How Good Is Your Carpentry Vocabulary?



By: Robin Tyler

6 Min Quiz

Image: grandriver / Difydave / liangpv / E+ / DigitalVision Vectors / Getty Images

About This Quiz

We think you would agree: There is nothing as beautiful as a finely crafted piece of wood, be it a piece that has been sculpted into art, formed into furniture, or even a house made entirely of timber.

Man has worked with wood since the beginning of time. In fact, the early weapons used by our ancestors were simply long tree branches sharpened as best they could into spears. 

And there is something strangely hypnotic watching a carpenter working in his chosen medium. The way he fashions a thick plank into the leg of a chair, slowly shaping it until it looks the part. And then using a chisel to give it a final shape, before sanding it down and applying some varnish to give himself just one piece of his final puzzle. 

Carpenters have many tools in their workshops and methods by which they perform their chosen profession. Many of these have unique terms that are applied to them. So in the ultimate "How good is your carpentry vocabulary" quiz, we are going to see just how much you actually know about the world of sawdust, chisels, wood glue, saws, joints and planes!

This is a tough one, so keep your wits about you!

Good luck!

In carpentry, what would an "Allen key" be used for?

"Allen keys" are used to tighten and loosen a specific type of fastener with a hexagonal head. These are often used in carpentry, especially on parts of wood that are presented because they look neater than screws.


When a carpenter asks you to pass the "plane", which tool is he looking for?

A carpentry plane is an important tool for a carpenter. It has a blade which can be set to take off large pieces of wood or for finer work. It is used to shape wood or to remove thin layers, for example from the bottom of a door that might be jamming.


What is a "level"?

There is no point if a piece of wood a carpenter is trying to make a shelf out of is not straight. Even when he hangs a shelf, he would use a "level" to determine that it is indeed hung straight. This small tool has a liquid viewer where if you line up an air bubble in a particular area, you know a shelf is indeed level.


Of the options below, which of these would best describe a "band saw"?

A band saw has a continuous looped blade that is able to cut large pieces of wood. To do this, the wood must be fed toward the blade as it spins.


Can you tell us what "anchor bolts" are in carpentry?

Often, a solid base is needed when making large wooden structures. Here, supports take the form of "anchor bolts" which then will hold structural pieces in place.


Do you know what a "batten" is?

A "batten" is a small strip of wood that a carpenter will cut to size. It is then used to cover a joint that is used between two pieces of siding. Basically, it is used for aesthetic purposes.


What is a "tread" in carpentry terms?

And all along you thought a stair is just a stair. Well, no, because the horizontal part of it, the place where you put your foot is known as the "tread"!


In carpentry drawings, do you know what a "side elevation" is?

Carpentry drawings or plans, especially when it comes to building a wooden house, are extremely important. These show the exact layout of the building from every possible angle, including the side.


When building a wooden home, where would you find the "rafters"?

"Rafters" are the large wooden structures that form part of your roof. Typically, they form a V-shape. In some houses, ceilings are left out to show off the rafters and extend the overall height inside.


If timber has "bowed," what has happened to it?

The last thing a carpenter wants is lumber that is "bowed," especially longer planks. It can be corrected, however, usually through the process of steaming and bending it back into place.


From the options below, which best describes a "plumb bob"?

Sometimes, a carpenter will need to know a point exactly below another, and at varying lengths. To find them, simply use a "plumb bob". This is a simple device consisting of a string and a weight and easily used.


What would the term "slabbing" refer to in carpentry vocabulary?

"Slabbing" means taking a floor plan for a wooden house, drawing it on the already finished slab and identifying where the walls would be after framing by drawing chalk lines to represent them.


What is the "grain" of a piece of wood?

The way the "grain" of a wood runs is important to know. To get a better finish for a piece that you need to chisel for example, you would chisel with the grain.


To shape wood, which of these would you use?

A chisel is a woodworking tool used to shape wood. It has a sharpened beveled metal tip to remove pieces of wood and is guided by a carpenter who holds onto a small handle.


In wooden stair construction, what is a "stringer"?

While the part where your foot lands on a stair is the "tread", the "stringers" are vertical pieces of wood that support the "treads" and the "risers". This gives stairs their strength.


