"Helping woodworkers online for the last 20 years"


Glossary of Woodworking Terms

I have attempted use descriptions and definations of terms in a basic way that can be understood by the average person rather than getting too technical. Where terms are referenced in another section of "Sawdust Making 101" or "Bench Notes" a red link follows the term and takes you there for more information.




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  • Adhesive
    A substance that is capable of bonding material together by surface attachment. Glue and Contact Cement are examples
  • Adze
    A tool similar to an axe with a blade perpendicular to the handle, used to carve wood.
  • Air Dried
    Lumber stacked and stored so that it is dried naturally by the exposure to air.
  • Allen Head link
    A screw head with a recess requiring a hexagon shaped key, used mainly on machinery. These may be in metric or SAE sizes.
  • All-thread
    A steel rod threaded its entire length, available in various diameters, usually threaded SAE coarse.
  • Annual Growth Ring
    The layer of growth to the circumference of a tree in a season, easily recognizable in many woods by the difference in cells formed during the early and late parts of the season.
  • Antikickback Pawls
    Toothed fingers that prevent wood from being thrown back toward the operator when ripping on table and radial arm saws.
  • Applied Carving

    A background which is worked separately and then applied, rather than being worked in place.

  • Apron link
    A frame around the base of a table to which the top and legs are fastened.
  • Arbor
    A stub shaft on a machine to turn blades or other cutting wheels.
  • Auger Bit Link
    A drill bit with a helical screw blade to remove the cut material.
  • Auxillary Fence
    Sacrificial material fastened to a machine table fence to protect it from damage by a blade or cutter.
  • Awl
    Pointed instrument that looks like an ice pick, useful for marking positions when laying out a project.
  • Back Saw link

    A handsaw with a rectangular blade with a reinforcing rib along the back for stability, types include razor saws, veneer saws, dovetail saws, and miter box saws.

  • Band Saw link
  • A saw with a looped blade running around two or three wheels. Used with narrow blades for cutting freehand shapes, and with wider blades and a guide for resawing material.

  • Bark
  • The outer protective layer of a tree.

  • Bead

    A semicircular piece of moulding.

  • Bench Dogs

    Pegs which go into holes in the top of a workbench that work with a vise to hold wide material.

  • Bevel

    The angle that one surface or line makes with another when they are not at right angles.

  • Bevel Square

    A handle with an adjustable blade which may be set at any desired angle.

  • Birds-eye Figure

    A figure on wood, usually maple and a few other species, composed of many small rounded areas resembling a birds eye.

  • Biscuit Joint link

    An oval shapped disk that when inserted in a slot with glue swells to form a tight bond. A special tool is required to cut the slot.

  • Blade Stablizers

    Metal disks aprox. 3 1/2" in diameter that go on each side of a saw blade to minimize flexing and rim vibration.

  • Block Plane link

    A small plane designed for cutting across end grain.

  • Board
  • Generally referenced as lumber 1" or less in thickness of any length or width.
  • Board Foot link
  • Measurement of lumber equal to one square foot an inch thick or 144 cubic inches. Multiply width in inches X length in inches X thickness in inches, divide by 144 for total board feet.
  • Bookmatch

    Successive layers of veneer are arranged side by side to resemble a mirror image of each other.

  • Bow

    A warp along the length of a board.

  • Box Joint link
  • Square shaped finger joints used to join pieces at right angles.

  • Brace and Bit

    This is a hand drill with a crank shaped handle with a flat knob on the end, special auger bits with a square tapered shank fit into a two jaw chuck. This is a ancient system but still works well when jobs are done by hand.

  • Brad Point Bit link
  • Similar to twist drill but with a flat bottom and sharp point.

  • Breadboard End link
  • A board that runs across the end of the boards making up a panel such as a table top that has allowance for expansion built in.

  • Bridle Joint Link
  • Often described as the reverse of a mortise and tenon.

  • Burl
  • A growth on a tree with a complex grain.

  • Butt Joint link
  • A joint where the edges of two boards are against each other.

  • Branding Iron

    A tool for burning a name or logo on to wood, electric or flame heated.

  • Calliper

    An insturment with two legs, one of them sliding, used to measure the thickness of objects.

