Below is a growing list of terms you might find in British Woodworking magazine, or on our website, or in other media. Do tell us if there are any items we need to add. It is produced largely by Fred Page, for whom we are eternally grateful. If you have any suggestions do please email them to us, and we will forward them to Fred.
Adze Used for rough shaping or dressing timber leaving characteristic marks on the surface. The usual arched steel cutting blade of an adze is set at right angles to the tool's handle unlike the blade of an axe which lies in line with its handle. The sharpening bevel lies on the inside of the blade. Usually the user stands astride of the work and swings the adze towards the feet but other methods of use are possible. Useful for squaring up logs and hollowing-out work for example in chair seats.
Air Drying Drying green timber by exposure to prevailing atmospheric conditions. During air drying the moisture content (MC) across any section of wood may vary resulting in stress. This can be minimised if the rate of drying out or evaporation of moisture closely matches the migration rate across the section. If evaporation is too fast the wood near the exterior surface may have a lower MC to that of interior wood and further stress will result. MC of air-dried stock will vary 14% to 20% depending on atmospheric conditions.
Animal Glue A protein adhesive (gelatine) obtained from collagen, this being the main constituent of animal skins, bones and other tissue. When 'dry' it is sold as pearl glue or Scotch glue. In America the term hide glue is used. See BW 28 pp 56-59.
Annual Rings Can be seen in cross-cut sections of softwood and hardwood indicating the yearly growth. In a temperate zone each ring is made up of two bands; the early wood cells appearing as a lighter coloured inner ring, while the late or autumn wood appears as a darker denser band. The number of rings indicates the tree's approximate age but interruption by drought or defoliation may result in more than one seasonal ring. In tropical regions growth may be continuous without forming well-defined rings.
Architrave The moulded pieces set around a door or window usually having mitred corners which cover the junction between plaster or brickwork and the wooden framing. Different meaning in classical architecture.
Arris Sharp edge on wood or furniture that is normally removed with fine abrasive resulting in a very slightly rounded effect.
Arris Rail Triangular timber rail used in fencing.
Astragal A narrow moulding containing a half-round profile bordered by two flat planes or fillets. Early architectural forms often in beaded pattern. Also refers to smaller cross-section bars in glazing. See Meeting Stiles.
Badger Plane This is like a wooden jack plane, but the blade is set obliquely so that the iron is flush with the plane's off side. Hence its use for wide rebates. Sometimes the offside edge is rebated away leaving exposed blade more suited for narrower rebating. Not in common use.
Banding Usually referred to as cross-banding meaning a border of inlaid veneer cut across the grain and laid around a panel or similar situation to enhance appearance. Also serves to protect and allow repairs to edge. May be line-edged (stringing). Various commercially prepared bands available.
Bandsaw Often described as an endless ribbon of steel having cut teeth on one edge and working round two pulley wheels (the lower one powered). Straight or curved cuts are possible when the material to be cut is brought to the cutting edge on one of the straight and taut sections of the moving blade by means of a fixed table or slotted bed through which the blade passes. The blade travels such that it forces downwards onto the table the material being cut. The table is placed equidistant from the driving wheel centres and the blade is supported by adjustable guides above and below the table. Often considered the most useful of all woodworking machines.
Bare-Faced Tenon A tenon with a shoulder on only one face.
Bench Hook Often a workshop-made bench device for holding and steadying small stuff while being sawn or chiseled etc.
Bench Planes Those commonly found on the bench or in regular use. For example, trying, jack, smoothing and rebate. These shape, flatten or reduce size of the wood work piece resulting in a smooth surface by means of a cutter protruding through the sole which is held firmly at a particular angle in the body of the plane. Wood is removed as shavings whose thickness depends upon the blade's setting. See planes under specific entries.
Bevel Refers to a bevelled edge at any angle other than 90° between the edge and face of a work piece, cf. Chamfer.
Bevelled-edge Chisel Similar to a firmer chisel but the edges are bevelled making the blade somewhat weaker and thus needing more careful use. Useful in fine work giving better clearance in cutting into tight corners such as in dovetail joint making. Wide range of sizes and models available.
Bird's Mouth An indentation or notch cut across the grain at the end of a piece of timber for its reception on the edge of another piece. Often used to connect a roof rafter to the top plate.
Biscuit Joint Compressed wooden lozenge-shaped 'biscuit' is fitted into a groove cut with a biscuit jointer to join two components. Useful in simple carcase construction, and for edge jointing planks for table tops and panels etc. Not a very strong joint because the biscuits are shallow and thin. Not recommended for outdoor use.
Block Plane A small metal plane convenient for one-handed trimming of small work. The blade is without a back iron and because of its low angled seating (about 20˚) the bevel is uppermost resulting in a cutting angle comparable with a smoothing plane. Low angled planes are available having a cutter bedding of about 12˚ making the plane ideal for cross grain work. Early classification numbers by Stanley are in use, e.g. No.9½ standard angle, No.60½ low angle. Sizes vary but 6 in. sole is common with cutter widths from 1¼ in. to 1⅝ in. Quality models have adjustments for depth of cut, lateral line-up, and mouth adjustment secured by the front knob which also serves in two-handed use.
Bobbin Sander Machine which drives a vertical drum covered in abrasive, which protrudes through a table. On better bobbin sanders the drum also oscillates vertically so that dust particles caught in the abrasive don't create scratches. See BW 36 (2013) p 16, and BW 43 (2014) pp 28-31.
Bog Oak Ancient semi-fossilised dark coloured oak found in peat bogs. The dark ebony colour results from the complex chemical interaction of iron salts and other minerals in the acidic sub-soil of the bog with the tannin extractives present in the timber within an anaerobic environment. Finds of such timber, which may be several thousand years old, occur in East Anglian fens and Ireland. Requires very careful seasoning and the timber may be difficult to work, See BW 43 (2014) pp 42-45.
Bradawl A simple but invaluable tool of any woodworker. Useful in dealing with small screws and also in making small holes to engage the starting thread of screws. Should be used with its cutting edge at right angles to the grain and so avoiding near edge splitting.
