Make a rabbet with a handplane
This was my third year attending the Working Wood in the 18th Century conference at Colonial Williamsburg. Even though I don’t make period furniture, I’ve always learned something useful and this year was no different. I often find myself needing to make a rabbet on a small piece (a small drawer bottom, for example) and not really excited about setting up the router table or dado set. That’s why I was excited when Mack Headley demonstrated a very easy and fast technique for making a rabbet by hand. I wasn’t able to get photos of him doing it, so I headed out into the shop when I got back to the office to give it a try myself. What’s so smart about this technique is that you don’t try to plane a perfect vertical wall as you remove the waste to get to the rabbet’s final depth. Instead, you plane to depth inside of where the vertical wall is and then plane back to get to the wall. So, it’s plane to depth and then plane to width. Don’t do both at once. Very smart and it makes the job a lot easier.
The photos above show how Mack does it. The only difference is that he was using a very cool wooden rabbet plane, while I was forced to use a metal shoulder plane. It still works, but I think I’ll be making myself a rabbet plane soon.
See all of the coverage from the Working Wood in the 18th Century conference at Colonial Williamsburg.
Step 1: Mark the rabbet's width with a marking gauge.
Step 2: Mark the rabbet's depth with a marking gauge.
Step 3: Start planing to remove the waste, but don't try to plane to the gauge line. Instead, plane inside of it just a bit. This makes the job much easier, because you don't have to worry about hitting the line dead on.
Step 4: Keep it going. At this point you're working down to the depth line. Plane until you get there.
Step 5: Plane the vertical wall. Now is when you work back to your gauge line. This way, you're guaranteed to get the wall nice and straight.
And done! After planing to the layout line marking the rabbet's width, you're finished. This was fast and easy.