Common Woodworking Terms Glossary

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If you are new to woodworking, it’s helpful to learn some of the common woodworking terms that you might see while looking at building plans or learning about different tools and techniques. We’ve put together this list of common woodworking terms in glossary format to use as a reference.

Acetone: Acetone is a solvent that is frequently used to clean tools.

Adhesive: Adhesives are any type of glue that is used to bond two materials together. There are many kinds of adhesives. In woodworking, wood glue is the most common one you will see, although you may occasionally need other types of adhesives.

Air Dried: When wood is first cut, it needs to have some time to dry before it is suitable for woodworking. Air drying is one method of stacking and storing lumber so that it dries naturally from the air.

Allen Head: An Allen head is a screw head that has a recess and requires an Allen head wrench, which is a hexagon-shaped key that fits into the recessed head. These usually require a specific size, which can be in metric or U.S. units. You will see these the most often in furniture kits that require some assembly.

Apron: While we usually associate the word apron to mean a piece of clothing we wear to protect our clothes underneath, in woodworking it often refers to the part of a table where you would fasten the top and legs to it.

Auger: This is a type of tool or drill bit that is used for boring holes into wood and other materials.

Awl: An awl is a sharp and narrow tool used for piercing holes into wood and other materials.

Back Saw: This is a type of hand saw that is most commonly used for mitering corners and creating dovetail joints.

Bench Grinder: This a type of grinder that is attached to a workbench and is quite useful for sharpening tools.

Biscuit Joint: A biscuit joint is a common woodworking joint where wood is held together with an oval-shaped disk. You will typically want to use a biscuit joint tool to create these kinds of joints.

Block Plane: A block plane is a tool that is used for cutting pieces of wood across the end grain.

Board Foot Measurement This is a useful thing to understand when you are purchasing lumber and wood for your projects. One board foot of lumber is equal to 144 cubic inches and is a piece of lumber that is 12 inches by 12 inches and 1 inch thick. To calculate the board foot measurement, you will want to multiply the width times the length times the height (thickness) and then divide by 144 to get the board foot measurement.

Box Joint: Box joints are a method of joining pieces of wood together at a right angle with square finger joints.

Butt Joint: A butt joint in a woodworking joinery technique where the edges of two boards are lined up against each other.

Caliper: A caliper is a measuring tool that has two legs and is used to measure the thickness of something.

Chuck: Chucks are attachments that hold either your project or a tool in place. You will most commonly see this term being used with a drill, but it’s also common in lathes and woodturning tools as well.

Compound Miter: A compound miter is a cut made at an angle that is most commonly used when working with moulding for frames and trim. A compound miter saw is a saw that makes it easy to get precise angles when you cut the wood.

Countersink: This is a method of drilling holes for screws and other fasteners so they are flush with the top of the wood.

CrossCut: To cross-cut wood means that you cut the wood perpendicular to the direction of the wood grain.

Dado: A Dado is a groove in a piece of wood meant to hold another board and is a term you’ll often see when exploring different wood joinery techniques. They are most commonly used for shelving and other types of furniture.

Dovetail Joint: Dovetail joints are another joinery technique to join two pieces of wood together at a right angle, where the fingers are shaped like a doves tail.

Dowel: Dowels are small pins made of wood that are used as a pin to join two pieces of wood together. A dowel rod is a longer rod of wood that can have many different uses in woodworking.

Epoxy: Epoxy is a two-part glue that must be mixed but is very strong and can be used to glue anything together. It is most often used when joining together metal or other objects where strength is required.

European Hinge: A European hinge is a hinge fastening technique where the hinge is hidden by a cup hole.

Finger Joint: This is a wood joint where there are several “fingers” of wood that are used to join together two pieces of wood lengthwise.

Grain: This is the direction of the fibers that make up a piece of wood.

Hand Plane: This is a hand tool that is used to smooth and shave wood surfaces.

Kerf: This refers to the width of a saw cut which can be adjusted by the type of blade that is used.

Kick Back: This is when a piece of wood is thrown back by a saw or other cutting tool. It can be very dangerous to the woodworker when it occurs. Many power tools have anti-kickback features, but one should always be sure to follow basic woodworking safety when cutting wood, especially if using a chain saw to cut down trees.

MDF: MDF stands for medium-density fiberboard which is a manufactured wood product. It is often used as an inexpensive alternative to wood and covered with laminate or veneer.

Miter Box: If you are using a hand saw, a miter box is a helpful guide that gives you the placement for the saw to cut precise angles for miter joints.

Miter Gauge: This is a guide that makes it easier to cut wood at an angle.

Miter Joint: A miter joint is when two pieces of wood are cut together at an angle. They are most commonly seen on photo frames and trim work.

Moulding: Moulding typically refers to any type of trim that you may use on a project.

Mortise Tenon: A mortise tenon joint is a technique to join two pieces of wood together where one piece of wood has a mortise and the other piece of wood has a tenon that fits together.

Particle Board: This is a manufactured wood product made by binding small particles of wood together. It is not very strong, but it is lightweight and inexpensive making it suitable for many different types of projects.

Plumb: Plumb is a term used to describe when something is perpendicular to the another point at a precise 90-degree angle.

Plywood: Plywood is a type of thin manufactured wood product that is made by gluing together thin layers of veneer wood together. It is typically available in a variety of types of woods and thicknesses and measures at 4′ x 8′. It is often used in the construction of sheds and houses.

Rip-Cut: A rip cut is a type of cut through wood that is parallel to the grain and is typically used in splitting boards in half lengthwise.

Sawhorse: A sawhorse is a type of portable frame that is used in pairs to hold wood for cutting and assembling. They are very handy for cutting large pieces such as plywood and when working outdoors on site.

T-slot: This is a slot that is shaped like an upside-down letter T made into a piece of wood for fastening.

Table Saw: Table saws are a type of saw that makes it easy to change the height and angle of the blade.

Taper Cut: When you taper cut a piece of wood, you cut it in a way so that width is thicker at one end than the other and it tapers to the smaller width of the other side of the piece of wood.

Tear out: This is what you get when you cut a piece of wood across the grain and have a rough, splintering edge that is not even.

Template: Templates are used as a pattern to mark where you will cut a shape. Templates are very handy if you are doing work with a scroll saw or your router.

Tongue and Groove: This is a method of joining two pieces of wood together where one board has the “tongue” and the other piece has a groove. The two pieces will slide right into one another and are commonly seen with wood flooring and wood siding.

Wood Filler: Wood filler is a product that is used the fill in holes and irregularities on the surface of the wood. This is most often used when restoring old pieces of furniture that may have a lot of scratches or when parts of a veneer have broken off.

X-Acto Knife: X-Acto is the brand name of a cutting tool that has a razor-like blade that is very good for precision cutting through thin materials. They are very sharp and must be used with care.

I hope this list of common woodworking terms is helpful for you and of course if there are any terms that you think we should add to this list please let us know in the comments below!

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