Common Terms and Definitions

Before speaking to a Sawyer

Learn the lingo

Do you want flitch cut or quarter sawn? Maybe you need it all dimensional lumber or all cant’s. What is a board foot? Here are some of the common terms and definitions you should get familiar with.

A portion of a log sawed on all four sides.

Cant Hook
This traditional logger’s tool is used to roll, lift, move, and pivot logs using the handle as a pivot lever. Two cant hooks are recommended for basic log handling capabilities. See Cant Hook

Dimensional Lumber
A term used for lumber that is cut to standardized width and thickness specified in inches. Examples of common lumber sizes are 2×4, 2×6, and 4×4.

Figure refers to grain pattern and can be a highly desired visual aspect. Types of figured wood may have names such as birds eye, cats paw burl, spalting, fiddle back, curly, vertical grain or cathedral grain.

A portion of a sawn log which has bark on one or more sides. Also may be referred to as a “slab”.

Sawing to Grade 
A sawing method where the log is sawn, turned to a new face, sawn and turned again up to five times to produce a higher grade of lumber. This may provide for a more stable type of lumber, a particular type of grain pattern or figure in the wood.

Evaluating and sorting trees, logs, or lumber according to quality, value and suitability for a specific purpose.

A term used to describe broadleaf (usually deciduous) trees. Oaks, Walnuts, Maples, Ashes, and Elms are hardwoods. .

The inner core of the tree. It is usually darker in color than the outer sapwood. Heartwood tends to be more resistant to rot and decay.

The width of a cut made by a saw in a piece of wood. A smaller kerf means less sawdust and more lumber.

Log Scale
A table for calculating log volume in board feet based on log diameter and length. See ScribnerInternational, and Doyle log scales.

Moisture Content 
The amount of water content in lumber or logs measured as a percentage of the lumber’s dry weight. In a living tree, wood has a moisture content of 75% or higher. For fine woodwork and cabinet making a moisture content should range from 7% to 14% depending on the average humidity in your geographic region. Overly dried lumber will swell up if transported to a location having a higher average humidity (doors will become tight and wont close). Conversely, wet wood may shrink in a dryer environment (fine joinery will crack, warp and gaps will open up). See Moisture Meter

Quarter Sawing
A sawing method generally defined as lumber sawn with growth rings at angles of 60 to 90 degrees to the widest face. Some quarter sawn lumber may be referred to as “Vertical Grain” or can produce a desirable “figure” in the lumber..

The outer part of a tree. Its main purpose is to carry water and store food. Sapwood tends to rot faster than the heartwood when exposed to the elements for prolonged periods of time.

What is left on the ground after logging, pruning, or other forest operations including tree tops, branches, and bark.

Made of dry species of wood, stickers are wooden spacers placed between layers of lumber during drying. See Drying.

Several layers of stickered lumber. Also known as a pile. See Drying.

The first cuts from a log that are considered waste, the bark sections or the drop off left over from the milling process.

A thin sheet of wood. Veneer is often used for plywood facing, drawer and cabinet fronts and requires attachment to a stable sub straight (solid thicker material).