Glossary of Reclaimed Wood Terminology … according to Whole Log

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of terms, but jargon toward an established reclaimed wood parlance.  If you have edit suggestions and updates, we invite your comments and opinions and will credit and acknowledge your contribution, if in line with the judgement of our resident Saw Sage of the New Age.

  • ACTUAL ( “Size” ) – The true exact measured length , width or thickness, of a board, a piece of salvaged lumber or recycled timber. see also, NOMINAL
  • AIR-DRIED – Dried by exposure to air on “stickers” in a yard or shed without artificial heat. A pre-process for new wood and often for reclaimed. See also KILN-DRIED
  • ACCLIMATION TIME – The amount of time necessary for wood flooring or beams to stabilize and be measurable to a degree of moisture content which identifies with the moisture in the area where material is brought into.
  • ANTIQUE WOOD –  Wood that was first harvested 100+ years ago and likely used in construction at that time; likely being cued for a new career as a mantel, beam or flooring.
  • BOTTOM RELIEF or  BACK RELIEF –  A millwork process used in floor manufacture, that equalizes moisture conditions above the floor by routing grooves in the underside of a board, to relieve potential stress, particularly with new wood flooring, but also with reclaimed wide plank flooring. This is often seen with strip oak flooring cut from lower wood grades, that has more inherent tension than older, reclaimed wood.
  • BEAM WRAP – Essentially a 3-sided box that looks like a solid wood beam or timber which is installed over or around an existing steel, wood or laminate support member. It’s a great design tool to solving tricky situations with ductwork, plumbing and more.. Lightweight and easy-to-hand.  Originally introduced as an extruded plastic building component, the reclaimed wood BOX BEAM or FAUX BEAM is an elegant alternative.
  • BOARD FOOT – The cubic equivalent of a boards total length, width & height which are multiplied in inches together then divided by 12  (or a 12 inch foot).   A unit of measurement of lumber represented by a board 1 foot long, 12 inches wide, and 1 inch. The board foot calculation for lumber 1 inch or more in thickness is based on its NOMINAL thickness and width and the actual length. (Width x Thickness /12 x Length )
  • BOW – The distortion of lumber in which there is a deviation, in a direction perpendicular to the flat face, from a straight line from end to end of the piece.
  • BOX BEAM –  See BEAM WRAP, FAUX BEAM
  • BURNISHING – Polishing or rubbing, perhaps even sanding,  to achieve a highlight or glow in wood.
  • CABIN GRADE – A Heart Pine grade ranking description for flooring which has  unpredictable percentages of heart wood, and larger percentages of sapwood. It includes a range of color tones from rustic red to blondish, possibly with streaks of grey.  May also contain boards that have high heart content but may contain splits and cracks that prevent it making a higher grads e.
  • CAROLINA CHARACTER WOOD STYLES* – A wood surface style that begins with finely aged outer patina raw material, is wire-brushed and delicately skip planed to a nearly flat surface that can be further sanded to a desired smoothness after installation if flooring, or characterized by distress marks and irregularities.
  • CAROLINA CLASSIC WOOD STYLES* – Smooth planed wood surfaces that reveal board faces with mature grain patterns and pigment color uncovered from within antique & reclaimed wood material.
  • CAROLINA CRAFTSMAN WOOD STYLES* – Artisan woodworking effects applied to old wood by new craftsmen.
  • CAROLINA RUSTIC WOOD PRODUCTS* – Reclaimed wood products that retain and focus on unique original patina surfaces and qualities and produce One-Of-A-Kind Mantels, Doors, Beams & Timbers, Stair Parts, Trim, Furniture and Component Pieces.
  • CHARACTER MARK –  a wood characteristic or a distinguishing mark.  A distress mark that’s unrelated to deterioration but symbolizes endurance.  Represents exposure or change to wood texture from time, a nail hole, dent or scratch or other non-ordinary detail.