  • Carbide Tipped

    Extremely hard steel pieces with sharp cutting edges fastened to cutting tools such as saw blades, and router bits.

  • Card Scraper Link

    A flat blade with a burred edge used for smoothing.

  • Carcass

    The case or box of a piece of furniture, it is the rough framework and structure of the item.

  • Carpenter's Pencil

    Rectangular shaped pencil, about 1/4" X 1/2", with a 1/16" X 3/16" lead.

  • Chamfer
  • To bevel the corner of a board at a 45 angle.

  • Check

    A defect caused by uneven shrinking of the wood during drying, a checked board has splits which develop lengthwise across the growth rings.

  • Chuck

    An attachment to hold work or a tool in a machine, lathe chucks and drill chucks are examples.

  • Closed-Coat link

    When the grit on sandpaper covers 100% of the backing paper it is referred to as closed-coat. This is used for sanding hardwood and fine finishing.

  • Collet

    A type of chuck that accepts a fixed shaft size, commonly used on routers.

  • Combination Square link

    A square that measures both 90 degree and 45 degree angles.

  • Common Grade Lumber

    Lumber with obvious defects, used in construction framing.

  • Common Pitch

    A plane blade bedded at 45 degrees, typical of most bench planes.

  • Compass link

    An insturment for drawing circles consisting of two legs joined at a pivot hinge.

  • Compound Miter

    An angled cut to both the edge and face of a board, most common use is with crown moulding.

  • Coping Saw
  • A type of hand saw used to cut intricate external shapes and interior cutouts in woodworking or carpentry.

  • Countersink link
  • A special drill bit that allows a screw head to sit flush with the face of the material it is driven into.

  • Cross Cut
  • A cut which runs across the board perpendicular to the grain.

  • Cupping
  • This is when the edges of a board bend with the grain away from the center to form a concave shape.

  • Curl
  • A term to describe what happens to wood as it grows. Curly wood looks like sand on the beach or river bottom with repeated ripples in the grain. The grain goes up and down causing the unusual look in the wood. Also called "tiger" grain or "fiddleback".

  • Dado
  • A groove in the face of a board, usually to accept another board at 90 degrees as in shelf uprights.

  • Deciduous Link

    Trees that shed their foliage annually, commonly referred to as hardwood.

  • Dial Gauge
  • This measuring instrument has a circular graduated face and a pin which activates a rotating pointer to measure variation in movement in thousands of an inch.

  • Dovetail Joint link
  • A joint where the fingers are shaped like a doves tail, used to join pieces at 90 degrees.

  • Dowel link

    A wood pin used to align and hold two adjoining pieces.

  • Dowel Center link

    Metal buttons that go into a predrilled dowel hole to mark the position for drilling the second piece.

  • Dressed Size

    The dimension of lumber after being surfaced by a planer.

  • Drill Press
  • A machine tool in which a drill bit, is pushed into a workpiece to produce a hole.
  • Dust Collector

    A dust collector system consists of a blower, dust filter, and a dust collection bag.

  • Enamel

    A glossy colored finish with high varnish content.

  • End Grain
  • The exposed pores on the end of a board.

  • Epoxy Glue
  • A two part glue that practically glues anything to anything, including metal to metal.

  • Escutcheon
  • A protective metal plate around a keyhole, door handle or drawer pull.

  • Expansion Bit
  • A drill bit with an adjustable cutter that may be set to drill any size hole.

  • Face

    When a board has one side that is wider than the other, the wider side is referred to as the face (as opposed to the edge). May also refer to the side that is to be visible in the finished item.

  • Face Frame

    A flat frame attached to the front of a cabinet, usually to conceal the exposed edges of the plywood panels used to build the carcase.

  • Featherboard
  • Pieces of wood with fingers used to hold material against a fence and or down against the table on power tools such as a table saw.

  • Fence
  • A straight guide on a tool such as a table saw or router table to keep the material a set parallel distance from the blade or cutter.

  • Fiddleback
  • Describes wood, usually maple or mahogany but can be any wood, with Curl or Tiger grain material with fine grain used in the manufacture of violins, hence the name.

  • Figure

    A naturally occurring decorative patterns in wood, usually due to medullary rays.

  • Filler link
  • A substance that is used the fill pores and irregularities on the surface of material to decrease the porosity before applying a finishing coat.

