Woodworking Glossary

August 22, 2023 | 5 min read | By: Parkerville

Like any profession or hobby, the terminology used around woodworking can be confusing at times.  In this resource, we hope to provide you with a handy reference on the terms your most likely to encounter.

Applied CarvingA background which is worked separately and then applied, rather than being worked in place.
ArchitraveAn ornamental moulding around a door or window frame, covering the joint between the frame and plaster.
ArrisA sharp edge between two faces.
AwlSee bradawl and scratch awl.
BacksawA hand saw that has a steel reinforced spine to add rigidity and strength to the saw plate. Typically used in a miter (mitre) box, this saw is used for cross cuts.
BandsawA powered saw which utilizes a band of steel that has been joined at the ends to create a loop and has teeth cut into one edge. The workpiece is placed on a small table through which the blade runs and is pushed into the blade in order to make a cut. Bandsaws can be used to make every type of cut in woodworking.
BattenA strip of solid material, historically of wood, used for various construction purposes, including providing the fixing point for roofing or siding materials such as shingles or tiles.
BeadA typically rounded or semicircular decorative treatment cut into a square edge of a moulding or a piece of wooden furniture.
Bench DogA peg standing proud of the surface of a workbench. Also called a bench stop.
Bench HookA tool clamped to a workbench and used for easy cutting. A work-holding device.
BevelAn edge of a structure that is not perpendicular to the faces of the piece, e.g. by being cut on a diagonal, typically in order to soften a sharp edge for the sake of safety, wear resistance, or aesthetics, or to facilitate mating with another piece. The term is often used interchangeably with chamfer, though there are sometimes distinctions in technical usage. May also be referred to as a beveled edge.
BraceA hand tool used to drill holes, having a knobbed handle on the top to which pressure is applied and a U-shaped grip in the middle which is used to rotate the drill bit.
BurlA knotty, often rounded outgrowth on a tree, in which the grain has grown in a deformed and convoluted manner.
BurnisherA hand tool used for creating a burr on a card scraper. Also called a burnishing rod.
Butterfly JointSee Dutchman
CarcassThe frame or main parts of an unfinished workpiece before they are completed with coverings.
Card ScraperA flat blade with a burred edge used for smoothing.
CaulA strip or block of wood used to distribute or direct clamping force.
ChamferA beveled edge on a workpiece.
ChatoyanceThe effect seen in dramatic wood grain direction changes, as in flame figured maple.
ChiselAny tool with a characteristically shaped cutting edge used for carving or cutting a hard material such as wood, stone, or metal by hand, with a mallet, or with mechanical power.
Chop SawA colloquial term to refer to a portable circular saw affixed to base that allows lumber to be easily cross-cut across different angles. May also be referred to as a Miter Saw.
Circular SawA small, hand-held, electrically-powered saw, used to easily cross-cut or rip lumber or sheet goods. These types of saws can vary in their level of sophistication and capability. See also Track Saw.
ClampAny work-holding or fastening device used to hold or secure pieces tightly together to prevent movement or separation through the application of inward pressure.
Climb CutOn a table saw or router, cutting against the normal feed direction at the end of the cut to prevent tearout.
Close GrainAny wood grain with very fine fibers of cells that are not visibly porous.
Coping SawA type of small, hand-held, bow-shaped saw used to cut intricate external shapes and interior cut-outs in woodworking or carpentry. It is widely used to cut moldings to create coped rather than miter joints. It is occasionally used to create fretwork though it is not able to match a fretsaw in intricacy of cut, particularly in thin materials.
CrookLongitudinal bending to one side, caused by uneven seasoning or grain. See Wood Warping.
CrotchThe section of a tree where a branch divides from the trunk, or the trunk divides in two; typically an area of convoluted grain.
CrossgrainWorking perpendicular to the wood grain.
CrosscutA cut made perpendicular to the wood grain.
Cup / CuppedA transverse bending of a piece of lumbar, convex or concave, usually predictable, considering grain orientation, typically due to excess movement of the wood during the drying process. See Wood Warping.
DadoA slot made across the grain. Typically, the slot is made by milling, chiseled, or sawed.
Dovetail JointA joint technique most commonly used in woodworking joinery. Noted for its resistance to being pulled apart (tensile strength), the dovetail joint is commonly used to join the sides of a drawer to the front.
DowelA cylindrical piece of wood used as a pin for securing a joint.
DrawknifeA cutting tool with two handles used for cutting large chamfers.
DrillThe process of making holes in a material. Any tool used for drilling holes, such as a chisel used in combination with a mallet.
