Glossary of Tools, Chairs and Wood Terms
Adze, hollowing. A cutting tool differing from an axe in that the blade is set at a right angle to the handle. Used to rough out the upper section of Windsor seats.
Air dried. Wood that has attained an equilibrium moisture content (e.m.c.) with the environment. Fully air-dried wood may reach a moisture content of 12%.
Alligator chuck. A two-piece bit brace chuck that pivots at one end. Used mainly for auger bits having a tapered square lug at the attachment end.
Arris. An edge formed by the junction of two planes.
Ascending grain. Wood fiber (grain pattern) that runs up into a progressing cut. This makes a smooth cut, in contrast to descending grain, which catches and tears instead of cutting cleanly.
Auger bit. A common boring tool used with a bit brace. The cutting end has a tapered lead screw, two cutters, and two scoring nickers. The shank is surrounded by a spiral that carries away shavings. The traditional shank end, for use with a bit brace, is a tapered square lug.
Baluster and ring turning. Common name for a fancy turning style commonly found on early American Windsor chairs. Typically combines two vase-shaped "balusters" with a ring and tapered cone at the bottom end.
Balloon-back. A bow-back Windsor with the lower portion of the bow pinched in (taking a reverse curve) before entering the seat deck.
Bamboo turning. Also called "double bobbin." A simple American Windsor turning based on nodes of bamboo. Dated beginning about 1790.
Bast. The inner, living layer (phloem) of tree bark. Hickory bast makes excellent seating for post-and-rung chairs.
Bead. A positive (convex) semi-circular form in spindle turning.
Bench dog. A square or round sectioned device that fits into matching mortises in the top of a work bench. Usually used in conjunction with a vise dog. Dogs can be set at various heights above the surface to help secure work in place.
Bending strap. A steel strap that is placed along the convex side of a piece of wood to be bent. Strap ends are held in place by stops located at both ends of the wood. During bending, the strap takes most of the generated tension, forcing the wood to bend mostly in compression.
Bevel. 1. An angled facet that forms the cutting edge of a tool. Bevels can be flat, hollow ground, or rolled (convex). 2. Any chamfer.
Billet. Small riving, the result of riving larger bolts.
Bolt. A sizable piece of a log formed by riving.
Bound water. Water within the cell wall of wood. Loss of bound water results in dimensional shrinkage.
Bow-back Windsor. A Windsor side-chair with a back support consisting of a single, looped bow having both ends mortised into the plank seat. Five to 11 vertical spindles fill in the back rest area. Sometimes called a "loop-back" Windsor. An English bow-back is similar to an American sack-back.
Burr. A minute metal flap formed on the opposite side of an edge during grinding or honing. A burr indicates that abrasion has taken place at the arris.
Brace, Bit brace. A hand-held boring tool that consists of a pommel, crank and chuck. Usually used with auger bits or spoon bits, but sometimes adaptable to other boring devices.
Brake. English country craft term for any type of simple holding device. One example is a pair of narrow forked branches, useful for holding stock when riving chair parts.
Cage. Rung section of a post-and-rung chair frame.
Cambium. The layer of cells on a tree stem that form the boundary between bark and wood. Leaves, pith and cambium are the only growing part of the stem.
Caning. A woven chair seat that utilizes thin strips from the outer layer of rattan vines. Caning is usually woven in an octagonal pattern on a flat chair frame.
Cant hook. A strong wooden bar, fitted with a curved iron arm and a hook at one end. Used to lever logs and heavy timbers in the woods and at saw mills. A peavey is similar, but has a spike instead of the end hook.
Caliper, outside. A compass-like tool with legs that are curved for taking or transferring measurements on the outside of a turning.
Catface. A scar on the bark surface that reflects the presence of a knot within the wood.
Caseharden. A condition where the exterior layers of a piece of wood are considerably drier than the interior layers. Caused by drying wood too rapidly, often resulting in honey-combing.
Cathedral. (onion rings) The growth ring pattern on the end of a board.
Caul. A plate or pad (often scrap wood) used as a spacer between clamp jaws and the item being clamped. Cauls distribute pressure and prevent clamp jaws from forming an imprint on the wood.
Chairmaker's shave. A spokeshave with a sole that is gently curved from handle to handle. Used to finish the saddling of Windsor seats. Sometimes called a "travisher."
Chip breaker. A secondary blade fitted above and behind the cutting edge of some plane and spokeshave irons. Dampens blade vibration and deflects shavings up and through the escape. Also called a "cap iron."
Clearance angle. The angle between the lower face of a blade and the wood being cut.
Comb. A curved, horizontal piece of wood that caps the bow of a low-back Windsor, or connects the spindles of a comb-back Windsor.
