Glossary of woodturning jargon

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Abrasive cloth.
Cloth abrasive is much better than the paper backed product for woodturning because it is more flexible, longer lasting and it prevents sharp corners on the wood from cutting through into your fingers. There are many different makes and qualities available - some with special coatings to prevent clogging. The best is "resin reinforced" which means that a coat of resin is applied which keeps the little particles of grit in place even during heavy cutting. See "Jflex"
Airlite Respirator
A lightweight battery powered helmet with built in air filter. Formerly made by Racal but now by 3M.
Alternative ivory/horn/amber etc.
A plastic material made to look like ivory etc which is suitable for many turned items.
Synthetic aluminium oxide used in its crystalline form for abrasives in grinding wheels and "sandpaper" etc. Natural forms of this compound include emery, corundum, sapphire and ruby. Ruby is red because it contains chromium as an "impurity" hence the term artificial ruby used for pink grinding wheels.The term artificial sapphire is used for some "ceramic" sharpening stones. Trade names for alumina abrasive include aloxite and alundum.
Aluminium oxide abrasive.
A man-made abrasive produced by fusing bauxilite (which is made from bauxite) in an electric furnace. Used for grinding wheels, abrasive cloth etc. Common colours for aluminium oxide grinding wheels are grey (the cheap wheels on imported grinders), white (the pure form which is very friable and cuts cool) and pink (better for woodturners - see pink wheels).
A special shaft or mandrel used for holding drill chucks or grinding wheels etc. Morse taper arbors are used to fit drill chucks etc into the morse taper sockets in the lathe head or tailstock.
A power carving device using a cutting wheel with teeth designed similar to chainsaw teeth.+
A lamp auger is a special long drill made to drill flex holes in lamps. It is passed through the hollow tailstock into the revolving wood through a special guide bush.
The Association of Woodturners of Great Britain.


Backing up.
Now called shear cutting or slicing - cleans up the surface finish.
This clamps the toolrest to the bed. It can slide along or across the bed. It is usually a casting with a slot in it plus a hole for the T rest stalk.
The part inside the tailstock which slides back and forth to clamp the wood between the centres.
A decorative convex feature or moulding often seen on chair legs etc
This supports the headstock and allows the tailstock and toolrest to slide along it.
A turning chisel with a special wedge-like section. Handy for cutting beads and for hollowing boxes and for use with the sizing tool.
Between centres.
Work held between the headstock and tailstock. It is driven around by the drive centre and supported by the tailstock centre which serves as a bearing. The maximum distance between centres appears in the lathe specifications.
The surface, at a certain angle to the tool blade, generated by grinding and sharpening a tool.
Usually denotes a drill bit
Bobbin drive.
Lace bobbin drive. Uses a square tapered hole to grip lace bobbin blanks at the drive end.
Mexican rosewood. Dark brown with yellowish stripes. Goes very dark eventually.
A chair maker using primitive equipment to turn chair spindles - a pole lathe turner.
Drilling a hole
Bowl Rest.
Special rest which reaches into the bowl to reduce tool overhang.
Bowl turning attachment.
A bracket which holds the toolrest and joins to the lathe allowing large diameter turning.
Cylindrical turned containers.
"Burl" A mass of tiny knots in the wood which gives an attractive and highly prized blank.


