include: 

• Celery top pine
• Brush box
• Jarrah
• Kapur
• River red gum
• Stringybark.

Other timbers used outdoors but which need some protection (e.g. painting, staining or preservative) include:

• Radiata pine
• Redwood
• Western red cedar
• Blue gum
• Tallow wood.

Of course there may be other more suitable and more readily available timbers depending on your location. If you are uncertain whether your timber is weather and pest resistant, treat it with preservative.


There are many things to consider when choosing timber for work outdoors. 

The Type of Timber
Is it strong enough to support the load it is expected to carry?
Is it suitable for outdoor use?
Will it need to be treated?
Does it look good?
Does it need to look good, or will it be painted or concealed within the construction perhaps?

Timber Quality
Does it have straight grain?
Are there many knots in the wood?
Are there splits, chips or other damage in the wood? 
Will any defects render it useless for the proposed use?

Moisture Content
It is always preferable to buy cured or ‘seasoned’ timber.  Dried timber is stronger than freshly cut wood.  Timber that is bought while green can split or crack later. However, for outdoor use, timber with around 20% moisture is preferred as it will not swell as much due to humidity as timber used indoors which is typically dried to around 9% moisture.

Timber Strength
The strongest wood comes from heartwood or inner wood of a tree.  The strength of this timber is determined by the density of the dead plant cells that make up the wood.  In other words, the closer the tree rings, the stronger the timber.   

Timber strength is affected by the angle of the cut into the tree log.  Wherever possible, choose timber that has been cut lengthways, as this will be the stronger wood. Likewise, if you are cutting your own timber from logs, to make rustic garden features for example, then likewise cut along the length to produce your timber. 

The way that timber is dried also has an effect on its overall strength.  If it is dried gradually, it will become stronger than similar timber that is dried quickly in a kiln. If you are seasoning your own timber and you have the time and patience, season it for two years rather than one. In most countries timber is classified according to its strength. In Australia, for instance, timber strength is classified into twelve different grades e.g. F5, F8, etc.  The higher the ‘F’ number, the greater the strength of the timber. Choose an appropriate strength of timber for each outdoor construction project

Dressed Timber
Timber that is ‘dressed’ has been sanded or planed to form smooth sides. This is preferable for outdoor furniture, hand rails, gazebos, and so forth. For other projects, dressed timber may not be necessary e.g. for vertical lap fences or shed exteriors.  

The type of pests which may be a problem for outdoor timber construction projects will obviously depend on the country and region you live in.


Most termites do not pose a problem to construction and only feed on decaying plant matter. Of all species, less than 10% are troublesome. Those termites which do pose a problem for construction are in many countries. In Australia termites are known as white ants, although they are not true ants. Since Australia introduced restrictions on the use of hazardous termite control chemicals, the incidence of termites affecting properties has greatly increased. There is a big risk in many parts of Australia, but if you understand what termites like and dislike, you can minimise your risk of having a serious attack.

Termites are more likely to nest in timber that is in contact with the soil, but they can enter a building, timber seat or wooden pergola higher up as well. They will also attack railway sleepers, even if they are soaked with oil; in fact, termites often make nests inside sleeper walls.


Most timber needs to be treated with preservative if it is to be used for outdoor projects. This will not only increase the resistance of the timber to rots and decay, but also to insect attack. As such, the useful life of the timber may be extended. Although, as previously discussed, some timbers are more durable for outdoors - you should ensure that you are either using a weather and pest resistant timber; or you have treated it before exposing it to the weather.

Timber preservatives work by either sealing the surface or soaking into the timber, or a combination of both. This discourages fungal rots and insects from feeding on the wood. Preservatives are long lasting, and whilst applying them may be initially more expensive than paints or stains, over the life of the product the cost is justified due to the reduction in maintenance cost and time.
Oil-based paints are a popular way to preserve timber without losing the look and texture of the wood. Some oil paints include colouring that can actually enhance the appearance of the timber.  Paint is not as effective as some other timber preservatives, and it will usually be necessary to recoat the wood every few years, or wherever it flakes off. Paint may also be used on treated timbers as an extra layer of security. Stains may be used to give a more natural appearance. They are also easier to touch up.

The main protective liquids are in the form of toxic oils and include bitumen based products such as creosote. These are effective, but they are black, flammable, have an unpleasant odour, and may destroy plant and non-pest insect life they come into contact with. 

Other protective liquids are in the form of water-borne inorganic salts. CCA (chromated copper arsenate) is used to treat pine and other softwoods.  It is made from copper, chromium, and arsenic, and gives timber a characteristic grey-green colour. The arsenic acts as the insect deterrent, the copper fends off fungal attack, and the chromium binds these active ingredients to the cell walls in the timber. Once applied, it should not leach from the timber, however some studies have demonstrated small leakages of arsenic into surrounding soil over a long period of time, and so the use of CCA treated timber is restricted in some countries in residential areas.  CCA treated timber should never be burnt in open fires since it will produce toxic fumes when it combusts.  Other products have become more used because of conserns with CCA. Some of these include ammoniacal copper zinc arsenate (ACZA), various alkaline copper quarternary compounds (ACQs), and copper azole (CuAz).

Various other types of water-borne organic preservatives will also prevent fungal disease. These include copper and zinc napthenate. Most water-borne protectants can be used on interior as well as exterior timbers.

Preservatives may be applied by brushing, spraying, dipping, or steeping in hot or cold preservative baths until thoroughly soaked. The preservative may be heated to 95° with the timber submersed in it, so that air is forced out of the timber pores. When it is allowed to cool the preservative is sucked into the pores.

Alternatively, preservatives are applied under pressure before the timber is made available for sale. The timber is placed in a cylinder and air is withdrawn to create a vacuum, which forces air out of the timber pores. Hot preservative is then injected under pressure for up to six hours.  
If you are using timber preservatives, always be careful.  Wear a mask and gloves, as some of these chemicals can be very toxic. If you cut pre-treated timber in to lengths ready for assembly, coat the cut ends with preservative and allow to dry before use.  


Benefits of Studying This Course

This course is aimed at anyone, anywhere who is interested in working with wood or would like to improve their skills:

•For those many jobs around the home
•Furniture making
•For the handy-person offering work in this field but without a qualification.

It may also appeal to people who wish to get a taste of carpentry with a view to going on to further training.


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Jacinda Cole

Former operations manager for highly reputable Landscape firm, The Chelsea Gardener, before starting his own firm. Gavin has over 20 years of industry experience in Psychology, Landscaping, Publishing, Writing and Education. Gavin has a B.Sc., Psych.Cert.
John Mason

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world.
Robert James

B.App. Sc. (Horticulture), Dip.Ag., M.Sc., Grad Dip.Mgt. Over 50 years experience that includes, Nursery Manager Brisbane City Councoil, Grounds Manager (University of Qld), Lecturer Qld Agricultural College, Propagator/Nurseryman at Aspley Nursery, Hort
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