What is a Rabbet Plane?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A rabbet plane is a type of woodworking plane which is designed to be used to make rabbets. Rabbets (not to be confused with rabbits) are grooves cut into the edge of a piece of wood for the purpose of creating a joint or a needed space. For example, a rabbet might be cut into a windowframe to accommodate the glazing, or a rabbet might be used to make a very simple corner joint. Rabbets are one of the earliest cuts woodworkers learn to do, because they are relatively straightforward and they can be used in a variety of ways.

Man with a drill
Man with a drill

This plane, also known as a rebate plane, features a small sharpened piece of metal fixed into a wooden or plastic handle. The metal is set at a slight angle, allowing someone to cut crisply and sharply to create a clean, L-shaped groove. People can adjust the depth of the cut by varying pressure on the plane. A closely related woodworking plane is the chisel plane, and some rabbet planes can be converted into chisel planes as needed. Some designs also have features which are designed to make cornering easier.

The term "rabbet" comes from a French word, rabbat, used to refer to a recess. Rabbets can be cut with routers and other woodworking tools in addition to planes. Planes are used by people who like to do their work by hand, or who are working on a project where another tool might not be entirely suitable. Learning to make good rabbets by hand takes practice with a rabbet plane to get the feel of the plane and learn how to handle it appropriately.

Typically, the rabbet plane is sold fully sharpened and ready to use out of the box. As the blade dulls, it will periodically need to be resharpened to continue functioning smoothly. Resharpening can be tricky because of the angle and size of the blade, with some woodworkers preferring to send tools out for sharpening to ensure that it is done right. Some companies include resharpening guides with their rabbet planes so that woodworkers will know what to do, and it is also possible to purchase replacement blades.

Many hardware suppliers and stores which stock woodworking tools carry rabbet planes. These planes come in several different sizes for various tasks. When selecting a rabbet plane, people may want to think about how it will be used. For beginning woodworkers who are not sure about which rabbet plane would be most suitable for them to start out with, staff members can provide advice based on their experience and the type of woodworking someone will be doing. Woodworking instructors also usually have tool tips.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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