  • Finger Joint
  • Long tapered fingers used to join material lenghtwise, often used in manufacturing moulding to join short lengths.

  • Fixture
  • A device to support or hold work in place.

  • Flat-sawn link

    A method of sawing lumber where the log is cut tangential to the growth rings, also called plain-sawn.

  • Flitch
    A board in which the round of the trunk is still visible, also known as a slab.

  • Flush
  • When two adjoining surfaces are perfectly even with one another. See Proud and Shy.

  • Fret Saw link

    A saw with a very narrow fine toothed blade used for delicate cuts in thin material.

  • French Cleat link
    A method used to hang cabinets utilizing two beveled strips.
  • Forstner Bit link
  • These have a center spur and circular rims with cutting teeth that cut clean flat bottomed holes.

  • Good One Side
  • Plywood with one side patched solid and sanded, the other side will be rough and have open knot holes.

  • Gouge Link

    A chisel like tool with a curved cutting edge.

  • Grain
  • The appearance, size and direction of the alignment of the fibres of the wood.

  • Green Lumber

    Freshly cut lumber that has not been dried.

  • Grit link

    The grade of particles in sandpaper or sharpening stones which determines the aggressiveness of the cut.

  • Gum Pocket
An excessive local accumulation of resin or gum in the wood.
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  • Hand Plane link
    A tool to smooth and true wood surfaces, consisting of a blade fastened in frame at an angle with hand grips to slide it along the board.
  • Hand-Screw Clamp link
    Clamps made with hardwood jaws and two hand screws that can be tightened independently.
  • Hardboard link

    A manufactured board similar to particle board but with a much smoother surface, commonly refered to as Masonite, a popular brand.

  • Hardwood link
    Lumber from the group of trees with broad leaves, this has no reference to the actual hardness of the wood.
  • Heartwood
    The wood from the pith extending to the sapwood, darker in colour due to gum, resins, and other materials which make it less susceptable to rot.
  • Hinge

    A mechanical device that connects two solid objects, allowing rotation between them.

  • Hold Down

    A type of iron clamp, fitting into a hole in a bench, tightened or loosened by hammer taps.

  • Hollow Grinding

    A concave bevel on a chisel, gouge, or knife.

  • Horned Dado link
    This is caused by the outside blades of a stacked dado head cutting deeper than the chipper blades.
  • Impact Driver
    Cordless impact drivers are replacing drills to drive screws in wood, they feature both bit rotation and concussive blows to power-drive the screws. Impact drivers typically deliver two to three times more turning force (torque) than the average drill/driver
  • Inch
    An imperial measure, 1/12th of a foot, equal to 2.54 cm.
  • Infeed
    The side of a power tool where a board enters.
  • Inlay
    The insertion of peices of contrasting wood into depressions flush with the surface.
  • Intarsia
    A mosiac or 3D picture in wood.
  • Janka Test
    A hardness test, usually for wood flooring, rating is pounds of pressure required to press a steel ball .444 inches in diameter one half way into the wood.
  • Jig
    A device used to control the location or motion of another tool.
  • Jig Saw Link

    A power tool that cuts by moving a blade up and down as it is guided through the cut.

  • Joiner

    A joiner is a type of a carpenter that cuts and fits joints in wood.

  • Joinery
  • The art or trade of joining wood.

  • Joint link

    The point at which two or more peices of wood are joined together.

  • Jointer link
    A machine to true the edges of boards usually in preparation for gluing.
  • Kerf link
    The width of a saw cut, determined by the thickness and set of the blade.
  • Kickback
    This is when a workpiece is thrown back by a cutter, prevented using anti-kickback devices on power tools such as table saws.
  • Kiln
    A heated chamber for drying lumber where the air flow, heat and relative humidy can be controled.
  • Kiln Dried
    Lumber dried in a kiln.
  • Knockdown

    A furniture design that allows it to be easily disassembled by the use of special hardware or joinery.

