Tools, equipment and processes

Timber is a popular material to use in school Design and Technology lessons as it is generally not too expensive and it can be marked out, cut and shaped with ease.

There are many different tools for marking out timber:

  • pencil - the most popular, can go blunt with use and needs to be kept sharp
  • marking knife - produces a fine crisp line that can be cut to, will produce many lines on timber before it needs to be sharpened again

The measuring tools associated with timber are used to measure lengths and angles. The most common tools are:

  • ruler - for measuring shorter lengths, widths and thicknesses
  • tape measure - for measuring long distances, particularly in the building trade
  • try square - for marking out angles that are 90 degrees to an edge
  • mitre square - for marking out angles that are 45 degrees to an edge
  • sliding bevel - to mark an angle that you set to an edge
  • marking gauge - to scratch a line that is parallel to an edge
  • mortise gauge - to scratch a set of parallel lines to an edge
A dark T-shaped mitre square isolated on a white background.

Mitre square

There are a great many saws used to cut timber - some suit long straight cuts on thicker planks, and others suit curves and complex shapes:

  • rip saw - for ‘ripping’ through and rough cutting thicker planks and boards
  • tenon saw - for cutting straight lines with accuracy
  • coping saws, jig saws and scroll saws - all for cutting thinner pieces of timber and they can cope with curves too
Three different saws alongside each other, a long, pointed and solid rip saw, a shorter, straight and solid tenon saw and a thin, curved and hollow coping saw.

Timber can also be drilled by using a variety of different drill bits, which work by twisting into a piece of timber:

  • twist drills - used to simply drill a hole of a fixed diameter into a piece of timber
  • countersink bits - used to profile a hole so that the top of a screw can sit flush with a surface
The three stages in adding a screw to timber, starting with the use of a twist drill followed by a countersink put and then the screw.

As well as marking, cutting and drilling, there are other skills to develop to shape timber:

  • chiselling - used to remove timber, usually up to a cut or between two cuts, eg in the production of wooden joints such as dovetails
  • planing - used to smooth the edge of a piece of timber by running a sharp blade in the direction of the grain, or can be used at an angle to produce a chamfered edge
  • sanding - used to achieve a profiled shape or smooth surface finish by removing fine particles, normally the final stage in shaping the timber and done by hand or with a machine (belt, disc or orbital)
The two parts of a wooded dovetail joint - trapezium-shaped edges connect together to create a seamless join.