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Woodworking glossary

My lap joint cut and perfect.

Wood grain

Bird’s eye – not a specific species, though normally found in hard maple.  The eyes look like little belly-buttons but they’re flat, not indented.  They’re caused by a tree sending out multiple shoots which don’t ever fully form.  So they’re tiny little knots, basically.

Burl – wood with a swirling pattern, caused by an infection or virus in the tree.  Often sliced into veneer and used for book-matched panels.

End grain – wood grain seen in a cross-cut, which is to say a cross-section of the grain.  In open-grained woods, end grain can look like the ends of straws.

Face grain – wood grain as seen from the top or bottom of the board.  It runs the length of the board, and boards are often cut to emphasize different features such as fiddle back, birds eye, fleck, etc.

Fiddle back – wood with tightly-spaced waves in the wood, often used on the backs of violins, violas, and other stringed instruments, thus the name.  Sometimes called, “curly”.  Often cut into veneer, the curly effect is most prominent on the flat-sawn side.

Quilted – wood grain that resembles gently rippling water, most often associated with maple, the figure is best seen in flat-cut lumber.

Side grain – no different than face-grain, just thinner.  See face-grain here.


The Wood Database – an excellent encyclopedia of all things lumber