Brown Oak This is not a species but a darkened form of natural oak that occurs when the tree hosts the beefsteak fungus or fistulina hepatica. The colouration, often desired by woodworkers, appears to cause no appreciable loss of strength or long term durability and the wood may be found easier to work than the normal oak. The chemistry involved is complex but the brown colour certainly results from a degradation product of the fungus.
Bullnose Plane The name describes these small metal planes, usually only 4 in. to 5 in. sole length and 1 in. cutter with bevel uppermost. Used in any fine trimming or rebate work with or across the grain. The classic Preston, through Record, design is still evident in current models, for example by Clifton. The short toe or bull-nose forward of the blade allows close corner access and in some models is detachable when the plane acts as a chisel plane.
Burr Result of disturbance to the cambium such as a torn-off branch or other abnormal growth phenomena. The new tissue ultimately produces an attractive swirl or spiral of rudimentary new growth centres and rings seen as burr in the converted timber. Often used to best advantage in veneers but also sought by wood turners. Burr is also a term applied to the raised line of metal formed along the back of the sharpening edge during tool grinding or honing. In engineering refers to rotary cutters.
Butt or Edge Joint Edge-to-edge joining of wood to increase the width usually by gluing together the squared edges (rubbed joint). Sometimes strengthened by dowelling; or inserting a spline or loose tongue into prepared grooves; or by machining to achieve a tongued and grooved result.
Cambium Layer Cellular tissue and viscid substances lying between the bark and sapwood of trees. It is where cells subdivide to form new wood and bark.
Camming Out Is when, for example, a screw driver bit spins out of a screw socket thus damaging the socket profile. Once this occurs it is likely to happen again, the design of the socket being very precise. It is caused by using the incorrect bit size, or where the screw is of poor quality or the driver bit is damaged. Replace driver bits that tend to cam out.
Cannel See In-cannel/Out-cannel.
Chamfer This is the bevelled edge given to a square edge or corner equally on both sides. If the two surfaces are at right angles the chamfer will be symmetrical at 45°. The chamfer may run through when used on solid sections such as legs but may be 'stopped' before meeting another bevel as for example in square framing.
Chase Mortice A method of inserting a cross member using mortise & tenon joints between two already fixed pieces. A sloping chase being cut from the top side of one mortise so that the cross piece can be inserted by sideways movement instead of lengthways.
Clearance Hole Hole drilled in a piece of wood through which a screw or nail can pass unimpeded. Ideally the screw should be fairly loose. See also Pilot Hole.
Combination Square A metal adjustable engineer's-type try square having a moveable calibrated measuring blade and a cast-iron stock shaped to allow scribing at 45° and 90°. The stock can be moved to any position on the measuring blade and locked. Extremely useful tool for marking out, testing a mortise depth and general machine set-up etc.
Compass Plane About the size of a bench smoothing plane; it has a flexible steel sole. By means of an adjusting mechanism the plane can be set to shape convex or concave surfaces. The blade is also adjustable and is fitted with a back iron.
Compass Saw Is useful in awkward and slightly curved cutting situations. Having a narrow tapering blade of 12-18 in. it is fixed at one end to an open handle. Blade replacement is possible in some makes and cutting teeth may be shaped to operate on the pull stroke. According to Moxon (1703) there should be no set on the teeth.
Compression Wood See Reaction Wood.
Coopering Usually meaning the occupation of a cooper in making barrels. The method of using staves with bevelled sides can also be used to produce curved surfaces often as groundwork for veneer finishing.
Coping Saw Used in fine work for cutting straight or intricate inside or outside curves. Consists of a thin saw blade held between the ends of a c-shaped steel frame, one end of which is fixed to a handle. It is a frame saw but smaller than a fret saw. Blade tension is achieved by turning the handle. The depth of the frame limits some cuts but the blade is easily removed and passed through a drilled hole for internal shapings. Also, loosening the handle permits the blade to be rotated through 360° relative to the frame allowing cuts not otherwise possible. Useful in removing waste in dovetail construction.
Countersink V-shaped drill bit used to create a widened opening to a hole for the countersunk head of a screw or machine screw. The conical head may have one fluted cutting edge (snail countersink) or multiple cutting edges around the circumference (rose countersink). The latter may give a smoother finish. Formerly these bits were designed for use in a brace but modern countersinks have plain shafts. Hand-held models also available.
Cross-cut Saw A hand-saw for cutting across the grain or width. May be used with the grain but is slower cutting. In quality saws the thickness of the blade tapers towards the back but clearance in the kerf will also depend on set of the teeth. Typical sizes, 22-28 ins and 5-8 tpi.
Cup Shake (or ring shake) A timber defect caused by reduced adhesion between successive annual rings as a consequence of bacterial infection, reduced nutrient in a particular season leading to unequal growth, unusual stresses during growth, drying, or conversion, resulting in longitudinal delamination around the growth rings. See also Heart Shake.
Cutting Gauge This is similar to a marking gauge but the spur is replaced by a shaped cutting blade often held by a wooden wedge. Can thus be used for marking across grain or cutting thin wood or veneer without tearing.
Dado Framed panelling fitted around the lower half of the walls of a room often seen in public buildings. The top rail, or dado rail, may be a moulding fitted at waist height without lower panelling and merely protects the wall from damage by chairs and other furniture. In American woodwork the term is used differently meaning a groove cut across the face of a board to accept another board as in bookshelves etc.
Diffuse-porous wood Species in which the open ends of vessels (as seen when you cut through end grain, and known as pores) are evenly distributed, as you'll find in maple, birch and sycamore. Diffuse-porous woods tend to have less patterning, but are sometimes easier to use because of their even texture, though it can be more difficult to judge grain direction.
Dovetail Saw A small backsaw used for cutting dovetails and other finer bench work. Blade length about 10 ins with tpi of about 15 to 20, and teeth shaped for rip cutting. The set should leave a narrow kerf and good surface finish. Some makes have progressive tpi to assist in starting the cut. The handle, being small, is usually open. See comparative test results in BW 27 pp 52-57.
