Glossary of Woodturning Terms
Thank you to Brian Clifford (www.turningtools.co.uk) for the original material and permission to make minor edits and additions to suit local jargon. Thanks also to John D. Williams (www.woodisfun.ca) for the initial “Canadianization” of the material. This glossary would have been far less comprehensive without their contribution.
Not possessing the same properties in all directions (the opposite of isotropic). Because of its fibrous structure wood is anisotropic.
Mounted on bearings within the headstock, the arbour is driven by the motor. The arbour is usually hollow with both a Morse taper and threads for attaching a drive spur, faceplate, chuck or other means of mounting the workpiece.
The inner bark. The carbohydrates, formed in the leaves by photosynthesis, flow down through the cells in the bast to feed the life processes of the tree. (Also known as phloem).
A means of supporting a long thin spindle to help to stop flexing in workpiece. Also referred to simply a “steady rest”.
The part on the lathe which slides along the bed and supports the tool rest.
A rounded raised portion running around a spindle turning.
A small chisel (often square in section) used to form a bead.
The horizontal part of the lathe which connects the headstock and tailstock.
Chisel shaped lathe tool used for spindle turning in a similar way to a skew.
The part of the tool which is ground to form the cutting edge.
Numerous small areas on the surface of the wood in which the fibers are distorted around captive buds so as to produce elliptical forms somewhat similar to bird’s eyes. Found in maple and sycamore, rare but does occur in other species.
The blank is the form the piece of wood takes when it has been prepared for turning. Typically this will be a round disc for a bowl or a similar face turning, or a relatively slender ‘square’ sectioned pieced for turning between centers.
A gouge with a deep flute and heavy cross-section. Its primary function is for face turning but it can also be used for spindle turning. It can be ground with a 40°- 60° bevel angle for use in various applications.
A rare tool (sometimes known as a bruzz or a buzz) which has a ‘V’ section. A turner’s bruzze has the bevels ground on the outside, whereas a carpenter’s bruzze is ground on the inside.
A workpiece which is made by gluing together two or more pieces of wood. See laminated work.
The Canadian and American term for a growth on a tree which in Britain is called a burr. See also: burr (1)
Polishing by friction. In woodturning this is usually carried out by holding a handful of shavings against the revolving workpiece. The shavings should come from the work being burnished.
Raising a “hook” on a cabinet scraper or turning scraper to produce a fine edge [see Burr (2)] for shearing rather than scraping the wood. This is done with a burnishing tool, usually a round rod, harder than the scraper. This process is sometimes referred to as ticketing and thus the tool, a ticketer.
English term for burl. A large wart-like growth which may have twigs sprouting from it, found on the trunk of a tree. Internally the wood tissue is very confused and usually contains numerous dormant bud formations. The wood cut from a burr usually shows very attractive figure and is very highly prized by turners.
A fine, upstanding strip of metal (sometimes called a wire edge) left on the edge of a tool after grinding or the use of a burnishing tool. This can be honed off but many turners make use of the burr on a scraper to produce a very fine finishing cut. Alternately, a burr can be intentionally raised using a burnishing tool. See Burnishing Tool.
A measuring tool consisting of two curved arms connected at one end by a hinged type joint, typically used for measuring diameters. In their simplest, traditional, form they can be used for both inside and outside measurements. In their modern form the hinge is sprung and the arms are connected midway by an adjustable screw. In this form inside and outside calipers are separate devices.
A thin layer of specialized cells which lies between the inner bark and the sapwood. It is here that the growth of the tree takes place. New sapwood cells are formed on the inner side of the cambium, and new bark is formed on its outer side.
The parts in immediate contact with the workpiece when it is held in the lathe by both ends. Hence the expression ‘turning between centers’. See also: cone center, dead center, drive center, live center and ring center.
The force with which a body revolving around a center tends to fly away from that center. The force which causes pieces to fly off when work is revolving on a lathe.
A crack or split in the wood
Usually required two laminations. Stripes cut then re-glued to form checks. See also laminated work.
A woodturning tool with either a square or a rectangular cross-section. See also skew chisel and square nose chisel.
A device which holds the workpiece on the lathe. A chuck can take many different forms. See, for example, cup chuck, collet chuck, precision combination chuck, screw chuck, Pin chuck and scroll chuck.
A chuck used for a specific size of round stock material. Collet chucks often come in sets for a range of sizes.
A live or a dead center with a cone shaped point in the tailstock used to support the workpiece. See also centers.
A concave cut, elliptical in shape, encircling the workpiece. The cut is made with a gouge. See also, Groove.
Wood which lies immediately below the fork of a tree. When this wood is sawn lengthways (i.e. parallel to the pith) it can produce exceptionally beautiful, fan shape, figure. Because of its beauty crotch figures is greatly prized.