  • CHECK – This is a wood DEFECT that’s a lengthwise separation of the wood that usually extends across the rings of annual growth and commonly results from stress set up in wood during air drying or kiln-drying.
  • CIRCLE-SAWN –  Is a Saw Cut done with a circular pattern.
  • CROWNING – This is a wood DEFECT which is “convex” or “crowned” with a center strip higher than the edges.  See also CUPPING – which is Opposite.
  • CUPPING – This is a wood DEFECT which is “concave” or “dished” with edges raised above the center.   See also CROWNING – which is Opposite.
  • CURE – This term may come up related to glue-down applications of flooring and the properties of an adhesive which by a chemical reaction & elapsed time develops maximum strength.
  • CURING LUMBER –   see this interesting article for in depth information & How-To: http://www.thomasnet.com/articles/plant-facility-equipment/curing-lumber
  • DELAMINATION – The separation of layers in an engineered product, through failure within the adhesive, or at the bond between the adhesive, wear layer or platform.
  • DEFECT –  This is a flaw or negative attribute that may or may not be desirable in a finished form which may or may not be removed from a wood floor board or product. In the case of reclaimed wood products, defects may add to character marks or be lost within surface textures.
  • DEFECTING – This is an additional step in a manufacturing process that supports quality standards.   As it relates to reclaimed wood, it is the process of grading boards and wood products which do not meet pre-determined standards and may represent up to 50% of gross salvaged wood quantities due to un-useable units and grades.  This includes removal of large cracks, splits and open knots as well as millwork errors or WANE.
  • DIMENSIONAL STABILITY – The ability to maintain intended dimensions when influenced by changes in wood moisture content. Wood is hygroscopic and will not remain stable with changes in moisture below a fiber saturation point. To enhance the dimensional stability in flooring, BOTTOM RELIEF  is sometimes advisable on boards 6” and wider.
  • DISTRESSED – With regard to salvaged, recycled, reclaimed and antique flooring it’s a  description for character marks and references lumber from dismantled and  deconstructed buildings ranging from 50-200 years old.  May imply uneven surface textures.
  • ENGINEERED WOOD FLOORING – The construction design of a manufactured floor assembly that bonds solid wood veneers to a 7 – 9-ply wood platform base. It’s an ideal floor for radiant heating systems and when greater stability is required in high moisture areas. Finished thicknesses range on a low end of ½” to an optimal thickness of ¾” thick. Not to be confused with laminate flooring. See also LAMINATED FLOORING; SOLID FLOORING
  • EQUAL LINEAR PATTERN – In floor installation this refers to as a repeating pattern based on same sized floor boards. For installation purposes where more than one width of flooring is used, or a specific pattern is being followed.
  • EQUILIBRIUM MOISTURE CONTENT – The moisture content at which wood neither gains nor loses moisture when surrounded by air at a given relative humidity and temperature.
  • EXPANSION SPACE – The necessary gap that separates a hardwood floors from fixed objects like walls, door jambs, kitchen islands and exposed pipes.
  • FACE – The surface appearance of a reclaimed wood floor, which includes attributes of grain, grade, texture and color. See also VENEER and SKINS.
  • FAUX BEAM – see BOX BEAM
  • FILLER –Any substance that’s used to fill-in character marks or irregularities in wood and generally applied in the course of finishing.
  • FLAT-SAWN –  Also known as PLAIN SAWN, this is a SAW CUT that produces a grain with arching or cathedral patterns.
  • FUMING – In wood finishing, this is a process by which wood color is transformed. Often associated with white oak, it darkens wood and accentuates grain pattern. Fumes from a strong aqueous solution of ammonium hydroxide react with tannins in wood, usually oak. The process works best on white oak because of its high tannin content. Fumed oak is also called smoked oak. Other wood species will not usually darken as much as white oak, but can be fumed also.
  • GLUE-DOWN INSTALLATION – A method of installation in which flooring is glued, using appropriate flooring mastic, directly to a subfloor. This application is often used for concrete subfloors. Conventional mastics are generally of urethane, with environmentally-friendly products emerging at this writing.