Comb-back Windsor. (high-back Windsor) A tall Windsor arm chair having a horizontal arm-bow with spindles passing through the back section that terminate in a horizontal comb.
Continuous-arm Windsor. (continuous bow Windsor) A Windsor arm-chair that utilizes a single bow forming arm-rests and a raised back section. originally based on the French bergere chair.
Chord. A straight line intersecting two points of a curve or circle.
Cove. A negative (concave) semi-circular form in spindle turning.
Crest rail. A low addition to the back-rest area on the bow of a low-back Windsor. Can be used as a splice on pieced bows and increases comfort of the chair.
Cutting angle. (rake angle) The angle between the upper face of a blade and the wood being cut. The cutting angle equals the included blade angle plus the clearance angle.
Deck. (island) The flat area on the back half of a Windsor seat which houses mortises for the spindles.
Descending grain. Wood fiber that runs downwards into a progressing cut. Causes loss of cutting control and a rough surface.
Dial gauge. A machinists caliper that utilizes a dial readout in hundredths or thousandths of an inch. Common ones can measure inside and outside dimensions, and the depth of holes. Useful for exact measurements of cylindrical tenons and mortises.
Differential shrinkage. The different rates of wood shrinkage parallel with the rays compared with shrinkage tangent to the growth rings.
Diffuse porous. A hardwood species where pores are approximately the same size and are distributed evenly across each growth ring. Examples are maple, birch and beech.
Double bobbin turning. See "bamboo turning."
Double bow-back Windsor. The English equivalent of an American sack-back Windsor.
Drawknife. A chairmaker's cutting tool that consists of an essentially straight blade, usually 8 - 12 inches long, with perpendicular handles at each end. The handles
Equilibrium moisture content. (e.m.c.) Moisture content (m.c.) of a piece of wood after full adjustment to environmental humidity and temperature.
End grain. A wood surface consisting of exposed cross-grain.
Extractives. Compounds deposited in wood during the transition from sapwood to heartwood. Extractives give heartwood it's dark color, and sometimes impart decay and insect resistance.
Fan-back Windsor. A late 18th century side-chair with a back that consists of a fan-like array of long spindles capped with a comb. A structurally weak but aesthetically pleasing design.
Felling. The act of cutting or harvesting a standing tree.
Fiber saturation point. The condition when wood cell walls are fully saturated with bound water but the cell cavities are empty of free water.
Flitch sawn. (through-and-through sawn) Sawed lumber retaining the original waney bark edges of the log. Preferred for resawing chair parts because pieces can be aligned with the growth rings.
Flatsawn. (plainsawn, slash grained) Pieces with the annual rings intersecting the surface at less than 45 degrees.
Forstner bit. A specialty wood cutting bit that rides on semi-circular spurs. Makes a clean, flat bottom hole, and can be used at extreme angles with a drill press.
Free water. Moisture within the cell cavities of wood, not in the cell walls. Loss of free water does not result in appreciable shrinkage.
Froe. A riving (splitting) tool with a straight blade (usually 8-12 inches long) and a perpendicular handle. Sometimes called a "lath axe" or "splitting knife."
Froe club. Narrow, hardwood club used to strike the back of a froe blade.
Frog. The angled section within a plane or spokeshave body that supports the blade.
Glut. A large wooden splitting wedge, usually shop-made.
Green woodworking. An approach to woodworking that takes advantage of the structural qualities of freshly felled wood. These include: use of rived (split) parts with little grain run out, easy cutting with hand tools, and superior bending characteristics. Green worked wood is dried to appropriate moisture content before assembly of structural members, such as chair parts.
Growth ring. (annual ring) A layer of wood cells added to a tree trunk or stem during one growing season.
Heartwood. The inner core of a tree trunk or stem that no longer conducts sap. Heartwood is not alive, but it does serve as a skeletal support for the living tree. Sometimes heartwood is decay and/or insect resistant.
High-back Windsor. The English equivalent of an American Comb-back Windsor
Hollow auger. Tool used to form cylindrical tenons, such as on the ends of rungs.
Hollow grind. A slight concavity across the width of a bevel caused by the grinding on the rim of a turning grindstone.
Honeycombing. Checks in the interior of a piece of wood, usually caused by casehardening during rapid drying.
Hone, honing. The second step in sharpening, between shaping (grinding) and polishing. Grits with 800 - 1,200 mesh are employed.
Hygroscopic. The ability of a material to loose or gain moisture content with fluctuations in environmental humidity.
Included angle. The angle formed by the two facets of a cutting edge.
Inshave. A type of deeply dished drawknife, used to sculpt the saddled section of Windsor chair seats.
Iron. An "iron" refers to the blade of tools such as a plane or spokeshave.
Kerf. The slot formed by a saw.
