Glossary Intro and Glossary Annexes

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Woodworking Tools

This is an incomplete entry 5-14-2010 -- if you're interested in the history of Woodworking Tools, keep tuned in, because I will be updating this entry regularly.

The Concept of Woodworking Tools

Click on this link for a mental account I have for the concept of "woodworking's cutting edge".

Timeline on History of Woodworker's Hand Tools: Prelude to Initial Development of Power Woodworking Machinery

The history of woodworking machinery from earliest times until today opens when the pre-historic man uses a block of wood for a seat.

As shown by authorities such as W L Goodman and R A Salaman, its path is long and tortuous.


Woodworking skill and technology developed steadily through the Middle Ages, and finally -- as the Industrial Revolution takes off -- for power woodworking machinery -- achieves a stunning start with the Bentham planer and the Woodworth bandsaw. The upshot, modern industrial woodworking, with its pantheon of power machinery and mass production - is about to travel through still another phase, with the promise today of laser technology applied to the production of wood objects: -- Read more here.

Classifying Woodworking Tools


The image on the left is a  1919 illustration by Harry E. Wood, then Director of Manual Training for the Indianapolis Public Schools. Wood co-authored -- with James H Smith -- Prevocational and Industrial Arts Chicago: Atkinson, Mentzer, 1919. This illustration is on page 3. While the list shows its date by being limited to hand tools it nonetheless points out essential features that newbie woodworkers will surely apreciate.

Woodworker's Manuals Central to a Concept of Woodworking Tools

1818: Thomas Martin, Circle of the Mechanical Arts 1818


1872: John Richards. A Treatise on the Construction and Operation of Wood-Working Machines: Containing a History of the Origin and Progress of the Manufacture of Wood-Cutting Machinery Since the Year 1700. London, New York: Spon, 1872.

The classic. Finally digitized and uploaded by  Google Print and by Open Library. The link above leads to the version on Open Library, because it is easier to use.

1883: C. P. B. Shelley. Workshop Appliances, Including Descriptions of Some of the Gauging and Measuring Instruments, Hand Cutting Tools, Lathes, Drilling, Planing and Other Machine-Tools Used by Engineers Sixth edition, revised and enlarged London: Longmans, Green, 1883, Chapter II, pages 31- 73, is "On Hand Tools for Cutting Wood".

1936: Edwin Mather Wyatt, Common Woodworking Tools: Their History Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936, page 67.

A scholarly study of hand woodworking tools -- complete with bibliography of sources used -- chapter-by-chapter, Wyatt traces the hand tools back to the Ancient world. Illustrated almost exclusively with pen-and-ink drawings, Wyatt precedes Goodman by a quarter of a century, but -- in comparison with Goodman, or Kebabian or Salaman -- suffers from a lack of scholarly rigor, a problem most likely caused by the state-of-the-art in woodworking history, especially archaeology, in the pre-World War II era. The history of the steel square is an example of a gap in the scholarship of Wyatt's day, versus, say Goodman, or Kebabian or Salaman -- discussed below -- in a post-WW II era, when scholarly activities burgeoned on a remarkable scale.

Rather than injecting the evidence that clinches my claim -- it would bulk up a history of woodworking tools with an unnecessary overlay of studies on the rapid growth in scholarship throughout academe since World War II, coming from the expansion of higher education, I will simply cite one study: The Academic Revoution, by Christopher and David Riesman Edison, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2002:

... The first metal squares made in the United States for the use of carpenters were probably made by Silas Hawes, a blacksmith of South Shaftsbury, Vermont, about the time that the War of 1812 closed. One day he welded some old pit-saw blades together to form squares, stamped scales on them and sold them to a peddler. This traveling merchant found such a ready market for the newfangled iron squares that he kept reordering, until within a year Blacksmith Hawes found himself manager of a square factory with several assistants. Hawes patented his metal squares, developed machinery for making them, organized several new factories... (page 51).

Evidence exists that, earlier, other blacksmiths had created metal steel squares, but Hawes contribution, the evidence suggests was including the "impressions" for inches and fractions in the blade and tongue. Unfortunately, we will probably never know for sure, because the patent records for this era burned up in a fire. For more on the steel square, click here.

