Sam Allen's Dictionary of Woodworking Terms

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Tool Store | Dictionary of Woodworking
Finishing Characteristics of Common Cabinet Woods

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Sam Allen's Dictionary of Woodworking Terms

This dictionary is an ongoing project to compile the specialized words and slang of woodworking. 

To look up a word use the FIND command of your browser or just scroll down through the list. 

For more detailed woodworking information look at the books in my store. 


abrasive cloth
 A coated abrasive with a cloth backing. Emery cloth is an example.
acrylic A man-made resin used in paints and other finishing products. Most commonly used in water-emulsion paints and varnishes.
adhesive size Adhesive used to apply gold leaf or bronze powder. Rabbit skin glue, varnish, or polyvinyl adhesive are frequently used for this purpose
airless spray equipment Spray equipment that uses a hydraulic pump to pressurize liquid instead of using compressed air.
alkali A chemical that will neutralize an acid. Strong alkali can burn skin. Referred to in chemistry as a "base."
alkyd A synthetic resin frequently used in oil-based paint.
alligatoring Numerous cracks in a paint film. The pattern of cracks resembles alligator skin. Caused by inflexibility in the paint, too heavy a build-up of old coats of paint, incompatibility between paint and primer or improper surface preparation.
aluminum oxide A synthetic abrasive used as the cutting agent on sandpaper and other coated abrasives. The most desirable all-around abrasive for wood finishing. It is produced in an electric furnace.
aniline dye A synthetic colorant used extensively in the manufacture of wood stains. It may be formulated to dissolve in oil, water, or alcohol. It is especially well suited for stains because of its permanence and because it is transparent.
annual rings Growth rings of a tree caused by the variation in growth rate between spring and summer. Summerwood is denser and darker in color than springwood. Also called "annular rings"
arris the sharp corner formed by the meeting of two adjacent surfaces of a board. For example, an arris is formed where the face and the edge of a board meet. Breaking the arris is the process of slightly sanding off the sharp arris to make it less likely that the finish will wear off at the arris.
astragal A narrow, half-round moulding.
aught system A system of grading different sizes of abrasive particles for use in coated abrasives. Most grades useful for wood finishing are designated by several zeros (aughts), the more zeros the finer the abrasive. Grade O (also written 1/0) corresponds to a medium grit, 00000 (5/0) is very fine. Coarser grits are designated by numbers that get larger as the grit gets coarser. Grade 1 is coarse and grade 4 is very coarse. This system has largely been supplanted by the more accurate mesh system.


backing off
 The process of removing the wire edge on a plane blade. The back of the iron rests flat on the face of a fine stone, and the fine stone is used to back off the iron.
backing The material that abrasive particles are attached to in coated abrasives. Paper, cloth, and fibreboard are common backings.
backlash The slack or play in the adjustment mechanism of the plane.
baller A tool used to round over the end of a dowel.
barefaced joint A joint in which one or more of its shoulders are eliminated. (See shoulder.)
bead A traditional decoration often used with a tongue-and- groove joint to hide the gap between the boards.
bedding angle The angle at which the frog or bed of the plane holds the plane iron.
bench planes Planes used to smooth the face and edges of a board. They are the most common types of plane.
bevel (1) An angle other than 90 degrees. 
bevel (2) The inside surface that is sharpened on a plane blade, chisel, or other cutting tool.
bevel (3) A tool used to mark angles. It consists of a stock or handle and an adjustable blade. The edge of the stock rests against the edge of a board and the blade rests across the face. Also called a bevel square or sliding T bevel.
binders Another name for resins used in paint. ( See resin.)
black sable A natural filament used for lettering and striping brushes.
bleeding A paint defect that occurs when natural colors in wood seep (bleed) through the paint film making a stain on the paint surface.
blistering A paint defect caused by moisture trapped beneath the paint surface. The moisture breaks the bond between the paint and the wood, lifting the paint film into a blister. It is the result either of interior moisture from a house or painting in direct sunlight which causes the film of the paint to dry before the undercoating.
board foot A unit of measure used when purchasing lumber. It is the amount of wood in a 1 ft. x 1 ft. x 1 in. board (144 cu. in.). Board footage for boards thinner than 1 inch is calculated using 1" as the thickness. The formula for determining board feet is ( thickness in inches X width in inches X length in feet) / 12. 
bow A distortion in a board that causes the face to curve from end to end. If you place the face of a bowed board on a flat surface the center of the board will rest on the surface while the ends are above the surface. 
block planes Small planes that fit into the palm of your hand. They are used primarily for trimming.
block cushion grainer A wood-graining tool used to mechanically reproduce wood grains. It has a rubber face that is covered with concentric, semi-circular grooves.
blond shellac A highly refined grade of shellac that is light amber in color.
boiled linseed oil Oil derived from the seed of the flax plant. The raw oil is not boiled but heated and driers are added. It is a major ingredient of a variety of finishing products.
boxing The process of adding a new piece of wood to the front of the mouth of the plane.
bristle Any natural filament used in brush manufacture. In common usage can describe any type of filament, either natural or synthetic, used in a brush.
brush marks Parallel ridges left by a brush in a brushed on coating.
burn-in stick A type of filler used to repair defects in finished wood surfaces. They come in a variety of colors to match the existing finish. A heated knife is used to apply the filler. Also called shellac stick or lacquer stick.
burnish To polish or form a burr edge on a hard tool by rubbing it with another hard tool.
burnished surface A surface that has a smooth, polished look.
button shellac The least refined grade of shellac. It is a dark brown color.