Cam locking.
An eccentric pivoting lever operated mechanism is used to give powerful clamping force. Often used to clamp the "banjo" to the bed.
Capacitor start.
This is added to a single phase motor to give extra starting torque. Not needed on three phase motors.
Carbide Cutting Tools.
Not to be confused with high speed steel, an example is cemented tungsten carbide as used for tipping saws, router cutters etc. This is not a steel at all, it is powdered carbide fused into a solid with a cobalt binder. It will not take such a keen edge as steel.
Carbon Steel.
Steel which can be hardened by heat treatment and which becomes hard because of its carbon content. It is just as hard as HSS and takes a very keen edge. It is still used by some turners because of this. See high speed steel (which contains carbon but depends on other alloying elements for its cutting performance)
Silicon carbide used for abrasive. Silicon carbide wheels (called "green grit" because they are green in colour) are used for sharpening cemented carbide tipped tools but they are not recommended for HSS tools. The Carborundum company also make aluminium oxide wheels - which has been known to cause some confusion! The grey wheels on cheap grinders are corundum (impure aluminium oxide) not carborundum.
Cast Iron.
This can be recognised by the moulded dimpled surface and lumpy thick sections. Although less dense than steel, more is used to achieve the desired strength and cast lathes are nice and weighty. The consequence of the thick section is massive rigidity and very little vibration.
Centre Points.
The drive centre and tail centre points.
Used at the headstock end (drive centre) and at the tailstock end (tailstock centre) to support the wood and hold it in place.
Centrifugal Switch.
A switch inside a capacitor start motor which disconnects the capacitor when the motor runs up to full speed.
Chuck work.
Projects which require hollowing or drilling such as bowls, goblets are held in a chuck. The term is sometimes restricted to projects having the grain running axially such as a goblet or vase.
A device used to hold a piece of wood firmly to the end of the spindle. If a piece of wood cannot be held between centres it is held in a chuck.
Cobalt alloy.
Cobalt is used in some grades of high speed steel.
Cobalt high speed steel.
A superior grade of high speed steel.
Collet. A type of chuck jaw.
A collet set is closed by the action of a tapered chuck ring.
Continental spindle gouge.
All gouges were once this type - forged from strip not machined from round. They have a more regular thickness and are easier to use and sharpen (my opinion).
Copy turning.
Making identical replicas of chair spindles etc.
A kind of drill bit which has a pilot which follows a pre-drilled hole to open it up to a bigger size. Will also function as a drive centre. Handy for making lamps.
Crotch Figure.
A lovely grain pattern found where two limbs of the tree divide.
Cup centre.
Now denotes the hollow centre used to guide the lamp auger. A ring centre is similar - the centre point is surrounded by a small sharp edged ring which penetrates a little into the end of the wood and acts as an efficient bearing. It is essential to lubricate with wax or oil.
Curved tool rest.
Used to reach into a bowl to reduce tool overhang.


Danish Oil.
A mixture of Tung oil - possibly other oils plus solvents and drying agents. My favourite finish. It looks good years after it is applied unlike many other finishes.
Dead Centre.
This fits in the tailstock barrel. It supports the wood and acts as a bearing. It does not rotate with the wood as a "live" centre does. As it is fixed and does not rotate, lubrication is required to prevent burning. They are given away free with most lathes.
Devil Stone.
A hard block of abrasive used to dress grindstones.
Diamond section parting tool.
Has clearance at top and bottom the full length of the blade.
Dig-in. A catch.
Caused by instability in the cut with the tool getting out of control. Generally spoils the work during the final cut!
Dog chuck.
A kind of drive centre with projections which prevent the workpiece from slipping.
Domed Scraper.
One of the shapes in the original Peter Child bowl set.
Double ended spindle.
A spindle with two usable ends - usually with an additional left handed spindle thread at the left of the headstock which is used for bowl turning. The diameter of the bowl is not restricted by the bed.
Dovetail jaws.
Most chucks for woodturning use these. They lock onto the wood (which has to be shaped to fit the jaws) in a similar fashion to a dovetail joint.
Retains something in the taper socket by means of a threaded rod which goes through the hole in the spindle.
Drill chuck.
Holds engineers twist drills, sawtooth bits etc for drilling holes. Generally fits into the morse taper socket in head or tailstock.
Drill jig.
A device which guides the drill and provides precise location of a pattern of holes.
Drive centre.
Drive spur, 2-prong centre, 4 prong centre etc. This supports the wood at the spindle end. It has a point to centre the work and blades which drive the work around.


