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Artists can use woodworking to create delicate sculptures.

Woodworking is the process of building, making or carving something using wood.



Along with stone, mud, and animal parts, wood was certainly one of the first materials worked by primitive human beings. Indeed, the development of civilization was closely tied to the development of increasingly greater degrees of skill in working these materials.

Among early finds of wooden tools are the worked sticks from Kalambo Falls, Clacton-on-Sea and Lehringen. The spears from Sch?gen (Germany) provide some of the first examples of wooden hunting gear. Flint tools were used for carving. Since neolithic times, carved wooden vessels are known, for example from the linearbandkeramic wells at K?en and Eythra. Examples of Bronze Age wood-carving include trees worked into coffins from northern Germany and Denmark, and wooden folding-chairs. The site of Fellbach-Schmieden in Germany has provided fine examples of wooden animal statues from the Iron Age. Wooden idols from the La T讥 period are known from a sanctuary at the source of the Seine in France.

Two ancient civilizations that used woodworking were the Egyptians and the Chinese. Woodworking is depicted in many ancient Egyptian drawings, and some ancient Egyptian furniture (such as chairs) has been preserved in tombs. The metal used by the Egyptians for woodworking tools was probably bronze or even copper, as ironworking was unknown until much later.

The progenitors of Chinese woodworking are considered to be Lu Ban (魯班) and his wife Lady Yun, from the Spring and Autumn Period. Lu Ban is said to have brought the plane, chalkline, and other tools to China. His teachings are supposedly left behind in the book Lu Ban Jing (魯班經, "Manuscript of Lu Ban"), although it was written some 1500 years after his death. This book is filled largely with descriptions of dimensions for use in building various items—such as flower pots, tables, altars, etc.—and also contains extensive instructions concerning Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese practice of geomancy. It mentions almost nothing of the intricate glueless and nailless joinery for which Chinese furniture was so famous.


Woodworking, due to its long history, has developed extensive jargon and has preserved many archaic terms that are otherwise out of use.

  • applied carving: background which is worked separately and then applied, rather than being worked in place
  • bead: a semicircular piece of moulding
  • bolster: shoulder
  • burl: wood with a convoluted, complex grain, usually taken from cancerous growths on trees
  • cannel, channel: the concavity of a gouge blade
  • chip carving: incised surface decoration, usually geometric
  • chops: a type of vise
  • conversion: reduction of a whole log into pieces suitable for working
  • crook: longitudinal bending to one side, caused by uneven seasoning or grain
  • crotch: the section of a tree where a branch divides from the trunk, or the trunk divides in two; typically an area of convoluted grain
  • crossgrain: working perpendicular to the grain
  • cup: longitudinal bending forward or backward, caused by uneven seasoning or grain
  • devil stone: a coarse, hard dressing stone used in sharpening tools, grinders, and other stones
  • dressing stone: a rough sharpening stone usually used on other stones
  • dutchman: a diamond-shaped patch of wood used to repair surface blemishes and knotholes
  • end grain: the grain at the end of a piece of wood which is perpendicular to the surface
  • fence: a piece of lath or scrap fixed to the bench surface to prevent movement of the work
  • figure: naturally occurring decorative patterns in wood, usually due to medullary rays
  • firmer: a chisel bevelled on both sides instead of only one
  • fishtail chisel or gouge: a chisel or gouge with a splayed end
  • flat gouge: a gouge with minimal curvature, used for finishing and smoothing
  • flitch: a board in which the round of the trunk is still visible, a rough-cut board
  • flute: a deep channel cut in wood; occasionally denotes the cannel of a gouge
  • foxing: a yellow-brown discoloration of wood due to fungal infection
  • fretsaw: a saw with a very fine toothed blade used for delicate cuts in thin material
  • frosting: regular indented patterns created with a special-purpose punch called a froster
  • grain: the longitudinal fibers in wood
  • green: unseasoned wood
  • hardwood: wood from an angiosperm tree, i.e. a tree in the division Magnoliophyta; not necessarily very hard or dense wood, e.g. balsa
  • heart shake: a shake radiating out from the heartwood
  • heel: the corner of a chisel, knife, or gouge bevel which meets the back of the blade and polishes the cut
  • hollow grinding: a concave bevel on a chisel, gouge, or knife
  • incannel: the concave surface of a gouge; a gouge sharpened on the concave surface
  • interlocked grain: grain which has multiple longitudinal directions in alternating layers, typical of many tropical hardwoods, and very difficult to work and to produce smooth surfaces
  • outcannel: the convex surface of a gouge; a gouge sharpened on the convex surface
  • reed: a series of beads in a row
  • riffler: a paddle-shaped rasp
  • ring shake: a shake occurring between annual rings
  • saw rasp: a rasp with saw teeth
  • scorp: a drawknife with a curved, sometimes completely circular blade
  • scraper: a flat blade with a burred edge used for smoothing
  • scrollsaw: a motorized fretsaw
  • seasoning: reducing the moisture content of wood before working to prevent cracking, splitting, and other damage due to drying
  • shake: a crack or split in wood, caused by damage or drying
  • slip: a shaped stone used for sharpening non-flat blades such as on gouges
  • snib: a wooden toggle used to hold the work on a table
  • softwood: wood from a gymnosperm tree, i.e. trees in the divisions Pinophyta and Ginkgophyta; not necessarily very soft or light wood, e.g. douglas-fir
  • spalting: a fungal discoloration in wood where brown spots are outlined with fine black lines, often considered desirable
  • split: to longitudinally separate wood along grain layers
  • sweep: the curvature of a gouge, ranging from flat (little curvature, but not actually flat else it would be a chisel) to deep or quick
  • tear out: small flakes and rough patches on interlocked grain in wood, usually left by machine tools
  • twist: longitudinal twisting of wood due to uneven seasoning or grain
  • undercutting: cutting away from an edge to increase the sense of relief or thinness
  • veiner: a small deep gouge
  • veneer: very thin slices of wood used for inlay or to cover surfaces
  • wane: an edge of a sawn board where the bark or surface of the trunk remains
  • wasting: quickly removing wood during carving, usually with an adze, knife, or rasp
  • waste: wood that will be removed in the finished work, often retained during working as a handle