cabinet scraper
 A scraper with a cast-iron body that holds a scraper blade.
camber A slight convexity, arch, or curvature.

cambium A layer of cells just beneath the bark of a tree where new growth occurs.
camel hair A natural filament used to make brushes for use with lacquers and water colors.
carcass The basic box or frame of a cabinet.
catalyst A chemical that speeds up a reaction between other chemicals. When catalysts are mixed with certain resins like polyester or epoxy, they cause the resin to harden into a solid plastic.
chalking A dusty film of pigments left on the surface of weathered paint.
chamfer A bevelled cut on an edge.
cheek The part of the joint that is parallel with the face or edge .
chemical stains Stains that rely on a chemical reaction with natural chemicals in the wood to produce a color change. 
china wood oil See tung oil.
chroma Color intensity.
clearance angle The angle formed between the work and the underside of the cutting edge of the blade.
closed-coat sandpaper Sandpaper that has the entire surface of the backing covered with abrasive particles. It cuts fast but clogs easily.
closed-grain Wood with no easily discernible pore structure. Does not require filling to achieve a smooth finish.
coated abrasives Any product made by attaching abrasive particles to a backing. Sandpaper, abrasive cloth, and sanding belts are all coated abrasive products.
cold finish A finish that uses solvents that don't dissolve most other types of finishes. Cold finishes can be safely applied over most previously finished surfaces. Varnish is a cold finish. See hot finish.
combination plane Any plane that can be used for more than one job.
common pitch Refers to a plane iron held at 45 degrees to the work by the frog or bed.
compass plane A plane used to make convex or concave shapes.
complementary colors Colors opposite each other on the color wheel. Mixing complementary colors with each other decreases the intensity of their color and makes them more greyish.
cooked oil Tung oil that has been heat-treated.
corner on a board the corner is the place where the face, edge and end meet. 
crook A distortion in the edge of a board that causes the edge to curve from end to end. When the edge is placed on a flat surface the center of the edge will touch the surface while the ends are above the surface. 
cove A concave moulding cut into the edge of the board.
crazing Thousands of tiny interconnecting cracks that can occur in a finish.
crosscutting The process of cutting a board at approximately a right angle to the grain direction.
cup A distortion in a board that causes the face of the board to curve from edge to edge. When the blade of a square is placed across the face it will touch near both edges, but there will be a gap between the square blade and the face of the board in the center of the board. 
cut The relationship between the weight of dry flakes and the volume of solvent used in making shellac. A one-pound cut consists of one round of dry shellac flakes dissolved in one gallon of solvent.
cutting angle The angle formed between the work and the top of the blade.


dado A flat bottomed recess cut into the face of a board across the grain. A similar recess cut with the grain is called a groove. The distinction originated because they are cut differently from each other when using hand tools. When using power tools both a dado and a groove are cut in a similar way using a dado blade on a table saw or radial arm saw or with a router. Many woodworkers no longer make the distinction and simply call the joint a dado regardless of grain direction. 
Danish oil A penetrating oil finish made from a mixture of oils, driers, resins and solvents. It is generally easier to use than pure tung oil.
denatured alcohol Ethyl alcohol that has been made undrinkable by the addition of poisonous substances. Also called proprietary solvent. It is used as a solvent for shellac.
distressing The process of intentionally damaging a finish to give it an antique look.
dress To improve or smooth the surface of the wood.
dryers Chemicals added to finishing products to speed up the drying process.
dust nibs Tiny bumps in a finished surface caused by dust particles landing on the wet finish.


