Whether you’re building boxes, drawers or casework, these four sturdy and self-aligning rabbet joints sure come in handy. You can make them all on a table saw.
1. Overlap Rabbet
One big rabbet serves many project applications in this overlapping joint.
An overlap rabbet joint consists of one rabbet with a tongue that’s long enough to cover the thickness of the mating part. It’s a good choice for assembling drawers when economy is more important than brute strength or high style. Overlap rabbets are the preferred way to conceal back panels in cabinetry, and they offer more surface area for glue than butt joints when building boxes or carcasses of all sorts.
You can cut the rabbet in two passes with a standard blade, as shown here, or tackle it in a single swipe with a dado head. Be sure to reinforce this cross-grain glue joint with dowels or fasteners driven through the rabbet tongue.
2. Double Rabbet
Twin rabbets combine to make carcass assembly easier.
Double rabbet joints offer the same self-aligning benefits as overlap rabbets, only this time, both parts are rabbeted to fit together one over the other. If you don’t own a biscuit joiner or a pocket-screw jig, here’s a good alternative for bringing those cabinet or box carcasses together with fewer headaches.
The stepped design of the joint will keep big panels from shifting out of whack once glue is applied and you’re installing the clamps. Then, lock the parts with brads to strengthen the glue bond and form a mechanical connection.
The most efficient way to cut double rabbets, especially on larger workpieces, is facedown on the saw table with a dado blade. If you adjust the proportions of the rabbet carefully, so the tongue is exactly half the thickness of the workpiece, one setup takes care of both halves of the joint in short order.
3. Shelving Rabbet
“Rightsize” undersized plywood with a rabbet and dado.
The day will probably never come again where plywood will be a true 3/4" thick, but that doesn’t mean you have to invest in those specialized, undersized plywood bits for your router in order to work with it.
You don’t even have to shim a dado set to match the sheet thickness. Instead, turn to this simple shallow-shouldered rabbet joint and make that funky plywood thickness conform to your will. Start by cutting the dado side of the joint to the dado width you prefer.
As long as the blade’s cutting width is narrower than the plywood is thick, you’re all set — 1/2" or 5/8" works well. Then, clamp a sacrificial fence to the rip fence. Adjust the blade’s height and projection to cut the rabbet’s tongue so it matches the dado proportions.
In a couple of test cuts, sneak up on the precise fit. How’s that for taking the hassle out of matching those odd fractions? It’s a thrifty, problem-solving joint that works, no matter what plywood you’re using.
4. Blind Rabbet
One table saw setting completes an interlocking corner joint.
Blind rabbet joints use the pairing of a rabbet and dado to the best advantage. Here, the rabbet’s tongue is cut to fit a dado on the mating part, so the pieces can lock together positively. It’s an ideal joint for building drawer boxes that are covered by a separate drawer face.
Or use it to install the back panel on drawers with fancier front corner joinery. Since the dado completely surrounds the rabbet, there’s ample surface area for glue, so no need to add extra fasteners for reinforcement.
Blind rabbets are as efficient to build as they are sturdy. You can bang them out “production style” with a single dado-blade setup if the thicknesses of the parts match. But be careful: your blade and fence settings must be spot on for these parts to slip together as they should. Even the slightest discrepancy in saw settings will produce a mismatched joint.