Kiln dried. (hot-air dried) Wood dryness below the moisture content attainable by air drying. Usually 6-8% mc. Because wood is hygroscopic, kiln dried wood will pick up moisture whenever it is in a moisture bearing environment.
Linseed oil. A reactive finish made from the seeds of flax plants.
Loop-back Windsor. Alternate name for an American bow-back Windsor.
Low-back Windsor. A Windsor with a single horizontal bow that supports arm rests and the back section.
Maul. Alternate name for a wooden club.
Medial stretcher. Connects the mid-point of left and right leg stretchers on a Windsor with "H" stretcher pattern.
Micro-bevel. A narrow sub-bevel immediately behind an edge. The included angle of a micro-bevel will be a few degrees greater than the bevel angle.
Mineral spirits. (paint thinner) Standard solvent for oil based paints and varnishes.
Moisture content. (m.c.) The percentage of moisture in a piece of wood compared to the same piece when it is thoroughly dried.
Mortise. A cavity that houses a tenon or back slat. Can be round or rectangular in section.
Mortise chisel. A stout chisel with an unusually deep cross section. The sides are square or tapered slightly towards the back. Often struck with a hammer or mallet.
Nagura. Paste forming stone used in conjunction with polishing grade Japanese water stones.
Paring chisel. A thin chisel, often with beveled edges. Used with a pushing action to clean a wood surface, such as within a mortise.
Parting tool. A deep, narrow V-ground chisel used in turning to indicate specific diameters at various sections.
Pass-arm. An arm support on a post-and-rung chair that connects an arm rest to a side or medial leg rung by passing through the side rail of the seat. Imparts strength to the arm rests.
Peavey. A log moving tool similar to a cant hook, but with a spike at the end, instead of a hook.
Pith. The first year's growth of a tree stem, found approximately in the center of a tree trunk or branch.
Point fence. A bandsaw fence that consists of a rounded block of wood, located on the saw table with the tangent spaced at the desired distance from the saw blade.
Pommel. The high point at the front center of a saddled Windsor seat.
Post-and-rung chair. A basic chair style that consists of vertical posts and horizontal rungs. The continuous rear posts also form the supports for the back rest, which can consist of slats or spindles. The seat is usually woven, and is often trapezoidal in plan.
Puppet. (stock) Vertical member of a lathe that houses either of the two lathe centers. The head stock is the stationary puppet that housing the pulleys and driving center of a powered lathe. The tail stock can be moved along the ways to secure wood of different lengths.
Quartersawn. (vertical grain, edge grain) Pieces in which the growth rings from an angle of 45 degrees or more to the wood surface. Ideally, close to 90 degrees.
Radial. A hypothetical plane that radiates from the pith outwards towards the bark.
Racking. Force applied fore and aft to a chair.
Rake. Term used to describe the angle fore and aft (as seen from a side view) of chair legs, and sometimes other members. Other specified in degrees more or less than a right angle.
Ray. A cluster of wood cells that are arranged radially. Rays give quarter sawn or split wood it's distinctive fish-scale appearance.
Reamer, Taper reamer. A cone-shaped cutting tool used to convert cylindrical mortises into a cone-like configuration.
Reaction wood. Distorted wood formed in leaning trunks and branches of trees. Reaction wood dries unpredictably, often twisting and cracking.
Resaw. Ripping lumber into narrower pieces.
Resin. (pitch) A translucent, sticky material secreted in canals or pockets in the wood of various conifers, particularly eastern white pine.
Resultant angle. The lean angle of a cylinder (usually a chair part or drill shaft) in line with a sighting angle. Often measured in degrees more or less than a right angle.
Rift sawn. Pieces where the annual rings intersect the surface at about 45 degrees.
Ring porous hardwood. A hardwood species that develops relatively large pores during early annual growth and much smaller pores later in the season. Examples include oak, ash, hickory, and elm. With the exception of elm, these are tough, coarse fiber woods, excellent for riving and shaving.
Rive. The technique of splitting wood with maximum control of thickness. Used mostly with ring-porous hardwoods.
Rod-back Windsor. A variation of a fan-back, having one or two rod-like bows connecting the upper ends of the spindles.
Roughing gouge. A large, square-nosed gouge used by turners to convert square stock and rivings into a cylindrical section. Can also be used for shaping bamboo turnings.
Runout. (Grain slope) Grain deviation across a board. Measured as a ratio of cross distance to length, such as 1 inch in 12 inches.
Rush. A natural, grass-like fiber used to weave post-and-rung chair seating. Two varieties are cat tail (Typha latifolia) and bulrush (Scirpus lacustris). "Fiber rush" is an imitation product, made of twisted brown paper.
Sack-back Windsor. An American Windsor armchair utilizing a horizontal arm bow (bent, or laminated) with a supplementary back bow mortised into the arm bow. The seat is usually a wide, shallow oval.
