The Wonderful Language of Carpentry

The craft of working with wood is one of the main catalysts for human civilization. There's no escaping the magnitude of how important wood has been to our world.

The Neanderthals started producing practical wood objects over 100,000 years ago. Egyptians not only made their own tools but also constructed chairs, tables, and chests. Many of these furniture items are still preserved in tombs today.

The Egyptians invented veneering and varnishing and the early Chinese invented the plane and chalk line.

Carvers and carpenters created wonders that still astound us today, from the magnificent roof of Westminster Hall to the Coronation Chair, last used by Elizabeth II, but created 700 years ago.

To this day, you can find societies using the same tools and techniques to build homes and feed their families.

Many wonderful words and terms are used in wood working, below is a short glossary of some of my favourites.

Anthropometry - The comparative study of the dimensions of the human body

Arris - The sharp edge where two surfaces meet at an angle

Bosting in - Carving roughly to shape

Burl - A warty growth of the trunk of a tree. When sliced it produces speckled burr veneer.


         An extremely thin strip of metal left along the cutting edged ofa blade after honing or grinding

Cauls - sheets of wood or metal used to press veneer onto groundwork

Chatoyance - the effect seen in dramatic wood grain direction changes as seen in flame figured maple.

Chattering - The noise caused by a workpiece vibrating

Collet - A tapered sleeve made in two or more segments that grips the shaft of a cutter

Crown of thorns - a system of self-supporting and interlocking pieces

Cruck - a pair of crooked, structural timbers in a timber frame building

Curly figure - The grain pattern on wood that has been part of a tree where a branch joind the main stem or trunk

Ferrule- A metal collar that reinforces the weood where the tang of a chisel or other handtool enters teh handle

Flitches - Pieces of wood sawn from a log for slicing into veneers


               The bundle of sliced veneers

Fox wedging - A jointing procedure where wooded wedges are used to spread a tenon in a stopped mortise

Foxing - a yellow-brown discoloration of wood due to fungal infection.

French cleat - a molding used to hang cabinets

Gullet - The space between saw teeth

Heartwood - The mature wood that forms the spine of a tree

Hollow Ground - A term used to describe circular-saw blades that are reduced in thickness towards their centres

Kerf - The slot cut by a saw

Kicker - A strip of wood fixed above a drawer's side to prevent it topping upwards as the drawer is withdrawn

Lopers - Rails that are pulled from a cabinet in order to support a fall flap

Muntin - The central vertical member of a frame-and-panel door


             A grooved strip of wood that divides and supports the two sections of a wide drawer bottom

Patina - The colour and texture that a material such as wood or metal acquires as a result of a natural aging process

Pawls - Pivoted pointed leavers designed to grip a workpiece as soon as it is thrown back by a moving blade or cutter

Riffler - a paddle-shaped rasp.

Ripsawing - Cutting parallel to the grain

Rottenstobe - An abrasive powder similar to pumice but ground even finer

Scorp - a drawknife with a curved, sometimes completely circular blade, often used for hollowing out objects such as bowls.

Shellac - A secretion of teh lac insect used to manufacture French polish

Sherardized - Coated with zinc

Skiver - Thin leather prepared for gluing to a desk or table top

Snib - a wooden toggle used to hold the work on a table.

Strop - To produce a razor sharp cutting egde by rubbing it on a strip of leather

Tang - The pointed end of a chisel or file that is driven into the handle

Veiner - a small deep gouge.