Ejector collar.
Used on Record lathes to protect the spindle thread and prise the taper mounted drive centres etc out of the morse taper socket. Necessary because Record lathes do not have a hole through the spindle for a knock-out bar.
Equilibrium moisture content. Wood will lose or gain moisture to achieve this equilibrium with its environment.
End seal.
This is painted onto the end grain of wood to stop it splitting e.g. Mobilcimer C.


Faceplate ring.
A faceplate with a hole in the centre designed to mount on the jaws of an expanding chuck instead of screwing directly to the lathe spindle. Made by the chuck manufacturers to fit each make of chuck.
Faceplate turning.
Used to describe the turning of bowls or plates where the grain is usually at right angles to the axis of the lathe and there is no tailstock support.
A metal disc which threads onto the spindle. It has a pattern of screw holes for screwing the wood to the face side for turning. Hence "faceplate work"
A list of Frequently Asked Questions.
A kind of drill bit.
A slab of wood cut from the log usually "D" section with some bark on it.
Fluted Parting Tool.
This has two points either side of the blade which scribe the fibres of the wood to give a clean finish. First designed and manufactured by yours truly but not many know that.
Forstner bit.
A sawtooth bit without the sawteeth if you know what I mean. The periphery is a sharp edged ring. Tends to burn unless used at very low speed. Sawtooth bits, often called machine centre bits, are better for lathe work.


Glue film.
A thin sheet of hot melt adhesive designed for sticking veneer but used for the sticky chuck.
Glue Gun.
Dispenses hot melt adhesive through a nozzle. Essential kit for all woodturners.
A cutting tool with a curved section as in spindle gouge, bowl gouge, roughing gouge etc.
Green timber.
Freshly cut wood with a very high moisture content.
Green turning.
Now has three meanings. (a) The two stage process of turning green wood roughly to shape before drying (seasoning) and final shaping/finishing. (b) Turning green wood to a finished shape. (c) Using waste timber to respect and conserve the environment.


The housing containing the bearings and spindle.
Most of the section of the log with the exception of the sapwood and the pith.
Henry Taylor tools.
A famous Sheffield tool maker.
High Speed Steel.
HSS. Steel containing carbides of tungsten, vanadium, molybdenum and/or cobalt which has a high hardness and wear resistance. It will remain hard at very high temperatures. It is not to be confused with "carbide" as in carbide tipped tools or "tungsten carbide" etc. Most HSS turning tools are made in Sheffield, England from M2 high speed steel which contains (by percentage) 0.85 carbon, 4.0 chromium, 6.3 tungsten, 5.0 molybdenum, 1.9 vanadium and the rest iron.
Hollow vessels.
Vase shaped hollow pieces or very deep bowls. Requires special hollowing tools.
Hook tool.
A traditional turning tool which looks like a hook with a sharp edge. Works like a ring tool.
Hopus Measure.
A way of quickly measuring the size of a log.
746 watts of power equal 1 horsepower. Motors are always less than 100% efficient but the output power is usually quoted on the plate.
370 watt = 1/3 horsepower
550 watt = 3/4 horsepower
750 watt = 1 horsepower


Used to divide the circle of rotation into equal divisions. Say you wanted to make a fluted column with 24 flutes. You would use an indexing plate with 24 holes in its periphery to hold the column while you routed each flute.
Induction motor.
A type of A.C. electric motor which does not have "brushes". Most lathe motors are induction. The speed of the motor is proportional to the frequency of the A.C. supply so electronic speed controllers are complicated and expensive.


Used to describe abrasive cloth made with "J" weight cloth which has been specially "flexed" or made more flexible by pulling over small rollers. An example is Hermes RB406 JFlex which is an excellent product for woodturners. We also sell abrasive cloth made using "K" weight cloth which is thinner and even more flexible. We have been guilty of confusing the issue by using the term JFlex for all our abrasive cloth.
A special device made to facilitate an operation such as drilling, grinding etc


Kiln drying.
A commercial process a bit like cooking timber in a huge oven. It speeds up the drying or seasoning process.


