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How to make a Rabbet Joint

A rabbet is probably one of the first joinery cuts tried by new woodworkers. In this, an open-sided recess or a channel is cut across the end or along the edge of a wooden panel. It helps to locate and assemble parts and are sometimes the best option that you can possibly have.

This kind of a joint is great for designing shelves that require a vertical support or adding plywood recess back in a cabinet. Even glass panels can be inserted into the edges of door panels.

Cutting a Rabbet   

Rabbet joints are closely related to a dado. Both these joints cut a recess into the wood. But rabbets are done at the edges. A table saw or a standard saw blade is used to cut a rabbet. Routers (handheld or table-mounted) cut rabbet joints cleaner. Even hand tools such as shoulder and rabbet plane can cut the initial angles accurately. This technique of starting to rabbet using a power tool and finishing with a hand tool adds more precision to crafting wooden edges.

a) Table saw with dado

Like the dado, a rabbet can be made using a dado cutting head set on a table saw. A wooden strip secured to the fence glides against the dado headset. It prevents any damage to the table saw fence. Standard blades cut the panel in two passes. For one it is held flat and vertically for another which meet at the inner corner of the rabbet. This is a preferred method if you need to make fewer cuts as it takes a little time to install the dado set.

b) Table saw with a straight bit

Rabbets can also be cut using standard blades. To get the perfect edge clamp the workpiece to a board or level to guide the router. For rabbeting a piece or two, cut the plank in two passes with the blade set in the table saw. Care should be taken to set the fence and the blade height in such a way so that both the cuts don’t cross one another. Set the width of the rabbet cut using a straight edge guide attachment. Define the depth of the cut with a router.

c) Handheld router

For intricate cuts on assembled wood pieces such as cabinets and bookshelves, using a handheld router perhaps gives the most easiest cut. The rabbeting bit or piloted rabbeting bits are applied to special edges with a bearing that runs along the stock to make sure that the width remains uniform always. Adjusting the router’s cutting depth allows you to change the depth of the rabbet.

Unlike dado sets and saw blades, using a router bits do not leave any scoring marks and is recommended to use if the rabbets in your finished project is likely to be visible. Though the edge following bearing of rabbeting bits provides a finer cut, it however, transfers any of the bumps or dips as it passes along the stock. Cutting bits of various varieties of up to ½ inch can be bought.

d) Router table

Another tool that is commonly used to carve rabbet cuts is by using a router table. A straight bit ensures an accurate pass while a featherboard holds the stock down firmly for a consistent cut. A featherboard is a useful tool that guarantees clean cuts for thin pieces of wood kept on a table saw or on the router table. A router table will help you to achieve more accuracy for multiple cuts rather than using a handheld router.

e) Jointer

Although a jointer is rarely used to cut rabbets, using the cutterhead will certainly make outside edges perfectly smooth and straight. To achieve this, use your table saw to make an initial cut. Match the blade height to the depth of the rabbet joint. The outside blade distance prevents any kind of hammering to the workpiece during the jointer’s pass. A maximum of ½ inch cutting depth can be achieved with each glide. Add a level of precision to the edges when you woodwork with rabbet cuts. This is a great learn and a technique that will make your projects successful.