  • Knot
    The portion of a branch or limb that is embedded in the wood.
  • Laminate
    The product of bonding layers together as in beams or plywood.
  • Level
    A tool to indicate horizontal or vertical surfaces.
  • Linseed Oil
    Is an amber-colored, fatty oil extracted from the cotyledon and inner coats of the linseed. The raw oil extracted from the seeds by hydraulic pressure is pale in color and practically without taste or odor. When boiled or extracted by application of heat and pressure, it is darker and has a bitter taste and an unpleasant odor.
  • Lumber
  • Logs sawn into boards, planks, beams, etc.
  • MDF link
    Medium density fiberboard, very stable underlay for counter tops etc. to be covered with laminate.
  • Milk Paint
    A paint made with milk solids, chemically akin to casein glue, often the original finish on antique furniture.
  • Mission Style

    Mission Style is a design that emphasizes simple horizontal and vertical lines and flat panels that accentuate the grain of the wood (usually oak). Gustav Stickley produced Arts and Crafts furniture often referred to as being in the Mission Style.


  • Miter Box
    An apparatus to guide a saw to make miter joints.
  • Miter Gauge
    A guide with an adjustable head that fits in a slot and slides across a power tool table to cut material at an angle.
  • Miter Joint link
    Pieces are cut on an angle to make a joint.
  • Miter Saw Link
  • .
    A type of chop saw where the angle of the blade in relation to the fence is adjustable to cut material at an angle, compound miter saws feature a tilting blade as well. A sliding compound miter saw is a compound miter saw with horizontal sliding arms for the cutter head allowing cuts on much wider boards.
  • Molding (Moulding)
    A strip of material with a profile cut on the facing edges, used for trimming.
  • Morse Taper
    The standard for the taper on the shanks of drill chucks, drill bits and lathe centers. The different size tapers are designated by numbers, #0 being the smallest, #3 is common for drill chucks.
  • Mortise link
    A cavity or hole cut to allow a tennon to pass through to make a joint.
  • Motorized Table Saw

    A type of table saw with the blade attached directly to the motor shaft.

  • Muntin
  • A strip of wood or metal separating and holding panes of glass in a window or door.


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  • Newel
    The post at the top or bottom of a stairway that supports the handrail.
  • Nogging
  • A short horizontal wooden member between studs.

  • Nosing
    The front edge of a stair tread.
  • Nominal Size link
  • The rough sawn dimension a finished piece of material is referred to, for example a 2 X 4 is actually 1 1/2" X 3 1/2".

  • Ogee link
    An S shape that is made by making one cut to produce two identical pieces.
  • Open-Coat link
    Grit covering 70% or less of the surface backing of sandpaper is referred to as open-coat. This is used on softer wood or paint removal because the chips will not clog the sandpaper as easily.
  • Open Time

    The amount of time after a glue is spread you have before it becomes unworkable, also refered to as "working time".

  • Outfeed
    The side of a power tool where the board exits.
  • Particle Board
    A generic term for material manufactured from wood particles and bound together with glue.
  • Phillips Head link
    A type of screw head requiring a driver in the shape of +.
  • Pilot Bit link
    A router bit with a bearing at the end of the cutter that rides against the edge the material or a template to guide the cut.
  • Pilot Hole

    A hole slightly smaller than the thread diameter of a screw drilled in a workpiece to prevent it from splitting.

  • Pinch Sticks
  • Pinch Sticks are two thin pieces of pointy material that are held together loosely enough at the center to move, but can be locked down. They are used to transfer inside dimensions and to check if a carcass is square by measuring across oppposite corners.

  • Pitch link
    The number of teeth on a saw blade per inch.
  • Pith
    The soft core in the center of a log.
  • Plain Sawn
    Boards are sliced from the log with the cut tangent to the growth rings.
  • Plane

    Also refered to as a bench plane, a tool for smoothing and flattening boards

  • Plank
  • Lumber over 1" thick, may be any width or length.