Dowel A wooden peg used to secure a mortise and tenon or other joint such as a dowelled butt joint. Requires accurately drilled holes at 90° to face of work and provides a strong and simple joint when glued. Dowel rod is available in standard length and diameter, often in beech, and also as ready-made dowels of selected lengths with fluted sides and chamfered ends for ease of insertion. See also Dowel Plate and Draw-boring.
Dowel Plate Used to prepare short dowels. It consists of a quarter inch hardened steel plate about 5 ins by 2 ins drilled with various useful diameter holes and often mounted on a block of some kind in order to keep the emerging dowel vertical. After the first 2 mm or so the drilled holes may be tapered very slightly on the underside so that the shaped dowel can be more easily removed. Re-sharpening is thus possible. The rough stock is prepared by splitting and so achieving straight grain not always found in bought dowelling. A rough pencil point formed on one end of the stock helps to get the shaping started when hammering the stock through the chosen hole while holding it vertical.
Draw-boring Technique to pull tenons into mortises without cramps, and used often in traditional timber framing. Once the mortise and tenon have been formed, a hole is drilled across the mortise. Assemble the joint, and mark the position of the hole on the tenon. Then drill through the tenon, not on that mark, but a fraction towards the shoulder. Re- assemble the joint and hammer a peg or dowel through the hole when the tenon is pulled up tightly into the mortise.
Drawknife A straight or slightly curved blade bevelled on one side, the metal at each end being forged into pointed tangs and bent at right-angles into turned wooden handles. Often used for rapid rough removal of waste and other shaping. A more tightly curved blade or inshave with outside bevel used in shaping chair seats and coopering. Other variations used in specific trades.
Drill press See Pillar Drill.
Early Wood That part of the annual growth ring formed in the early part of the growing season (spring). Here, the cells are larger and have thinner walls than in late wood (summer growth) resulting in lower density and mechanical strength. See Late Wood.
End-grain Not surprisingly, the end of boards, where the fibres come to an 'end'. Challenging for woodworkers because working across the fibres is much more difficult than along the fibres. See also Long-Grain.
Equilibrium Moisture Content EMC results when wood attains a moisture content in equilibrium with its immediate environment and is no longer gaining or losing moisture. The MC of wood depends on relative humidity and temperature of the air surrounding it. If humidity and temperature remain constant the wood will ultimately reach a constant MC in equilibrium with its surroundings, referred to as EMC.
Face and Edge Mark In constructive woodwork the most perfectly flattened side of a board or work piece is designated the face side indicated by a pencilled loop leading to one edge prepared at right angles and designated as the face edge; the looped mark meeting a pencilled V or arrow-head on the squared edge. All other dimensions are then measured and gauged from this face side or edge.
Fielded Panel One whose edges are bevelled and tongued to fit into a groove in a rail or framing. Associated with raised and recessed panels and sometimes used in fitting drawer bottoms.
Firmer Chisel This is the most common bench chisel used for general work including fairly heavy chopping. The rectangular cross-section blade is fixed to the handle by a shoulder and tapered tang. A metal ferrule prevents the handle from splitting, but heavier socket fitting regarded as stronger. Range of blade widths up to 2 in. and a grinding angle about 20-30 deg.
Flitch A term describing a prepared piece of timber or log usually prior to veneer cutting or further conversion.
Fore Plane (metal) This is the next larger plane to the jack plane and is classified as No.6, having a sole length of 18 in. and cutter width of 2⅜ in. Used in truing and jointing work, it can be a more convenient plane than the heavier and more cumbersome trying and jointing planes particularly for smaller work pieces.
French polish For woodworkers this usually means flake shellac dissolved in methylated spirit. The type of shellac can vary in colour from pale orange to dark brown. For example, button polish which provides a golden shade. Other grades described as clear, white, transparent, bleached and de-waxed. French polish also refers to the process of polishing using a 'rubber' impregnated with polish whereby drying occurs through solvent evaporation. The traditional method, first adopted in Britain in early 1800s still holds some mystique but in practice involves laying down several layers of a fine shellac film on the wood substrate to achieve a high-gloss finish.
Froe A wedge-shaped blade used for splitting or riving timber. It has a wooden handle in the same plane as the blade but set at right angles to the blade's striking back. The blade's action is that of splitting either at an existing radial split or one formed by a wedge. Once initiated the split is advanced by forward and backward movement of the handle. To begin the split the froe is struck by a wooden mallet of some kind. See Riven.
Garnet Paper Resembles ordinary sandpaper but having commercial powdered garnet as the abrasive coating and is still used by some woodworkers. As a natural silicate abrasive it cuts slower and tends to wear out more quickly than comparable aluminium oxide or silicon carbide papers. Sometimes favoured as the final sanding in the belief that it tends to burnish and thus seal the wood to some extent. Garnet based abrasive compositions sometimes used in sand blasting as a safer medium than silica.
Gent's Saw Small backsaw having a straight turned handle used in dovetail work and finer precision cutting. Blade lengths vary 4 ins to 10 ins with 20 tpi or more. Depth of blade 1 ins to 2 ins. In the same category: Bead Saw, Jeweller's Saw, Razor Saw.
Gimlet is within the bradawl family and usually has a wooden T-handle and metal shaft with a threaded end. The latter draws the tool into the wood and is followed by a cutting section, either in the form of a half-twist or a shell-fluted cutting edge. This produces a small hole or pre-drill to get screws started. Can result in splitting if used too near to the edge of the work piece. Some gimlets are all metal.
Grain Is the direction of wood fibres relative to the longitudinal axis of the tree or piece of wood. It can be an attractive feature but sometimes makes working difficult. Wood with anything less than straight grain may produce desirable appearances and figure but may reduce mechanical strength in constructional applications. Coarse and fine grain are terms which better define texture but it is direction of grain that causes difficulties in planing resulting in tear-out.
Hammer The Warrington (London or Exeter) pattern is the hammer of the joiner and woodworker and is one where the pein (peen, pane) of flattened wedge section, opposite the striking side, runs crosswise to the direction of the handle.
