Glossary of Woodworking Terms

This page contains the definition of various wood working terms.

Timber and Cuts

Timber Mill
Quarter Sawn
Rift Sawn
Live Sawn
Plain Sawn
Cutting List
A general term for natural or sawn wood in a form suitable for building or structural purposes.
Figure 1. Scott, Ron, Jeff, The Forestry Forum, 2010
A piece of sawn, hewn or dressed timber of greater width than thickness.
Figure 2. Wholesale Timber Direct. 2020
A building or site that accommodates timber manufacturing processes.
Figure 3. The Rural. 2015
Quarter sawn wood has an amazing straight grain pattern that lends itself to design. Quarter sawn lumber is defined as wood where the annular growth rings intersect the face of the board at a 60 to 90 degree angle. When cutting this lumber at the sawmill, each log is sawed at a radial angle into four quarters, hence the name.
Figure 4. Stephen, Heffernan Hardwood. 2016
Rift sawn wood can be manufactured either as a compliment to quarter sawn lumber or logs can be cut specifically as rift sawn. In rift sawn lumber is manufactured by milling perpendicular to the log’s growth rings producing a linear grain pattern with no flecking. This method produces the most waste, increasing the cost of this lumber. Rift sawn lumber is very dimensionally stable and has a unique linear appearance.
Figure 5. Stephen, Heffernan Hardwood. 2016
Live sawn milling is the most efficient way to cut a log into flooring planks and it is a newer milling method than the others. Each plank is cut straight off of the log in one direction without changing the orientation of the log. This method produces boards with a full range of angles of the log's rings, also known as the log's "grain". Live sawn planks include a full range of the log's characteristics, from the sought-after heartwood where the ring patterns are tightest to the sapwood.
Figure 6. Stephen, Heffernan Hardwood. 2016
Plain sawn, also commonly called flat sawn, is the most common lumber you will find. This is the most inexpensive way to manufacture logs into lumber. Plain sawn lumber is the most common type of cut. The annual rings are generally 30 degrees or less to the face of the board; this is often referred to as tangential grain. The resulting wood displays a cathedral pattern on the face of the board.
Figure 7. Stephen, Heffernan Hardwood. 2016
A comprehensive list of all the needed parts for a project, including the name of each piece needed, and the dimensions of each piece; sometimes includes a diagram of the boards from which the pieces can be cut to indicate how much lumber must be purchased.

Timber Composition

Growth Rings
Gum Vein
In wood anatomy, a general term for the minute unit of wood structures that have distinct walls and cavities, including wood fibres, vessel segments, and other elements of diverse structure and function.
Figure 8. Tree Wuchs. 2015
Long, thin cells with thick cell walls. Their function is to provide strength for the tree. In dense hardwoods, the fibre cells make up the major part of whole zones of wood. These fibrous zones dry slowly.
Figure 8. Tree Wuchs. 2015
The wood making up the centre part of the tree, beneath the sapwood. Cells of heartwood no longer participate in the life processes of the tree. Heartwood may contain phenolic compounds, gums, resins, and other materials that usually make it darker and more decay resistant than sapwood
Figure 9. Anatomy Note. 2019
Outer layers of wood which, in a growing tree, contain living cells and reserve materials such as starch. Under most conditions the sapwood is paler in colour and more susceptible to decay than the heartwood.
Figure 9. Anatomy Note. 2019
Growth rings of early wood and late wood on the transverse section of a trunk or branch marking cycles of growth
Figure 9. Anatomy Note. 2019
Gum - a natural exudation, produced in trees as a result of fire or mechanical damage
Gum Vein - a ribbon of gum between growth rings, which may be bridged radially by wood tissue at intervals.
Hardwood is a descriptive term applied to woods that are of broad leafed trees classified botanically as Angiosperm. The primary advantage of hardwoods is that they tend to be more dense and durable than other softwoods, however the term has no reference to the relative hardness of the wood. Each image shows (top to bottom) transverse, radial, and tangential surfaces.
Softwood refers to lumber that has been cut from a coniferous or an evergreen tree. Softwoods are frequently used as building materials. The use of softwoods is considered to be environmentally friendly because the trees grow more quickly than hardwood trees. Each image shows (top to bottom) transverse, radial, and tangential surfaces

