Glossary of Terms

In reading about any sort of specialized craft or industry, especially in online forums where casual abbreviation is a widely used shorthand (and let’s face it, if you weren’t on the internet, you wouldn’t be reading this page), you may encounter terms which seem clear to everyone but yourself. This is a rather random attempt at clarifying some of those – and as things fill in, striving for some general sense of comprehensiveness.

Even in its infant stages, the glossary has revealed itself to be somewhat etymological in nature. It follows, too, that notes on usage, appearance, and classification should be included. Unless otherwise noted, usage should be presumed to be common throughout the relevant industry.

The use of bold italics in the definition block indicates that the term has its own entry in the glossary. As in the phone book, acronyms appear at the head of the relevant section rather than being alphabetized into it. Hyperlinked terms lead to relevant websites.


abrasive grinder [noun] [tool]

A stationary machine outfitted with an abrasive belt. Basically, a large fixed version of the handheld beltsander.

angled joints [noun] [joinery]

Implementations of “normal” joints when the intersection of the pieces is anything other than 90° or 180°. See classifications of joints.

apron [noun] [furniture element]

The horizontal frame rails which connect the tops of the legs of a table and provides support for the tabletop. The component parts are frequently referred to in the plural, e.g. “I had trouble making the aprons.” Certain chair designs feature aprons which support the seat.

BORG [noun] [acronym] : usu. seen in online forums

Colloquial term for large corporate building supply centers (aka big box retailers), in general, and Home Depot in particular, where the term is said to be an acronym for “Big Orange Retail Giant” (after the colors in their corporate branding). Originated in the Star Trek science-fiction universe in which the Borg are a hostile bio-mechanical race who assimilate everyone they encounter into an ever-expanding central “collective”. Considering the demise of mom-and-pop (hardware) stores, the term is an obvious analogue. (In context of the computer industry, the term is generally taken to mean “Microsoft”.)

blink pricing [noun]

Price quoting process by which the limits of a customer’s financial wherewithal may be determined. Works as follows: begin with an initial figure. Assess the customer’s reaction. If they didn’t blink, begin adding what would otherwise be standard features, one by one, e.g. plus doors, plus hardware, plus finish, plus delivery, plus installation, plus anything else you can think of. Continue until they blink.

CAD [noun] [acronym]

Originally meaning Computer Aided Drafting (or colloquially, Drawing), early CAD packages were little more than replacements for the traditional drafting board. (“Early” meaning everything from the experimental work in the early 1960’s, when only huge corporations could afford the computers to run such software, through at least the introduction of AutoCAD in 1982 which ran on the newly released IBM PC.) Since that time, the field of CAD has evolved to include 3D modelling, automated engineering calculations and testing, photorealistic texture mapping, and many other progressive features that go well beyond mere drawing. As such, the term is now generally accepted to mean Computer Aided Design.

CMS [noun] [acronym]

In woodworking, a Compound Miter Saw. In computer software, a Content Management System.

carcase [noun] [furniture element]

Chiefly British variant of carcass. Seems to be preferred among some groups because it superficially implies “case goods”. This spelling is part of the Taunton Press house style.

carcass [noun] [furniture element]

The body or skeleton of a cabinet or case. Basically, a box or frame of some sort.

chaise longue [noun] [furniture] [French]

An upholstered couch in the shape of a chair – the name being French for “long chair” – where the seat is extended to support the legs of the seated person, as in a daybed. Over the years, and through ignorance of the term’s meaning, origin, and spelling, “chaise lounge” has found its way into modern parlance. It is, however, incorrect.

chamfer [noun] [verb]

A bevel cut into the edge of a surface.

circular saw [noun] [tool]

A round disc, edged with teeth, which spins on an arbor. In earliest examples, this central hole was square-shaped. The origins are obscure, but the first patent to mention circular saw blades was granted in 1777, and the design is believed to have originated in Holland substantially earlier. There are many different sizes and configurations of circular saws, from hand-held portables and stationary table saws to mill-sized installations with blades many feet in diameter. A popular urban legend asserts that the circular saw blade was invented in 1813 by the Shakers; this, however, is spurious.

In modern parlance, the term is usually taken to mean a handheld saw driven by an electric motor. Because of their early specialization in those products, the term “Skilsaw” was once synonymous with this design of tool.

classifications of joints [joinery]

Woodworking joints are called all kinds of different things depending on where you are in the world, and seemingly official names change over time. Types of joints tend to grouped by the orientation of the pieces being joined. Except in the case of angled joints – which are modifications of “normal” joints (if such a term is even remotely appropriate) – the orientation of one piece to another is always 90° or 180°, as viewed on a protractor.

