Woodworking Terms Explained


Woodworking Terms | Carpentry Dictionary

There are so many terms used in a woodworking workshop! Here are some woodworking terms for beginners, and their respective meanings. You will often hear them used in the Carpentry field.

    • Adhesive – This is a substance that is able to bond material together by surface attachment.
    • Air-dried – Lumber that has been stacked and stored in such a way that it is able to dry naturally by being exposed to air.
    • Allen head – A screw head that has a recess requiring a hexagon-shaped key; these are used mainly on machinery and may be in metric or SAE (Society of Automotive Engineering) sizes.
    • Apron – This is a frame around the base of a table, to which the top and legs are fastened.
    • Bench dogs – Pegs that go into holes in the top of a workbench which work with a vise to hold wide material.
    • Biscuit joint – An oval-shaped disk that, when inserted into a slot with glue, swells to form a tight bond. You require a special tool to cut the slot.
    • Block plane – A small plane used for cutting across end grain.
block plane
Contractor grade block plane
    • Board foot – A measurement of lumber equal to one square foot an inch thick (i.e., 144 cubic inches). To calculate the total board feet, multiply in inches: width X length X thickness.
    • Box joint – Square-shaped joint used to join pieces at right angles.
    • Butt joint – A joint where the edges of two boards are against each other.
    • Caliper – An instrument with a fixed leg and a sliding leg, used to measure the thickness of an object.
    • Chuck – An attachment to hold a tool or piece of work in a machine. Drill chucks and lathe chucks are two examples.
    • Compound miter – An angled cut to both the face and edge of a board, most often used with crown molding.
    • Cross-cut – A cut that runs across the board at right angles to the grain.
    • Dado – A groove in the face of a board, usually to accept another board at 90 degrees, as in shelf uprights.
    • Dovetail joint – A joint where the fingers are shaped like a dove’s tail, used to join pieces at 90 degrees.
    • Dowel – A wooden pin, used to align and hold two adjoining pieces of wood.
    • Dowel center – A sharp-pointed metal button that goes into a pre-drilled dowel hole to mark the position for drilling the second piece.
dowel kit
A dowel kit with centers (at bottom)
    • Epoxy glue – A 2-part glue that glues practically anything to anything, including metal to metal.
    • European hinge – A hidden-style hinge that’s fastened to the door with a cup hole, often used in kitchen and bedroom cupboards.
    • Filler – A substance that is used to fill irregularities and pores on a material to smoothen it before applying a finishing coat.
    • Finger joint – Long, tapered “fingers” used to join material lengthwise, often used in manufacturing molding to join short lengths.
    • Grain – The direction, size and appearance of the alignment of the fibers of the wood.
    • Hand plane – A tool to smoothen and “true” the surfaces of wood; it consists of a frame holding a blade at an angle, and hand grips to slide it along the wood.
    • Jig – A device used to hold work or act as a guide in manufacturing or assembly.
    • Joiner – A machine used to “true” the edges of boards, usually in preparation for gluing.
    • Kerf – The width of a saw cut, determined by the set and thickness of the blade.
    • Kick-back – This term describes a work-piece being thrown back by a cutter; it can be prevented by using an anti-kickback device on a power tool, such as a table saw.
    • MDFMedium-density fiberboard, used as a very stable underlay for countertops etc., to be covered with laminate, such as melamine.
    • Miter box – An apparatus used to guide a saw when making miter joints.
miter box
Cutting with a miter box
    • Miter gauge – A guide with an adjustable head that fits into a slot and slides across a power tool table for cutting material at an angle.
    • Miter joint – Pieces cut at an angle to make a joint.
    • Molding (Moulding) – A strip of material with a decorative profile cut on the facing side, used for trimming.
    • Ogee – A cut shape, somewhat like an S, that is made by making one cut to produce two identical pieces.
    • Particle board (also called “chipboard” in British-English-speaking countries) – A generic term to describe material manufactured from wood particles that are bound together with glue.
    • Plumb – This term describes something that is perfectly perpendicular to the earth, relative to gravity. A plumb bob on the end of a string will give you a line that is “plumb”, i.e., straight up and down.
    • Plywood – A wood panel made up of thin layers of wood, laid at right angles to each other, that have been glued together.
    • Rip cut – A cut that runs through the length of a board parallel to the grain.
    • Sawhorse – A trestle, usually in pairs, to hold wood for cutting.
A heavy-duty sawhorse pair
    • Spline – A thin strip of wood fitted into grooved pieces of wood to form a joint.
    • T-slot – A slot milled in the shape of an upside-down T to hold special bolts for jigs or clamps.
    • Table saw – A circular saw that’s mounted under a table; the height and angle of the blade can be adjusted.
    • Taper cut – A cut where the width decreases from one end to the other; these are usually done on a table saw, using a jig.
    • Tear-out – The tendency to splinter the trailing edge of wood when cutting across the grain.
    • Template – A pattern to guide the cutting or marking of a shape; often a router is used with a piloted bit.
    • Tenon – A projection made by cutting away the wood around it to insert into a mortise (hole) to make a joint.
    • Tongue and groove – A joinery method where one board has a protruding “tongue” on one edge and the other board has a groove – the tongue of one board fits into the groove of the next.
    • Witness marks – These are marks put onto pieces or boards to keep them in order during joining, gluing and assembly.
    • X-Acto knife – This is a razor-like blade within a handle; the blades come in various shapes and are very handy for fine work.
X-acto knife set
An X-acto basic knife set

The woodworking terms list above is by no means complete. As you advance through the world of carpentry and woodworking tools, you will become more familiar with the terminology.

Woodworking terms | Carpentry dictionary

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