1937: Herman Hjorth. Modern Machine Woodworking. Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing, 1937.

Hjorth taught woodworking during the middle decades of the last century in the Bronx and served in several other influential capacities in Industrial Arts circles. Chapter 1 focuses on the historical development of major stationary woodworking tools. Provides bibliography, but does not link textual discussion to sources cited at cends of chapters. I have the 1960 ed.

1947: Walter Edward Durbahn; Elmer W Sundberg. Fundamentals of carpentry.  2 v. illus. 24 cm. Chicago: American Technical Society, 1st ed., 1947 1950; 1956; 2nd ed.; 1963, 3rd ed;  1967-1969 4th ed. 1982; 5th ed.(Rev. by E. W. Sundberg).

For more on Walt Durbahn, click here

Contents: v. 1. Tools, materials, and practices.-- v. 2. Practical construction.

Included in the first volume is a 96-page "dictionary" -- examples of entries above -- which includes both definitions and illustrations.

For comparison, on the used book market I bought several editions of Durbahn's carpentry textbook, and after examining them, conclude that Durbahn himself had full editorial control of it, because the first edition betrays a loving, careful mind at work, very concerned about the learning and welfare of the students using the set to learn a skill profession and launch a sucessful career in building construction.

I do not get that same impression for subsequent editions. Deleted from the dictionary are the "woodworking" terms, such as "African Mahogany" "abrasive paper",  "adze", "block plane",  "colonial", "guage", "groove", "hutch", "miter square", "mechanic", "molding plane", 'mortising machine",   "rebate", "reeding",  "rule joint", "sandpaper", "scutcheon" or "escutcheon", "spokeshave". Do these editorial changes reduce this textbook for its primary audience, wannabe carpenters? Probably not. What it shows for me, however, is that Durbahn's original vision, or worldview, i.e., a broader scale of mentoring, that included "woodworkers", fell to the constraints imposed by the publisher, American Technical Society, because of what it believed were the information needs of the textbook's primary audience, carpenters.

1952:  Judson H. Mansfield. "Woodworking Machinery: History of Development From 1852-1952" , Mechanical Engineering ? December 1952.

1960: William F Holtrop and Herman Hjorth. Modern Machine Woodworking. Milwaukee: Brusce Publishing, 1960. 280 pages.

1962: William L. Goodman. Woodwork from the Stone Age to Do-It-Yourself. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1962.

1964: William L. Goodman. The History of Woodworking Tools. London: Bell, 1964. 208 pages.

1964: Eric Sloane. A Museum of Early American Tools. New York: Ballentine Books, 1964. 108 pages.  

1971: Daniel W. Irwin,  Power Tool Maintenance. McGraw-Hill, 1971.

The most sought after manual for the maintenance of all major stationary woodworking tools. Twenty-two chapters cover belts, pulleys, bearings, lubrication, motors (wiring and controls), parts and service info, all major stationary woodworking tools, and portable electric tools. I have put a link on this title, for a google print upload, but -- unfortunately -- McGraw-Hill would not release it for full text access.

1973: Charles H Hayward, Tools For Woodwork New York: Drake, 1976

The late Charles H. Hayward was a 20th-century woodworking writer who had been traditionally trained in professional English shops when both hand and power tools were common. Hayward wrote many classics, including "Woodwork Joints," "Cabinetmaking for Beginners" and "English Period Furniture." He also was the editor of England's Woodworker Magazine.

All of his books are out of print, though they are easy to find used on the Internet.

First published in England in 1946, reprinted, Lippincott, 1949, revised edition, Evans, 1973, reprinted, Drake, 1976.

For more on Hayward, click here, Bio, bibliography and numerous hyperlinks related to Charles Harold Hayward

In woodworking, especially amateur woodworking, Hayward is for England and the rest of the United Kingdom what R J DeCristoforo is for America. (Even with their English slant, Hayward's books are popular in America.)


Tools and Metrication [Strangely, these pages missing in my copy, but no evidence exists that the missing page was removed after publication; instead it looks like an oversight by the publisher.]


Chapter one Saws Pitch of teeth, bevel, set, tension, size, hand saws, back saws, saws for cutting curves, special saws, sharpening.

