The Word is Out: Coak

The more I read on carpentry and woodwork, the more I seem to come across oddball pieces of vocabulary that are more or less unique to the universe of those things constructed from wood. I thought I’d start a new series on such interesting terms as I come across, whether they relate to the botany of wood, joinery, boat-building, architecture, or the like – anything involving wood. I imagine some words may be familiar enough to those who work wood, and I also hope to uncover a few intriguing gems along the way as well. In some cases the word will likely be a very familiar one to most readers,  however the definition will be an uncommon one.


Coak [kōk]:

Noun: (Carp.) A kind of tenon connecting the face of a scarfed timber with the face of another timber, or a dowel or pin of hard wood or iron uniting timbers; a dowel through overlapping timbers to prevent one from sliding across the other due to horizontal shear.

Verb: (Carp.) to unite timbers by means of tenons or dowels in the edges or face; hence coaks, coaked, coaking.

Derivation: probably from ONF coque “notch”, from Latin coccum “excrescence on a tree, berry of the scarlet oak” (whence OF coche “notch”), from Greek kokkos “berry of the scarlet oak, core of fruit”.

 Examples of joints with coaking:

Both pictures culled from Cecil A. Hewitt’s English Historic Carpentry.

6 Replies to “The Word is Out: Coak”

  1. Chris,
    I am assuming that you have the book English Historic Carpentry. Amazon has the book available as a download to Kindel for $9.99. What I can see of what I am abled to preview of the book, it looks like a good addition to the timber frame library. I know this thread is about the proper displaying of terms but the used material pointed to this book. What is your opinion of this book?
    Jack Ervin

  2. Chris,

    “Rabbit” or “rebate”, it still is an unanswered question. To “spang it” with a hammer…..Beech as “Bitch”…. There are a number of colloquialisms that have bubbled up from the bottom of the glue pot over time. Also a few that apply to woodwork when discussed after hours, especially in the pub, but likely those are beyond the scope of your cordial 'G' rated blog. Included in that category are some interesting ones about the boss.

  3. Chris

    My favorites are from Corkhill's Dictionary: 'nose' the bottom of the shutting stile on a door or casement and 'heel' the bottom of the hanging stile on a door or casement. Why it can't be 'heel' and 'toe' I do not know. I bow to tradition, however.


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