Timber Traits

Moisture Content
The degree of ease and smoothness of timber cut obtainable with hand or machine tools. The workability changes depending on what timber species is being used.
Figure 11. Wade, G. 2020. Garrett Wade
The weight of moisture contained in a piece of timber expressed as a percentage of the over dry weight.
Figure 12. 2020. Castle Shop.UK
A state or condition of being pulled or stretched by a force.
Figure 13. Cornish, A. 2020. Design Boom
As applied to timber, density is the mass of wood substance and moisture enclosed within a piece expressed in kilograms per cubic meter. As the mass will vary dependant on the amount of moisture in the piece, density is often expressed as a specified moisture content, usually 12%.
The extent of expansion and contraction which occurs with dried wood as its moisture content responds to changes in relative humidity in service. Shrinking and swelling occur in the three directions, radial, tangential and longitudinal.
Figure 14. 2020. Growth
The reduction in dimension or volume which take place in timber when the moisture content is reduced below fibre saturation point, expressed as a percentage of the original dimension or volume.
Figure 15. Finger, M. 2016. Holzworm

Timber Defects

Any variation from a true and plane surface. It includes bow, cup, twist, crook and is often caused by irregular seasoning.
Figure 16. 2011. Tildee
The action of a board to warp across its width, usually in the opposite direction of the rings.
Figure 17. 2018. Timber Defects, D&T online
The spiral distortion down the length of a piece of sawn timber; it may be accompanied by either bowing or spring, or both.
Figure 18. 2018. Timber Defects, D&T online
A curvature in the longitudinal direction of a board causing the wide face to move away from a flat plane.
Figure 19. 2018. Timber Defects, D&T online
A crook, (also called wain) is a warp along the length of the edge of the wood.
Figure 20. 2018. Timber Defects, D&T online
Uncontrolled drying can cause separation of the wood fibers. The condition in which the fibers separate across the growth ring, as shown here, is called a split. Split goes all the way through the piece of wood and is commonly at the ends.
Figure 21. 2020. The Home Depot
Separating or breakage of the wood fibres caused by stresses in the standing tree or by felling and handling of the log, It is not caused by shrinkage during drying.
Figure 22. 2020. The Home Depot
Checking is where the lumber dries too quickly or unevenly. In this case, the dried boards generate cracks that travel along the board due to separation of fibres along the grain forming a fissure, but not extending through the piece from face to face running radially across the growth rings.
Figure 23. 2020. The Home Depot
In lumber, the portion of a branch or limb of a tree that appears on the edge or face of the piece.
That portion of branch or limb that has been surrounded by subsequent growth of the stem and the shape of the knot as it appears on a cut surface depends on the angle of the cut relative to the long axis of the knot.
Figure 24. 2020. The Home Depot
The mechanical or chemical disintegration and discolouration of the surface of wood caused by exposure to light, the action of dust and sand carried by winds, and the alternate shrinking and swelling of the surface fibres with the variation in moisture content, Weathering does not include decay.
Discolouration - Change in the colour of wood caused by fungal or chemical stains, weathering or heat treatment.

Timber Figure Characteristics

Birds eye
Wavy Figure
Medullary Rays
Ribbon Figure
The pattern produced on the cut surface of wood by annual growth rings, rays, knots, deviations from regular grain such as interlocked and wavy grain, and irregular coloration.
A highly figured outgrowth on a tree, valued for turning and figured veneers
Figure on the surface of wood that has numerous rounded areas resembling small eyes.
Markings in the form of waves or undulations. Figures with large undulations are described as 'wavy', while others with small, irregular undulations are 'curly', and those with small, regular undulations are 'fiddleback'
A structure in a tree that stores and delivers food horizontally through the trunk. In some species, such as oak, the medullary rays can be quite large. When the tree is quarter-sawn, the rays become visible on the face of the board. This feature is sometimes also known as “ray fleck.”
A striped figure produced by cutting timber that has an interlocked grain, Also called striped figure.
Figure in timber or veneer produced by small, regular undulation in the grain.
Characteristics determined by the size and quality of the wood elements. Descriptive terms include fine, medium, uniform, even, uneven, coarse.
Fine texture: Wood that has very small pores and small cells in general and that can thus be brought to a high natural polish. Such woods tend to be harder and heavier than other woods. A good example is African blackwood.
Medium texture: Wood that has a moderately smooth surface (which implies that it does NOT have large open pores. Compare/contrast to fine textured and coarse textured.
Coarse texture: having a rough surface, often caused by, or at the very least accompanied by, large open pores. Compare/contrast to fine textured and medium textured.
African Blackwood

Timber Grain Features

Long Grain
End Grain
Short Grain
Irregular Grain
Interlocking Grain
Close Grained
Open Grained
The general direction of the fibres or wood elements relative to the main axis of the piece - the direction, size, arrangement, appearance, or quality of the fibres in wood or timber.
Wood cells that grow parallel to the center of the tree; when glued together this grain forms the strongest bond.
The grain shown on a cross cut surface.
Long-grain whose fibres are cut across and left so short that the material becomes fragile and won’t hold together.
Figure 25. Purdy, S. 2010. Start Woodworking
Grain where the fibres contort and twist around knots, butts, curls and so on, also called wild grain.
Grain where the angle of the fibres periodically changes or reverses in successive layers.
Wood with narrow, inconspicuous growth rings. The term is sometimes used to designate wood having small and close pores, but in the sense the term 'fine textured' is more often used.
Figure 26. 1987. Cemorowoodcraft
common classification for wood with large pores in the grain, Also known as course textured.
Figure 27. 1987. Cemorowoodcraft