Hardwood Timber from deciduous and evergreen broad-leaved trees. The term does not necessarily indicate hardness because hardwoods such as balsa or poplar are much softer than yew or pitch pine being softwoods. In temperate regions hardwood trees (angiosperms) shed their leaves in autumn and bear seed through fruit seed cases. Structure is more complex than in softwoods; a cross-sectional examination shows open moisture-conducting pores forming characteristic growth rings of early and late wood. See Diffuse-porous, Ring -porous, and Softwood.
Haunched Tenon Short section of tenon that fits into a shallow mortise or groove. The haunch is designed to stop a rail (which is tenoned) from twisting, without weakening the component that is mortised.
Heartwood (duramen) Trees grow by additions on the outside (exogenous); the centre or heartwood is therefore the oldest and ultimately takes no part in the living processes but adds to the durability but not the basic strength of the wood. The mechanism of heartwood formation is obscure but is thought to be formed by the death of the living cells (parenchyma) of the sapwood at the transition zone. Other complex chemical changes occur at this boundary resulting in an increase in density, resistance to decay and often change in colour. The distinction between heartwood and sapwood is very noticeable in some species, the heartwood being more favoured by woodworkers.
Heart Shake A timber defect caused by shrinkage in the centre heartwood resulting in separation of tissue across the annual rings radiating from the pith often following the medullary rays. See also Cup Shake.
Heart Side The side of a board which before conversion faced the centre of the log. This side may warp to a convex shape. Concave warping is always that side facing outwards from the log. A board cut radially or through the centre of the log to include the central growth rings has no heart side and was called 'box-hearted'. On shrinkage both sides will be drawn into a convex contour.
Hold-down Device used to hold wood or jigs to a bench or a jig, often employing a cam or screw, or just friction in a knurled hole to create pressure. Usually L-shaped and often home-made.
Hollow Square Mortise Chisel and Bit These are the cutting tools used in a chisel mortising machine and consist of a four-sided chisel with an internal revolving central bit to break up the forward wood and expel the waste so formed. The square chisel surrounding the bit merely shapes the square edges from what would otherwise be a circular hole.
Honeycombing Checks or splits in the interior of wood not always visible on the surface; often caused by incorrect kiln seasoning as a result of case-hardening.
Housing Joint, Dovetailed Parallel-sided dovetailed groove and 'tenon' that fit together, usually between two rails. Not to be confused with a sliding dovetail. See also Sliding Dovetail.
Hygroscopic Wood is a hygroscopic material which means it will absorb or lose moisture in order to maintain equilibrium with its surroundings. See also Moisture Content, EMC.
In-cannel/Out-cannel Present usage defines inside or outside ground cutting bevel in for example, paring or firmer gouges. The out-cannelled firmer gouge is useful for recessing and general bench work whereas the inside ground or in-cannelled scribing or paring gouge provides an upright or vertical straight cut. Cannelling was a term of instruction to Sheffield grinders. See BW 40 pp 28-33.
Inlay Can describe technique, or, a finished design. To many woodworkers it refers to inlaying of strings and bandings into narrow channels cut into the substrate - the more decorative designs belonging to what is known as marquetry. As a woodworking technique it implies the removal of part of the solid surface and insertion of another wood or other substance and made flush with the surface to give a decorative effect. Also defined as the insertion of veneers into cut-outs in the face of the object. See also Intarsia, Marquetry, Oyster Veneering and Parquetry.
Inshave See Drawknife.
Intarsia Involves inlaying sections of wood into the base substrate and is therefore a form of inlay (without using veneers). As such this can produce a three-dimensional result, that is, one not flush as in marquetry or inlay. The method uses cut shapes, sizes and species of wood to create a pattern or picture. Intarsia uses pieces of wood (rather than veneers) that are shaped and contoured to the desired design. The difference between marquetry and intarsia is the thickness of the wood being used; intarsia parts are typically thicker and may be contoured. Also, intarsia may not cover the entire substrate. Can be defined as the craft of using varied shapes, sizes and species of wood fitted together to create a mosaic-like picture.
Isometric Drawing Is used in technical and engineering drawing and is a method of representing three-dimensional objects in two-dimensions. The vertical edges of the object are drawn vertically but all horizontals are drawn at 30° to the base line thus showing three sides of an object in dimensional proportion.
Jack Plane (metal) Used for general coarse work or on stock from the saw where rapid reduction in size or cleaning up is needed before using a finer bench plane. Larger and heavier than the smoothing plane and having a sole length of 14 in. (No.5), cutter width 2 in., or 15 in. (No.5½), cutter 2⅜ in.
Joinery The work of a Joiner in construction and fitting of wooden fixtures of buildings including windows, doors, panelling, framing etc. "The labours of the carpenter give strength to a building, those of the joiner render it fit for habitation"- Newlands, The Carpenter & Joiner's Assistant, 1860.
Joint Stool A very early piece of furniture using pegged mortise and tenon joints (as opposed to a boarded and nailed stool). A common seating piece of furniture in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century. Often consisting of four turned legs, sometimes slightly splayed, and joined by top rails or aprons and lower stretchers near to the floor.
Jointing Plane (metal) See Trying Plane and Jointing Plane.
Kerf The width of cut made by a saw. This depends upon the gauge of the blade and the set of the teeth. The set should produce a cut or kerf slightly wider than the blade's thickness and thus allow the blade to move freely through the material being cut. In woodworking the kerf must always be on the waste side of the guide line otherwise the resulting tenon or dovetail pin etc will be a loose fit.
Late Wood The portion of an annual growth ring produced later in the growing season (summer). The cells of late wood are smaller and have thicker cell walls than those of early wood. The change from early wood to late wood is gradual, but from one growing season to the next there can be an abrupt contrast from the previous late wood growth to the next region of early wood and hence the appearance of distinct rings. See Early Wood, also Annual Rings.
Linseed Oil Is obtained from seeds of the flax plant and consists of oleic glycerides and other unsaturated acids. When raw linseed oil is heated to 200°-300°C and admixed with driers this is sold as boiled linseed oil offering a shorter drying time. As a wood finish it enhances the appearance of the grain. Traditionally finds use in french polishing. Often sold diluted with white spirit or turpentine with added driers. Useful lubricant for tools and is still used in making paints and putty.