Dust CollectionA system used to capture wood dust from woodworking machines such as a table saw, miter saw, router, planer, or jointer. A shop vacuum or a dust collector captures wood dust using a high volume of air flow.
EdgesThe long edge of a board, often in parallel to one another.
EndsThe End Grain edge of a board
Engineered WoodAny wood product that is manufactured using wood byproducts.
ExpletiveA term uttered when you make a woodworking mistake.
FaceThe wider side of a board or other piece of wood with sides of unequal sizes; the narrower side is referred to as the edge. The side that is meant to be visible in the finished item.
Faces-Edges-EndsAn expression that defines the typical sequence of dimensioning lumber. Faces are milled first to their desired thickness and to ensure a flat surface, then one Edge is jointed perpendicular to the Face and the corresponding Edge is ripped to the desired thickness. Finally the Ends are cut to their desired length. See also Jointer, Planer
FenceA flat and straight length of some material, usually wood, steel or aluminum, which provides a reference for tools to work against, or which prevents the work from sliding. This term is most often referred to a device installed on a table saw to aid in cutting lumber or sheet goods to their proper size.
FiberThe fine tube-like structure of wood which is hollow and determines the grain direction.
FlitchA rough-cut board in which the round of the tree trunk may (or may not) be visible. Also refers to a complete bundle of rough cut boards ordered in the sequence they were cut from the source log. See Live Edge.
FloatA type of flat, tapered, single-cut file used to cut, flatten, and smooth (or "float") wood surfaces by abrasion, e.g. when making a wooden plane. Unlike rasps and files, floats have parallel teeth and can be resharpened as many times as the thickness of the blade will allow.
French cleatA molding used to hang cabinets.
FretsawA type of saw with a very fine-toothed blade used for delicate cuts in thin material.
GougeA chisel-like tool with a curved cutting edge.
GrainThe longitudinal fibers in wood.
Green WoodUnseasoned wood or freshly harvested timber, usually with a high moisture content.
GritThe grade of particles in sandpaper or sharpening stones which determines the aggressiveness of the cut.
GrooveA slot or channel made with the grain, usually on the end-grain in preparation for a tongue and groove joint.
Hand PlaneSee Plane.
Hand SawSee Panel Saw.
HardwoodWood from an angiosperm tree, i.e. a tree in the division Magnoliophyta that bears flowers and fruits. Despite the name, hardwood is not necessarily hard or dense (e.g. balsa is a hardwood), although it is generally harder than most softwoods.
Heart ShakeA shake (i.e. crack or split) radiating out from the heartwood.
HeelThe corner of a chisel, knife, or gouge bevel which meets the back of the blade and polishes the cut.
HoldfastA work-holding device that is used on a workbench.
Hold DownA hold-down iron fitting into a hole in a bench and tightened or loosened by hammer taps.
Hollow GrindA concave bevel on a chisel, gouge, or knife.
Interlocked GrainA type of wood grain which has multiple longitudinal directions in alternating layers, typical of many tropical hardwoods, and very difficult to work and to produce smooth surfaces.
Janka HardnessMeasures the resistance of a sample of wood to denting and wear by calculating the force required to embed an 11.28-millimeter-diameter (7?16 in) steel ball halfway into a sample of wood.
JigsawA type of saw that can form circular cuts by moving the workpiece past a blade which moves rapidly up and down.
JoinerA woodworker who does finer work than a framing carpenter.
JoineryThe part of woodworking that involves joining individual pieces of wood to produce more complex items; the art of framing, joining, dressing, and fixing the finishing of a building.
JointThe connection between two pieces of timber.
JointerA power plane used to straighten boards and square edges. It can also refer to an intermediate-length hand plane; a jointer plane.
KerfThe gap left when material is removed by a saw cut. The width of the kerf is equal to the set of the saw.
KnotA circular pattern in timber caused by a dead branch that was not fully integrated into the tree before it was cut down.
Lap JointSee Overlap Joint.
LeadThe tendency for wood that is being cut to direct the saw parallel to its grain.
LumberA ubiquitous term used to describe any length of hardwood or softwood that has been milled from a log into rectangular boards.
MouldingA term used to describe the decorative trim around a piece of furniture or trim in a home or office. A strip of material with various profiles used to cover transitions between surfaces or for decoration.
Moulding PlaneA hand plane that is used to perform cuts in wood for the purpose of creating a specific profile. More than one type of Moulding Plane may be used to create the desired profile.
Mortise or MorticeA cavity or hole, generally rectangular, in a piece of wood, meant to receive a tenon or a hinge.
MitreAny joint made by fastening together pieces with the ends cut at an angle.