edges The narrowest surfaces of a board that are approximately parallel with the grain direction. 
edge-grain wood A term applied to quarter-sawed wood, particularly softwood. (Sec quarter-sawed.)
emery A natural mineral used for coated abrasives. One of the harder natural abrasives.
ends The narrowest surfaces of a board that are approximately perpendicular with the grain direction. 
end grain A wood surface that has been cut at a 90" angle to the length of the cells, often the end of a piece of lumber. End grain absorbs finishing material to a greater degree than other wood surfaces because open-cell cavities are exposed at the surface.
epoxy A synthetic resin used in paints and varnishes. It is extremely hard and wear-resistant. It is usually used with a catalyst.
extenders Inert ingredients added to paint to improve its working characteristics. Also called "suspenders" or "fillers."
exterior protective stain Stain specifically formulated to protect exterior wood as well as color it. No additional protective top coat is needed when this type of stain is used.


faces (1)
 The four surfaces of a board that are approximately parallel to the grain.
faces (2) The two widest surfaces of a board. Also called sides. 
face, best The widest surface of a board with the least number of defects is sometimes called the best face or select face. When the meaning is clear from the context it is often simply called the face. 
ferrule The metal band that attaches the filaments to the handle of a brush.
filament A slender fibre or hair used in a brush, commonly called a bristle.
filler stick A type of wax-based wood putty in stick form. It comes in a variety of colors. Frequently used to fill nail holes after a finish has been applied.
fillet A flat section on a moulding used to separate a section of the moulding.
filling The process of packing the pores of open-grained wood with filler to create a smooth surface.
fillister A rabbet plane with a fence and depth stop.
fine setting The setting of a plane iron (blade) that will make a shallow cut.
fish eyes Small, round depressions in a finished surface. Frequently caused by contamination of the finish with silicones.
flagging Split ends at the tips of brush filaments.
flat A finished surface with no gloss.
flat-grain wood Another name for plain-sawed wood, particularly softwood. (See plain-sawed.)
flex When applied to coated abrasives, flex refers to a pattern of pre-bent lines in the backing. Flex increases the life of a coated abrasive by making it more able to withstand repeated bending.
flint A natural mineral abrasive used to make sandpaper. It is rather soft compared to synthetic abrasives.
flitch The log, or portion of log, from which veneers are cut. Also a stack of veneers all cut from the same log and laid in the order in which they are cut.
fluting A decorative moulding that is frequently used as a decoration on table legs. It has a concave half-round profile.
foam brush A brush that substitutes a single piece of sponge like plastic foam for the individual filaments of a standard brush.
fore plane A plane about 18 inches long used to surface or dress rough lumber.
French polishing The process of applying shellac with a pad in a series of steps.


 A natural mineral abrasive used as the cutting agent in coated abrasives. It is the most desirable of the natural abrasives for woodwork.
glaze A heavy-bodied stain used to give an antique look to gold leaf, bronze powder, and wood finishes. The process of applying a glaze. Also the process of spraying a darker stain around the edge of a panel, door, or drawer front.
gloss Finishes designated as gloss or high gloss dry to a smooth, shiny, reflective surface. The opposite of gloss is flat.
grain The orientation of the fibres in the wood, or a term used to describe the visible pattern of pores and growth rings on a board.
grain 2 The pattern produced by the annual rings in a piece of wood. Grain also refers to the direction of the wood fibres. For example, "sanding with the grain" means moving the sandpaper in strokes that parallel the length of the wood fibres.
graining comb A tool used to simulate the straight parallel grain typical of quarter-sawed wood. It has many closely spaced teeth similar to a hair comb.
graining stain A heavy-bodied stain used in wood graining. Several types of stains are used but they all are thick and resist flowing once it has been applied.
graining The process of applying a finish that looks like grained wood.
grinding The coarse wearing away of a softer material by the abrasive actions of a harder material.
grit Abrasive particles used in coated abrasives. The term is often used when referring to the grade (coarseness) of an abrasive.
groove a flat bottomed recess cut into the face of a board with the grain. A similar recess cut across the grain is called a dado. The distinction originated because they are cut differently from each other when using hand tools. When using power tools both a dado and a groove are cut in a similar way using a dado blade on a table saw or radial arm saw or with a router. Many woodworkers no longer make the distinction and simply call the joint a dado regardless of grain direction. 
ground coat The base coat for graining. The ground coat is colored to match the lightest color in the wood that is being imitated.
gutter plane A plane with a convex sole and iron that can be used to make large architectural mouldings such as the cove moulding.