Long-grain General term referring to any face or edge running parallel (ish) to the lie of the fibres in wood. See also End-grain.
Mallet The woodworker's mallet is a striking tool, usually of beech, for driving chisels particularly when mortising where considerable force may be needed. The handle, also of beech or ash, is a tapered mortise fit into the head and the striking faces are angled relative to the axis of rotation when in use. Various sizes available.
Marking Gauge Is used to mark a line parallel with the edge of the wood against which the head or fence of the gauge is held. A single fixed metal spur or point is adjustable against the moveable head to the desired dimension and is therefore useful for marking timber to width or thickness and marking out joints etc. Usually made of wood but metal gauges are also available.
Marquetry A form of inlay using veneer. The whole design is formed before the veneer is laid and consequently allows greater freedom of design and intricacy that would be impossible in solid inlaying. The separate precisely-cut pieces of the picture or design are assembled and glued firstly onto a prepared base or background, the whole then being transferred and glued in its final position. Unlike inlay and intarsia the piece is made prior to its final positioning.
Medullary Rays Appear as a characteristic of grain consisting of thin flat bundles of cells for food storage and transfer, running at right angles to the axis of the tree passing radially from the central pith to the cambium. Particularly conspicuous as ‘silvering’ in quarter sawn oak but is not always visible in other timbers. Often considered a desirable feature or figure.
Meeting Stiles The abutting vertical stiles in a pair of doors or casement windows. Also the non-hinged side of a door on which the catch or lock is fixed. In double doors the clearance gap between the meeting stiles may be covered with a vertical moulding or astragal. The term meeting rails is used for the horizontal parts in a double-hung sash window.
Mitre Usually, but not always, a right-angled joint in which the bisecting oblique angle of 45° is formed between two pieces of wood or other material.
Mitre Dovetail A dovetail joint having the appearance of a mitred joint where no end grain shows. The pins and tails are internal and are therefore concealed from the viewer. Not an easy joint to make.
Mitre Fence or Guide Used in cross-cutting boards to length on a sawbench (tablesaw) or bandsaw, but also found on disc sanders, router tables and spindle moulders. It usually incorporates a bar that runs in a channel in the table, at right angles to the blade or cutter or sanding disc. The guide is usually adjustable for angled cuts, hence its name, however most of the time it will be used for 90° cuts, and is sometimes referred to as a cross-cut fence or guide. See also Sliding Carriage.
Mitre Slot Channel in a machine table for the mitre fence/guide. Of varying widths from maker to maker. Good for making your own jigs with a wooden bar fitting neatly in the channel. See also Mitre Fence/Guide.
Mitre Square used for marking out and accurate checking of mitre joints. The blued steel blade is fixed at 45° to the stock usually with steel rivets and brass diamond-shaped washers. In quality makes the stock will be of rosewood faced with brass edges.
Mitred Tenon Where two tenons meet, say inside a chair or table leg, the ends of the tenons are often mitred. This means each tenon is roughly the same length, and maximises the gluing area where the long-grain cheek of each tenon touches the long-grain of each mortise.
Moisture Content The weight of moisture in a sample of wood expressed as a percentage of its oven dry weight. A sample of wood is weighed and dried in an oven at 105°C for 48 hours (to constant weight) and calculated thus: (original weight - oven dry weight) ÷ oven dry weight, all x 100 = percentage moisture. Hand held digital electronic moisture meters are now commonly used. MC is of value to woodworkers inasmuch as it may influence design and construction and is also an indication of seasoning status. Wood is hygroscopic material and its MC will change according to the surrounding environment. A MC of about 20% in equilibrium in an atmosphere of relative humidity 85% at 15.5°C represents a safety line above which dry rot might occur.
Mortise Square or more often rectangular hole, usually chopped out to receive a matching tenon. See also Tenon.
Mortise Gauge This is a marking gauge having two spurs or points for marking parallel lines simultaneously as needed in mortise and tenon making. One point is fixed and the other is adjustable to the width of the mortise or the chisel being used. The moveable spur is adjustable by means of a sliding or screw fitment and fixing screw. The correct width of mortise can thus be accurately marked relative to the edge of the wood. All such marking should be made from the face side of the wood. Used best with the grain or on end grain but not across grain. See Cutting Gauge.
Orientated Strand Board (OSB) is an engineered structural wood panel or sheet material. It is composed of strands of wood bonded with water resistant synthetic resin. In appearance it resembles a collage of different wood strands and chips. These may be orientated in the outer surface layers only, or, through the entire thickness. The colour varies depending on the wood used and other conditions of manufacture. The strength is related to various factors such as orientation and size of wood strands. Under dry conditions OSB is dimensionally very stable with little or no inclination to warp. May be known by proprietary names.
Oyster Veneering Another form of inlay similar to parquetry. Here, the oyster veneer is often a right-angled cut across the grain of a small diameter log or branch often of laburnum or other suitable wood. A variation where the angle of cut is 45 degrees is known as a butterfly. Oysters can be combined in any desirable pattern.
Pad or Keyhole Saw A small narrow-bladed versatile saw useful for cutting in awkward situations and curved work. Padsaw implies the blade is retractable into the turned handle thus allowing adjustment to give optimum cutting length for individual cutting situations. See BW 44 (2014) pp 38-39.
Panel Gauge Is used to mark out large panels of for example MDF, plywood, doors etc or any situation where a parallel line is required beyond that given by a marking gauge. The stem is mortised through the fence and is moveable, the far end having means to hold a pencil or marker. The lower edge of the fence is rebated to provide stability when in use. Quality makes may have inlaid brass wear inserts. See BW 43 (2014) pp 32-33.
Panel Saw Similar to cross-cut saw but smaller and with finer teeth. In cabinet work the panel saw is often used where the back of the tenon saw would restrict the cut; for example in cutting large tenons. The smaller teeth produce a finer finished cut. Typical sizes 22 ins and 10 tpi. Also available as a rip-saw.
PAR Planed all round. Meaning planed on each surface apart from the ends, usually to specified dimensions i.e. the required finished sizes as sold.