Saddling. Descriptive term for carving the upper side of a Windsor seat.
Sapwood. The outer growth rings which are physiologically active part of a living tree. Sapwood is usually lighter than heartwood, and lacks decay resistance.
Scratch beader. Simple tool used to scratch a decorative bead on D-section Windsor bows.
Settee. A wide chair, for two or more persons.
Shaker tape. Cloth tape used by the Shakers for seating chairs sold to the public. Early examples used woolen tape woven by the Shakers. Later chairs had cotton tape which was purchased.
Shaving Horse. A wood holding device based on a low bench which the woodworker sits on. A foot operated swinging arm acts as a clamp. Two basic versions are the German "dumb-head" -- utilizing a single member mortised through the bench; and the English "bodger's" bench -- having a bridle like arrangement of spars that pivot on either side of the bench. In both, the jaw clamps down onto a raised ramp or platform.
Skew chisel. A turner's chisel with an angled cutting edge and a symmetrical bevel. Used to take fine cuts, especially beads and tapers. Notorious for "catching" -- going out of control leaving a rough screw-like pattern on the turned surface.
Skewing cut. Using a drawknife, spokeshave, chisel or plane at an angle, as opposed to perpendicular to the cutting edge. This lowers the effective cutting angle, resulting in a finer surface.
Sighting angle. (Off-set angle) The angle between a sighting line and two specified points, usually the centers of both front legs or both rear legs. Needed in order to locate a sighting line when you are working with rake and splay angles.
Sighting line. A line across a flat surface (such as a Windsor chair seat) that indicates the leaning direction of an angled cylinder (the resultant angle), usually a chair part or drill shaft.
Sighting point. Any specified point on a sighting line.
Slicing cut. Shifting an tool's edge from one side to another during a cut. This has the same effect as "skewing."
Sloyd. Swedish term for "handcraft."
Slope. Angle of a seat from front to back.
Slouch. Angle of a seat back, from vertical.
Spindle. A slender, cylindrical chair part that supports the back and arm-rest bows of Windsor chairs. Some authorities say that all spindles are turned (never shaved) but others disagree. Also, a vertical member mortised between horizontal rails in the back-rest of some post-and-rung chairs.
Spindle gouge. A turning gouge sharpened with a "fingernail" cutting edge. Used for cutting beads, coves and balusters.
Splat. A flat, thin board, usually mortised vertically into the center area of the backs of English Windsors. Splats are often sawed with elaborate shapes and interior cutouts -- called "fretwork."
Splay. Term used to describe the angle of chair parts (usually legs or spindles) to either side of a chair, as seen from a front or rear view. Often specified in degrees more or less than perpendicular.
Spofford brace. A simple bit brace that utilizes a split steel chuck tightened with a wing bolt.
Spokeshave. A cutting tool consisting of two in-line handles with a small, plane-like cutter mounted in the center. Many variations have been produced, with both wood and cast iron bodies.
Spoonbit. A gouge-shaped wood bit with a rounded nose at the front. Sometimes called a "chairmaker's bit."
Stick. An unspecific term for chair parts that are roughly cylindrical. Post-and-rung chairs are sometimes called "stick chairs." Also refers to bow and comb supports on Windsors when they are shaved, instead of turned.
Stick Windsor. A simple Windsor chair, often with shaved legs and no stretcher system.
Tapering plane. A tenon former with the blade set at an angle for making conical tenons. A matching reamer must be used to make the tapered mortise.
Tenon. A rectangular or cylindrical projection made to fit into a matching mortise. Used in mortise and tenon construction for many chair joints. Cylindrical tenons can often be made on a lathe.
Tenon former. A hollow auger used to make cylindrical tenons. Many different versions will work.
Throat. The slot on the sole of a plane or spokeshave where the blade protrudes and through which shavings are ejected.
Travisher. (chairmaker's shave, bottomer's shave) A spokeshave with a slight curve from end to end; used for finishing saddling on Windsor seats.
Through-and-through. See flitch sawn.
Tung oil. Oil finish expressed from tung nuts, originally from China.
Universal chuck. A type of bit brace chuck having two jaws that pivot from their mid-point. These can be used to hold bits with parallel sided shanks in addition to the traditional tapered square lug shank.
Waney. Sawed lumber with it's natural (bark) edge intact. Produced by flitch (through-and-through) sawing.
Warp. In weaving a chair seat, the initial strands wrapped around the front and rear rungs.
Ways. The bed rails for a lathe.
Weft. In weaving a chair seat, the strands that are woven across the weft (from side rung to side rung) forming a pattern.
Windsor chair. A chair form based on a solid wood seat, with independent leg and back support systems.

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