hand scraper
 A very simple scraper that consists of a steel blade that is held in your hands.
hardwood Wood derived from broad-leafed trees. The term has no relation to the actual hardness of the wood. (See softwood. )
heartwood Wood from the center portion of the log. It is generally darker and more decay-resistant than the younger sapwood.
high spots Areas of the board that are thicker or wider than the rest of the board.
hogging off Making deep, rough cuts in wood with a plane.
hollow-ground iron A hollow-ground iron has a bevel face that is slightly concave.
hollows and rounds The simplest types of moulding planes. The hollow plane has a concave profile. The round plane has a convex profile.
honing Giving a keen edge to a plane iron.
hook Aangle The angle of the blade's cutting edge as it relates to the centerline of the blade.
horsehair A natural filament used in brushes. It is usually blended with other filaments. When the percentage of horsehair in a brush becomes too large the quality of the brush is degraded.
hot finish A finish that contains solvents that will attack other finishes. Lacquer is a hot finish. Hot finishes should not be applied over cold finishes. (See cold finish.)
hue Technical name for what is commonly simply referred to as "color."


jack plane A plane 12 to 17 inches long that is used to remove saw marks from lumber and cut down high spots.
japan colors Colored pigments mixed with a vehicle that is compatible with either oil or lacquer-based products. It comes as a thick paste that must be thinned before mixing it with other products.
japan dryer A mixture of driers and solvents that speeds up the drying process of oil-based products. Generally not recommended for addition to modern finishing products, but it is used when making your own stains.
Joinery the art of making joints.
jointer A plane 22 to 36 inches long that is designed to make an edge straight and square with the face of the board.
jointing Making an edge straight and square with the face of the board. 
Note: The distinction between joinery and jointing is confusing. Jointing is the process of making the edge of a board straight and square with the face. Joinery is the art of making joints. Use the word "join" to describe attaching two boards with a joint. For example: "Join the shelves to the carcass with dadoes." 


kerf A cut made in a board with a saw. 
knot The intersection between a limb and the trunk of a tree that shows up in sawed lumber as a round, oval, or spike shaped area that is darker and harder than the surrounding wood. A "tight knot" is firmly attached to the surrounding wood. A "loose knot" has a layer of bark between it and the surrounding wood and may eventually fall out leaving a hole in the board. The grain pattern changes sharply around a knot, making it difficult to plane.


 A tough, fast-drying finish that contains very strong solvents. Lacquer is called a "hot finish" because the solvents it contains will dissolve most other finishes. For this reason lacquer should not be applied directly on top of an old finish other than lacquer. It is usually applied by spraying, but brushing lacquers are available.
latex stain A water-based stain that behaves like oil-based pigmented stain. It should not be confused with water stain which uses transparent dyes to stain the wood.
length The dimension of a board running parallel with the grain.
lignin The natural glue that holds wood fibres together.
linseed oil Oil derived from flaxseed. The raw oil will not dry. "Boiled" linseed oil has had driers added to make it dry. 
long oil varnish Varnish that contains 40-100 gallons of oil per 100 pounds of resin. The large amount of oil makes the film tough, durable and elastic, but it is not suitable for rubbed finishes and it dries to only a moderate gloss. It is mostly used for exterior applications.


match planes
 Planes used to make tongue-and-groove joints. These planes are used in pairs. One plane cuts the tongue. The other plane cuts the groove.
medium oil varnish Varnish that contains 12-40 gallons of oil per 100 pounds of resin. Sometimes referred to as "all purpose" varnish. It is not as durable as the long oil varnishes but it dries to a harder and glossier surface. It is more flexible than the short oil varnishes.
medullary rays A specialized fluid channel found in some species of wood, most notably oak. The rays radiate from the center of the tree to the outside. In plain-sawed lumber the rays show up as short dashes dispersed uniformly over the surface. In quarter-sawed wood the rays make varied wild patterns Quarter-sawed oak that has very prominent ray patterns is sometimes called "tiger oak" because the pattern resembles the stripes of a tiger.
meglip A thickening agent used to improve the working characteristics of graining stains. The actual ingredients of the meglip vary depending on what type of stain it is added to. Traditional formulas used ingredients such as pumice, talc, whiting, cornstarch, varnish and stale beer.
mesh system A system for gauging the size of abrasive particles. The particles are sorted through wire mesh screens The higher the number the finer the abrasive. It is generally considered the most accurate system for designating the grade (coarseness) of coated abrasives.
metallic planes Planes that are made almost entirely of metal .
microbevels Small, secondary bevels at the tip of the plane iron.
mildew A fungus that feeds on oils found in paint and other finishing products. It causes discoloration of the paint
mill marks Marks left by a planer that give the surface of a board a wavy appearance.
mineral spirits Petroleum-based solvents used in oil based paints and varnishes. Paint thinner.
mitre joint A joint that is cut at an angle. When two boards meet at 90 degrees, the mitre angle is 45 degrees.
mortise-and-tenon joint A joint in which a projection called a tenon on one board fits into a pocket called a mortise in the other board.
moulding planes Planes used to make mouldings.
mouldings Decorative recessed or relieved surfaces.