Chapter two Planes Bench planes, cutting action, back iron, mouth sharpening, use of, rebate, grooving, moulding, universal and compass.

Chapter three Chisels and Gouges Types of, sharpening, cutting action; carving tools, types of sharpening.

Chapter four Marking out and Testing Tools

Gauges, squares, diagonal rod, parallel strips, marking knife, spirit level, rules. Chapter five Boring Tools

Braces, bits, use of brace and bit, sharpening bits, drill, bradawl, automatic drill, dowelling jig. Chapter six Spokeshaves, Scrapers, Scraper Planes, Routers, etc. Wood spokeshave, metal spokeshave, draw knife, scrapers, scraper plane, routers, scratch-stock.

Chapter seven Hammers, Mallets, Punches, Pincers, etc.

Hammers, mallets, pincers, punches, nail pulls,

screwdrivers, axe, adze, dowel plate, splitting wedges, glue pots, screw box and tap, shapers, rasp, file, float, riffler, cork rubber, oilstone and slips, grindstone, emery wheel, veneering hammer.

Chapter eight Cramps

Sash, cramp heads, handscrews, G. quick action, thumbscrew, corner, spring, improvised, flooring, band.

Chapter nine Appliances Sawing appliances, planing appliances, chiselling appliances.

Chapter ten Powered Hand Tools

Circular saw, jig saw, powered plane, sanders, rebater and moulder, router, dovetailer.

Tool kit (That is, the image on the right)



A knowledge of tools is a fundamental necessity to the man who goes in seriously for woodwork. It makes all the difference between success and failure in what is one of the most interesting and useful of crafts. It includes knowing how to choose tools in accordance with the general run of work to be done, how to sharpen them and keep them in condition, understanding their cutting action, and knowing how to use them.

Taking these points in their order, consider the wide range of tools listed in most tool dealers' catalogues. The number of types and sizes is almost bewildering in its vastness, and the beginner may well find himself in a state of uncertainty in making his choice unless he has some guidance. Then, proper sharpening is an obvious necessity; you cannot do good work with tools which are blunt or which have been badly sharpened, and you may easily seriously harm good tools by faulty treatment. Understanding the cutting action may not appear so essential, but a little reflection shows that the man who realizes just how a tool does its work will get the best out of it. Furthermore, he will certainly be better able to correct any fault that may develop. Finally, the necessity of knowing how to use tools is so obvious as to need no enlarging.

In this book we have endeavoured to cover all these points. The range of tools is divided into general classifications to give easy reference, and their main features are described. In addition a suggested list of tools -- [list and accompanying image below] -- is given in which the woodworker is advised to invest. This includes (1) a preliminary kit, (2) a further list which can follow as the necessity arises, and (3) those tools which can be made at home. Certain of the tools given in this book may be unobtainable as they have gone out of production, but they are included because there are many of them still in constant use, and they are excellent tools.

An important point to be emphasised is the necessity of buying good tools. It may seem strange that two tools, apparently the same, may have widely varying prices, but the difference will soon make itself felt. A good tool will last a lifetime and will always be a joy to use; a poor one will soon develop faults and will be more of a handicap than a help. The best plan is to select tools of well-known, reliable make, knowing that they have behind them the guarantee of a firm with a reputation to maintain.

The present edition includes a chapter on powered hand tools because of the growing tendency to use them even in a hand workshop to speed up some of the more laborious operations such as ripping, etc.

Saws for Cutting Curves

bow_saw Bow saw. This is the most satisfactory tool to use, the reason being that the blade is held in constant tension by means of the top cord which is tightened tourniquet fashion. It is available to hold saws from 200mm. (8in.) up to 400mm. (16in.) in length, a useful all-round size being 250mm. (10in.) or 300mm. (12in.). It will be seen that the saw blade is secured at one end to a knob and at the other to the handle. Both these are free to revolve in the arms so that the saw can be set to work in any direction. It is obviously important to see that both knob and handle are in alignment as otherwise the blade will be twisted.

The advantage of being able to turn the blade is that is enables the saw to be worked in positions which would be impossible if they had to remain fixed. For instance, a long cut could be made parallel with the edge of a board by setting the blade to cut at right angles with the arms.

