Glossary of Woodworking Hand Tools

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Welcome to our Glossary of Woodworking Hand Tools. Feel free to edit and add "Hand Tools" to this research page. Please follow the general guidelines as outlined below.

  • Add only woodworking terminology that is widely used in the crafts, arts, trades and industry of woodworking.
  • Avoid entering terminology that is used locally, or regionally.
  • Please research your own entries, before entering them here, and verify that they are indeed accurate and reliable.



Adze - An adze is similar to an axe, imagine an axe with its blade at a right angle to its haft (helve or handle).

Adze, Carpenters - This adze similar to the standard adze, yet has a square back of the blade, that can be used for striking other object as in a hammer or maul action.

Adze, Coopers - The coopers adze is held by one hand and has a curved blade, typically used by barrel makers, favored for its small and easy to use weight and size, and for the curved blade.

Adze, Sculptors - The sculptors adze has a straighter blade quite the opposite of the coopers adze, it as well is used by one hand.

Adze, Ship Carpenters - This specialty adze has a blade similar to the shape of a garden hoe, and is fitted with a spur on the back of the blade, the spur is used to set large nails or to punch holes or indentations into the wood.


Boring - See various types below

  • Auger bit - Auger bits are screw shaped tools consisting of two main parts, the twist and the shank. The twist ends in two sharp points, the nibs or spurs, which score the circle, and two cutting edges, the lips, which remove the shavings from within the scored circle. A small screw point, in the center of the cutting end, centers the bit and draws it into the wood.
  • Dowel bit - Dowel bits are short auger bits 4 1/2 in. long over-all. Ordinary auger bits up to 1 in. diameter are from 7 to 9 in. long over-all.
  • Car bit -
  • Expansion bit - Expansion bits have a movable cutter, which is adjustable to bore holes of different diameters. Expansion bits are made in two sizes. The largest size has three cutters, and bores holes up to 4 in. in diameter.
  • Gimlet or German Gimlet bit -
  • Gimlet bit -
  • Twist bit -
  • Forstner bit-
  • Brad Awl -
  • Rose Countersink -


Calipers inside - Entry needed

Calipers outside - Entry needed

Chisel - (See various types below) According to their construction, chisels may be divided into two general classes: tang chisels, in which part of the chisel enters the handle,
and socket chisels, in which the handle enters into a part of the chisel.

  • Firmer - The firmer chisel which is said to get its name from the fact that it is firmer or stiffer than the paring-chisel. The firmer-chisel is a general utility tool, being suited for hand pressure or mallet pounding, for paring or for light mortising.
  • Socket -
  • Paring - The paring chisel, which has a slender blade, is used mainly for hand chiseling. This type of chisel usually is beveled along the sides, so that fine work can be done, such as reeding which requires an extra-thin blade.
  • Tang paring -
  • Framing - The framing chisel has a very heavy and strong blade, and is used in rough carpentry work and shipbuilding.
  • Butt - The butt chisel differs from the others only in that it has a shorter blade and, therefore, can be used in more inaccessible places.
  • Mortise - The mortise chisel, as its name implies, is used for chiseling mortises. It is, therefore, very thick just below the handle so that it will not break when it is used as a lever in forcing the shavings out of the mortise.
  • Socket mortise -

Clamps - See various types below.

  • Steel bar - Steel bar clamps consist of a steel beam or bar fitted with a screw and crank at one end, and a steel head which can be moved along the bar and fastened to it by means of slots cut into its lower edge at short intervals. Steel bar clamps are made in lengths of 2', 2' 6", 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 ft.
  • C - C clamps, or screw clamps, sometimes called "carriage-maker's clamps," consist of a malleable-iron frame, bent in the shape of the letter C, and a steel screw with a swivel tip. They are made in sizes, which, when open, measure from 3 to 12 in.
  • Column - Column clamps consist of a steel chain and a right and left screw. They are very useful when gluing together polygons, shaped columns, and any circular work such as the apron for a round table.
  • Hand screw - Hand screws are most useful both in clamping up finished work and in holding work under construction. They consist of two jaws made of hard wood and two steel spindles, the end and middle spindles. They are opened or closed by grasping a handle in each hand and revolving the hand screw. The size of a hand screw is indicated by the length of the jaw in inches, the smallest being 6 in. and the largest 18 in.