Parquetry Another form of inlay involving a veneered surface to produce geometric shapes usually employing straight lines.
Pillar Drill Drilling machine, with adjustable table. Also known as drill press. May be bench mounted or floor standing.
Pilot Hole Hole drilled to get a screw or nail going, and to diminish the risk of splitting. Not always needed for modern screws. Drill bit chosen should be about the thickness of the solid core of your screw, but it's always worth experimenting. See also Clearance Hole.
Pocket Hole Screwing A traditional method of joining together two work pieces by means of a screw set on the slant of around 15°. The entry, or pocket for the screw is first shaped with a gouge or chisel and the pilot hole then drilled. The method is often illustrated as a means of joining the apron of a table to its top but it gives no allowance for cross-grain movement. This hand method has now been mainly replaced by various commercial metal jigs. See BW 38 pp 18-19. Also BW 40 pp 28-30.
PVA Glue is based on polymerized vinyl acetate and is sometimes called white glue or simply woodworking glue. It is sold as a water emulsion (approx. 50% solids) and gives a strong, permanent and slightly flexible bond with wood. It is a one-part cold-setting adhesive and cures by loss of water from the glue line into the wood, hence quicker drying with wood of low moisture content. PVA glue is not a contact adhesive and therefore joints can be rubbed and cramped in the usual way. Assembly times vary but a reasonably strong bond should form within 30 minutes at room temperature (20°C). Cramping keeps the bond in place until final setting. Does not stain and certain modified grades are waterproof. Should not be subject to freezing conditions. 'Squeeze-out' is easily removed with a damp cloth.
Quarter Sawn The log is first quartered lengthwise giving four pieces each with a right angle. Boards are then cut from these faces, the first showing annual rings at 90° to the face of the board. In subsequent ripping the angle of the annual rings reduces and medullary rays become less visible. Best quarter sawn boards have growth rings at 80° to 90° to the face side but angles of 45° to 80° may still be classified as quarter sawn. Quarter sawing shows medullary rays to best effect particularly in oak and the wood is more stable than by other methods of conversion.
Rail The horizontal members in door, window, panel or other framing. Also the upper part in a balustrade (handrail).
Random Orbit Sander (ROS) Powered, hand-held sander that combines the rotating action of a disc sander with the eccentric action of an orbital sander. The ROS can remove waste fast with a low-grit abrasive (like 80 grit), but can also produce a very fine scratch-free finish using 240 or 360 grit.
Reaction Wood Refers to both softwoods and hardwoods and is that part of wood where the properties are altered because of mechanical force during growth. In conifers this is described as compression wood as for example under a branch or on the concave side of a bend, while in hardwoods as tension wood on the opposite sites. In both instances the annual rings are distorted (eccentric) giving uneven shrinkage and difficult working properties. Physical and chemical changes in cellular structure may cause a different colour and appearance.
Rebate or Rabbet A flat stepped rectangular recess running parallel to the edge or corner of the work piece. Formed to accept a sash or door or some other wood member.
Rebate Plane or Carriage Maker's Plane (metal) Also known as a bench rebate plane. Similar to a smoothing plane but where the cutter extends flush with the sides. A spur or nicker may be fitted on the sides forward of the cutter for use when planing across grain. Extremely useful bench plane for wide rebating and fine trimming of tenons etc. where the cutter needs to reach into rebated corners. Smaller plane size (eg No.4) now uncommon having been replaced by larger No.10¼.
Rebate Plane or Fillister Plane Sometimes known as the 'Duplex' fillister, this all-metal plane for general rebating is fitted with a moveable fence, depth stop and a cross-grain cutting spur with a neutral position for when planing with the grain. Typical examples were Record No. 078 or 778 (8½ in.) having two 45˚ cutter positions, the forward one allowing bullnose plane function.
Refectory table Design of table, often in oak, that comprises two end frames and long centre rail at foot height, and often an upper central rail to support the top. The advantage of this design is that it requires no apron beneath the top that can get in the way of the sitter's knees.
Ring-porous wood Species in which the open ends of vessels (known as pores) in hardwoods are larger in earlywood than latewood are known as ring-porous. Oak, ash and elm are all ring-porous, with the distribution of pores causes the unevenness in patterning and in texture and grain.
Rip Fence Fence on a sawbench (tablesaw) or bandsaw that is parallel to the blade and is used to cut boards and sheet material to width. The fence may or may not be attached to the table at the front and back. Some people favour the rip fence being slightly off parallel, so that the workpiece doesn't get trapped at the back of the cut.
Riven A traditional hand method of converting timber by splitting along or with the grain. Oak was frequently converted by riving it being less laborious than sawing and produced a stronger and less likely to warp work piece having followed the natural cleavage or growth of the timber. A riven board is initially wedge shaped in cross section and may result in wasted timber. The initial radial split is achieved with a wedge followed by use of a froe to complete the split or separation. See Froe.
ROS (Random orbit sander) Powered, hand-held sander that combines the rotating action of a disc sander with the eccentric action of an orbital sander. The ROS can remove waste fast with a low-grit abrasive (like 80 grit), but can also produce a very fine scratch-free finish using 240 or 360 grit.
Rose Head Countersink See Countersink.
Rotary Cut Usually refers to most veneers cut by slowly revolving a log between centres while a blade peels off sheets of veneer. The method produces thinner veneers than those made by sawing.
Router Table By inverting a router beneath a wooden or metal table you can use it to shape components or cut joints, like rebates and mouldings. Hugely versatile, the router table can be very simple.
Rubbed Joint Refers to a glued joint between boards in order to increase width. Pieces of considerable length can be glued together by this method but the joint remains fully dependent upon the glue. The edges must be true and after the glue is applied the pieces are rubbed together, hence the name, although longer lengths may be planed slightly hollow in the centre and then brought together by cramping.
Sapwood (alburnum) Contains living xylem cells and lies between the bark and the heartwood of trees. It is the more recently formed part; usually lighter in colour and not as hard as the heartwood or as resistant to decay. Sapwood is where water and sap flow. The inner layers are slowly converted to the more central inert and harder heartwood (duramen) as growth continues. There are exceptions but it is not generally regarded as good stock for woodworking because shrinkage may differ from the heartwood and it is more susceptible to fungal attack.