  • Plumb
    A term used to describe something that is perfectly perpendicular to the earth relative to gravity. A plumb bob on the end of a string will give you a line that is plumb or straight up and down.
  • Plunge Router link
    A router in which the motor can slide down into the base to insert the bit in the material.
  • Plywood link
    A glued wood panel usually 4' X 8' made up of thin layers of wood laid at right angles to each other.
  • Pocket Hole link
    A hole drilled on an angle with a step bit to make a butt joint. The larger hole is for the screw head to enter, and the smaller hole is for the shank.
  • Primary Wood
    This is the wood that is on the main or primary surfaces of a piece of furniture. These are the premium or money woods of the cabinet. Woods of lesser value, that are on the sides or not seen is called Secondary Wood.
  • Proud
    To just protrude above the surface so it is sticking out a bit.
  • Quarter Sawn
    Boards which have been cut so that the wide surfaces are aproximately 90 degrees to the anual growth rings, this type of cut reduces cupping of the boards.
  • Rabbet
    A groove in the edge or face of a board, usually a rabbet is referred to on the edge, a dado is refered to on the face.
  • Rack and Pinion Link
    A system using two gears, one round, one flat to move a part, an example would be a drill press, a round gear connected to a handle works with a flat gear on the column to raise and lower the table.
  • Radial Arm Saw link
    Circular saw that runs on an overhead track, the track mechanism swings in relation to the table to make miter cuts.
  • Radial Drill Press link
    A drill press with the head mounted on a tube which is laterally and vertically adjustable, this type gives greater throat clearance but is not as solid as a conventional drill press so run out can be a problem.
  • Rail
    A horizontal member between chair legs or between styles or vertical members of a door frame.
  • Raised Grain link
    The roughened condition of sanded wood when the hard latewood rises above the soft earlywood when moisture is applied.
  • Rake link
    The angle at which the leading edge of the teeth are cut on a saw blade.
  • Rasp

    A long and flat steel tool with raised teeth for shaping wood, some rounded on one side.

  • Resaw

    Slicing wood parallel to the grain to create thinner pieces, usually done on a bandsaw.

  • Rip Cut
    A cut which runs through the length of a board parallel to the grain.
  • Robertson Head link
    A screw head requiring a driver with a square tip, also referred to as a socket head.
  • Rotary Planer
    A power hand tool with rotating blades that smooths the surface of material.
  • Rough Lumber
    Boards which are sawn, edged and trimmed but not run through a planer.
  • Router link
    Basically a high speed motor with handles and an adjustable base with a collet that accepts profile bits to cut dados, rabbets, or shapes.
  • Sandpaper Link
    A form of paper where an abrasive material has been fixed to its surface.
  • Sapwood

    The wood lighter coloured wood on the outside of a log, this wood is more susceptable to rot than heartwood.

  • Sawhorse link
    A trestle usually used in pairs to hold wood for cutting.
  • Scribing
    To transfer the shape of an irregular surface to an object to obtain a close fit.
  • Seasoning
    The time it takes for wood to dry. Wood air-dries and takes one year for every inch of thickness. It refers to a year, a season.
  • Secondary Wood
    This is the material used in furniture that is not seen or on the sides or back of an object. These are the materials that make up the drawer sides, dust panels, backs and other hidden parts.
  • Set link
    The teeth are offset on each side of the blade to allow clearance for the thickness of the blade.
  • Shaper link
    A machine with an interchangable rotary cutter head to cut profile shapes on the edge or face of material.
  • Shellac
    Resin flakes dissolved in alcohol used as a finish for wood.
  • Shop Vac
    A vacuum cleaner built for use in a workshop, many models are wet and dry types.
  • Shy
    A term for an adjoining object being below the object it is next to. This means a little below the surface. See Proud and Flush.
  • Snipe
    The tendency to gouge the trailing end of material when running it through a joiner.
  • Softwood link
    Wood manufactured from trees with needles or scalelike leaves, has no reference to actual hardness of the wood.
  • Spade Bit link
    These are an inexpensive bit, suitable for general use, they get their name from their shape.
  • Splating

    A change in the texture, strength and color of wood caused by colonies of fungus growing within the dead wood.

  • Spline link
    A thin strip of wood fitted between two grooves to make a joint.
  • Spokeshave link
    Used to shape curved surfaces, consists of a blade fastened between two handles, blades come in straight, concave and convex curves.
  • Square link
    An insturment used to lay out or test right angles, with two arms at 90 degrees to each other, the longer and wider arm is the blade, the shorter narrower arm is the tongue.
  • Stacked Dado Head link
    This style of dado cutter has two outside saw blades, the width of the dado is set using a combination of chipper blades and shims between them.
  • Stickers
    Strips placed between layers of lumber for drying.
  • Story Stick
    A "Story Stick" or "Story Pole" is a scrap strip of wood used to record dimensions for a project on site, then the dimensions are used in the shop to build the project. This method reduces the chance of error due to misreading numbers etc.
    "She Who Must Be Obeyed"
  • Style or Stile
    A vertical member of a door framework attached to the horizontal rails.
  • Systainer
  • A Festool storage system of stacking plastic containers.