A chuck with a deep recess into which a spigot on the workpiece can be driven.
A split formed by the separation of the wood fibers around a growth ring.
A cone center which does not revolve with the work. See also centers.
Deep Fluted Gouge
See bowl gouge
See index plate
This is attached to the arbour in the headstock by either a Morse taper or a thread. It both supports the wood and transmits the drive to it. Usually it has either two prongs or four prongs which are driven into the workpiece. See also centers.
A circular recess with an undercut edge cut in a workpiece to accept the jaws of a chuck in an internal expanding mode.
A split on the end grain of a board.
End Grain Turning
Turning in the end of a workpiece which has the grain running parallel with the axis of the lathe, the other end of which is held by a screw, or other type of chuck.
Imported wood of a type not indigenous to the local area.
Circular plate held on the headstock spindle to which the workpiece is attached by screws.
Turning workpiece held on a faceplate, or a chuck when the grain of the wood runs at right angles to the axis of the lathe.
A piece of waste wood glued to the work to hold the work on a faceplate. This avoids having screw holes in the work itself. Sometimes referred to as a waste block.
Figure which is produced by wavy grain when quarter sawn. It appears as a rippled effect on the surface, e.g. ripple maple/sycamore. The term has come into use because such wood with this figure has traditionally been used for the backs of violins.
The pattern on the surface of the wood caused by the combination of such features as grain, growth, rings, rays, tissue structure, colour, knots, burl, and sometimes defects.
Used to fill the grain when a smooth finish is required. It is applied after the primary sanding operation. The work may be sanded again after the application of the filler and before the final polishing.
The application of filler.
The shape of the ground end of a spindle gouge.
The final treatment of the work after the tool-work has been complete, e.g. sanding, filling and polishing.
Fluted Parting Tool
A tool with a wedge shaped section which has a flute on the wider of the two edges.
Forstner bits are similar to sawtooth bits. They are guided by their circular rims. Some do not have a center point. As a consequence they cut flat bottomed holes which can overlap each other or the edge of a board. They do not cut as well as a sawtooth bit in end grain.
Wood of unknown species
Four Jaw Chuck
A self-centering chuck similar to the engineering type but with four jaws instead of three. These chucks are often known as scroll chucks because of the internal spiral grooves which move the jaws.
In mathematics and the arts, two quantities are in the Golden Ratio (Golden Mean) if the ratio of the sum of the quantities to the larger quantity is equal to the ratio of the larger quantity to the smaller quantity. This ratio is constant and approximately 1.6 to1. It is often represented by the Greek letter Phi (Φ). The appearance of an object is thought to be more visually pleasing if its proportions conform to the Golden Mean.
A cutting tool with a ‘U’ shaped cross-section used with the bevel rubbing the work. There are three main types: the roughing gouge, the spindle gouge and the bowl gouge. A roughing gouge is used solely when spindle turning. For the latter two of these, some turners prefer the terms shallow fluted gouge and deep fluted gouge respectively. The reason for this is that for various reasons, bowl gouges can be used for spindle turning and spindle gouges can be used on face work.
The alignment of the cells relative to the long axis of the tree.
A concave cut, circular in shape, encircling the workpiece. The cut is made with a gouge. See also, Cove.
Each of these rings is the result of one year’s growth. The rings are often easy to distinguish because the wood produced in the later part of the year is darker than that produced when the sap rising in the spring.
The assembly fixed on the left-hand end of the bed of the lathe which provides the drive for the workpiece.
A split running radially away from the pith.
The fully developed wood which surrounds the pith. It is often darker in colour and harder than the sapwood which surrounds it. The cells in the heartwood are dead and have ceased to transport sap.
High Speed Steel (H.S.S.)
High speed steel; this is about 6 times harder than carbon steel and less prone to the negative affects of heat. Its hardness is derived from the various combinations of alloys rather than hardening through the use of heat, as is carbon steel.
A face-turned vessel with a significantly smaller opening diameter in relation to the major diameter of the form.
To sharpen a tool by hand on a stone.
An interior split, or group of splits, in a block of wood – usually only found in larger sections. Probably due to over-quick drying. Unfortunately, often not discovered until work is in progress.
See Sizing tool
See high speed steel
Face turning which is carried out over the bed of the lathe, i.e. on the right-hand of the headstock.
A plate used to lock the drive-shaft into a series of pre-set angular positions. The plate is sometimes built into the lathe and sometimes is a separate attachment used for specific jobs.
Originally a proprietary name for a type of drill chuck which can also be held in the headstock or tailstock of a lathe. When designed for use in a headstock, the taper will have a threaded hole for a draw bolt to secure it in place. It can be used to hold a small workpiece instead of a drill.
A workpiece constructed from glued-up blocks. It should be allowed to dry thoroughly after gluing and then turned with sharp tools at a slow speed because centrifugal force can cause the pieces to separate. See Segmented turning.
