Timber Industry Jargon Buster

Published Friday 04th July 2014

Timber is big business and newcomers may find navigating their way through the industry-speak that runs rife throughout it quite a daunting task.

In this guide, we'll take a look at some frequently-used industry terms and hopefully bust some timber jargon along the way.

Big and Getting Bigger

A recent report from the government forestry commission highlighted some interesting statistics about timber and the sector as a whole:

· The woodland area in the United Kingdom is 3.1 million hectares: 1.4 million hectares (44%) are certified as sustainable.

· 10.4 million green tonnes of UK softwood and hardwood were delivered to primary wood processors and others in 2012

· Wood products imported into the UK in 2012 were valued at £6.4 billion and included 5.2 million cubic metres of sawnwood, 2.6 million cubic metres of wood-based panels, and 6.1 million tonnes of paper.

· The Annual Business Survey stated average employment in 2011-2012 to be approximately 14,000 in forestry and 25,000 in wood processing.

· The UK was the third largest net importer of forest products in 2011, behind China and Japan.

Like any industry, timber has its own unique lingo. For those looking for an insight into the inner workings of the sector, we've put together a couple of examples from across the board (pun intended) to get you started:


All aged stand – A forest stand where trees of different ages can be found growing together

Annual rings - Rings visible in a cross section of a trunk or branch that shows the growth cycles of a tree.


Blaze – Marking a tree by paint or actually cutting into the bark.

Bead – A piece of moulding cut into a semicircle

Buck – Cutting a tree into shorter lengths for cordwood or logging.

Bevel – Some may refer to this as an ‘arris’. It describes a small angled edge found on prefinished boards that minimises splintering.


Certification – The assessment of forest management through performance criteria set out relating to sustainable wood production.

Chain of custody – The tracking of timber through all steps of process production, from initial cutting to end user.


Diamonding – When a square/rectangular piece of timber dries, it changes to a diamond shape.

Dressed timber - Any piece of timber that is finished to a smooth level on a single side or more.


Fall – Off cuts of scrap wood that ‘fall off’ during cutting.

Figure – Patterns on the cut surface of timber which can comprise of knots, irregular grain, or annual growth rings.


Grade – The level of quality assigned to a piece of timber in order of best-to-worst as follows:

- Select

- Standard & Better

- Standard

- Feature


Irregular grain – When fibres within the timber twist around knots and bulbs. This can be called ‘wild grain’ also.


Joist – Timber beams used to support floor boards or the ceiling.


Linear metres – Measurement of length without considering the thickness or width of timber.

Lumber – What our North American friends across the pond commonly call timber.


Moisture content – The total weight of any moisture contained within a piece of timber.

Movement – Level of expansion and contraction within dried wood as moisture content changes in response to humidity.


Particle board – Sheet material that is pressed and created from parts of timber bonded together with resin.

Permanent Set : Changes in the properties of timber that may occur during drying when stressing exceeds elastic limit of said timber. This prevents shrinkage and may lead to defects.


Rough sawn – Refers to the surface condition of timber as it leaves the saw.

Route – To cut a groove into a piece of timber.


Seasoned timber – Any timber that has a moisture level lower than 15%.

Split – A timber defect where wood fibres separate and form splits or cracks in the timber. A split usually will run through the entire piece of timber, making it unusable for its original purpose.

Strength groups – Any timber for structural use has to be graded according to its strength. These range from S1 to S7 for seasoned timber and SD1 to SD8 for unseasoned. Green Density and air dried density are also taken into account.


Truewood – Fresh cut timber which has a high moisture content.

Truss – Connected timber aligned to form triangles.


Warp – When timber has distorted or twisted.

Workability – The level ease and smoothness of timber cutting, which is achievable by either hand or machine tools.

Further reading

It's impossible for us to cover everything in the space of one post and if you're interested in learning more, an excellent resource on timber terminology can be found here.

If you've got any suggestions for confusing terminology you think we should include, or think we've missed anything obvious, be sure to give us a shout on Twitter.

And if you're looking for impartial advice on the best types of timber for your specific projects get in touch for an informal chat today.

Image used courtesy of Hans on Pixabay

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