Understanding Basic Woodworking Terms

If you’ve got a lot of experience with woodworking, then all of the technical terms aren’t much of a mystery. But, if you’re an amateur that just loves doing woodwork as a hobby or likes doing your own home repairs, some of the terms used can be pretty confusing.

By knowing what each term means, you can get a better visualized idea of what the process includes. And, having some idea of what the outcome is suppose to be can mean the difference between a successful project and one that ends up in the scrap pile!

If the project plans includes a mitered joint, it simply means that the two ends are cut a different angles so that they will fit together without any gap being left. A perfectly square corner has a 90* angle, to achieve this you would just cut each end at a 45* angle, when placed together they will create the perfect corner!

Professional carpenters or do it yourself carpenters that work with miters a lot usually have a miter saw. But, for most people that just do woodworking as a hobby or hobbyists or do small home repairs, a miter box generally does the job. A miter box is a small jig that the wood fits into, the sides are pre-cut with guides, you insert the hand saw into the guide to cut the wood and there’s no guess work!

A crosscut is just like the name implies, it’s a cut that goes across the grain of the board. There’s slightly more resistance when cutting against the grain of the wood, but saw blades with larger teeth can make it a snap. A rip cut is just the opposite of a crosscut, it’s when you cut the wood in the direction that the woods grain is going.

If you need to plane a piece of wood, you just need to remove some layers to make it thinner. There are various types of wood planes, but the most common is a hand plane. The plane will have a small handle to hold while you slide it across the wood, an attached blade shaves layers off the wood.

One place that planing comes in handy is around doors or windows. Often, over time your homes foundation may shift, or moisture may cause the wood frames around doors or windows to swell. The result is a window or door that doesn’t close properly. Instead of replacing the entire frame piece, you simply shave some of the wood off so that it’s flush again.

If you have a lot of planing projects, you may want to consider purchasing an electric plane. They come in all different sizes, from smaller ones that you can carry around like a drill, to sizes that are not portable. Electric planes are mainly used when you need to reduce the thickness on large areas of wood.

An electric plane can be very handy if you already have a lot of wood that is too thick for the project you want to do. And, the new trend is to make furniture and wood accessories out of vintage boards. Most older wood wasn’t always cut in perfect sizes, the thickness can vary just enough that when they’re put together the surface isn’t completely flat.

You may rarely run across a project that requires a mortise, but when you do you, you’re probably going wonder what it means. The most common places that you find a mortise is on doors. A mortise is an area of the wood that is removed so that another item can sit in the wood and be flush with the woods surface, such as the area where a hinge attaches to a door frame.

You can make a mortise with a sharp utility knife or a wood chisel. The surface should be as smooth as possible, but it doesn’t even have to be perfectly smooth since the hinge will cover it. If you enjoy making hope chests, cabinets or even jewelry boxes, you’ll need to make mortises quite often.