Baltic Birch Plywood

A very high quality plywood made of very thin wood veneers. The panels are usually manufactured in the Baltic Sea region of Europe and Russia. The panels are sold in 5′ x 5′ size with various thicknesses and often used to make drawer boxes in furniture or cabinets and high end commercial store fixtures. The quality of the layers in the core of this plywood is such that there are few if any voids and many people like the exposed look of these layers which provides a modern feel. The face of the plywood is relatively free of defects (or defects have been patched with a “football”). From time to time one might encounter a color variation in the face of the plywood that ranges from a soft blond to a rusty brown, however most sheets consist entirely of the blond wood.

Bevel Cut

A cut wear the material is on the miter saw bed against the fence and the saw blade is perpendicular to the fence but at an angle other than 90 degrees to the saw bed.

China Birch

Industry slang for a very common inexpensive paint grade birch plywood panel made in China. This product is the highest seller in most U.S. lumber yards because of its low price. The face veneers are extremely thin, the panel tends to warp badly, often contains formaldehyde glues, and can have the tendency to delaminate. It will increase the material cost of a project but it is advised to avoid this product if you can.

Compound Angle

An angle cut in the material where both the bevel and the miter of the saw are other than 0 degrees.


The interior make-up of a sheet good panel between the front and back veneers. There are a variety of cores available but the most common are veneer core (thin sliced layered wood core), MDF core, particle board core, lumber core (solid wood core),or a combination thereof. The quality and type of core affects the price and the weight of the panel.  For instance, an MDF core panel could weigh as much as 100lbs whereas a comparable veneer core might weigh 55lbs. One must consider the use and end product when choosing the core as well. MDF and particle board will not last long in an environment high in moisture.

Cup Hinge

A type of hinge that attaches to the back of the door and the cabinet box or face frame without the hinge being visible from the front of the cabinet or door. This is often referred to as a “Euro hinge” or a “European Cup Hinge”.


Referring to work that is one-of-a-kind or made to fit a specific space or serve a specific function. Usually work of higher quality, design, and cost.  As in a “custom cabinet shop” vs. a “production cabinet shop.”  Custom shops produce smaller quantities of a given product with great variation or customization.  Their product is often more expensive due to time intensive labor, better materials, usual avoidance of typical standardization, and a smaller labor force doing multiple aspects of the work.


A term describing the layers or face veneer of a poorly constructed sheet of plywood whose layers have begun to separate or whose face veneer is peeling. Sometimes caused by over exposure to moisture or water.


Wood or wood products grown or made in the USA. Typically considered higher quality and more sustainably grown and produced. Sometimes more expensive.

European Cup Hinge

See “Cup Hinge”

Face Frame

The front frame on a cabinet or piece of furniture to which the doors typically attach. Most American cabinetry uses a face frame whereas most European cabinetry does not. A frameless cabinet tends to look more contemporary or modern.


A patch used on the surface of plywood where a defect has been removed.  The shape of the patch often resembles a football.


Wood or wood products grown or produced outside of the USA and imported. The foreign man made products can be very cheaply made and made with huge impact to the environment depending on where they are made. Not all imports are low quality and some wood or wood products must be imported since the trees do not grow in the USA. There are ways to verify source materials and environmental impact of the imported products but this typically adds incredible expense to the materials.

Full Extension Drawer Slides

Drawer slides that extend completely and enable the back of the drawer to be accessed, thereby eliminating the useless cluttered space so common in drawers that use cheaper slides that do not extend fully. Full extension slides are typically a ball bearing design that travel smoothly and noise free and usually hold 75lbs or more.


Work that is accomplished by hand or with hand tools rather than power tools. Most work done by power tools will need some level of hand work in order to remove the machine marks. Work that is entirely done by hand usually commands a premium price due to the level of skill the carpenter must have and the increased time and labor of the project. Hand work often has an artistic or craftsman feel to it. Some people mistake this for imperfection or sloppiness, and some carpenters are rather sloppy, but sometimes this is just the result of a product made by a human being rather than a computerized machine with repeatability and tolerances of .001″. When considering having something made by hand most people will consider the “humanness” of the end result against the “perfection” of mass production as a plus.


The art of creating elaborate detailed designs of different wood veneers. The veneers are often cut to form patterns or detailed pictures.


See “Medium Density Fiberboard”

Medium Density Fiberboard

Medium Density Fiberboard, or MDF as it is more commonly known, is a man made product commonly used in sheet form as a core in between veneer to form panels.  This product is excellent when used as a veneer substrate because it is extremely flat and very stable as far as wood movement issues are concerned.  The down sides are its weight, high glue content, and tendency to swell beyond repair when allowed to soak up water or other liquids.

Miter Cut

A cut wear the material is flat on the bed of a miter saw against the fence and the blade vertical to the saw bed but cutting at an angle other than 90 degrees to the saw fence.


One-off is a term meaning one-of-a-kind.  It usually refers to a piece that will never be duplicated.  The only one in existence.

