Glossary of Woodworking Terms

This glossary is obviously in its infancy! I'm not trying (clearly) to be comprehensive; rather I'll add terms here as they come up in the projects. I'll be adding diagrams as time allows.  Feel free to write to me at with suggestions or comments, or if you think I'm way off on any of this. What I write here is based on my own experience and a wide assortment of references. Click here for links to some of my favorite Woodworking books.


Bench Plane - Any one of the standard configurations of common planes, comprising (from smallest to largest) the Smooth (or Smoothing) Plane, Jack Plane, Fore Plane (or Trying Plane) , and Jointer (or Jointer Plane). The Bench Planes are so called because they are in constant demand and therefore kept at the workbench, rather than stored apart in a cabinet or shelf like the specialized planes. The bench planes are all configured alike, with similar adjustment mechanisms, and the main difference from one to another is the length of the sole. Traditional American metal-bodied bench planes are often referred to by their Stanley/Bailey numbers, which are the model numbers given by the Bailey company (later acquired by Stanley) to their innovative metal-bodied planes. The lengths given are not those of the original Stanley models, but rather of typical planes (i.e., the ones I own!)    

Stanley Model  Name Length


Smooth Plane



Smooth Plane (wide 2" blade)



Jack Plane



Fore Plane





Older bench planes shared the same names and approximate sizes but were made of wood. I'll add an article about wooden bench planes at a later time.

Pictured at left is a Fore Plane. This one is a model 6C, indicating that the sole is corrugated to reduce friction against the workpiece while planing. 

The configuration of the bench planes includes a handle at the rear and a knob at the front, and they are designed to be used with both hands. The blade is equipped with a cap iron that acts as a chip breaker, and a lever cap holds the blade assembly down to its mounting. The blade mounts on a casting called a frog, which can slide back and forth on the base of the plane, bringing the cutting edge of the blade closer to or further from the front of the mouth, or opening in the base, through which the blade protrudes. The frog also carries a screw mechanism that can raise or lower the blade to adjust the depth of cut, and a lever that adjusts the blade side to side, do adjust for any unevenness in sharpening. (a diagram will be added soon!) 

Bevel (sharpening edge tools) The surface formed by the abrasive sharpening of an edge tool. In the simplest case, that of a simple chisel or plane blade, the back and front of the cutting part of the tool are parallel, and the bevel is formed by removing material from the end of the tool at an acute angle to the back. A double bevel is used on some carving chisels, meaning material is taken from both sides. A turning scraper might have a curved bevel and a molding plane iron or shaper blade can have a curve with a complex bevel. 

Bevel (marking tool) A marking tool for reproducing an angle. A handle 

Block Plane - The smallest of the common planes, sometimes considered one of the Bench Planes, because it, too, is usually kept by the bench and is in use sometimes even more than its Bench Plane cousins. However, the Bench Planes share a common configuration that the Block Plane does not follow.  Its blade is held bevel-up. It lacks a chip breaker and has a simpler  adjustment mechanism, without a movable frog. It is a light and handy plane that is used for any quick, small planing job, and is especially suited to trimming and smoothing end grain. The blade is held at an angle of about 20 to the work, but the bevel-up configuration means the bevel angle must be added to this to find the actual cutting angle at the wood surface. A standard 25-degree bevel makes the total angle 45, the same as the bench planes. Low-angle models with a blade angle of about 12 are available, and some block planes can adjust the opening of the mouth by means of a movable section of the sole in front of the blade. 

Fore Plane - A Bench Plane having about an 18" sole. So named because it was used before the Jointer, to begin the preparation of a board. On relatively short boards, performs the service of a jointer, i.e., to make a true, straight edge. 

Hollow Grinding - In sharpening, leaving the bevel with the shape of the grinding wheel, that is, a slightly hollow, curved shape. This leaves little material to be removed when honing, until repeated re-honing has worn away the hollow, and the tool must be ground again. Honing the hollow-ground bevel produces a Microbevel

Jack Plane - A Bench Plane having about a 14" sole. The "Jack of all trades" among bench planes. If a plane is needed for a job other than one of the specialized jobs of the other planes, this is the plane that is called for. To roughly take a millimeter odd the edge of a door, to beat a very rough edge into shape before using a jointer on it, and for many small or large jobs, the Jack is lighter and less tiring to use than the jointer, and can take a bigger bite than the light smooth plane by virtue of the momentum its weight provides. 

Jointer Plane - The longest of the Bench Planes, with about a 22-1/2" sole, this heavy plane is used to provide a board with a straight, square edge. The long sole carries the blade over low spots in the surface, allowing it to cut only the high spots, until, finally, the job is done when the plane takes a single, unbroken curl of wood off the whole surface of the edge. Because of its weight, it is not used where a lot of material needs to be removed. The less tiring Jack or Fore Planes are used to rough down the high parts, and the Jointer then trues up the rough edge. 

Jointer - (For the hand plane known as a Jointer, see Jointer Plane) A stationary woodworking machine that can provide a flat, true surface or edge to a board. Two long, flat surfaces called tables, arranged on either side of a rotating drum with blades (called knives in a jointer), provide support for the board on the infeed and outfeed sides. The outfeed table receives the board after it has been cut by the rotating knives, and it is set so the plane of its surface is tangent to the cylinder described by the rotating knives. Thus the outfeed table holds up the flat surface the knives have created, keeping any low spots on the board from contacting the cutting edges. Finally, a fence perpendicular to the table guides the board to joint an edge perpendicular to the face. The fence may be adjustable to give angles other than 90.

Microbevel - In sharpening, adding a small additional bevel to the cutting edge at a steeper angle than the main bevel. This has several advantages, including strengthening the cutting edge at the very tip by making it thicker, and allowing resharpening of only a very small amount of material, i.e., only the microbevel need be sharpened. The combination of microbeveling and Hollow Grinding makes for a very easy resharpening procedure, with major sharpening only occasionally needed.

Rabbet - Woodworking term. A groove along the edge of a board, i.e., a a groove that only has one side, the other side being off the edge of the board. May be on the long edge or on the end of the board. 

Resaw -  To split a board along the grain parallel to its wider dimension. The resulting boards are as wide as the original, but thinner. See Rip

Rip -  To split a board along the grain parallel to its narrower dimension. The two resulting boards are as thick as the original board, but narrower. See Resaw

S2S  - Lumber term. "Surfaced Two Sides" Dimensioned lumber that has been planed or sanded smooth on the two broad faces. The thickness is close to the nominal thickness. The edges are rough from the sawmill. Compare S4S

S4S  - Lumber term. "Surfaces Four Sides" Dimensioned lumber that has the faces and edges planed or sanded smooth, removing "mill marks" -- roughness resulting from the sawmill blade. Most of the lumber at home centers is S4S, and warped, to boot. Compare S2S

Smooth Plane, Smoothing Plane - The smallest of the Bench Planes. 9-3/2" long. This plane is used for smoothing surfaces. Its short sole allows it to follow any wide dips in the surface, allowing it to evenly provide a clean-cut surface all over the board without having to level down every part of it. Because it is used on surfaces rather than edges, the cutting edge of a smooth plane is often given a very slight curve to keep the corners from digging in.

Trying Plane - An older term for a Jointer Plane or for the shortest of several planes that would now be referred to as Jointers.