Some Woodworking Terminology

#4, #6, #8, etc

Dimension of screw shank size. Larger numbers refer to larger shanks. Normally followed by a dash and the number of threads per inch if threaded.


Air Cleaner. Usually located high in the center of a shop, the Air Cleaner removes the very small particulates that the Dust Collector misses.


The part of the table saw to which the blade mounts.


Alternating Top Bevel. A set of saw teeth where the tips are cut at an angle (think bats ears) in an alternating pattern. Usually associated with crosscutting blades.


A board with one or two lengthwise beads milled into it. Often used as wainscoting or porch ceilings.


To chamfer an edge at a specific angle.

Big Box

Any of the large, chain "Home centers"


A small piece of compressed, over dry wood used as a floating tenon. The grain is oriented at a 45° angle and it is widely used where a standard mortise and tenon joint would be. Common sizes are #0 (small), #10, #20 and #FF.


Boiled Linseed Oil. You don't boil it, you buy it that way.


Large Impersonal Chain Store

Box Joint

A square profile joint used on production of boxes and various type. This joint is almost as strong as a dovetail due to the large glue area, but can be gand cut on a continuous basis for high volume production. AKA: Finger Joint


Band Saw. A saw with a long continuous blade for re-sawing or cutting outside curves.


Belt Sander. A tool with an abrasive belt used by many to ruin projects. Because the sander is so aggressive it will often create more damage than it will cure. Best use is for rough contouring.


Computer Aided Design (Drafting)

Caul, Clamping Caul

Board clamped across a panel glue up to hold the panel flat.


CCA (chromium-copper-arsenate) is used on lumber prepared for ground contact. This is being phased out due to arsenic leeching. Sawdust should be treated as HAZMAT.


Portion of a drill or lathe where the bit or material is held.


Compound Miter Saw. A saw used for crosscutting moldings and other items. Not normally accurate enough for making frames.


Portion of a router where the bit is inserted and held.


A blade that has both crosscutting and ripping teeth. While producing neither as well as a dedicated rip or crosscut blade, it will produce acceptable cuts for most uses.


Barrel/cask making


A flat bottomed hole as created with a Forstner bit. Compare: Countersink


A hole with a beveled lip to match the bottom of a flathead screw. Compare: Counterbore


Slang corruption of Sears brand "Craftsman", used derogatorily.


Cutting across the grain of the wood, as to length. A crosscut blade will have more ATB (Alternating Top Bevel) teeth (typically 60-80) whose tips cut across the fibers of the grain producing small, fine dust and a smooth finish.


A furrow cut in a board across the grain. Often used to receive the end of a shelf.


Don't Ask Me How I Know This. (I've made this mistake!)


Dust Collector. A must have in most shops. Sometimes equipped with a cyclonic preseparator (cyclone) to form a two stage system. Use 5 or 1 micron filter bags for best results.


A type of joint used extensively on drawer fronts characterized by a trapezoid shape that resists pullout better than any other joint.


Drill Press. A motor driving a spindle via a series of belts and pulleys to allow variable speeds. The head of the drill is on a spindle where the drill can be moved vertically, usually with spring return.


Digital Volt Meter. Tool for measuring voltage and (usually) other electrical values that displays the results numerically.

Fan Belt

Drive belt for a saw.


Firsts and Seconds. Quality designation for lumber.

Feather Board

A device on a saw or other cutter to hold the stock in contact with the fence/table. Comprised of multiple slots cut comb-like into the end of a board and then attached the saw so that the tips of the tines place pressure against the stock as it is fed.

Flat Sawn

Wood cut tangentially from a log


Screw head designed to sit flush in a countersunk hole.


A measure of the coarseness of an abrasive such as sand paper. The higher the number, the finer the grains. The number is the number of grains per inch


A furrow running the length of the board with the grain.


Wood from a deciduous tree. Oak, balsa, etc. The terms HARDWOOD and SOFTWOOD do NOT refer to the firmness of the wood.


Horse Power. By definition 746 watts. (About 7A on a 110V line, 3.5A on a 220V feed). Some tool vendors play fast and loose with this "specification"


High Speed Steel. Material used to make inexpensive, short lived cutters (blades and router bits)


If I Recall Correctly


In My Humble Opinion


The portion of a tool ahead of the cutter where the raw stock is inserted or placed.


A Brazilian hardwood (AKA Brazilian Cherry) characterized by a deep orange to flame red color. Tight grained and usually knot free it is handsome replacement for "old growth" cherry. Dense and hard, it machines well with sharp carbide cutters.


A tool for dressing the edges of lumber prior to assembly into larger panels or projects.


Horizontally running board on edge for strength. Typically used for floors or ceilings.

Lap Joint

A method of attaching two pieces of wood where half the thickness is removed from both pieces to form a joint with the same thickness as the original stock.


Horizontal rough cut wood strips about 1" wide and only about 1/4" thick. Mounted to the studs with gaps between to allow plaster to ooze between and hold when hard.  Made obsolete by sheet gypsum board.