Oriented Strand Board

A man made sheet good comprised of strands of wood laid in cross layers with the bottom and top layers being haphazardly applied.  The material is pressed and glued.  It has become a cheaper and popular alternative to veneer core plywood in recent years for use as a sub floor decking, exterior wall panel between the frame of a house and the brick façade, and as a roof decking.  It is not used for fine woodworking but rather for general construction purposes.


See “Oriented Strand Board”


See “Sheet Goods”

Particle Board

A man made material that is heavy and dense consisting of glue and saw dust that is pressed into large sheets or panels. This is a great use of a waste product that would otherwise be discarded however its use is sign of inferior construction and materials when used in furniture or cabinets. It often contains formaldehyde in its glue which can leach from the product polluting indoor air quality. It tends to swell and separate when even briefly coming in contact with moisture.  The high glue content found in the product tends to more quickly dull knives and blades on processing machinery and tools.


Plywood is a man made material consisting of thin layers (or plys) of wood that are glued together to form sheets. This type of plywood consisting of thin sheets is called “Veneer Core Plywood”. The layers are often laid in odd numbers with the grain of each successive layer running perpendicular to the grain of the layer before it. This cross layering of the grain is what gives the plywood its strength and relative stability, (meaning its tendency to resist warping or shrinkage). Plywood comes in various grades or qualities depending on its use. For instance plywood used as a floor underlayment or as roof decking only needs to meet certain strength requirements and does not need to be aesthetically pleasing, whereas a panel used in a piece of furniture may not need to meet the stringent strength requirements but must be of higher aesthetic quality. The price of finer plywood is affected by the type and quality of the core and the grade of veneers applied to the front and back of the panel. The term “plywood” is often used generally to describe a variety of man made sheet goods that would not technically fit the description of “plywood”.


A term that is used to refer to a product that is somewhat standardized, basic, or modular.  As in a “production cabinet shop” vs. a “custom cabinet shop.”  Production shops produce larger quantities of a product with little variation or customization.  Their product is often cheaper due to economy of scale, cheaper materials (both quality and price), standardization, and a large labor force doing repetitive actions, such as assembly line style manufacturing.


The cross section of a piece of molding showing its radius, angles, and spring angle that give it its particular look.

Profile Stacking

The technique of layering or stacking various molding profiles to create a unique look that is more complex than the basic moldings available. This is often done with standard millwork crown moldings and chair rail moldings but works quite well with moldings produced by router profiles as well.

Purple Heart

A wood from South America that is is quite heavy and is naturally colored purple.  Over time this wood can darken into a rich dark purple-brown.

Radius Work

A term often used to describe wood working that incorporates curves or rounded features.

Rail and Stile

A rail is a horizontal member of a raised panel door or a wood face frame. A stile (pronounced “style”) is a vertical member of a raised panel door or a wood face frame.

Raised Panel Doors

A popular door style where a solid wood panel is suspended inside a wood frame. The panel often has a shaped profile that allows it to rest inside a groove in the door frame and the top of the panel is usually flush with the top of the frame. The solid wood panel must be allowed to “float” inside the frame. If one glues or nails the solid center panel inside the frame the seasonal wood movement will eventually shatter the frame requiring the door to be rebuilt. This type of door or design feature is sometimes called “floating panel construction” or “5 piece door” – (4 frame parts and 1 center panel = 5 pieces).  See “Rail and Stile”

Sheet Goods

Man made product consisting of wood and/or wood waste products that are pressed into large panels, typically 4′ x 8′ in size, but available in other sizes as well.  Used for cabinet and furniture case work, floor underlayment, interior and exterior wall covering, roof decking etc… Generally referred to as a panel or a sheet.  There is a seemingly limitless number of products that would be classified as sheet goods varying greatly in recommended use, material make-up, and quality.

Shelf Pin

A pin or small bracket that is movable within a range of pre-drilled holes to allow for the vertical height adjustment of cabinet or furniture shelving.

Solid Wood

Wood in its solid or natural state, meaning that it has not been transformed into various other engineered or man made wood products, such as sheet goods.  Solid wood can exist as lumber or in some cut or shaped form but its general make-up is still that of the natural wood from which it was cut or shaped.

Spring Angle

The angle at which a particular crown molding or cove molding protrudes or “springs” from the wall. This angle varies by the molding and must be considered when cutting the miters of the molding.

Stile and Rail

A stile (pronounced “style”) is a vertical member of a raised panel door or a wood face frame. A rail is the horizontal member of a raised panel door or a wood face frame.

Turned Wood

Common term used to describe wood that has been placed on a lathe and “turned”. Most any wood item that is circular in appearance has been turned, such as a round table leg or a pool cue.


A thin slice of wood that is glued to the front and back of a sheet good panel. A veneer can also be a thin slice or thin slices of wood that are glued onto a surface to create an elaborate beautiful design.  (See “Marquetry”)