A machine tool which spins a block to perform various operations such as cutting, sanding or drilling with tools that are applied to the workpiece to create an object that has symmetry around the axis of rotation.
A center in the tailstock which revolves with the work. See also centers.
A means of holding a workpiece (or workpieces) by use of a rod of wood or metal running through a central hole, as for toy wheels and napkin rings.
See moisture content
Medium density fiber board – a man made material used as an alternative to wood.
Bundles of cells which run radially between the pith to the cambium layer. They are a feature found in hardwoods only. They are more easily seen in some woods, such as oak, than others. The tree uses these cells for the storage of nutrients
The weight of the water in a sample of wood expressed as a percentage of the weight of that sample when it is completely dry. Often abbreviated to the M.C. of wood.
An electrical instrument for determining the moisture content (MC) of wood. There are two types of meter. One type measures the electrical resistance of the wood, the other measures the dielectric property of the wood.
A standard taper on a drill chuck or lathe drive center which enables the device to be removed from, or attached to, the relevant machine quickly and easily. Sizes typically found on wood lathes range from #1 to #3. The taper is approximately 1 degree but is different for each number. Abbreviated to M.T. When used without an axial load (as in a headstock alone, without using the tailstock), a draw bolt must be used to keep it in place.
See Morse taper
The lip of a bowl or a goblet which shows the outside of the tree – often with the bark in place.
An elongated “S” shaped curve.
Face turning which is carried out on an extension of the drive-shaft (arbour) on the left-hand side of the headstock, i.e. the opposite side to the bed. Relative to the turner, the workpiece will revolve in the opposite direction as compared with turning over the bed; as a consequence the drive spindle and attachments, such as a faceplate, require reverse or left-hand threads. Occasionally lathes are equipped with right hand threads on both ends. In such cases there is a groove behind the threads for accepting a locking set screw to secure the workholding device.
For parting off, i.e. cutting off the waste, or dividing the workpiece into sections.
See Golden Mean.
A chuck with a wooden or, more usually, a metal pin which is inserted into a hole drilled in the workpiece. The work is secured by a second, smaller pin on a flat milled in the larger pin that jams the workpiece.
The narrow channel in the innermost part of the tree, its trunk, stems, each branch and twig.
Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)
A pharmaceutical product which is sometimes used by wood workers to stabilize unseasoned wood. It is available in several grades – PEG 1000 is the grade used by wood workers. When seasoned wood is submerged in a solution of PEG 10000 the PEG is drawn into the wood by the process of osmosis and replaces the water. Given sufficient time the PEG will replace all the water in the wood. After the wood is removed from the solution the PEG will set in the pores to prevent shrinking cracking and distortion.
Precision Combination Chuck
A popular proprietary chuck with attachments which can perform many of the functions performed by the chucks listed here. It works on the basis of expanding or contracting collets. Nowadays, scroll chucks are preferred.
A section of the workpiece in spindle turning which is left square, e.g.; when turning legs for chairs or tables.
See tool rest.
A live or a dead center in the tailstock which has a small point set in the middle of a ring. The point locates the center while the ring bears on the surface of the workpiece thus limiting the penetration of the wood. This helps to prevent splitting and is particularly useful for built-up or split turnings. See also centers.
See cup shake
Used in spindle turning for reducing square stock to round section. It has a semicircular section and is ground square across. The bevel angle should be around 35° to 45°. A roughing gouge is for spindle work and should not be used for face turning, e.g. on bowls.
Figure found in wood which has wavy grain, e.g. ripple sycamore. See also fiddleback.
Rose Engine Lathe
A lathe that incorporates an action that imparts rotational and lateral motion to the workpiece. Cutting is done with slide-mounted rotating cutters of various shapes rather than traditional hand-held, single-edged tools. By using various combinations of cams to impart the lateral motion to the workpiece, round or various shapes other than round as well as decorative embellishments can be achieved in the finished piece.
There are two possible meanings for this expression.
- The reduction of a square piece of wood to a round section. This is done with a roughing gouge.
- The preliminary work on turning a bowl. A bowl gouge is used for both rough and finish turning of a bowl.
This surrounds the heartwood. It transports the sap from the roots to the leaves.
When a log is converted to boards it may be cut in a number of ways. The three terms most commonly encountered are:
When back sawn the log is converted in such a way as to provide the maximum number of cuts tangential to the growth rings.
When quarter sawn, the log is converted in such a way as to provide the maximum number of cuts radial to the center of the log. Quarter sawn wood is usually more stable, i.e. less prone to warping, shrinking and splitting, than that produced by other cuts. Often, it also has a more attractive figure because of the oblique way in which the medullary rays are cut, particularly in oak, sapele, London plane and sycamore (fiddleback).
- Through and through (or live sawn).