  • GRADE –   A benchmark or an evaluation of wood quality, especially where standards have been set. In Heart Pine, a long-leaf pine, there are a variety of quality GRADES that incorporate a variety of GRAIN ranges and closely tied to perception of GRAIN DENSITY or lack of one.
  • GRAIN – Refers to the alternating regions of dark and light wood that represent different growth affects occurring in different seasons and represented by growth rings.
  • Grain patterns effects are attained by how the wood is cut or sawn. See also SAW CUTS with the grain (easy, linear, giving a clean result) against the grain (heavy going; giving a poor result, causing chipping & tear-outs across the grain (a cut across grain lines but the plane of the cut is aligned w/them) end grain (at right angles to the grain, for example trimming the end of a plank) Grain pattern descriptions and types include: spiral or cathedral grain which spirals around the axis of the tree interlocked – grain which spirals around the axis of the tree, but alternates direction. Grain alignments are rare but promote the value of raw material as well as the finished work it becomes a part of and includes:
    bird’s eye –  often associated with maple
    quilted – fiddleback
    curly – often associated with maple or cypress
  • HARDWOOD – A deciduous tree that has broad leaves in contrast to conifers or softwoods.  The wood quality is often assumed harder than that of softwoods and conifers though has no relevance in association to Heart Pine. The term has no reference to the actual hardness of a wood species.
  • HAND-HEWN – The word “ hewing” is a general term meaning to strike or blow with a tool such as an axe; to chop or gash; converting sections of a tree trunk from its rounded natural form into a form with more flat surfaces using primarily an axe or axes to square beams for building construction. The hewer marks lines along the length of a log, usually with a chalk line and then notches every foot or two, almost as deep as the marked line using a chopping or scoring axe. That process is called SCORING. The process of removing pieces of wood between the notches is called juggling or joggling.
  • HANDSCRAPED – Refers to the artificial texture of wood surface, which has been commercially scraped, scratched, or gouged by hand to give it a time-worn look.  In older descriptions it was a term ascribed to original HAND-HEWN material.
  • HARDNESS – A rating used to describe the density and strength of a particular species of wood. For instance, a JANKA Hardness Rating tests the resistance of a sample of wood to denting.
  • HEART CONTENT – Refers to the % of heartwood within the surface of a board and generally applied to Heart Pine.   Prime GRADES contain heart content of 90% or more. CABIN GRADE Heart Pine usually contain heart content of 85% or less.
  • HEARTWOOD – The wood that extends from the centermost part of a tree outwards, to the pith and sapwood.  Wood fiber cells which no longer participate in the life processes of the tree, which are generally darker than SAPWOOD.
  • HEART PINE – A wood species, Pinus Palustris, a long-leaf pine that uniquely incorporates the best attributes of heart wood found in a softwood pine, and equal  to oak in hardness, though classified as a softwood.
  • HYDROSCOPIC – A substance that can absorb and retain moisture, or lose or throw off moisture. Wood and wood products are hydroscopic. They expand with absorption of moisture, and dimensions become smaller when moisture is lost or thrown off.
  • JUGGLING – The process of removing pieces of wood between the notches that have been scored for hand hewn timbers, also referred to as “joggling.”
  • KILN –A chamber having controlled air flow, temperature, and relative humidity to dry lumber to be used as flooring or other wood products. Kilning removes moisture in wood to avoid shrinkage and twisting of wood after sawing.
  • KILN -DRIED – Wood which has been dried in a kiln with the use of artificial heat. Prepares lumber to proper moisture content for further manufacturing. At high temperatures for short period it also kills any Bugs that burrow into old wood. See also AIR-DRIED
  • KNOT – A Portion of a branch or limb which has been surrounded by subsequent growth on a stem. In flooring knots should be tight. In some cases, knots can be “open,” depending on the species and grade of flooring selected.