Japanese joinery, which, at its most complex resembles origami done with wood, has a much more basic system of classification: straight joints (tsugite) and cross joints (shiguchi). Joints have specific names and there are specific rules for their proportions.

Craftsman, The [proper noun] [title] [periodical]

Monthly magazine published by Gustav Stickley to promote the ideals of the Arts & Crafts movement in America, to showcase the work of artists and artisans working therein, and to promote his own Craftsman (originally United Crafts) line of fixtures and furniture. The 183 issue run appeared continuously from October 1901 through December 1916. The initial price was 20¢ “the copy”, or $2 for an annual subscription. After the first year, prices rose to 25¢ per issue, and $3 for a year’s subscription. These prices stayed firm for the duration of the magazine’s existence.

Deltagram, The [proper noun] [title] [periodical]

Subtitled “A Magazine for Craftsmen”, The Deltagram was a regularly published collection of project plans published by Delta Manufacturing as a way of promoting their products. (During the war years, ads included such slogans as “Buy war bonds now, so you can buy Delta tools later”.) The first issue appeared in January 1932, under the guidance of former Popular Mechanics editor, Jim Tate. The Deltagram, with its distinctive 6×9″ format, was published regularly through the early-’50’s. After that, it appeared in different, lesser-regarded incarnations such as Deltagram & Flying Chips.

De Walt [proper noun] [personal name] [corporate name] [trademark] [manufacturer]

Or post-1959, DeWalt, and most recently, DeWALT. The De Walt Products Company was founded by Raymond (Ray) De Walt in 1924 in Leola, Pennsylvania, to manufacture and distribute the Wonder Worker, the original name for the radial arm saw which he invented two years previous and had been producing in his garage. In its heyday, De Walt was synonymous with “radial arm saw” in the same way that Xerox was with “photo[static]copies”.

Pre-1960 manufacturer nameplate badges show the name as being two words, as previously noted. Based on a comparison of nameplates, the company name was officially shortened to “DeWalt” after 1959. (This change coincides with the sale of the company to Black & Decker.)

Corporate structure timeline:
(1924) Founded by Ray De Walt. (1949) Sold to American Machine & Foundry Co. (1960) Sold to Black & Decker.

dovetail [noun] [joinery]

A structural joint so named because its fan-like shape is reminiscent of the flared tail feathers of a dove. There are several major variations: through, half-blind, blind (aka full-blind, or secret), and sliding. See also tail and pin.

elevation view [noun]

A two dimensional drawing of the side, front, or back of an object. See also plan view.

English dovetail [noun] [joinery]

Commonly seen in commercial furniture and furniture manufacturing catalogues, this term refers to a traditional dovetail joint, such as a through- or half-blind dovetail. See also French dovetail.

flat grind [noun] [technique]

An abrasive grind done with a belt against a platen, or on the flat side of a wheel or stone, as opposed to the round (i.e. contact) edge.

French dovetail [noun] [joinery]

Commonly seen in commercial furniture and furniture manufacturing catalogues, this term refers to a sliding dovetail joint. See also English dovetail.

hollow grind [noun] [technique]

A grind done on the round, contact edge of an abrasive wheel (where the user stands in line with the wheel). When using an abrasive belt grinder, the rotation is towards the user, as it is with bench grinders; with water-lubricated stone wheels, the motion is usually the opposite. Much is made about the relative merits of using a flat grind to sharpen tools (of all sorts), claiming that the concave shape of the hollow grind creates thin leading edges and an inherently weak profile. This is somewhat disingenuous since sharpening and profile grinding are two entirely different acts, and the radius of a contact wheel across the sharpened edge is, for all practical purposes, flat.

NOTE: Whenever you see an illustration of a hollow grind, the diameter of the contact wheel is always dramatically unrealistic in terms of what would actually be used (a fact that is rarely mentioned). This is done to show why the grind is considered to be hollow as opposed to flat, and to fit enough wheel into a tiny illustration that it can be identified as a wheel. Many people seem to interpret the exaggeration of the illustrated shape as representative of practical application.

house style [noun]

The set of typographic specifications, punctuation and spelling rules making up the “official personality” of a publisher.

joinery [noun] [joinery]

The art of affixing or joining one piece of wood to another. See classifications of joints.

kerf [noun] [joinery]

The space left in, or missing from, cut material equal to the width of the blade. On a 10″ table saw, the kerf width of a standard blade is .125″ (one-eighth inch), while a thin kerf blade is .097″ (slightly larger than three thirty-seconds of an inch, or .09375″).

MDF [noun] [acronym] [construction material] [sheet goods]

Medium Density Fiberboard. Sheet goods made of finely ground sawdust and bonding agent (glue). Commonly used as substrate in veneered panels, curved surfaces, and as templating material, due to its characteristic ease of cutting and shaping. Similar products include HDF (High Density Fiberboard) which is used for things like speaker cabinets, and particleboard, the use of which as anything other than underlayment for floors indicates sub-standard quality.