Lace bobbin drive.
Drives the lace bobbin blank by means of a tapered square hole
A superior varnish.
Light pull drive.
A special drive centre made for making light pulls.
Live Centre.
Revolving tailstock centre. Contains bearings so that the point rotates with the wood. A dead centre has a fixed point.
Long hole boring.
Using the lamp auger to drill the hole for the lamp flex. The wood is supported at the tailstock end by a special hollow bush which guides the auger. The shell auger has the ability to drill straight without wandering in the grain.


This word is mostly used for holding device which grips the workpiece internally - such as the special mandrels for pen making. In the old days the mandrel was the lathe spindle - the rotating shaft in the headstock.
A multipurpose chuck designed by yours truly.
Molybdenum high speed steel.
The most common type of HSS used for woodturning tools. E.G. M2
Morse taper socket.
A tapered hole in the spindle end, also found in the tailstock barrel. Small accessories such as centres and drill chucks are held by just friction in the socket. They are removed by knocking them out with a rod fed through the hole in the spindle/tailstock barrel. Mr Morse gained fame by devising the exact angle of taper required to give reliable retention but easy ejection.
A decorative turned detail such as bead or ovolo or ogee.
Multi groove belt.
Modern lathes use these belts which employ several small vees on a flattish belt. The advantage is that the belt can curve round a much smaller pulley diameter giving a more compact drive for a given horsepower and speed ratio.
Microcrystalline abrasive.
Each particle of grit is made up of many tiny crystals with sharp edges, all sintered together into little clumps. Grinding wheels made of this abrasive cut much cooler and quicker than conventional wheels and give a better edge.
A famous English maker of lathes.


No-volt release.
This is a safety feature on motor starter switches. If you have a power cut the lathe should not start up unexpectedly when power returns.


A sharpening stone designed to be used with oil rather than water.
Oval Skew Chisel.
This has a rounded section and is easier to use than the normal rectanglar section tool.


P.E.G. Poly ethylene glycol.
This dissolves in water and diffuses into the structure of wood preventing shrinking and splitting. Generally considered uneconomic compare to traditional methods. See green turning.
Part Seasoned.
Not yet ready for use! Rough turning and drying recommended before finish turning.
Paste Wax.
Wax and solvents made to boot polish consistency.
Pin Chuck.
A kind of chuck which grips into a drilled hole. Handy for initial hold of irregular bowl blanks.
Pink wheel.
A grinding wheel made from refined aluminium oxide with an additive which toughens the grit and makes it pink or red in colour. Pink wheels hold their shape better and cut cooler than white. They are the best available for sharpening woodturning tools. Sometimes hyped as "manmade ruby" because they have similar chemical composition. Our own pink wheels are made from a mixture of different grits specially formulated for HSS woodturning tools.
Pole lathe.
A lathe operated by foot pedal. The springy "pole" connected to a rope wound round the workpiece down to the foot pedal provides the power transmission.
An old fashioned term for a drive centre and tail centre.
Pre loaded bearings.
Some lathes have means to tension the front and rear bearings against each other to remove any slight free play.
The point where square section wood joins round, turned timber eg on some furniture legs and spindles.


A barrel which can be extended from a machine and which contains a spindle. As in drill press and also found on the Shopsmith lathe/universal machine.


Ratchet handle.
Handy levers for clamping toolrests etc. It does not have a "ratchet" - rather it has a serrated internal clutch which allows you to change the position of the handle so it is out of the way when tight. Available in various threads male and female. Otherwise known as "Bristol handles"
An unthreaded cylindrical portion of the spindle nose which ensures accurate true running of faceplates and chucks.
Reverse chucking.
Turning the work (eg bowl) around and re-gripping it to get access to the reverse side.
Ring tool.
A sharpened ring attached to a steel shank. Used like a hook tool for hollowing into end grain.
Robert Sorby.
A famous Sheffield tool maker.
Rough Turning.
Shaping of green wood to thicker than finished section with a view to more rapid seasoning or stabilising of the shape.


