10 Woodworking Terms You Might Not Know | Popular Woodworking Magazine
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No matter how experienced the woodworker, it’s my experience that there’s always something else to be learned. That was certainly my finding while editing our most recent Popular Woodworking book, “The Woodworker’s Illustrated Encyclopedia.” Happily, there were many listings with which I was very familiar. Some sounded familiar, and others were just new. To test your woodworking knowledge, I’ve pulled 10 listings from the Encyclopedia that may not be all that familiar to you. Enjoy!

, David Thiel, Popular Woodworking Books Editor

Bee’s Wing – A mottled appearance in the grain of some wood species such as this lacewood.


Cubit – A somewhat controversial form of measurement used by the world’s first boat builder.
Way back when God was talking to people, he chose (democratically by tender) the Noah Ship Yards to build a boat. It was immediately apparent that God himself drew up the plans for this; it was to be 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high. Translated into today’s measurements it would be 450 feet (137.16 meters) long, 75 feet (23 meters) wide and 45 feet (14 meters) high. Now, that’s based on the idea that back then one cubit measured the distance from the tip of the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, or today, roughly 18″.

However, if one believes science over the Bible, Noah would have walked around with his knuckles dragging on the ground. This certainly would add another 6″ (15cm) to the length of the cubit. And of course, this brings up another conundrum. What did Noah use as a tape measure? Furthermore, how did he mill the wood for the boat? What did he cut the boards with and, of course, how did he fasten all these boards together? God specified that the boat (He called it an ark) have three chambers in it, and that the chambers be three stories high. What’s a story? A door was to be built low on one side. I guess Noah must have known what a door was.  

Grade Stamp (lumber) – A grade stamp shows: (1) the registered symbol of the certified  agency; (2) the mill identification number; (3) the species or species group; (4) the seasoned condition; and (5) the grade name or number. In the illustration, this grade stamp states that the lumber is certified by the Western Wood Products Association, from Mill 12 (which can be found in the WWPA membership directory); is from a coniferous tree (also known as softwood , Spruce-Pine-Fir); was graded according to National Lumber Grades Authority rules; is kiln,dried and heat treated (19 percent or less moisture content); and is of standard grade.

Heeling – A potentially dangerous situation when the saw blade of a table saw is misaligned. Heeling is so called because the heel (the back part) of the spinning blade is not aligned with the T,slots and the saw fence. This misalignment causes the board that is being cut to get caught by the rear of the blade and will flip the board up or kick it back into the operator. Both the leading and trailing edges of the saw blade must be perfectly parallel with the T,slots and the rip fence.

Peavey – A peavey is a long hardwood pole with a sharp steel point and a pivoting hook attached to it. The peavey is used as a lever for rolling or positioning logs, either in the woods or at a saw mill. It is a basic necessity for any lumberjack. The peavey was invented in 1858 by Joseph Peavey, who was a blacksmith in Maine. The peavey is an improvement over the cant hook because of the addition of a sharp spike on its end. Yes, there is another Peavey, but that’s a guitar amplifier and not very useful for rolling logs.

Penny Nail – The origin of the penny system for measuring nails is not without controversy. Some say the term goes back to the days of the fiddler Nero or even before. The designation d is an abbreviation of denarius, the ancient Roman equivalent of a penny. It was thought that much later the reference to pennyweight was the cost of 100 nails of a particular size. Thus, seven denarii would buy 100 2-1/4″ nails. Even later and in England, that rule withstood the test of time. The denarius equivalent became the penny, but it still had the d designation. This is because it was the weight of an Anglo-Norman penny signified as dwt (pennyweight) and then simply abbreviated to d.
To further complicate things, another theory is that 1,000 four-penny nails weighed four pounds.

The penny system is still in effect in the U.S. but in Canada and England the inch system prevails. However, in the U.S. the penny system refers only to nails used for wood-to-wood situations. A roofing nail, for example, is measured by the inch.

Pinch Dogs – A form of clamp. When they are hammered into the ends of two joining pieces, the angles on the pins draw the pieces together. Pinch dogs may be used in edge gluing as well as miter joining.

Purfling – A decorative inlaid strip that has traditionally outlined the perimeter of a violin or other stringed instrument body. There are many fine and intricate patterns available either made by the luthier or another source. The purfling is usually a sandwich of an exotic wood species such as ebony on the top and bottom with abalone in the middle. Abalone is used today as a replacement for the more traditional (though much less humane) ivory.

Rifflers – See also Files, Rasps. Rifflers are small shaping files used in woodcarving or any other type of woodworking. Rifflers may be used to remove small defects like burrs in metal as well.


Swaged Hinge  – (sway-jed) Swaging is the slight offset in the hinge leaves which permits them to close to a parallel position as the door closes. A hinge can by swaged on only one leaf, to leave an gap of approximatley 1/16″ (top illustration), or both leaves of the hinge can be swaged, to allow a gap of 1?32″ or less. Hinges can be purchase swaged by the manufacturer, or the woodworker can swage the hinge in the shop carefully using a hammer and an anvil.

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Showing 5 comments
  • Jake

    Looks like it has some really interesting stuff. Are there any reviews on that book?

  • Neil

    Pretty interesting……of course the "cubit" got me and I was picturing Cosby’s bit on Noah and "how long can you tread water". Took a look further into the Peavey purely wondering why that name, ended up in Maine.

    Fun read.

  • W. G. Tucker

    Too bad the illustration of a peavey looks more like a cant hook….

  • Chris F

    I think you’ve made some mistakes with the grade stamp.

    "spruce-pine-fir" would be labelled "SPF", but the illustration has "D Fir" which would be douglas fir.

    "S-Dry" for structural lumber can be air-dried and simply means a moisture content of 19% or less.

    The stamp shown indicates "standard and better", not "standard".

  • woodiespassion

    Love the dialogue on the bible lol. Never thought of it that way and I agree – were there houses back then with ‘stories’ and doors?

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