Woodworking Americanisms


As it is mainly Americans reading this blog, I don’t want you to think my posts are littered with spelling mistakes…

I am a Brit living in the US. That might explain my fondness of extra ‘u’s in words such as colour and neighbour, and my neglect for ‘z’s in utilise and organise.

I like to use the spellings from my home country, but generally adopt Americanised word usage around Americans (when in Rome…). This is especially true in woodworking, because I took up the hobby after leaving England.

American-English translation for woodworkers

American British
A tool for squeezing together wood parts during gluing Clamp Cramp
Adhesive bandage Band-aid Plaster
Floor- or bench-standing machine for making holes Drill press Pillar drill
Private individuals coming together to buy or sell items in a public space Flea market Car boot sale
Material with which woodworking is possible Lumber Timber
A joint made by beveling two surfaces to be joined, usually at a 45° angle Miter Mitre
A strip of material with various profiles used to cover transitions between surfaces or for decoration Moldings Mouldings (or covings)
A cavity prepared to receive a tenon Mortise Mortice
A plane used for cutting grooves Plow Plough
A recess or groove cut near the edge of the frame Rabbet Rebate
A screw apparatus for clamping work Vise Vice
An example of a unit of measurement 1/4 inch 6.35 mm

What surprised me when searching Brit/Americanisms online is that some instances of ‘isms’ might not be entirely interchangeable. For instance, differencebetween.net suggests that timber and lumber are not synonymous, but that a tree is ‘timber’ when it is in the ground and ‘lumber’ once the bark is removed and it has been processed ready for woodworking.

Do you have any words to add to the list?


8 thoughts on “Woodworking Americanisms

  1. I will add that our C-clamps are G-cramps.

    The only one of which I was not aware was vise/vice. I thought that was just a misspelling – the former being correct and the second the wrong word.

    Here in Canada, we also mitre our mouldings. Now, here’s something interesting: if you peruse either the Canaian or US english version the website of Lee Valley Tools (a Canadian company), you will see many “American” spellings (e.g without the extra “u”). This is because Lee Valley uses Transatlantic spelling. I tried to find a link about this, but was unable to in the few minutes I spent searching the web.


  2. Car boot sale was one I had never heard before. Having a few friends from England, I knew that the ‘boot’ of the car was what we in the US would call the trunk. Here, though, when somebody is selling something out of the trunk of their car, that something is generally illicit, not always, but generally.

    Also, some Canadians say the word “about’ pronounced “aboot”, as in A BOOT. We usually frown upon that pronunciation. 🙂

    • Bill,

      Is “a-boot” a Canadian thing? I’ve heard it before but never associated it with a nationality. I smile when people pronounce “roof” as “wruf”. To me, it’s “roo-f”


      • Actually, while I’m not positive on this, I believe that “A-boot” is more of a Scotch Canadian thing. The Scotch originally settled the upper Midwest US/middle of Canada in large numbers. I could be completely wrong about that one though.

        I’m glad you liked my “A-boot” reference. 🙂


  3. Heya just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the pictures aren’t loading properly.
    I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
    I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same results.

  4. American: Coffee break
    English: Tea break.

    all joking aside, there are some interesting differences. I don’t think people here in the UK generally use metric measurements in woodworking though. All woodworking I do is in imperial measurements, whereas everything else (like kitchen weights) I do is in metric.

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