Video: Tune your tenons with a rabbet plane
While Mike Pekovich prefers a large shoulder plane to tune his joinery, he shows how the process can easily be done with a much more affordable vintage rabbet plane like the Stanley #78.
Most of my mortise-and-tenon work is handled with machines. I like to make my mortises on the hollow-chisel mortiser and tackle my tenons at the tablesaw with a dado stack. I always aim for a fit that is just a little bit too snug that I can just barely get into the joint because there can be a variation in the width of the stock from piece to piece–leading to slight variations in the size of the tenon off the tablesaw. It’s a delicate balance, though. If the tenon won’t fit into the mortise at all, I’ll have too much work to do with hand tools and I really risk getting my joinery out of square during fitting.
My favorite tool for trimming tenons while keeping them super square is a large shoulder plane. It does the job really well since there is so much mass to it and it has a nice, wide blade. However they can be expensive, and if you’re just getting into the craft, spending $250 on a big shoulder plane might not be in your budget. There’s a really good solution for a lot less money–a vintage rabbet plane like the Stanley #78.
With its full-width blade, a vintage rabbet plane is basically the same thing as a shoulder plane and they are pretty easy to find for around $30 to $40. They were never used very often, so they tend to be in really good shape and they don’t take a lot of effort to tune up.
In use, the main difference between a shoulder plane and a rabbet plane is workholding. A shoulder plane allows you to grip the tool right above the blade and use a bench hook to hold the stock. The rabbet plane is a two-handed tool and requires you to clamp the workpiece in a vise. Get that blade sharp and you’ll be fitting tenons easily.