Dividers/Compass - Entry needed






Marking gauge - See various types below

  • Gauge butt - differs from a mortising gauge in that its spurs are at extreme ends of the beams. It can, therefore, be used in internal corners such as door jamb when gauging for the width of the hinges. It is made of steel and has three spurs.
  • Gauge marking - made of wood or steel. The one most commonly used consists of a square, wooden bar or beam, about 8 in. long, on which a wooden block or head slides. This block can be fastened at any point of the bar by means of a brass set-screw bearing against a brass shoe. The block, on the best grade of gauge, is protected from wear by a piece of brass set flush with its surface. The bar is graduated in inches and provided with a steel point or spur fastened near the end with a screw. The spur must be filed to a fine point. This tool is used for marking or gauging widths on narrow pieces of wood, such as table legs, etc. When using it. move the gauge away from you, and tip is slightly forward, keeping the block in contact with the edge or face of the board at all times.
  • Gauge mortising - is a marking gauge with two spurs, which can be spaced at different distances and mark two parallel lines at the same time. One type is made of rosewood and has and adjusting screw in the end of the beam, which moves one of the points up or down the as desired. The other side of the beam is fitted with a single point as an ordinary marking gauge. This gauge is used chiefly for layout out mortises and tenons. Other types are made entirely of metal and have two bars.
  • Gauge slitting - is similar to the panel gauge, but has a handle in addition to the block. It has a knife instead of a spur and is used for cutting thin stock.


Hammer - See various types below

  • Claw - The claw hammer is the type of hammer generally used by carpenters and woodworkers. The peen of this hammer is bent and shaped so that it can be used for pulling nails. The face of the hammer often is slightly convex, or bell-faced, so that it will not make a circular mark on the surface of the wood after striking the last blow on the head of a nail. It is important to keep the face of the hammer clean and free from grease or glue, so that it will not glance off the head of a nail and bend it. The size of the hammer is indicated by the weight of the head in pounds and ounces.
  • Ball Pein - A ball-pein hammer, also known as a machinist's hammer, is a type of peening hammer used in metalworking. It is distinguished from a cross-peen hammer, diagonal-peen hammer, point-peen hammer, or chisel-peen hammer by having a hemispherical head. It is commonly used as a tool for metalworking.
  • Cross and Straight Pein -
  • Club -
  • Sledge -
  • Joiner's Mallet - Mallets are wooden hammers. As wood is more elastic than iron or steel, a mallet should always be used when driving on wood. The blows of a steel hammer would soon splinter a chisel handle and mar a joint to be driven together beyond repair.
  • Soft-faced -


Hatchet - Hatchets are used chiefly by carpenters in shingling and lathing. They have a short handle and can be used both for cutting and nailing.

Handsaw - See various types below

  • Ripsaw - The ripsaw is used for ripping or cutting with the grain along the straight line. Blades of ripsaws vary in length from 20 to 28 in. They are always wider at the handle than at the end, in order to prevent them from bending or buckling when they are pushed through the wood.
  • Crosscut saw - The crosscut saw is similar in shape and appearance to the ripsaw. The only difference lies in the shape of the teeth, which are filed to a point instead of square across as on a ripsaw. The number of points to the inch varies from 8 to 12.
  • Backsaw - The backsaw is a crosscut saw wtih a thin blade and fine teeth. A heavy piece of steel fitted over the back of the thin blade prevents it from buckling. The blades of backsaws are from 8 to 18 in. long. Backsaws are used for finer work such as cheek and shoulder cuts on tenons.
  • Dovetail saw - The dovetail saw is shaped like a backsaw, but has thinner, narrower blade and finer teeth. The handle of a dovetail saw is shaped like a chisel handle. The length of the blade varies from 6 to 12 in. It is used for extremely fine work such as cutting of dovetails.
  • Compass saw - shaped like a ripsaw, but its blade is so narrow that it can cut on curved line. It is particularly useful in cutting a section from within a board or panel. A hole is bored near the line to be cut and the pointed end of the saw inserted into this hole.
  • Keyhole saw - is a smaller and finer compass saw.
  • Turning saw - consists of a very narrow blade, about 3/16 in. wide, which is held under tension in a frame. It has ripsaw teeth and is used for cutting curves, as the blade usually can be revolved in the frame. It can also be set in the frame so that it cuts either on the pulling or the pushing stroke.
  • Hack saw - is not properly a woodworker's tool, but is often a very convenient tool to have in the shop. It has a narrow blade set in a long, narrow metal frame, and is used for cutting metals.
  • Coping saw - is a very small turning saw usually having a metal frame. It is used for sawing fretwork patterns and coping moldings.








Level - Entry needed


Measuring tape - Used by carpenters, contractors, and architects. They are made of steel or cloth, and usually measure from 25 to 100 ft. in length. They are divided into inches and feet, or meters and centimeters.

Miter box - Entry needed

Miter and try-square - can be used at both 90 and 45 degrees. Miter squares can only be used for angles of 45 degrees.


 Nail set - Nail sets are small steel bars about 4 to 5 in. long and 1/4" in diameter. They have a cup-shaped point, and are used to set nails below the surface. The size of the point varies with the size of the nail to be set.




Planes - See various types below.