  • LAMINATED FLOORING –A flooring construction assembly using a man-made or synthetically produced surface layer which is bonded to a substructure or platform with an adhesive to create a manufactured floor. Finished thicknesses generally equal no more than 1/2 inch, with no more than 1/8” of surface layer: overall representing a lower quality wood flooring.
  • LYE – A strong liquid obtained by leaching ashes, which results in a solution that has the effect of changing the tannins which provide the color within wood grain, to achieve a bleached or whitewashed effect.
  • MASTIC – The material used in glue-down installation to adhere wood floors to approved interior sub floors. Urethane, the usual base material, is not considered environmentally friendly.
  • MILLWORK – The processing of raw wood material into a fine or finished state.
  • MOISTURE CONTENT – The amount of moisture in wood expressed as a percentage of the weight of kiln dry lumber. The National Wood Flooring Manufacturers Association, recommends that new hardwood flooring be manufactured and installed at a 6% to 9% moisture content. Reclaimed wood moisture content is likely optimal at 11% to avoid an over-dry condition.  Reclaimed wood flooring should be installed over a sub-floor which varies from it’s moisture content no more than 2%.
  • NAIL-DOWN INSTALLATION – A method of flooring installation where wood planks are attached directly to a plywood sub floor with nails driven either through the top of the surface layer (top-nailing) or through the tongue or each board (side-nailing).
  • NAILEY–GRADE – Is a wood style that often describes Heart Pine flooring, bearing character marks that are created when nails are removed from salvaged wood. The nail holes often have a unique coloration around them which was caused by rust that had developed around the nails.
  • NOMINAL – Is the “Size” by which a board dimension is known or sold on the market, such as a 2 x 4” or 3 x 10”, and which often differs from the ACTUAL size. See also BOARD FOOT.
  • OLD GROWTH – A term biologists use to describe trees which have been grew for approximately 200 years. Lumber industry definitions generally grade trees by grades or characteristics, not age. See also VIRGIN GROWTH
  • ORIGINAL PATINA – Surface appearance that can only be created by the aging process.
  • PATINA – surface appearance that may describe an aged or finished surface.
  • PLAIN-SAWN – Also known as flat sawn, this is a SAW CUT technique to create grain patterns with arching & cathedral patterns. The end of the board shows somewhat horizontal lines.
  • PLANK – A floor board
  • PRE-FINISHED – Flooring that has been top-finished during manufacture and prior to installation. All flooring should be acclimated to surroundings prior to installation. See also UNFINISHED
  • QUARTER-SAWN – Wood boards with the greatest stability of form & size,  with less potential for warping and shrinkage, created by this unique way to SAW CUT.  In some woods, the grain produces a decorative effect. Quarter sawn oak shows a prominent ray fleck. Wood cut in this way is prized for certain applications, but it will tend to be more expensive as well. In cutting a log, quarter sawn boards can be produced in several ways, but if a log is cut for maximum yield it will produce only a few quarter sawn boards among the total; if a log is cut to produce only quarter sawn boards there will be considerable waste. See also VERTICAL GRAIN
  • RANDOM WIDTH and/or LENGTH – Floor board widths and lengths that do not conform to a specific single size requirement after the DEFECTING process.  Product sizes that minimize the waste of useful reclaimed wood board footage, and maximize the overall yield of a diminishing natural resource.
  • RECLAIMED WOOD – Wood that was harvested and used in construction at least 50 years ago but not ANTIQUE WOOD harvested 100 years and more ago.
  • RECYCLED WOOD – Wood that has been previously used in construction and subsequently repurposed for reuse.
  • RELATIVE HUMIDITY – Ratio of the amount of water vapor present in the air to that which the air would hold at saturation at the same temperature.
  • RUSTIC WOOD – Rugged patina surface material with salvaged, recycled, reclaimed or antique wood origins, containing circle-sawn, live edge or character marks. In practical use, a rustic wood surface textures is generally too rough for flooring.
  • SALVAGED WOOD – Wood used previously and available for reuse.
  • SAPWOOD – The wood near the outside of the tree which is usually lighter in color than HEARTWOOD.