Masonite [proper noun] [trademark] [construction material] [sheet goods]

Common name for tempered hardboard. Use of the term has become generic in the same way that “Sheetrock” (a registered trademark of the United States Gypsum Company) is synonymous with “drywall” board.

Morris chair [noun] [furniture] [Arts and Crafts]

Innovative reclining-back easy chair introduced to market around 1866. Originally sketched by George Warrington Taylor from a piece he discovered in Sussex, the final design was created by architect Phillip Webb and named for William Morris, the founder of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Company, in which Webb was a partner and Warrington Taylor, the business manager. Prior to this time, chairs were constructed of fixed elements and those wishing to recline would move to the chaise longue or daybed. With its curving lines and beaded spindles, the original Morris chair typified the design ethos of the English Arts and Crafts movement.

Functionally, any chair with a reclining back may be properly termed a “Morris chair” – since Morris & Co. introduced the first commercially available recliner – but it is the work of Gustav Stickley that is most associated with the term. While modern recliners bear no resemblance to Stickley’s Morris chairs, it should be emphasized that his products bore no resemblance to the original design. Though Stickley’s catalogues refer to these chairs as “recliners”, plans published in The Craftsman (No 52, January 1906), refer to the design as the “Morris chair”. Under his Craftsman Furniture banner, Stickley’s produced a number of different Morris chair designs. The principle variations were seen in the arms, which came straight, angled, or bent, and in the width of the side panel elements – solid, wide slat, or spindle. Sometimes, as in the #336, the sides were left open.

Though there is no description of the style or manufacturer, the Morris chair is mentioned as an element of decor in Dashiell Hammett’s story “Women, Politics and Murder” (aka “Death on Pine Street”), Black Mask, September 1924.

OSS [noun] [acronym] [tool]

Oscillating Spindle Sander.

Onsrud Machine Works [proper noun] [corporate name] [manufacturer]

Founded in 1914 in Niles, Illinois, by Oscar Onsrud and his son, Rudy, to manufacture the world’s first air turbine hand router, Onsrud became known for impeccably built, large scale production equipment – especially overarm pin routers. As an industrial facility during the war, Onsrud had authorized federal funding for the production of extrusion milling machines, copying lathes, and shapers. It is said that “virtually every aircraft built for the U.S. war effort in WWII had parts made on Onsrud routers.”

There have been several splinter companies: Onsrud Cutter, manufacturers of precision router bits (founded 1920), and C.R. Onsrud, the developer of the inverted router (founded 1976).

Corporate structure timeline:
(1915) Founded by Oscar and Rudy Onsrud. (1968) Sold to Danly Machine Corp. (1980’s) Woodworking machinery division and Onsrud name sold to former Danly employees. The newly formed Onsrud Machine Corp. primarily serves the automotive and aerospace industries. (2001) Product lines for woodworking, metal working, and air turbines sold to Advanced Technology Services (ATS).

phase [noun]

A type of electrical power service, and correspondingly, the types of motors designed to work with it. For all practical purposes, there are ONLY two phase types: single- and three-phase. Single phase can be abbreviated “1ph”; three phase as “3ph”. Referring to three phase power as “triple phase” is incorrect.

If a single phase dual voltage motor – i.e. one which can be wired for either 110 or 220 volts – is wired for 220v, some people assume that if 110v is single phase, then 220v must be “two phase” (presumably because there’s a 2 in it). This is not correct. A 220v circuit is made by joining two 110v circuits of single phase power. You’re adding the voltage together, not the phase type.

pin [noun] [joinery]

The half of a dovetail joint in which the dovetail shape is cut into the end of the board. In drawer construction, the pins are always cut into the drawer face; this prevents the drawer from pulling apart during use. Likewise, in carcass construction, the pins should be cut into the bottom panel so that the joint can support the weight of the contents. Corresponds to the tail.

plan view [noun]

A two dimensional drawing of the top (i.e. bird’s-eye) view of an object. See also elevation view.

Punisaw [proper noun] [colloquialism] [tool] : usu. seen in online forums

Term of gentle derision for the Delta Unisaw. Generally used by afficionados of older, much more physically imposing table saws, e.g. Oliver or Tannewitz. These were considered commercial-grade tools, where the Unisaw was marketed to the light-commercial and hobbiest markets.

RAS [noun] [acronym] [tool]

See radial arm saw.

radial arm saw [noun] [tool]

Invented by Ray De Walt (note the space in the surname) in 1922 as the Wonder Worker, and manufactured by the De Walt Products Company (through several changes in ownership and specific company name) until 1985 or 1989 (depending on which page on the official DeWALT corporate website you choose to believe). Commonly abbreviated as “RAS”.