Topics in Woodworking

Woodworking is now a general term covering a wide range of skills and techniques.

  • carpentry – Originally a carpenter was a wagon maker but carpentry has come to mean the general working of wood. Sometimes used to cover all aspects of woodworking, at other times carpentry refers to the least-skilled level of woodworking and larger projects, such as house building.
  • joinery – The joining of two or more pieces of wood together, necessary in most woodworking projects. Also used particularly to refer to the joining of wood without the use of nails, screws, or other metal fasteners.
  • cabinetry, cabinet making, cabinetmaker – The practice of utilizing many woodworking skills to create cabinets, shelving and furniture; a craftsman who specializes in the making of fine furniture. Implies a very high level of skill in woodworking.
  • marquetry and parquetry – The practice of creating patterns by inlaying different wood veneers; with different colours and different grains complex patterns are formed. Originally used to decorate furniture, both are now often used to produce pictures. Often regarded as a fine art form, equal to sculpture and painting. Marquetry is distinguished from parquetry by the shapes used and formed - marquetry entails the creation of organic or scenic pictures, while parquetry involves geometric shapes.
  • turning – The art of turning a piece of wood on a lathe and shaping it by holding various cutting tools against it.
  • Wood species Choosing which type (species) of wood is correct for a given project.
  • carving
  • boat building – Professionally done by shipwrights.
  • luthier & ndash; someone who builds or repairs stringed musical instruments such as guitars or violins.
  • wheelwright – A maker of wooden wheels and spokes.
  • cooper – A maker of casks and barrels.
  • bodger – Now archaic, a wood-turner specializing making furniture and treen. Also a corruption of "botcher", a colloquial term for an incompetent workman.

Some of these refer to special techniques such as marquetry or turning, while others refer to a specialized product such as the cooper or wheelwright.

Woodworking Tools

A variety of tools are used for woodworking. These may be divided into hand tools and power tools, or they may be divided into rough groups based on their function in the woodworking process.

Measuring and marking tools

Cutting tools

Shaping tools

Assembly tools

Finishing tools

Accessory tools and furniture

  • horse, a tool upon which one sits, with a foot activated clamp to hold shingles, spokes, or short boards, upon which one shaves wood with a drawknife or spokeshave
  • dog, a simple bent rod with a foot which when placed in a hole in a bench can be used to position and hold boards
  • vise, a stable clamping apparatus used to hold wood in different positions while being worked
  • bench, a high table at which one usually stands or sits on a high stool, and on which wood is worked
  • sawhorse, a four-legged stand usually used in pairs to support large pieces of wood such as panels, long boards, and sheets

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