A tool for rounding and shaping wood. Used to make bowls, spindles, legs and other decorative items.

Link Belt

Drive belt for a saw made up of separate links. Will not normally acquire a 'set' if the saw is not used for an extended time.


Love Of My Life


Medium Density Fiberboard. Used for furniture and trim that will be painted. Machines well, if dusty. Doesn't hold screws well.


Brand name of finishing products.

Miter Fence

The sliding fence used for cross cutting on the table saw. Usually the fence can be adjusted for various angles (miters) of crosscut.


A non-round shallow or deep hole in the face grain of the wood. Compare: Tenon


Mineral Spirits. Used as a general solvent in the shop for dilution of finishes and cleaning of brushes/equipment. A light wipe down will reveal glue spots and show the color of the wood after finishing.


The portion of a tool after the cutter where the machined stock is removed.


Screw head designed to sit atop the material. Often used in metal work as a "sheet metal" screw.

Phillips Screwdriver

Name for patented cross (+) shaped screwdriver that is self centering. Comes in numerical sizes, #0 (tiny) to #2 (large). Occasional in larger sizes.

Pipe Dope

Adhesive for plastic plumbing.

Planer (Thicknesser)

A tool for finishing lumber. It will flatten crowned or cupped boards and produce a smooth, ready to sand, surface. It will produce wood of a uniform thickness to prepare it for additional operations.

Pocket Screw

A method of attaching face frame (and outer) members where a jig is used to drill a pilot for a screw at an acute angle. This is used extensively in kitchen cabinet construction where the screw pockets will not be visible and where speed of construction is more important than project longevity.


A liquid plastic coating used to seal and finish wood. Diluted 50%-50% with MS forms a "wiping poly". Used where a durable finish is needed.

PVA Glue

Carpenters Yellow Glue. A glue that bonds stronger than the wood itself, used for general gluing of woodwork. Not suited to wet applications as it is water soluble.

Quarter Sawn

Wood cut radially from a log


A furrow on the edge of a board. A one sided groove.


The horizontal ends of a cabinet or door frame.


Radial Arm Saw. A saw with the blade and motor mounted above the work surface and used primarily for crosscutting. Largely replaced by the CMS.

Red Oak

A strong, coarse grained wood used extensively for trim in Craftsman type homes and when quarter sawn in mission style furniture. Red oak is porous to the point that it cannot be used for tight cooperage.


Cutting lumber the long way. With the grain. Rip blades have fewer square top (chisel) teeth (typically 24) and large gullets. This is because a rip produces long strands of shavings

Riving knife

A riving knife is similar to a splitter, it is a European thing and it does bevel with blade but it also raises and lowers with the blade.


Random Orbital Sander. Used for general finish sanding. The doubly circular motion of the sander produces a smooth finish on most woods.


Rolling On The Floor Laughing My Arse Off


A cutting tool, handheld or table mounted, with a cutter located on the end of the shaft of a high speed (25,000 RPM) motor. Used for making profiles, pattern cutting, dovetails, etc.


Surfaced Four Sides. Indicating that the lumber has been planed smooth on all four sides.


Select and Better


A tool used for smoothing. Used almost exclusively prior to the invention of sandpaper and still capable of producing smooth, flat finish or removing glue squeeze out.

Scroll Saw

A saw with a fine wire or narrow flat blade. Used to cut intricate shapes and inside contours. The blade has a short, up-and-down stroke like a sewing machine.

Shank hole

The shank hole is to allow the shank part of a screw, that area with no threads on it, to move effortlessly through the wood. Notice that bits for pre-drilling screws have a narrow part on the end, then a wider part, then some will have a tapered part, the last is the countersink for flatheaded wood screws, the middle is the shank area and the narrow part is for the threads.


A larger machine capable of cutting moldings and other shapes be means of a set of interchangeable cutters. Similar in operation to a table router, a shaper is designed for continuous use for making moldings and trim.

Slotted Screwdriver

Name for screwdriver for screws with a single slot cut in the heads. Cannot be effectively used in power drivers due to the tendency of the bit to slip out.


Straight Line Ripped one edge


Wood from any of several coniferous trees, pine, fir, etc.


A method of joining two boards along their edges with a thin rectangular strip as the spline insert.


The vertical side of a cabinet or door frame.


Vertically mounted board for compressive loads in walls.


She Who Must Be Obeyed. From PBS's "Rumpole of the Bailey".


A trademark for a screw fastener for attaching wood to concrete.

Taper Jig

A device for cutting tapers on the table saw.


A projecting end grain tongue of wood usually inserted into a mortise.


Teeth or Threads Per Inch. Often used in reference to band, scroll, or jig saw blades. Number of threads per inch in a machine screw or pipe thread.


In a table saw, it is the attachment point of the saw arbor to the underside of the table. This is the primary adjustment point for aligning the saw blade to the miter slot.


Table Saw. A type of saw with the motor mounted underneath or behind and the blade projecting up thru a slot in the top or table.


Exotic hardwood characterized by naturally occuring stripes in the seasonal growth rings.


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