20 Artisanal Terms You Need to Know

The essential artisanal glossary.

AFFINAGE: The process of aging cheese.

BENCH-MADE: A synonym for handmade when it comes to wood or leather goods, like furniture or shoes.

BESPOKE: Created according to individual specifications, without a preexisting pattern.

BRINING: Immersing perishables such as meats, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables in a salt solution to season and preserve them. Also known as pickling or corning.

BUTTONHOLES: If you find them on the cuff of the jacket, the buttons aren't merely decorative, meaning the suit was made by hand.

CHARCUTERIE: The art of preserving meats (by smoking or curing, for example).

COMPOST TEA: A bacteria-and-nutrient-rich brew made with compost steeped in water and used as a fertilizer in organic farming.

DOVETAIL JOINT: A technique used to join two pieces of wood—e.g., in the corner of a dresser drawer—with interlocking fingers. When the fingers are perfectly uniform, it's a telltale sign that the item is machine-made.

ETSY.COM: A social-commerce website on which hundreds of thousands of members from more than 150 countries buy and sell vintage goods, handmade clothing, ceramics, pottery, and other crafts.

FORAY: A mushroom-hunting excursion.

HAND PLANE: A device used to smooth and shape wood manually, lending surfaces a more organic finish than a power tool would.

HEIRLOOM: An open-pollinated plant grown from seeds that have not been modified or hybridized.

LUTHIER: One who makes and repairs stringed musical instruments.

RAW MILK: Unpasteurized milk, revered by some but deemed dangerous by others, which is why it is illegal in 11 states.

SHOP CLASS AS SOULCRAFT: Biker-philosopher Matthew B. Crawford's best-selling 2009 treatise on the virtues of working with one's hands.

SMALL-BATCH: A phrase commonly found on the labels of spirits—bourbon in particular—indicating that the alcohol was aged in small quantities; also used to mean limited-edition.

STEAMPUNK: A design aesthetic involving modern-day objects refurbished to look like they were made in Victorian times.

TANNING: The process whereby tannin is used to turn rawhide into leather.

THREADLESS.COM: A custom-apparel website founded in 2000 that pioneered the idea of the community-generated marketplace by granting users the opportunity to sell their own T-shirt designs.

WRIGHT: A suffix used to describe laborers skilled at the manufacture and repair of certain objects, especially wooden ones (e.g., wheelwright, shipwright).

Read More:

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