Like any craft, woodworking comes with its own jargon and terminology that can be confusing, especially if you are brand new to this hobby.
Before we get started, I’d like to remind you that if you are woodworking curious and interested in trying out this hobby, I have an online course called The Weekend Woodworker that will get you building your first project this weekend, no experience necessary. But before diving into anything, I’d like for you to download my free guide to getting started for under $1000 at mytoollist.com. Oh and keep an eye out for my next course, The Weekend Workshop, launching later this fall…it’s what I’ve been working on all summer!
3 types of straight cuts
A crosscut is a straight, 90-degree cut that cuts across the grain of the wood. Usually, that means turning long boards into shorter ones. On a table saw, you will usually use a miter gauge to make crosscuts.
It’s the most basic cut you can make. In fact, you can buy dimensional lumber at a big box home center and make complete projects with only crosscuts on a miter saw.
A rip cut is the opposite of a crosscut. Rip cuts are square, straight cuts made in the direction of the wood grain. To rip lumber you will mostly use a rip fence on a tablesaw.
Being able to rip lumber will open up a world of options for sizing lumber to any width you need.
The third dimension you may need to cut wood is parallel to its face. In other words, making it thinner. One of the limitations of lumber sold at home centers is that it’s all milled to the same thickness, ¾” in the U.S.
While you can build tons of projects with ¾” boards, sometimes it’s just too thick. Especially if you are making something small and you want a less bulky appearance.
Resawing on a tablesaw is a more advanced technique and takes special care to keep the wood from tipping as it’s run through the blade on its edge. Plus, with a tablesaw you are limited to how high you can raise your blade.
A safer tool for resawing is a bandsaw. Or shave the wood thinner using a planer.
3 types of angled cuts
A miter cut is similar to a crosscut, but it’s an angled cut other than 90 degrees, across the face of the board and mostly across the grain. Think of the corners of picture frames.
These can be made with a miter gauge on the tablesaw or with a miter saw with the head rotated.
Bevels are similar to miters, but angled along the thickness of the wood. They can be either in the direction of the grain or against the grain.
To make bevels on a miter saw, you can either tilt the head of the saw and cut the wood face down, or you can stand the wood on its edge and rotate the head of the saw.
To make a bevel cut on a tablesaw, you will need to tilt the saw blade.
Tapers are probably the least common of the angled cuts. As you can imagine, a taper cut is one made mostly with the direction of the grain. You’ll see this most commonly on table legs.
You can make taper cuts on a bandsaw or a tablesaw. To do this on a tablesaw, you’ll need a tapering jig…a method of feeding the wood through the saw at an angle along your rip fence. You can buy tapering jigs, like this one from Microjig, or make your own.
3 types of non-through cuts
These three cuts do not cut all the way through the wood, usually just half the thickness. You can make these cuts with a router, but I usually prefer to use a stack of dado blades on my tablesaw to plow out these channels.
A dado is a rectangular three-sided channel cut across the grain of the wood. These might be used to hold shelves in place.
A groove is the same thing as a dado, but cut along the direction of the grain of the wood.
Rabbet (Rebate in the U.K.)
A rabbet is a two-sided recess cut into the edge or end of a board, against the grain or in the same direction. If you were making a box or say, a bookcase, these might be used to attach the top and bottom. I use rabbets on the backs of picture frames to hold the artwork and I sometimes use rabbets to hold the bottoms of drawers.
I hope this has been helpful. Let me know if you’d like to see more woodworking terms videos. Thanks for watching!