The typical RAS consists of a vertical column and a radially adjustable arm, on which a blade/motor assembly travels back and forth on bearings. This is mounted on the back of a table with a sacrificial fence and top. For crosscuts or dadoes, the work piece remains stationary, while the blade is pulled down the arm, towards the operator, and across the work. To make ripping cuts, the blade could be turned sideways and the work pushed across the table. The width adjustment for rips is controlled by the position of the blade on the arm.

runout [noun] [measurement]

The amount of deviation from true, or wobble, of a spinning shaft. Measured in thousandths of an inch (.00x″). Runout can be caused by many factors, but is measured at an end point such as the chuck of a mill, drill press, or router; or the arbor of a tablesaw or lathe.

SCMS [noun] [acronym] [tool]

Sliding Compound Miter Saw.

scarf joint [noun] [joinery]

Joint where the end of the board is cut into a tapered, i.e. wedge-shaped, profile. This exposes matching lengths of long grain wood, providing a superior gluing surface and greater support across the surface area of the joint, especially in contrast with a butted splice.

sheet goods [noun] [construction material]

A classification of manufactured construction materials which are processed into large sheets. These include plywood, MDF, particleboard, hardboard (e.g. Masonite), and drywall.

Stickley [proper noun] [personal name]

Surname of one of the most prolific furniture manufacturing dynasties. There were five Stickley brothers – Gustav, Leopold, Albert, Charles, and John George – all of whom were involved in the manufacturing of mass-marketed furniture, though not necessarily in family or collaborative business ventures. In terms of influence and popularity, Gustav was the most significant of the brothers, though he was a poor businessman. When he ceased publication of The Craftsman and filed for bankruptcy, the company assets were purchased by L. & J. G. Stickley, the (largely Arts and Crafts) company owned by two of his brothers. Unless otherwise specified, any reference to “Stickley” on these pages refers to Gustav, his furniture, or business entity.

structural furniture [noun]

Gustav Stickley’s name for what has since become known as Craftsman, or more generically, Arts & Crafts, furniture. Characterized by rectilinear form, substantial visual weight, and exposed joinery. Almost always seen in quartersawn white oak with a fumed amonia finish.

tail [noun] [joinery]

The half of a dovetail joint in which the dovetail shape is cut into the face of the board. Corresponds to the pin. In drawer construction, the tails are always cut into the sides, since the structural shape of the joint prevents the drawer from pulling apart during use.

template [noun]

A pattern used for making duplicate parts. For woodworking purposes, usually fabricated out of rigid material such as MDF, hardboard, plywood, or acrylic (as opposed to paper). Typically used in pattern routing applications.

templet [noun]

Obscure spelling of the more common template. Possibly also, a very small temp.

tsuba [noun]

The guard on a Japanese edged weapon. Most often found on the daisho (katana and wakizashi, the large and small paired swords) but pole arms such as the naginata could also be fitted with tsuba. The most common shape is circular, though variants resembling lobed flowers, butterflies, and rectangular forms also exist.

Greene & Greene scholars frequently speak of the “tsuba shape” as a design element, though this is about as accurate as referring to a “chair shape” – as if that implies a specific form.

Unisaur [proper noun] [colloquialism] [tool] : usu. seen in online forums

Term of endearment used amongst tool collectors in reference to “vintage” Unisaws. Highly prized.

Unisaw [proper noun] [trademark] [tool]

Delta’s revolutionary 10″ tilting-arbor tablesaw. Designed by Delta founder Herbert Tautz and introduced in 1939, the Unisaw was considered a light-commercial tool in comparison to the massive, stationary tools which filled the shops of the era. According to the official Delta history, the Unisaw went into production in 1937, though this is factually incorrect. (Hardly surprising, considering the number of times the company has changed hands in the intervening decades.) The trademark application for the word “Unisaw” was filed on 10 October 1938 and was registered on 25 July 1939. The Unisaw has undergone many revisions over the years (with varying degrees of quality and success) and remains in production to this day.

Unsaw [proper noun] [colloquialism] [tool]

Originally a typo, the term can refer to newer Unisaw products. Especially apt when referring to Delta/Rockwell saws from the ’70’s and early ’80’s.

ZCI [noun] [acronym] [tool] [part]

See zero clearance insert.

zero clearance insert [tool] [part]

A solid plate which covers the throat opening of a saw. The blade cuts a path through the insert plate during the initial use, and results in there being “zero [excess] clearance” on either side of the blade. It helps prevent chip-out since the workpiece is fully supported up to the kerf, as well as keeping small pieces from falling into the bowels of the saw. Usually seen on table, band, and scroll saws.