Sash Cramp A device for holding parts of a frame during construction and in assembling woodwork during gluing-up. Usually consists of a metal bar along which can slide two brackets or heads between which the work is placed. One of the heads can be fixed into any pegged hole in the bar while the other is also adjustable for position and tightening-up by means of a threaded screw and tommy bar. Of various lengths, the steel T-section is considered the strongest but aluminium section also available. Very useful in gluing-up butt joints.
Sash Pocket Chisel A short handled wide-bladed thin section chisel bevelled on both faces associated with sash window joinery in particular with the making, fitting or removal of sash pockets.
Seasoning Removal of moisture from green wood. Wood dries by evaporation of moisture from its exterior surfaces and this process continues until its MC is in equilibrium with its immediate surroundings.
Scarf Joint In which two or more timbers are joined lengthwise end-to-end without increasing the cross-section. Several design variations are known in order to overcome any inherent weakness. Screwing, bolting, fishplates sometimes used.
Shellac A naturally occurring resin obtained from the secretion of the Lac insect Laccifer lacca (also source of early red dye). Used as a spirit varnish and is the basis of French polish. Originating mainly in India and other eastern countries. See French polish.
Shoulder Plane This metal rebate plane is used to finely trim shoulders and faces of tenons and other fine truing. Having a low angled cutter at 18˚ to 20˚ and bevel of 25˚ set uppermost, it lies flush with the plane's accurately ground sides these being at precise right-angles to the sole. Ideal for trimming end grain the cutter being held firmly on a generous bulk of metal. Preston remains the classic model having paved the way for other makes including the former Record No.073. Fully adjustable, some models may be converted to a chisel plane, ie. one where there is no sole in front of the cutter.
Silica gel A hard granular form of hydrated silica able to absorb moisture strongly and so finds practical use in maintaining a dry atmosphere. For woodworkers it is a useful means of combating potential tool rusting when in an enclosed container such as a tool chest or cupboard. Can be regenerated by heating.
Skew Chisel Usually in pairs, LH and RH, normal chisel grinding but cutting edge is angled. With bevelled edges skew chisels are very useful for cleaning up awkward corners in dovetail joints.
Skew or Long-cornered Chisel A lathe chisel usually of flat section ground on both sides; so named because the cutting edge is angled and when presented to the revolving work acts in a slicing or planing action. The long point sometimes known as the toe while the shorter point the heel. Also used for shaping v-cuts by using the extreme point and useful in turning small diameter spindles.
Sliding Bevel Used when testing, marking or transferring angles other than 90°. It consists of a wooden handle and stainless steel blade able to be locked at the chosen angle. The blade is slotted and can be moved to any desired position having a locking mechanism which in some models lies flush thus allowing the bevel to be used on either side.
Sliding Carriage Some machines have a sliding carriage for cross-cutting work instead of, or as well as a mitre guide or fence. The sliding carriage is fixed to the side or front of the machine, and can take up considerable space. It incorporates an adjustable fence. A sliding carriage is generally considered more accurate than a mitre fence/guide, but costs more. See also Mitre Fence/Guide.
Sliding Dovetail Tapered dovetailed housing (groove, trench) and matching tapered, dovetailed male component that fit together for a tight, crampless joint. The dovetailed housing is such a tight joint that it can only be drawn together when the rails are relatively narrow. Otherwise the two parts will get stuck. The sliding dovetail is designed to tighten only right in the last few millimetres. See also Dovetailed Housing Joint.
Smoothing Plane (metal) As the name suggests this bench plane is used for smoothing the work piece after truing with a larger plane such as a jointer or fore plane. It is usually the most common plane in any tool kit and retains many of the early Bailey/Stanley features. All have easy lateral, depth and other adjustments. The cutter's bevel faces downwards and is held firmly by the back iron. Smoothing planes come in various makes and sizes but generally conform to a number classification, for example, Record No. 04, sole length approx. 9½ in. and cutter (known as the iron or blade) 2 in. wide.
Softwood Timber from coniferous or cone-bearing trees having needle-pointed leaves; there are exceptions such as yew which does not produce typical cones. Trees are usually evergreens but there are exceptions such as larch. Botanically named gymnosperms softwoods have no open-ended pores (as in hardwoods), the moisture and sap being transported through the walls of the honeycombed cellular structure (tracheids). Nevertheless, annual growth rings clearly show early and late wood.
Spalted Wood Shows distinctive lined grain colourations caused by early stages of bacterial decay and is much valued by wood turners for its decorativeness. The irregular but distinct lines of colouration (sometimes referred to as zone-lines) occur at boundaries between different fungi. The strength of the wood may be diminished.
Spelch Meaning a chip or splinter but more commonly spelching refers to the roughened exit side of a sawing, cutting, or drilling operation where the unsupported fibres tend to break away unless held in place by a cramped sacrificial piece of wood.
Splined Joint See under Butt or Edge Joint.
Spoke Shave A form of plane having a blade running longitudinally with its two handles. The blade is held by a cap iron and tightening screw often with finer adjustment by two depth screws. The sole may be flat or rounded depending on surface to be worked whether convex, concave or flat. Used for shaping curved work such as wheel spokes or chair legs particularly cabrioles. Blade angle is generally lower in wooden spokeshaves than in those of metal.
Stave The individual pieces that make up the side of a barrel or similar shaped container. Made traditionally by coopers, the pieces are cut to length and made narrower at the ends, the sides accurately bevelled and some rounding of the face sides. These when placed together side by side and hooped collectively give the characteristic barrel shape. Where staves are left with parallel sides a straight sided container results. Stave sometimes used as alternative to ladder rung.
Stickers Strips of wood of appropriate section laid between layers of timber at right angles to the grain direction in order to allow maximum air circulation in the stack during drying.
Stringing Refers to narrow bands or lines of wood (or metal) inlayed as decoration in contrast to or support of design features. Sycamore and holly provide whiteness and may be easily dyed. Boxwood and ebony also common.