If you were using a "brace and bit," what would you be doing?

If you were using a "brace and bit," the chances are you were living in a time before electrical hand-held tool or you just like antique tools. A "brace and bit" is an old-school drill. To drill into a piece of wood, a carpenter would crank a handle which would engage gears to turn the drill bit.


What would you do with a "caliper"?

"Calipers" are tools with two arms that are used to mark and measure accurately while working with lumber. It looks a little bit like a compass that you would use in math class.


From the options below, which best describes "countersinking"?

The overall finish of a piece of a wood such as a table or desk is of utmost importance. And where screws will be showing, it is usual to use a countersink bit to ensure the head of the screw also sinks away in the wood, providing a flush and neat finish.


In carpentry drawings, do you know what a "rear elevation" is?

A "rear elevation" is simply the drawn plans for the back of a wooden house. These are crucial for carpenters in the building trade.


Which of these tools would you use to put a nail into a piece of wood?

But you knew that, right? Well, I hope so! Hammers come in all shapes and sizes with a claw hammer the choice of carpenters. Why? Well, it can easily pull out any nails that might have bent while they were pounded into wood.


Can you tell which of these best explains "veneer"?

Outfitting your kitchen with new countertops and cupboards can be expensive. Often, instead of using an expensive wood for countertops, carpenters can save their clients money by using thin sheets of an expensive wood glued onto chipboard, for instance. This is known as "veneer".


When two wooden panels are "flush," they are?

When two wooden panels meet perfectly, they are said to be "flush", if not the lower one is said to be "shy" while the raised one would be "proud".


Which of these would you use for delicate cuts while sawing?

Fret saws are for fine saw work while cutting thin pieces of wood. Fret saws have a large, U-shaped body and a very small, thin blade.


What is a "dowel"?

Dowels are round pieces of wood of varying circumference. They are used to plug holes, join pieces of wood together and for many other purposes in carpentry.


Do you know what an "awl" is in the carpentery world?

An "awl" is a very simple instrument used in carpentry to punch a small hole in wood. This can then be used to set a nail or screw, making it easier to hit them or turn them into the wood.


If a carpenter is sawing a piece of wood as a "cross cut" he is ...

Sometimes, a carpenter will choose to "cross cut," which means cutting through the grain of a piece of wood. This effectively rips the wood fibers, and using a saw with finer teeth makes the task a little easier.


Any idea what "green lumber" is?

For lumber to be in prime condition, ready to use, it needs to dry out sufficiently. Just think about it, a tree is filled with water and sap, it cannot be used straight after it has been cut down. It needs to be dried out. Lumber that is not sufficiently dry is known as "green lumber".


When smoothing a piece of wood, which of these would you use?

The easiest way to beautifully finish off a piece of wood is to give it a light sanding. This is easily achieved by using an electric sander. There are many options to choose from, but a mouse sander is the best for small, detailed work.


Can you tell us what type of wood product is made from compressed and glued wooden particles?

This specially manufactured building board is formed from compressed wood and glued wooden pieces. It is often used as a partition.


Any idea as to what "beading" would refer to in carpentry terms?

"Beading" is simply using a small piece of wood as a decorative piece. With a half-round profile, "beading" is used mostly to give an ornamental edge.


If a carpenter uses "filler," what has he done?

"Filler" is a friend of a carpenter, especially when repurposing an old piece of wood. Once he has taken out older screws or nails, filler is used to fill up the holes and then sanded for a clean finish.


Can you tell us what a "dovetail" is in carpentry lingo?

A dovetail joint connects two pieces of wood at a right-angle. The two pieces fit together using opposite joints which look like dovetails and which slide together.


In what form of carpentry is a "speed square" most useful?

A "speed square" is a carpenter's tool that is triangular in shape. It is essentially a try square, combination square and framing square all in one.


Any idea what a "story pole" is?

A "story pole" is a marked 2x4 that is used to determine the height of a landing when constructing stairs. It also shows exactly where risers should be placed.


In carpentry drawings, do you know what a "front elevation" is?

When it comes to building a wooden house, carpentry plans and drawings are extremely important. These show the exact layout of the building from every possible angle, including the front.


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