Mitre SawA powered or hand-held saw that is specifically designed to help cut a proper mitre.
NosingThe rounded edge to a flat face or other surface.
Quarter-sawnA plank with tree growth rings perpendicular to the wider face. See wood grain.
RabbetA recess or groove cut parallel to, and at the edge of, a board.
RailA horizontal member of a frame on a door, window or panel. Contrast stile.
Rail and StileSee Frame and Panel.
RaspA long and flat steel tool with raised teeth for shaping wood.
Relief CutA short, straight cut made at a right angle to a curved layout so that sharper-than-normal curves can be cut with a jig saw or band saw.
RifflerA paddle-shaped rasp.
Rift SawnRip-sawing of lumber perpendicular to the grain, often confused with quarter-sawn.
Ring ShakeA natural type of split (shake) occurring between the annual growth rings.
RipAny cut made parallel to the grain.
Rip SawA powered or hand held saw specifically design to perform rip cuts
RouterA powered or hand held tool that is designed to perform specialty cuts in wood, particular profiles, rabbits or dados. The term Router most often refers to the powered tool.
S2SA type of lumber, usually furniture-grade hardwood, with two sides planed.
SandpaperA paper to which a specific grit of abrasive has been affixed and which is used in the surface preparation of wood.
Scratch AwlA sharp-pointed hand tool used to mark wood for cutting, usually used in joinery or when a more precise mark is needed beyond that provided by a pencil or other method of marking the cut.
ScribingThe technique of shaping the end of a moulding or frame component to neatly fit the contours of an abutting member.
Scroll SawA motorized fretsaw.
SeasoningThe process of reducing the moisture content of wood before working to prevent cracking, splitting, and other damage often caused by drying.
ShakeA crack or split in wood caused by damage or drying. Also a split (as opposed to sawn) shingle.
ShootingThe technique of planing an edge straight or square.
Shooting BoardA device, usually used in a workbench, that help when Shooting.
SkewSomething out-of-square or in an oblique position.
SlabA partially round cut from a log or another name for a plank.
Slab-cutA plank with growth rings roughly parallel to the wider face.
SlipA shaped stone used for sharpening non-flat blades such as gouges.
SnibA wooden toggle used to hold the work on a table.
SoftwoodWood from a gymnosperm tree, i.e. trees in the divisions Pinophyta and Ginkgophyta. Despite the name, softwood is not necessarily soft or lightweight (e.g. douglas-fir is a softwood). Contrast hardwood.
SpaltingA change in the texture, strength and color of wood caused by colonies of fungus growing within the dead wood. Where colonies of fungus meet, fine black lines, often considered a desirable feature, are visible.
SpokeshaveA tool used to shape and smooth wooden rods and shafts, often for use as wheel spokes and chair legs.
SquareA tool such as a steel square, try square, or combination square.
StickerA small block of wood used to separate boards that are in the process of drying. It also can be used to describe the processing of stacking wood for the purpose of drying.
StickingA type of moulding that is part of a larger piece of wood such as a frame (as opposed to being applied independently).
StileA vertical member of a frame on a door, window or panel.
SweepThe curvature of a gouge, ranging from very little curvature (but not actually flat else it would be a chisel) to deep or quick.
Table SawA powered circular saw, mounted on an arbor and driven by an electric motor, that partially protrudes through the top of a table, which is used to support the material being cut.
Tear OutBroken or torn fibers resulting from damage as the blade of a tool exits a cut.
TenonA projection on the end of a piece of wood for insertion into a mortise.
TimberAnother name for lumber, i.e. wood that is newly processed from a forest.
TRUESomething which is accurately placed, shaped, or sized. To "true up" two pieces of wood is to make them align.
TwistA longitudinal twisting of wood due to uneven seasoning or grain. See wood warping.
UndercuttingCutting away from an edge to increase the sense of relief or thinness.
VeneerVery thin slices of wood used for inlay or to cover surfaces.
Veneer SawA specialty tool used for trimming veneer.
ViseA mechanical apparatus with two parallel jaws, one fixed and the other movable, used to secure an object to allow work to be performed on it.
WaneAn edge of a sawn board where the bark or surface of the trunk remains.
WarpA distortion in a piece of lumber, such as a twist, cup or bow.
WasteWood that will be removed in the finished work. It is often retained during working as a handle to conveniently hold and manipulate the portion being worked.
WoodA porous and fibrous structural tissue found in the stems and roots of trees and woody plants. Wood is an organic material consisting of a natural composite of cellulose fibers that are strong in tension embedded in a matrix of lignin that resists compression.