30 Basic Woodworking Terminologies You Should Know

30 Basic Woodworking Terminologies You Should Know

Woodworking is a craft that’s rich in tradition and skill, and like any specialized field, it has its own language.

So, whether you’re a beginner or just looking to brush up on your terminology, understanding basic woodworking terms is key to navigating the craft. Here, we’ll explore 30 fundamental woodworking terms that will help you on your journey into the world of woodcraft.


A bevel refers to any angle on wood that is not a right angle, usually cut at a 45-degree angle. Bevel cuts are made using a bevel tool or by adjusting the angle of a saw blade. They are commonly used for edge joining, decorative purposes, and in creating miter joints.


A chisel is a hand tool with a sharp, straight edge at its end, used for carving or cutting wood, stone, or metal. It comes in various shapes and sizes and is often struck with a mallet or hammer for precise material removal.

This tool is essential for detailed woodworking tasks like mortising and joinery.


A crosscut is a type of cut that goes perpendicular to the wood grain. This kind of cut is typically made with a crosscut saw or a miter saw. Crosscutting is crucial for cutting wood to length and is one of the fundamental types of cuts in woodworking.

Dovetail Joint

A dovetail joint is a strong, intricate woodworking joint known for its resistance to being pulled apart. It involves interlocking trapezoidal shapes called “tails” and “pins.”

Dovetail joints are commonly used in drawer construction and fine cabinetry due to their strength and aesthetic appeal.


Grain refers to the direction, texture, and pattern of the fibers in wood. Understanding wood grain is vital for effective cutting, carving, and finishing, as it affects the wood’s strength and response to tools.

Working with the grain reduces the chances of tearing or splitting the wood.

Hardwood and Softwood

Hardwoods, which are derived from deciduous trees like oak and maple, are typically denser and more durable.

On the other hand, softwoods are derived from coniferous trees like pine and cedar, and they are generally lighter and easier to work with. This classification affects the wood’s properties, usage, and how it’s worked on.


A jigsaw is a versatile power tool equipped with a fine-toothed blade, ideal for cutting irregular curves and shapes in wood, metal, or plastic. It’s particularly useful for interior cutouts and intricate patterns that other saws cannot achieve.


In woodworking, a joint refers to the connection where two pieces of wood are attached. The strength, durability, and appearance of the finished product often depend on the type of joint used, ranging from simple butt joints to complex dovetails.


Kerf is the term for the width of the cut made by a saw blade. It represents the amount of material removed by the saw and varies depending on the thickness and type of the blade.

Understanding kerf is crucial for precision in joinery and cutting operations.


Lumber is the raw wood material used for construction and woodworking. It comes in two types: rough-sawn, with a rough texture, and surfaced, which is planed and smoothed. The size, quality, and type of lumber impact the final product.

MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard)

MDF is an engineered wood product formed by breaking down hardwood or softwood residuals into fibers. These fibers are combined with wax and resin and pressed under heat to form dense, smooth panels.

MDF is widely used for cabinetry and furniture due to its uniformity and ease of machining.

Miter Joint

A miter joint is formed by beveling two parts at an angle (usually 45 degrees) so that they fit together to form a corner, typically a right angle.

This joint is common in picture frames, door and window trims, and various decorative works.

Mortise-and-Tenon Joint

This classic joint involves a protruding tenon on one piece that fits into a mortise hole in the other. Renowned for its strength and simplicity, the mortise-and-tenon joint is a fundamental technique in woodworking, used in furniture, cabinetry, and structural joinery.


A planer is a woodworking tool used to create a uniformly flat surface along the length of a board. It trims wood to a consistent thickness and smooths rough surfaces. Both hand planers and electric planers are widely used in woodworking.


Plywood is an engineered wood product made by gluing together several thin layers, or plies, of wood veneer. Each layer’s grain is rotated up to 90 degrees to its adjacent layer, adding strength and reducing shrinkage.

Plywood is used in a wide range of applications, from furniture to house construction.


A rabbet is a recess or groove cut into the edge or end of a piece of wood, often used to form a joint with another piece. Rabbets are commonly used in cabinet making, joining panels, as well as window and door construction.

Rip Cut

A rip cut is a type of cut that goes along with the grain of the wood. It is primarily used to reduce the width of a board. This cut requires a different saw blade design than crosscutting for efficiency and smoothness.


A router is a powerful tool in woodworking used for hollowing out areas in the face of a wood piece.

Routers are versatile and can be used for cutting grooves, shaping edges, and creating intricate patterns in wood.


A sander is a power tool used for smoothing surfaces by abrasion with sandpaper. Sanders come in various forms, including belt sanders, orbital sanders, and random-orbit sanders, each suited for different types of sanding tasks.


A sawhorse is a supportive frame, often made of wood or metal, used to support material such as lumber during cutting. It consists of a beam with four legs and is an essential tool for providing a stable work surface in many woodworking projects.

Scroll Saw

A scroll saw is a small, electrically powered saw used to cut intricate curves and designs in wood, metal, or other materials.

Its fine blade allows for precise, detailed cuts, making it ideal for decorative woodworking, inlay work, and crafting intricate patterns.

Table Saw

A table saw is a crucial tool in woodworking, consisting of a circular saw blade mounted on an arbor and powered by an electric motor. It is used for making straight cuts and can be adjusted for different angles and depths, making it versatile for various cutting tasks.


A tenon is the projecting end of a piece of wood designed to be inserted into a corresponding mortise hole to form a mortise-and-tenon joint. This technique is widely used in woodworking for creating strong, interlocking joints.


Veneer refers to thin slices of wood, typically less than 3 mm thick, that are glued onto core panels like MDF or particleboard.

Veneers are used in furniture making and cabinetry to provide an attractive surface appearance while using less solid wood.

Wood Glue

Wood glue is a type of adhesive specifically formulated for bonding wood. It is used in nearly all woodworking projects to create strong, durable bonds between wooden parts.

There are various types of wood glue, including PVA glue, epoxy, and polyurethane glue, each with different properties and uses.


A workbench is a sturdy table used for manual work in woodworking. It provides a stable surface for sawing, drilling, and assembling projects. Workbenches vary greatly in design and complexity, with some featuring clamps, vises, and tool storage.


An X-brace is a support structure in the shape of an X used to provide strength and stability to woodworking projects and furniture. It is particularly useful in reinforcing bookshelves, tables, and chairs.


A yardstick is a long, flat tool, usually one yard long, used in woodworking and building for measuring lengths. It is a basic yet essential tool for ensuring accuracy in measuring and cutting materials.

Zero Clearance Insert

A zero clearance insert is a type of table saw insert where the opening around the blade is very close to the blade itself. This minimizes the size of the gap, preventing thin materials from slipping into the saw, and supports the wood fibers, reducing tear-out.

Zyliss Vise

A Zyliss Vise is a versatile clamping tool that can adjust to hold a variety of shapes and sizes securely.

It is particularly useful in woodworking for holding workpieces steady during cutting, drilling, or finishing.