Processing Equipment

Bench Dog
Hold Down
Push Stick
A device to hold work in process.
Band clamp - Clamp for mitred pieces such as the sides of a picture frame. Can also be used on odd-shaped pieces (even round) in addition to projects with 90° joints.
Corner clamp - A small clamp used only for clamping 90° corner joints, such as those of a picture frame.
F-Clamp - A clamp in the shape of an F which is generally use to clamp work pieces for glue ups, and to clamp down workpieces to bench tops or machinery. The F-clamps jaws in the machine workshop have plastic pads eliminating for additional protection between the clamp jaws and workpiece.
G-Clamp - A clamp in the shape of an G which is generally used to firmly clamp down items to machinery, such as scrap boards, metal workpieces or tools (e.g. vices on the pedestal drill) to machinery.
Parallel-jaw clamp - This clamp comes in many lengths to work well with large glue-ups (such as the glue-up of flat boards). Their jaws remain fixed at 90° to the bar and parallel to each other to help ensure square assemblies. With strong user grip strength, the clamps can provide as much as 800kilos of force.
Quick Grip - Very handy as can be tightened with one hand, freeing up your other hand to hold the workpiece(s) in place. Generally used to clamp workpiece to workbenches. Jaws can be reversed to allow pressure to be applied in the opposite direction. Does not provide as much pressure as other clamps.
Hand Screw Clamp - Screws at both ends can be twisted independently allowing the ability to angle the jaws allowing you to clamp on tight angles. The large surface wood jaws provide extra pressure and won’t mark hardwood surfaces. Also handy when holding small work pieces when working on the sander, bandsaw and drill press.
Sash Clamp - A long clamp that works well with large glue-ups, in particular for the lamination of table tops.
Spring Clamp - For quick and easy operation you can’t beat these clamps. They go on as fast as clothespins wherever light pressure suffices.
A length of metal or wood that is inserted in a hole on a workbench to secure workpieces. It can be used in conjunction with a similar dog on a bench vise to capture a workpiece between two points, holding it fast. When securing wood this way, avoid tightening the vise more than is necessary; you could bow the work.
Hold down clamps slides in the T-Track and quickly secures with the turn of the knob. By turning the clamp head 180° to the work piece, the clamp offers maximum holding pressure.
A holdfast is a hook shaped metal device used for clamping timber and boards to a workbench surface. To clamp it onto a piece of timber you simply strike the top with a mallet and to loosen it, you tap the back.
Cauls are used when clamping a panel or a project for glue up. They distribute and provide even pressure in places beyond the reach of standard clamps, or reduce the number of clamps required. They also keep a panel flat during glue up and minimize the amount of work (and lost wood) to get it flat later.
Figure 28. 2011. Fine Woodworking
A safety device comprising of flexible fingers that hold a workpiece against the fence or table during a cut; often constructed by cutting a number of slots in the end of a board.
A push stick, push shoe, or push block is a safety device used when working with stationary routers, jointers, or power saws such as table saws or bandsaws. The purpose of a push stick is to help the user safely manoeuvre a workpiece by keeping hands at a safe distance from the cutting edge, and keeping it flat against a machine table or fence while it is being cut.
A jig is a device used to set a dimension, angle or shape for fabrication, it can also hold the work and guide a tool. It is an on-the-spot device created to make the holding, cutting or shaping of a part the wood in a project either more safe, more efficient, more accurate, more rapid, or any of a multitude of other reasons.
A wire-like edge formed on a blade as a result of sharpening.
Figure 29. North Coast Knives. 2018


Bookmatching is the practice of matching two wood surfaces, so that the adjoining surfaces mirror each other, giving the impression of an opened book. It is usually done with veneer, but can also be done with solid wood.
A beveled or grooved edge that is 45°.
Any angle not at 90 degrees.
Reducing gradually in width or diameter.
Figure 30. Zepplin Design Labs. 2020. Instructables Workshop
A bit or cutter which cuts the corner off the edge of a board, giving it a rounded edge.
A surface forming the beveled edge of a joint.
Figure 31. 2018. Homemade Furniture
The material or act of inserting smaller pieces into grooves cut in a workpiece.
Figure 32. 2020. Elle Decor
A form of inlay in which pieces of veneer are cut into shapes and inserted into another piece of veneer, which is then laminated to another surface.
Figure 33. Lemon, C. 2015. Chelsea Lemon