Sap Wood.
The living layer of wood just under the bark. Generally lighter in colour.
Sawtooth bit.
A useful kind of drill bit with a row of saw teeth cut into the periphery.
A faceplate with a single central screw used for quick mounting of simple projects where a central screw hole is acceptable.
Scroll chuck.
A kind of chuck with jaws that are opened or closed by the action of a spiral "scroll" inside it.
Applied before the finishing coat of polish to speed up the polishing process.
The process of drying out timber until it reaches an equilibrium moisture content with its intended environment.
Segmented Turning.
Where the blank is made up out of many little blocks of wood around its periphery.
Shear scraping.
The scraper is twisted so it is at about 45 degrees to the vertical. This gives a cleaner finish. Special shear scrapers are made with the 45 degree angle built in.
Shearing cuts.
A cut which involves holding the cutting tool at an angle to the direction of cut which results in the blade slicing sideways as it cuts, cutting cleanly through the fibres of the wood.
A substance produced by the lac insect. Soluble in alcohol and used in French Polish etc.
Silicon Carbide.
A man made abrasive compound used for making grinding wheels (usually green), abrasive paper (usually black) etc.
Sizing tool.
Fits onto a parting tool or beading tool or bedan and cuts to a precise diameter.
A special shaped turned projection designed to fit into the chuck jaws.
Spindle locking.
A device which prevents rotation of the spindle to enable faceplates and chucks to be unscrewed easily.
Spindle Nose.
The end with the thread, register, shoulder and morse taper socket.
Spindle or shaft or mandrel.
This revolves in bearings in the headstock.
Spindle turning.
The art of producing chair spindles and similar articles which can be held between the centres of the lathe. The grain runs parallel to the lathe bed.
Split ring.
An accessory for a ring chuck.
A device used to stop vibration of slender workpieces.
Sticky chuck.
A disc of metal which is stuck to the workpiece using hot melt adhesive and then mounted in a chuck.
Superflute gouge.
A bowl gouge with a special flute section.
Cyanacrlylate adhesive available in various viscosities and setting times.
Swing over lathe bed.
Refers to the height of the lathe centres over the bed and governs the maximum diameter that can be "swung". Swing = twice centre height.
Swivel head.
A headstock which can pivot around it's vertical axis allowing large diameter turning.


Used to describe a motor which is totally enclosed and fan cooled - to keep out dust.
Tailstock centre.
A bearing, often conical, which supports the end of the wood and allows it to rotate.
This housing slides along the lathe bed and contains a barrel which supports the non driven end of the revolving wood.
Teak Oil.
A low grade mixture of vegetable oils, varnish and solvents. Use as Danish Oil.
Heat treatment designed to reduce the brittleness of freshly hardened carbon steel.
A very hard steel tool which curls over the edge of a scraper blade and improves the cutting action.
That part of the lathe which supports the turning tools and the hand.
T rest.
As above. The T shape support for the chisel, gouge etc.
Tungsten high speed steel.
An alternative to Molybdenum HSS. Has very similar properties. Not to be confused with tungsten carbide tips.



A metal often added to alloy steels and HSS.


A sharpening stone which uses water as lubricant and cleaning agent rather an oilstone which uses oil.
Weed Pot.
A small delicate vase shape with a small hole in the top to accept dried flowers etc.
Wet turning.
Green turning. Turning green or unseasoned wood, possibly with a view to roughing out the blank to speed the drying out. Some turners finish a project in green wood and make a feature of the inevitable warping.
White wheel.
A grinding wheel made from refined aluminium oxide grit. Cuts cooler than grey wheels but wears quicker than a pink wheel.




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