 A synthetic rubber that is especially resistant to chemicals and solvents. Recommended for use in protective gloves and clothing.
ngr stain non-grain-raising stain. An aniline dye stain that uses solvents other than water to dissolve the dye. It won't raise the grain as water stain does.
non-clog sandpaper Sandpaper that has a special coating to keep material from sticking to the grit.
nylon A synthetic plastic used to make brush filaments. Nylon brushes are particularly well suited for use with water based materials.


 A moulding with an S-shaped profile.
oil colors A paste like combination of pigment and linseed oil or other oils. It is used to tint oil-based products. It should be thinned before mixing with the finish.
oiticica oil An oil similar in characteristics to tung oil. It is derived from the Brazilian Licania rigida tree.
opaque A substance that does not allow light to pass through it. In wood finishing, any finish that hides the underlying wood.
open-coat sandpaper Sandpaper that has empty space surrounding each abrasive particle, as opposed to closed-coat which has the backing surface completely covered with grit. It doesn't cut as fast as closed-coat initially, but it will last longer when used on materials that tend to clog or gum up the sandpaper.
open-grain The appearance of wood with large, visible pores that must be filled with paste filler to achieve a smooth surface. There are two types of open-grained wood: ring-porous and diffuse-porous. Ring-porous woods like oak and ash have large pores at the beginning of each annual ring. Diffuse porous wood like Philippine mahogany (lauan) have large pores evenly distributed throughout the wood.
orange peel An improperly sprayed surface with a texture that looks like the surface of an orange.
orange shellac A refined grade of shellac that still retains some of the orange like brown color of raw shellac.
overspray Small droplets of the material being applied with a spray gun that miss the intended area and land on another surface.
ovolo A rounded convex moulding.
ox hair Hair obtained from the ears of cattle. It is used alone to make striping and sign painters' brushes or blended with China bristle to make high-quality brushes.


pad applicator
 A finishing tool that consists of a foam pad covered with a piece of short-napped fabric. Originally designed for house painting, but it is well suited for other applications such as applying stain.
padding lacquer A special type of lacquer formulated to be applied with a pad similar to the kind used when French polishing. Also called spot finishing lacquer, it is mostly used to repair damaged finishes. Unlike most lacquers, it can be applied directly over many finishes.
palmetto A natural filament derived from the palmetto tree. It is sometimes used as a substitute for bristle in brushes.
panel-raising plane A plane used to make the bevelled edges of a panel. Panel-raising planes are often called fielding planes.
paraffin oil A mineral oil used as a lubricant for rubbing out a finish. Also called rubbing oil.
particle board A man-made reconstituted wood product. It is made from very small wood chips or particles bonded together with glue under heat and pressure. There are several grades. The two most common grades are underlayment and industrial. Underlayment has a slightly rough surface and is intended for use under carpet or other flooring materials. Industrial grade particleboard has a very smooth surface and is denser than underlayment. It is intended for use in furniture and as a base for plastic laminates. 
patina The condition of a wood and its finish that develops over time. Usually it is characterized by a smooth, worn surface and darkening of the wood. Also includes the build-up of waxes and oils that have been applied to wood over time and the scars and marks that are acquired through use. Denotes a genuine antique.
penetrating oil stain An oil-based stain that has oil-soluble dyes rather than pigments as an ingredient.
perilla oil A natural oil derived from the seeds of the Perilla ocymoides plant. Its properties are somewhere between tung oil and linseed oil.
phenolic A very durable synthetic resin made from phenol-formaldehyde and phenol-furfural. It is used to make finishing products that are resistant to water, chemicals and scratching.
pigmented oil stain An oil-based stain that relies on pigments for its color. Also called wiping stain.
pigments Minerals and chemicals selected for their color and ground to very fine particles.
plain-sawed Wood that has been cut so that the annual rings make an angle of less than 45" with the surface of the board. Also called flat-grain or plain-sawn.
pointer A tool used to taper the end of a dowel.
polyester brush filament Filaments manufactured from polyester resin. Well suited for use with water-based finishes.
polyester resin A synthetic resin. It is often used in two-part catalyzed finishes. It produces a tough, glossy film, but it is not as wear-resistant as epoxy.
polyethylene A synthetic resin made by polymerizing ethylene. Since it is nontoxic and odorless it is used for food related items. It is water-resistant and resists many chemicals.
polystyrene A synthetic resin made from styrene. It is used in paints and varnishes.
polyurethane One of the most widely used resins in synthetic varnish, it is also used in some paints. It can be chemically hardened by the addition of a catalyst. Oil-modified polyurethane air dries. It produces a very durable finish that is resistant to wear and abrasion, water, and weathering. It is very resistant to chemicals and it retains its gloss longer than most finishes under hard wear.
pores Small openings in the surface of a board. They result when the saw cuts open large, elongated cells (vessels) in the wood. The vessels serve as fluid channels in the living tree.
pressure-feed gun A spray gun that is designed to use the pressure of compressed air to transfer liquid from the cup to the nozzle.
primary colors Basic colors that can be mixed to form all other colors. For pigments the primary colors are red, blue, and yellow.
primer A paint that is formulated to adhere well to bare wood and also bond to the next coat. It frequently incorporates a sealer that prevents bleed-through of stains from the wood.
proprietary solvent See denatured alcohol.
psi Pounds per square inch. A way to measure the pressure of compressed air.
pumice A light volcanic glass that, in powdered form, is used for rubbing a finish. It is coarser than rottenstone.
putty A pasty compound used to fill nail holes and defects in wood.