Surface Planer A machine designed to produce a true face and square edge or bevel in timber. In-feed and out-feed tables, being perfectly co-planar and adjustable in height, are separated by the powered cutter head or block carrying the planer knives. Depth of cut is by adjusting the height of in-feed table relative to the knives and out-feed table. A substantial fully adjustable fence allows perfectly squared or bevelled edges. A rebating facility is often incorporated. Referred to as a Jointer in America.
Tease Tenon Joint Sometimes used in constructional joinery where tenons are reduced in width so that they can cross each other at right angles for rails meeting in a corner joint. Opposite half of each tenon is removed. Not suitable for topmost joint since one tenon's edge remains exposed. In this instance a normal haunched mortise and tenon would be better.
Tenon Male component worked from a solid piece of wood to fit inside a mortise. A tenon comprises one or more cheeks (long-grain) and one or more shoulders (end-grain). There are many types of tenon, each slightly different. See also Mortise.
Tenon Saw Used for cutting tenons and finer bench work being of convenient length, gauge and size of teeth. Sometimes called a 'back saw' by virtue of the strengthening folded strip of steel or brass covering the top edge. This gives added tension to the thin blade and accuracy in use as does also the closed handle. Sizes vary, 8-16 ins length, 3-4 ins depth of cut and teeth per inch (tpi) about 10-14. Teeth of quality saws are often specified as rip or cross-cut.
Tension Wood See Reaction Wood.
Thicknesser A machine to reduce boards to a consistent thickness by passing the timber under (sometimes over) a revolving powered cutter head adjusted against the perfectly flat bed. The timber piece is laid with one trued face against the bed, the cutter head removing material to required thickness as the wood is drawn through by rollers at controlled rate. The combined facility of surface planing and thicknessing is found in the related Planer-thicknesser.
Threaded Insert Fitting that is driven into wood with a thread on the outside to cut into a drilled hole. Inside is another thread, to take a bolt or threaded rod. See also Top-Hat Nut.
Through Tenon Tenon joint that fits into an 'open' mortise so that the end of the tenon is visible. Sometimes wedged to ensure a tight joint.
Tongue and Groove or T&G An edge-to-edge joint in which the board has its own integral spline aligned to fit into a matching groove of the adjacent piece. Forming a bead on the face tongue adds visual appearance and helps conceal possible shrinkage. Commonly used in flooring. Also used to line walls, construct partitions etc. and is sometimes referred to as match-boarding. See also Butt or Edge Joint.
Top-Hat Nut Insert with spikes that can be fitted into wood to take a bolt or threaded rod. You can also buy threaded inserts, which have a double thread: a large one on the outside to bind in the wood, and a thinner one inside to take the bolt.
Trammel Heads Used for describing large circles, arcs, and marking out over distances beyond capacity of standard dividers or compasses. The pair of heads clamp onto an appropriate dimensioned and chosen length of timber or bar and one head should have pencil holding in addition to hard points on both. Sometimes one head has a fine adjustment feature. cf. draughtsman's beam compass.
Travisher This functions as a convex spoke shave and consists of a curved 3in. to 4in. blade joined to two handles to form a roughly u-shaped woodworking tool favoured for hollowing out chair seats or related shaping. The position of the handles allows working into constricted corners and the tool produces a finer texture than the adze.
Trunnions The curved castings connecting the table with the frame of a bandsaw. These accurately machined parts allow the angle of the table to be inclined to allow bevelled sawing.
Try Square Used for marking out and checking right angles. Consists of a blued spring-steel blade riveted at exactly 90° into a stock usually of rosewood edged with brass. Used in joinery and carpentry but in finer cabinet work an all-metal engineer's square is often favoured.
Trying Plane and Jointing Plane (metal) These are the largest and heaviest in the range of metal planes, being classified as No.7, Trying Plane, and No.8, Jointing Plane. Main use is in truing large lengths of timber and shooting edges prior to edge jointing. The trying plane (No.7) is smaller at 22 in. sole length and cutter of 2⅜ in., than the jointer (No.8) at 24 in sole and wider cutter of 2⅝ in. Longer planes may still be found but are now of limited practical application.
T-Square Used in technical drawing; consists of a straight edge (wood) fitted at one end with a stock at right angles. This fits against one edge of the drawing board and the straight edge or blade lies across the board so permitting the drawing of parallel lines. Also useful in marking panels and wide timbers.
Veneer Saw As the name suggests this is for cutting veneers. The short blade of about 3 ins has teeth on both edges. These edges are slightly curved or breasted allowing a cut to be made in the centre of the veneer piece without the danger of the corners digging in. The teeth have no set and one edge may be cross-cut, the other being rip. The blade is attached to an off-set or cranked handle easily reversed allowing choice of teeth. 15 tpi or more is common.
Wainscot Oak This is a vague term to describe figured oak when quarter sawn or converted radially along the log so as to show the medullary rays or silver grain figure. The term was closely associated with a superior quality of foreign oak imported from Baltic ports and often used for panel-work.
Wood Acetylation Is a preservation treatment involving use of acetic anhydride. This reacts with free hydroxyls in the lignin and hemicellulose parts of timber and reduces its hygroscopic nature and hence dimensional movement. Water repellency and also resistance to insect and fungal attack are increased. Accoya is one such timber product now made at Arnhem, Netherlands. See BW 40 pp 36-38.
Wood, Composition The three main constituents of wood are cellulose (40-50% calculated on dry wood), hemicelluloses (25-35%), and lignin (18-35%), plus extraneous materials or 'extractives' such as gums, resins, terpenes etc (4-10% or more in tropical hardwoods).* The composition varies considerably between species and individual trees. Lignin (a phenolic substance) and cellulose give structure; the lignin acting as a binding agent to the longitudinal cellulose fibres and this holds the tree rigid. Lignin is more water resistant than cellulose and assists water transfer through the vascular tissues. Also, lignin provides fungal and insect resistance, but the colour of different species depends more on the extractives and mineral salts present. *(R. C. Pettersen, The Chemical Composition of Wood; 1984).