It can also be used for internal cuts. In this case a hole is bored through the wood and one of the rivets securing the blade is knocked out. This enables the blade to be withdrawn from its socket and passed through the hole. The only limit to the usefulness of the tool is the distance between the blade and the middle cross bar. Obviously it cannot work at a distance greater from the edge than this.

In use both hands grip the handle as shown in Fig. 26. [Different image, but bowsaw in Hayward's manual is same model.] The wood is fixed in the vice as low as possible so that it receives support close to where the actual cut is taking place. It is obviously necessary to keep the blade square with the wood and this is a matter which comes with experience and practice. When finished with the tension on the blade should be slackened.

For seriously taking up woodwork, Hayward suggests that beginning woodworkers purchase the the following hand tools

One of Hayward's best books -- Tools for Woodwork -- explains how to use most basic hand tools and hand-held power tools. At the back of that book is a "suggested kit for the man taking up woodwork seriously." We've decided to print his basic list and illustration (at right) with our commentary following each entry. Plus, we've included a list of what we consider to be the essential and recommended power tools.

The Necessary Power Equipment

In addition to that list of hand tools, we think the well-equipped shop should start with these pieces of power equipment.

. 10" table saw

. 8" jointer

. 12" benchtop planer

. '/2" drill

. Random-orbit sander

. Drill press or hollow-chisel mortiser

. Jigsaw or band saw

. Two-base router kit (2hp)

. 10" miter saw

Preliminary Tool Kit:
    1 Hand saw, cross-cut, 560mm. (22in.). Back saw, 250mm. (10in.): or 3 Dovetail saw, 200mm. (8in.): 2 Tenon saw, 360mm. (14in.): 7 Jack plane, 50mm. (2in.) cutter: 9 Smoothing plane 60mm. (2-3/8in.) cutter, metal adjustable: 8 Fore plane 450mm. (18in.) length, metal adjustable: 15 Chisels, firmer, 20mm., 6mm. (3/4in, 1/4in.): 23, 24 Screwdrivers 200mm. (8in.), 76mm. (3:n.) (fine): 18 Hammer, Warrington, No. 4: 21 Mallet, 120mm. (5in.): 22 Pincers: 25 Cutting gauge: 33 Brad awl, medium: 28 Brace, ratchet 200mm. (8in.) or 250mm. (10in.) sweep: 29 Bits, 9mm. (3/8in.) twist: 31 Bits countersink: 30 Bits, drill, about 4mm. (3/16in.): 32 Bits, centre, 20mm. (3/4in.): 34 Square, try, 150mm. (6in.): 42 Oilstone, 200mm. (8in.), India or Carborundum, medium or combination fine and coarse: 20 Nail punch, fine: 41 Scraper, 120mm. (5in.): 43 Rule, metric, folding.
Useful additions to follow as required:
    4 Bow saw, 300mm. (12in.): 53 Keyhole saw: 54 Coping saw: 11 Bullnose plane: 56 Shoulder plane: 55 Compass plane: 12 Rebate plane, metal adjustable: 13 Toothing plane, 50mm. (2in.) cutter: 10 Plough: 15 Chisels, firmer, 12mm. (1/2in.), 3mm. (1/8in.): 16 Chisels, bevelled edge. 37mm. (1-1/2in.): 17 Chisels. mortise, 8mm. (5/16in.): 19 Hammer, pattern maker's, fine: 26 Marking gauge: 27 Mortise gauge: 44 Spokeshave, wood, 56mm. (2-1/4in.) blade: 29 Bits, twist, 6mm., 12mm. (3/8in., in.): 32 Bits, centre, 25mm. (1 in.) (or as required): 47 Sash cramps, pair, 0.9mm. (3ft.) (or as needed): 49 G cramps, 1 50mm. (6in.): 48 Handscrews: 35 Square, try, 300mm. (12in.) (or Engineer's sliding): 37 Square, mitre, 250mm. (10in.): 38 Bevel, 200mm. (8in.): 45 Gouge, outside ground, size to suit: 51, 52 Rasp and file: 58 Shaper [not pictured]: 57 Router [not pictured]: 61 Dividers.
Home made jigs and fixtures:
    5 Mitre block 200mm. (8in.): 6 Mitre box: 14 Shooting board, about .9m. (3ft.): 39 Straight edge: 36 Square, 600mm. (2ft.) blade: 40 Parallel or winding strips: 42 Oilstone case: 50 Veneering hammer: 46 Bench hook: 59 Scratch stock: 60 Mitre templet.

the classic Edwin Tunis books, on tools and implements of pre-20th century American life should be considered as reliable sources on early woodworking tool technology.