  • Jack plane - Entry needed
  • Fore plane - The fore plane is built exactly like a jack plane, but is 18 in. long and has a plane iron 2 in. wide.
  • Jointer plane - The jointer is also like the jack plane, but is 22 to 24 in. long, and has a plane iron 2 3/8 in. or 2 5/8 in. wide. The latter two planes are used for leveling larger surfaces and for jointing the edges of boards to be glued.
  • Smooth plane - The smooth plane is of the same construction as the above named planes, but it is shorter, being from 5 1/2 in. to 10 in. in length.
  • Circular plane - The circular plane differs from the others in that it has a flexible bottom 10 in. long, which can be adjusted to either convex or concave curves. It is used on curved work, such as round table tops and aprons.
  • Block plane - The block plane is a small plane from 4 to 8 in. long. It has only a single plane iron, which is placed at a very low angle with the beveled side up. The lever cap is generally curved so that it fits smoothly within the hollow of the hand. This plane is used for planing end wood and in places where an ordinary plane could not be used.
  • Bullnose plane - The bullnose rabbet plane is about 4 in. long, and has the plane iron fastened to the extreme front of the body.
  • Rabbet and Fillister plane - The rabbet and fillister plane is an iron plane used for planing grooves or rabbets on the edges of a board. It has both a depth and a width gauge, as well as a spur, which scores the wood in advance of the plane iron, thereby preventing splitting.
  • Dado plane - A dado plane is similar to a rabbet plane, but is used for cutting across the grain.
  • Match plane - A matching plane is used for matching boards; i.e., plowing a groove on the edge of one and a tongue on the edge of the other. It has two cutters, a plow and a tongue cutter.
  • Router plane - The router plane is used for removing the wood between two sawed or chiseled edges such as dadoes or grooves. The plane iron is lowered after each cut. It is furnished with a 1/4 in., a 2 1/5 in., and a smoothing cutter.
  • Universal plane - The universal plane is a very complicated piece of apparatus for planing moldings, dadoes, beads, flutes, etc. It is furnished with as many as 53 different cutters.
  • Molding planes - Molding planes are wooden planes, having but one plane iron for one particular type of molding. Wooden planes of all types are still used a great deal, especially by European cabinetmakers and carpenters. The inexperienced worker finds them more difficult to adjust, but they have certain advantages over the iron planes. One of these is lighter weight, which is especially noticeable on jointer planes, and another is that shavings from resinous woods do not stick to their bottoms.
  • Plane gauge - Plane gauges are made both for iron and wooden planes. They can be attached to the sides of smooth, jack, fore, or jointer planes, and enable the operator to plane bevels or chamfers of any angle on the edge of a board without the continuous use of a bevel or try-square.

Plumb bob - A plumb bob, or plummet, is a weight, usually with a pointed tip on the bottom, suspended from a string and used as a vertical reference line, or plumb-line. It is essentially the vertical equivalent of a "water level".




Rule - Rules are made in different lengths and of different materials. Those used by woodworkers are usually of the folding type, and measure from 2 to 8 feet in length. Rules are generally marked off on both sides in inches and subdivisions of an inch, but they are also made with such divisions on one side and metric divisions on the other.


Scraper - Scrapers are of two kinds; those sharpened like a plane iron and held in an iron frame or plane body, and those that have square edges and are held in the hand only. The first class is called ''cabinet scrapers" or "scraper planes," and the last type is called "hand scrapers." Hand scrapers having curved edges are called "molding scrapers." Scrapers are used for smoothing a surface after it has been planed.
Cross-grained and highly figured woods must always be scraped.

Sliding T bevel - are similar to try-squares, but differ in that their blades are adjustable to any angle. They are used for laying out angles other than right angles, as for instance, corners braces, dovetails, or side rails for chairs.

Spoke shave - The spokeshave is like a plane with a very short bottom. It is, therefore, suitable for smoothing curves that are too small for a circular spokeshave plane. Spokeshaves are made in many patterns, generally with an iron body. One type, the patternmaker's spokeshave, is
made of wood.


Trammel points -

Try-square - Used for testing the squareness of lumber, and in checking the squareness of work being assembled, especially in places where a framing square would be too large. Try-squares consist of two parts, the stock and the blade, which are firmly fastened together at right angles. The stock is thick and made of wood or iron. The blade, which is thin, is made of steel and has an inch scale stamped on it. Try-squares are made in sizes from 4 to 12 in., measured from the end of the blade to the stock.













  • Graham Blackburn (The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Woodworking Handtools) 2015 (Spring House Press) Nashville, Tennessee 
  • Hjorth, Herman (Principles of woodworking ) 1930 (The Bruce Publishing Company) Milwaukee, Wis 

Contributors to this page: admin and John Morris .
Page last modified on Thursday November 15, 2018 20:39:24 PST by admin.