  • SAW CUT – Techniques used by a Sawyer to achieve specific wood effects. see  CIRCLE SAWN; FLAT-SAWN; HAND-HEWN; PLAIN SAWN; QUARTER-  SAWN; VERTICAL GRAIN
  • SCORING –  At least three methods are used in scoring. 1) Standing on the log and swinging an axe to chop the score; 2) a method of two carpenters standing on the ground with the log on trestles and swinging downward to slice the scores. 3) A chainsaw is used to notch a log, and sections created by the notching are then split off using a felling axe. See also HAND HEWN, JUGGLING|
  • SKINS –  Thin patina sheets sheered from outermost parts of wood material.    See also FACES; VENEERS ,
  • SKIP PLANED – A millwork technique that employs irregular passes or “skips” .
  • SOFTWOOD – A general term used to describe lumber produced from needle and/or cone bearing trees (conifers).
  • SOLID WOOD FLOORING – In flooring manufacture, a solid wood plank or floor board with a standard thickness of ¾”, which can also be 5/8” or a more thin ½”; with a tongue & groove.  See also ENGINEERED FLOORING
  • SQUARE EDGE – Installation with face Nails.
  • SQUARE FOOTAGE – A unit of measurement to determine that total amount of flooring required for a given area, calculated by multiplying length x width of a space. For the purpose of determining the amount of square footage per width in a given flooring bundle, calculate by dividing the width of the flooring by 12 and then multiplying by the total linear footage (lengths of layers x number of layers).
  • STAIN – A discoloration occurring in or on floor boards of a color other than the natural color of the species. For instance, of a blue stain, or brown stain.
  • TENSION – Signifies grain stress that manifests itself once wood is cut, and during drying or manufacture.
  • TONGUE & GROOVE –  In either solid or engineered floorng, is a “tongue” which is milled on one edge and a “groove” on the opposite edge, often referred to as “T & G.” As flooring is installed, the tongue of each plank is engaged with the groove of the adjacent plank.
  • TANNINS – Refers to chemical compounds present in the cell structure of oak grain, (also in wine grapes) that effects how  wood grain accepts wood stain in the process of  advanced coloration.
  • UNFINISHED – A floor product which must be sanded and have stain and/or a finish applied after installation. All flooring should be acclimated to its surroundings prior to installation. See also PRE-FINISHED
  • VAPOR BARRIER – In flooring installation, A material with a high resistance to vapor or moisture, such as foil, plastic film, rubber, or a specially coated paper, that is used to control condensation or prevent migration of moisture. In is applied as an underlayment.
  • VENEER – A thin skin of fine reclaimed wood which represents the outer face or surface of an engineered wood floor, which includes attributes of grain, grade, texture and color. In 1/8” or ¼” thickness, often expressed in millimeters. Not to be confused with a laminate or man-made surface material. See also ENGINEERED WOOD FLOOR; LAMINATE
  • VERTICAL GRAIN – Producing a high quality GRADE, may also be called straight-grain, running in a single direction, parallel to the axis of the tree, created by quarter-sawn saw cut.  See also QUARTER SAWN.
  • VINTAGE WOOD – Little used wood reference for reclaimed, recycled, and reused wood, implying character markings but without age specific inference.
  • VIRGIN GROWTH – A term biologists use to describe trees which grew for 200-600 years before being entirely eliminated and cut down for construction, by the end of the Industrial Revolution in 1920. Lumber industry definitions label trees by grades & characteristics, but not by age.  Virgin Growth may sometimes be referred to as OLD GROWTH, though distinctions exist and OLD GROWTH often represents second growth trees that grew after VIRGIN GROWTH.
  • WARPING – Any distortion of a piece of flooring from its true plan that may occur in it’s seasoning or drying.
  • WANE – Is a DEFECT in wood flooring when the face of the board tapers off before it gets to the edge of a surface.
  • WIDE PLANK FLOORING – Board widths of 6” and wider.