Sidelights -- [from Contemporary Authors database]


A social historian, primarily of early American life, Edwin Tunis wrote books for young people that were praised for their readability, faithfulness to detail, and numerous illustrations. For example, Ellen Lewis Buell of the New York Times Book Review commented that Colonial Living "delights the curious-minded. . . . In this big, generously illustrated volume,. . . [Tunis] tells us how the American colonists lived: of the furniture they used, the houses they built, the clothes they wore, the crops they planted--and also why. . . . Here is recreated the pattern of everyday living so that we come to a closer understanding of these doughty people, the tasks they performed and their pleasure, too."

Writing in Commentary, Jason Epstein called Frontier Living, a companion volume to Colonial Living, "a valuable and substantial account of daily life on the edge of the American wilderness as it gradually receded toward California. The book is not only full of uncommon information: it is surprisingly candid. . . . Frontier Living is a considerable achievement--one of those books that are likely to inspire strong feelings of social justice and patriotism in certain young readers by providing them not only with a sense of their uniqueness but with a link to the common welfare."

Source: Contemporary Authors,

1978: Paul B. Kebabian, American Woodworking Tools Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1978, 213 pages.




    The Ages of Stone and Metals

    Early Development of Tools

    Woodworking Techniques


    The Axe

    The Adz

    Percussion Tools

    The Chisel and Gouge

    The Saw

    Boring Implements

    The Plane

    The Drawing Knife











1979: Scharff, Robert. The Complete Book Of Home Workshop Tools McGraw-Hill, 1979.

Similar to the also dated Holtrop and Hjorth (above), but still useful, this book helps amateur  woodworkers select and use hand and power tools in the home workshop. Describes the tools, explains how to use them correctly and safely and how to care for them.

Not online in fulltext

1982: Aldren Watson, Hand Tools: Their Ways and Workings New York: Lyons and Burford, 1982, 416 pages.

Click here for more on Watson's fine book on hand tools.

1989: R A Salaman. Dictionary of Woodworking Tools, c. 1700-1970, and tools of allied trades. Revised ed. Newtown, CT: Taunton Press, 1989. 546 pages.

1993: Time-Life Books. Hand Tools Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1993. 144 pages.

As well as covering a panoply of hand tools, most tools -- the most well-known and popular -- include an illustrated "how-to-use" section. First, a three-part introduction features accounts by noted professional woodworkers, Kelly Mehler, Curtis Erpelding, and Toshio Odate, respectively, on "the hand tool experience", the "making of hand tools", and "respect for hand tools".

Without a doubt, the book's intent is to fire up the imagination of the wannabe newbie woodworker, an intent that -- with brief, to-the-point text and well-excuted drawings and color photographs-- in my view, the book achieves.











1998: Sandor Nagyszalanczy. The Art of Fine Tools. Newtown, CT:  Taunton Press, 1998.

2008 Christopher Schwarz, editor of Woodworking Magazine, did an article on "Tools for Woodwork", in the autumn issue, 2008, where -- over three decades later -- Schwarz once again addresses the debate about buying power tools and/or buying hand tools, when newbies are choosing the tools needed for setting up a home workshop. Portions of Schwarz's article are in the box below:

Tools for Woodwork

What hand and power tools does the serious beginner need? Here's our best list.

When setting up shop, probably the last place you should search for the tools you need is in a tool catalog. The catalogs and supply stores are clogged with an array of tools, jigs and other equipment that all look absolutely essential.

Truth is, most of those tools are essential, but just not for every shop and every woodworker. The core list of tools you need to build furniture is actually pretty small.

We set out to develop our own list of "must-have" tools for a shop that blends hand and power tools, but we quickly discovered that someone had already done the job for us - and done it well.

Source: Christopher Schwarz, "Tools for Woodwork", Woodworking Magazine Autumn 2008, pages 28-29