 Wood that has been cut so that the annual rings form an angle of 45" to 90" with the surface. Also called edge-grain, vertical-grain, or quarter-sawn.
quirk The small groove that defines the edges of the bead.


rabbet joint
 A corner joint with one shoulder. It is often used to join the top of the cabinet to its sides, and to attach the back of the cabinet.
rabbet plane A plane with an iron that extends to the edge of the sole.
radius plane A plane used to round or chamfer the edges of a board.
raised grain A condition that occurs when water causes wood fibres to swell so that some stand above the surface of the board.
rake angle The angle formed between the top of the cutting edge and a line perpendicular to the work surface.
rank setting The setting of a plane iron (blade) that will a make a heavy cut.
ray marker A woodgraining tool used to imitate the dash shaped marks made by medullary rays in plain-sawed oak. Consists of a number of small wheels that have short dashes embossed on their edges.
red sable A natural brush filament obtained from Siberian mink and used for lettering or artists' brushes.
reed A series of beads cut side by side.
resawing The process of cutting a board into two or more thinner pieces. 
rejuvenator Any of various products that are used to restore the appearance of an old finish.
resin A synthetic or natural chemical that dries to a hard impervious film.
ripping The process of cutting a board approximately parallel to the grain. 
rotary-cut Wood that is cut by rotating a log against a fixed knife to produce a continuous sheet. Most veneer and fir plywood is produced in this manner. Oak and birch plywood also frequently use rotary-cut veneers.
rottenstone A natural abrasive made from powdered limestone. It is finer than pumice and is often used in a second step when rubbing out a finish.
rounder A tool used to make dowels or round stock.
router plane A plane used to smooth the bottom of a recess, which is a cut indentation in a piece of wood.
rubbing compound A commercially prepared mixture of abrasive powder and lubricant that is used for a final rubbing of a finished surface.
runs A defect that occurs when too much finishing material is applied to a vertical surface.