Through and through (often abbreviated to T & T of T/T) refers to boards produced by simply sawing through the log in a series of parallel slices. A log sawn this way will produce some back sawn boards, some quarter sawn boards and some in between
Sawtooth Machine Bit
A special type of bit only used for drilling wood. It makes a hole with a flat bottom except for a small center mark. Sawtooth bits will cut end grain and cross grain.
(Lathe) tools which are designed to scrape the surface. Scraper tools are available with a number of different plan shapes, such as round nose, V-tip and squared off.
Scraping cuts on the lathe are specific cuts where the bevel of the tool is held clear of the wood.
A chuck with a single screw fixed in the center to which the workpiece can be attached.
A four-jaw chuck, now very popular amongst woodturners. So named because the teeth on the back side of the jaws engage in a raised spiral (i.e. scroll) on the back-plate. Movement of the back-plate causes the jaws to move in or out in unison.
The first step in the finishing process. A sealer is applied to the bare wood to act as a barrier to the ingress of moisture and dirt. It also serves as a grain filler and as a base for further finishing coats.
Drying green wood to a serviceable level of humidity.
- Air dried: dried by exposure to the air without the use of artificial heat,
- Kiln dried: dried in a kiln (or oven) with the aid of artificial heat
Work typically made up of a series of built up rings. Each ring is constructed of multiple pieces of wood each cut the same to complete the 360° circle. See laminated work.
Shallow Fluted Gouge
See spindle gouge
This type of cut occurs when the cutting edge is presented to the workpiece at an angle other than 90°. Also called a “slicing cut”.
Using a tool in a scraping mode (the bevel not in contact with the workpiece) with one edge tilted off the tool rest at an angle to the workpiece.
Shell Auger Bit
Used for drilling long holes on lathes, e.g. in electric lamp stands.
Sizing Tool (or Hook Gate)
A hook shaped attachment to a square parting tool which enables the workpiece to be sized to a pre-set dimension. This is particularly useful when an operation of this sort has to be performed repeatedly.
A chisel on which the cutting edge is not square to the sides of the tool.
Wood which is in the first stages of fungal decay, i.e. rot. Very often it is indicated by irregular dark, or black, lines which run through the material. It is most common in hard woods. The fungi require damp conditions in which to grow; when the wood is dried (below about 20% MC) the fungi die and the process ceases.
A parallel projection on the end of a workpiece which is made to fit into a recess of some kind, e.g. a socket in a chair seat or in a spigot chuck.
See cup chuck.
Used for shaping spindle work, e.g. for turning beads and coves. It has a cross section with a shallow arc; so is sometimes referred to as a shallow fluted gouge. The cutting edge is usually ground to a finger nail shape with a 30° – 40° bevel angle.
A longitudinal fissure in the wood. Terminology may vary from place to place but there can be said to be two types of splits: namely,
- Shakes. Shakes can occur in three main ways:
Checks. Checks occur after conversion of the log and are due to shrinkage while the material is drying.
- in the living tree, possibly due to wind stress;
- at the time of felling, due to impact; and
- shrinkage in the log before conversion.
See also: cup shake, heart shake, star shake, end check, surface check, through check and honeycomb.
A technique used where two identical semicircular items are required. One method is to make a complete turning from solid stock and then saw the piece in half. A better way is to glue two pieces of stock together with a leaf of paper in the joint and then make the turning. When the turning is complete the paper allows the pieces to be separated.
A drill bit with a spoon shaped cutting edge. This type of bit is used when drilling on the lathe where the wood revolves and the spoon bit seeks the center of the turning wood.
See Drive Center.
A sawn piece of wood which is roughly square in section and ready to be used in spindle turning.
Square Nose Chisel
A chisel on which the cutting edge is square to the sides.
A group of splits running away from the pith in the form of a star.
A device that is attached to the lathe bed supporting the work being turned to reduce vibration in long turnings.
A single pulley that is made up of two, three or four different diameter pulleys. Two step pulleys mounted in opposite orientation to one another on a driver and driven shaft produce as many output speeds as there are steps in the pulleys.
The largest diameter that can be turned over the ways.
A split on the surface of the wood
T & T (or T/T)
See saw cuts
The movable assembly to the right of the headstock which slides along the bed. Used for securing the workpiece.
The tapered end of a woodturning tool which fits into the handle.
A split which extends through a board from one surface to the other.
See Burnishing (2)
Tool Rest (or T rest)
Adjustable part of the lathe (usually a ‘T’ shape) which fits into the banjo and supports the turning tool while work is in progress.
A device that attaches to a lathe tool and prevents the tool twisting. Most commonly used for hollowing vase-like forms.
A means of electronically controlling the output speed of a motor. Often the direction of rotation can be selected with the same controller.
A natural edge left by the outside of the tree on a sawn board
See False faceplate