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Glossary of Basic Wood Terms

Glossary of Basic Wood Terms

by Hart Huttig (1975), updated and expanded by Nicholas Von Robison (1994)

previously published in Lutherie Woods and Steel String Guitars, 1994

See also,
“Taxonomy and Nomenclature” by Nicholas Von Robison
“Top 40 Wood List” by Nicholas Von Robison

Guitarmaking of necessity requires not only a supply of various woods but also knowledge of their origins and methods of cutting and storing. A good luthier should have a considerable fund of information about the history of wood procurement. Lutherie is an ancient craft, and it is a requirement that the luthier should be well conversant in the entire spectrum of wood cutting and classifying. To this end I have made excerpts in the form of glossaries and explanations. This information has been compiled from several sources which will be listed in the “Wood Bibliography” (pp. 23–29). Some of the terms are now archaic but should be of interest from a historical standpoint.

Trees used to be felled with axes and the logs snaked to a work area and cut into baulks with adzes and broad axes. Planks and boards were made by the sawpit method. They were also rived from the logs, that is, split from straight-grained pieces with froes (or frows) or sometimes with power wedges or go-devils. Rails were split with oak wedges or gluts, driven by a beetle or burl maul. Trees were cut into logs and rafted to mills in remote locations when rivers or streams were near enough. Until the 15th century, lumber was sawed by two men equipped with a large hand saw. The log was mounted over a great pit. One man stood below it and was showered with saw dust. The other man stood on top and had the heavier task of lifting the weight of the saw with each cut. Around 1420, near Breslau in Germany, the first saws were driven by water power in mills on river banks. These saws were made to move up and down the same as hand-operated saws. In 1781 Walter Taylor, a saw miller in Southampton, England, began to saw wood with a circular saw, the blade being driven by a water wheel by the River Itchen. In 1808 William Newberry of London patented a saw with teeth formed on an endless metal band revolving around two wheels. He was unable to make a satisfactory commercial bandsaw because the steel available for the blades at that time would not stand the strain. Practical bandsaws were first made by Perin of Paris in about 1855

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