Processing Terms

Cross Cut - Dock
Rip Cut - Resaw
The term is used to describe the thickness of the cut a woodworking saw blade makes in a piece of wood as it cuts through it. The term is also sometimes used to describe the thickness of the blade itself; for example, you may see the packaging of a circular saw blade or table saw blade listing its kerf width.
Making a series of parallel saw cuts part way through the thickness of a piece of timber so that the piece can be curved towards the kerfed side.
Figure 34. Derringer, J. 2013. Design Milk
A cut perpendicular to the grain of a board.
Figure 35. 2018. Best Advisor
A cut parallel to the grain of a board
to cut a board along its length and width to yield thinner boards.
Figure 35. 2018. Best Advisor
The point or act of inserting a piece into a machine, such as a saw, planer or jointer.
Figure 36. Anthony, P. 2012. WoodCraft
The point where the workpiece exits a machine.
Figure 36. Anthony, P. 2012. WoodCraft
Dressed timber has been machine finished/planed on all sides and edges and is very smooth. Dressing is the process to have dressed timber.
Figure 37. Anthony, P. 2012. WoodCraft

Processing Terms

Pilot Hole
The act of assembling parts with glue and clamps.
Figure 27. 2011. Fine Woodworking
Adhering one workpiece to another (as a veneer to another surface; constructing solid pieces by gluing together thin strips of wood, usually in a curved form
OR a built up product make of layers or laminations of wood, all with the grain laid parallel and glued or otherwise fastened together. Laminating timber allows large and structurally reliable section to be built up from small, high quality pieces.
Figure 38. Cander, C. 2011. Popular Woodworking
Broken or torn fibres resulting from damage as the blade of a tool exits a cut.
Figure 39. Colchamiro, S. 2019. Highland Woodworking Online
The action of a planer or jointer to pinch or dig into the timber deeper at the beginning and/or ends of boards. It can be a very minor dip or severe as shown in the image.
Figure 40. 2007. The Wood Whisperer
The action of any number of woodworking machines to throw the workpiece back toward the operator. It usually occurs when wood gets caught between the rip fence and the blade. A riving knife – and a dose of common sense – can prevent these.
Figure 41. Lee, B. 2017. 1001 Pallets
A small hole drilled in your work that is intended to guide a fastener. The hole will ensure the fastener is driven in the desired direction and clears some waste wood to prevent your work from splitting when the fastener is driven in place.
Figure 42. Noseck, R. 2019. AZ Smile Dentist
A countersink is a conical hole cut into a manufactured object, or the cutter used to cut such a hole. A common use is to allow the head of a countersunk bolt, screw or rivet, when placed in the hole, to sit flush with or below the surface of the surrounding material.
Figure 42. Noseck, R. 2019. AZ Smile Dentist

Timber products

A cylindrical timber rod or steel bar generally without nut or thread driven into pre-drilled holes to make a joint.
A thin layer of wood that can also be referred as decorative wood veneer.
A thin sheet of wood used in a variety of applications, including marquetry, lamination, covering lesser cuts of wood or constructing plywood.
The side is the widest part of the board as measured across the grain
Figure 43. Ryan, V. 2011. Technology Student
Figure 43. Ryan, V. 2011. Technology Student
A waste piece of lumber.
A type of adhesive that requires a compound and a catalyst to form the adhesive. Also called epoxy resin. Any of a class of resins derived by polymerization from epoxides: used chiefly in adhesives, coatings, electrical insulation, solder mix, and castings.
Figure 44. 2020. Mooka Furniture

Structural features

Connecting pieces of wood together through a variety of means, including using glue and mechanical fasteners, though generally understood as the use of interlocking or corresponding wooden joints.
The Domino wood jointing system can be used easily and quickly to create frame joints frequently required by joiners and carpenters. The Domino combines the properties of a biscuit dowel (flexible and non-twisting) with those of a regular round dowel (can be fixed, high strength).
Figure 45. 2020. Festool
A narrow strip of wood that is glued in corresponding grooves to join pieces of wood and make a joint stronger.
Figure 46. Loyer, H. 2009. Woodcraft
The part of a table between the legs that attaches the base to the top.
A projecting structural member which is rigidly fixed at one end by unsupported at the other.
Figure 47. Alavr Aalto: Model 21 Chair. 1932
Joining structural members together so that they form a rigid triangle.
Figure 48. Rogers, J. 2012. Forestry Forum

Structural Terms

The ability of wood to resist an applied load.
The force/load per unit area resulting from external loads on a structure, or internal conditions as in drying.
Unit deformation resulting from applied stress