safflower oil
 A natural oil sometimes used in paint. It is derived from the safflower plant.
sandpaper A coated abrasive with a paper backing. Originally the term applied only to flint paper, but now is applied to any type of abrasive paper.
sapwood The new wood near the outside of a tree. Generally lighter in color and more prone to decay than heartwood which is in the center of a log.
sash planes A special moulding plane used to make windows .
satin A term used to describe a finish that is not as dull as a flat finish, but does not have a high gloss.
scraper A tool used for the final smoothing of wood.
scratch stock A scraping tool used to cut mouldings.
scrub plane A short jack plane generally used to rough-out wood close to its final dimensions and to remove large bumps and warps in the board.
sealer A finishing material used to seal the pores of bare wood. Also, a coat used between two incompatible products or a type of primer that prevents bleeding.
shading stain A lacquer-based product that contains dyes or pigments to color it. It is a semi-transparent surface coating that does not penetrate into the wood. Used extensively on mass-produced furniture.
sharpening angle The angle that you hold the blade at while you hone it on a whetstone.
shellac A finishing material made from lac. Lac is a natural resin produced by small insects. See button shellac, orange shellac, blond shellac, and white shellac. 
shooting boards Boards with straight, true edges that are used to guide the plane.
short oil varnish Varnish that contains 5-12 gallons of oil per 100 pounds of resin. The high percentage of resin makes the dry film very hard and glossy, but it is not as elastic or durable as varnish that contains more oil. Short oil varnishes are used when a rubbed finish is desired. Also called piano varnish, rubbing varnish, or polishing varnish.
shoulder The part of the joint that is cut 90 degrees to the face or edge of the board. A joint only has a shoulder when that part of the board that fits into a joint must be thinner or narrower than the rest of the board.
sides The two widest surfaces of a board, also called faces.
silex filler (paste filler) A product made by mixing boiled linseed oil with powdered silex and driers. Used to fill the pores of open-grained wood. Usually comes as a paste that must be thinned before use. Silex is a natural mineral. It is a form of silica derived from quartz.
silicon carbide One of the hardest synthetic abrasives used for wood finishing. It is produced in an electric furnace by combining silicon and carbon. Its chemical formula is SIC. Its most common use in wood finishing is in wet-or-dry sandpaper.
siphon-feed gun A spray gun that uses atmospheric pressure to deliver liquid from the cup to the nozzle.
skew To set something at an angle.
slipstone A small whetstone that is rounded or tapered.
smooth plane A plane 9 or 10 inches long used to smooth the surface of a board,
softwood Wood produced by trees that have needles rather than broad leaves. The term has no relation to the actual hardness of the wood.
solvent A liquid used to dissolve other substances. Sometimes it also refers to a liquid used to hold small particles such as pigments in suspension without actually dissolving them. The solvents of finishing products usually evaporate leaving only the other ingredients to form the final film. Popular solvents for wood finishing products are: turpentine, mineral spirits, naphtha, benzine, alcohol, acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, and toluene. While it is usually not thought of as such, water is actually a solvent.
soybean oil Also called soya oil. It has properties similar to linseed oil and is often used in paint.
spirit stain A wood stain that uses alcohol for its solvent.
spiriting off The final step in French polishing. A clean pad dampened with alcohol is used to remove the lubricating oil from the finished surface.
spokeshave A tool, originally used to smooth wooden wheel spokes, that is very useful today for smoothing the sculpted shapes of modern furniture.
spontaneous combustion Self-ignition resulting from chemical reaction. When oily rags are piled together and there is no air circulation the oxidizing oils will generate enough heat to cause the rags to burn without any external ignition source.
sprung plane A plane that can be held at an angle of 15 to 30 degrees.
square (1) The state of being at a 90 degree angle. For example the edge of a board is square if it forms a 90 degree angle with the face. 
square (2) The process of making something conform to a 90 degree angle. For example when you square a carcass, you adjust it until the corners form 90 degree angles. 
square (3) A tool used to mark and check for a 90 degree angle. The three most common types used in woodworking are the framing square (a large tool with two arms made of a single flat piece of steel, the longer arm is called the blade, the shorter arm is called the tongue), the try square (a small tool with a fixed stock or handle and a blade), and the combination square (also called a machinist's square, it has a stock that can be moved along the blade. It can also mark 45 degree angles and may include a small spirit level).
square (4) A unit of measure equal to 100 square feet. Usually used to refer to roofing material. 
stain Any of several products used to artificially color wood. Stains may have dyes, pigments or chemicals that produce the color. Stains may either penetrate into the wood, form a film on the surface or react chemically with substances in the wood.
stick The board that the moulding is cut into.
sticking or striking The process of cutting mouldings.
stopped A cut or joint that ends before the edge or end of a board. For example, a stopped dado ends before the front edge of the board. 
stripper Any product that uses chemicals or solvents to soften an old finish for removal. Paint stripper.
stropping A process sometimes used when sharpening a plane blade in which a piece of leather that is impregnated with a fine abrasive is used to make the cutting edge very sharp.
sunflower oil A natural oil with properties similar to linseed oil.
sword striper A brush with very long flexible filaments that is used for pin-striping and freehand graining.
synthetic varnish Varnish that uses man-made resins in place of natural resins.