  • T - slot
    A slot milled in the shape of an upside down T to hold special bolts for clamps or jigs.
  • Table Saw link
    A circular saw mounted under a table with height and angle adjustments for the blade.
  • Tack Cloth or Tack Rag link
    A cloth permeated with a sticky substance to wipe up the dust from sanding when finishing a project.
  • Taper Cut link
    A cut where the width decreases from one end to the other, these are usually done on a table saw with a jig.
  • Tearout
    The tendency to splinter the trailing edge of material when cutting across the grain.
  • Template
    A pattern to guide the marking or cutting of a shape, often used with a router and a piloted bit.
  • Tenon link
    A projection made by cutting away the wood around it to insert into a mortise to make a joint.
  • Thickness Planer link
    A power-fed rotary planer that trims the surface of a board to a certain thickness.
  • Timber
    The word timber is applied in a general way to the log and to the material itself, and to the standing trees. It is also applied more specifically to the larger squared pieces, or "dimension" stock, such as sills, beams, etc.
  • Toggle Clamp
    Clamps which can be attached to a base or table to hold work.
  • Tongue and Groove
    A joinery method where a board has a protruding tongue on one edge and a groove on the other, the tongue of one board fits into the groove of the next.
  • Torx Head
    A screw head requiring a driver in the shape of a star.
  • Try Square link
    A square with a steel tongue in a wooden handle.
  • Turning link

    An ornamental or functional part formed by rotating it on a lathe and shaping it with a chisel pointed tool.

  •  Twist

    A longitudinal twisting of wood due to uneven seasoning or grain.

Tool Use and Safety

Air Compressors

Band Saws

Circular Saws

Drill Presses

Hand Drills


Miter Saws

Radial Arm Saws



Scroll Saws


Table Saws

Thickness Planers

Wood Lathes



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  • Undercutting

    Removing wood from hidden surfaces to allow a joint to close completely.

  • Unisaw
  • A table saw manufactured by Delta, to many the "Holy Grail" of cabinet saws.

  • Vacuum Press
    A bag or a frame used to clamp components together, a vacuum pump removes the air thereby creating equal pressure across the surfaces.
  • Varnish
    A liquid preparation that dries to a hard lustrous coating.
  • Vee Joint
    Tongue and groove boards with their top corners beveled so when the two boards come together a V is formed.
  • Veneer
    A thin layer of expensive wood bonded to a thicker piece of cheaper plywood to give the appearance of the expensive wood but at a reduced price.
  • Wane
    Missing wood or untrimmed bark along the edge or corner of the board.
  • Warp
    To bend or twist to the pull of the grain in the wood.
  • Winding Sticks

    Two narrow, thin, pieces of material whose edges are perfectly parallel which are placed on each end of a workpiece. The worker then sights across the top of them to determine if the piece is flat.

  • Witness Marks
    These are marks put on boards or pieces to keep them in order during gluing, joining and assembly.
  • Wobbly Dado Head link
    A single blade dado cutter where the blade is adjusted to wobble the width of the cut.
  • Woodworking

    The activity or skill of making items from wood, and includes cabinet making (Cabinetry and Furniture), wood carving, joinery, and carpentry.

  • X-Acto Knife
    This is a razor like blade in a handle, the blades come in various shapes, very handy for fine work.
  • Xylology
  • The study of wood.

  • X-Axis
  • Conventionally the left or right movement of the cutting tool on a CNC machine.

  • Yardstick
    A wooden rule 36" long.
  • Y-Axis
  • Conventionally the in or out movement of the cutting tool on a CNC machine.

  • Yoke
    A connection (like a clamp or vise) between two parts so they move together.
  • York Pitch
    A plane blade bedded at a high (50 degree) angle.
  • Zero Clearance Insert

    A blank insert for a table saw, the blade is raised up through it to create a kerf close to the sides of the blade.

  • Z-Axis
  • Conventionally the up or down movement of the cutting tool on a CNC machine.


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