tack rag A piece of cheesecloth that has been treated so that it attracts dust.
tampico A natural filament derived from plants in the cactus family. It is resistant to chemicals and is used primarily in brushes used to apply chemical stains.
tannin An acid found in wood. It forms different-colored compounds when it reacts with certain chemicals. Most chemical stains depend on a reaction with the tannin in wood.
taperA gradual angle cut on one or more faces of a board. For example, table legs often have a taper cut on the two inside faces. 
tear-out A condition that occurs when the grain of a board changes direction and the plane blade starts to chip the wood.
temper The correct heat treatment of a tool's metal, to make it stay sharp longer.
tinting colors Pigments suspended in any of several liquids. They are used to tint or color finishing products.
tongue-and-groove joint A two-part joint in which a projection on one board called a tongue fits into a groove on the other board.
traditional planes Planes with a wood body and a blade held in place with a wood wedge.
transitional planes Planes that have wood bodies, but have metal working parts that are used to secure and adjust the plane.
trying planes Planes 20 to 24 inches long used to flatten the surface of a board and remove the marks left by the jack on the fore plane.
tung oil A natural oil derived from the seeds of the Chinese tung tree. It is used by itself or mixed with other oils to make penetrating oil finishes. It is also used in many paints and varnishes. It dries faster and harder than linseed oil. Also called China wood oil, China nut oil, or nut oil. It is manufactured in South America.
tuning The process of adjusting all of the working parts of a plane to their optimum positions and removing all imperfections in the casting left from the manufacturing process.
turning A piece of wood that has been shaped on a lathe.
turpentine (spirits of turpentine) A solvent used in oil-based finishes. It is distilled from the gum of pine trees. Because it is more expensive than other solvents like mineral spirits, turpentine is not included in most modern formulas. It is still regarded as the ideal thinner for products containing linseed oil because it increases brushability and flowing characteristics and because it aids in the drying process by conveying oxygen to the oil.
twist A distortion in a board that results in the ends of a board not being parallel. When the face of a twisted board is placed on a flat surface, one corner of the board will be lifted off the surface. 


universal plane
 Any plane that can be used with cutters of different sizes.
universal tinting colors Tinting colors that are compatible with oil- or water-based products. Their liquid consistency makes them easier to mix than the paste-type tinting colors. Even though they are called universal, they may not be compatible with some lacquers, epoxies, or catalyzed finishes. Check for compatibility before using with these products.


 The lightness or darkness of a color. Adding white lightens a color's value, while adding black darkens its value.
varnish A transparent finish made with natural or synthetic resins and oils. They harden by combining with oxygen and are more resistant to water and alcohol than shellac.
varnish stain A colored varnish that stains and varnishes the surface in one step.
vegetable stain Stain that derives its color from natural plant dyes instead of chemical dyes or pigments.
vehicle The liquid part of a finish. It consists of the solvents, oils, and resins.
veneer A thin sheet of wood. Face veneers are usually made from expensive wood species and applied over cheaper wood's core Veneers are made from inexpensive woods like fir and are used for the inner plies in plywood. Veneers may be produced by rotary process, slicing or sawing.
vertical-grain lumber Another name for quarter-sawed lumber.
vinyl A general name for several synthetic resins including polyvinyl acetate, polyvinyl chloride, and polyvinyl butyral. The dry film of most vinyls is colorless, tasteless, odorless, nontoxic, abrasion resistant, chemical resistant, weather resistant and flexible.


Warp Any distortion in the shape of a board caused by changes in the moisture content of the wood. (See: bow, crook, cup, and twist)
water stain A clear, permanent aniline dye stain that uses water as its solvent. It will raise the grain of the wood because it uses water.
water-emulsion varnish Commonly called latex varnish, it is a water-based product that produces a varnish-like finish. The resins are emulsified in water much like they are in latex paint.
wax A fatty substance that may be animal, vegetable, or mineral in its origin. Beeswax is obtained from honeycombs. Paraffin wax is a petroleum product. Carnauba wax is from the Brazilian wax palm, and ceresin is a synthetic wax. Wax is used to polish and protect a finish. Some antique finishes use wax as the only protective coat.
wet-or-dry sandpaper Sandpaper that uses waterproof glue to attach the abrasive particles to a water-resistant paper backing.
whetstones Abrasive stones used to sharpen edge tools.
white shellac The most highly refined grade of shellac. It is bleached to remove all of the orange cast of the raw shellac.
whitewood Wood that has not yet been finished. Even if the natural color of the wood is quite dark it is called whitewood in this respect. wood putty A doughy product used to fill nail holes and defects in wood.
wrinkles A finishing defect that occurs when the underlying finish dries more slowly than the top surface. This causes the top surface to have a wrinkled texture.

york pitch 
A reference to a blade bedded at a high 50- degree angle.

Copyright Sam Allen 1998-2013

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