Cutting End Grain Rabbets Using Cutting Tools and a Shoulder Plane
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Setting cutting gauge for rabbet cut Step 1: Set your cutting gauge to mark out the rabbet, with the bevel side of the knife facing the fence of the gauge.

In the sequence below, the author demonstrates how to use a shoulder plane by making a rabbet on the end grain and long grain of a piece of mahogany. Begin by preparing the workpiece with an end square to the face and edge. Then mark out the width and depth of the rabbet with a cutting gauge for both the end grain and long grain.

1. The cutting gauge is fitted with a knife sharpened on one side only. The bevel side of the knife must face the fence of the gauge so that the edge of the rabbet is marked square by the flat side of the knife. If the knife were reversed or a marking gauge were used instead, the upper edge of the rabbet would have a small chamfer.

Cutting out end grain rabbet markings Step 2: Drag the cutting gauge across the end grain to mark out both sides of your rabbet cut.

2. Marking out an end-grain rabbet is done in much the same manner as marking out a single-lap dovetail — and the cutting gauge is the best tool for the job.

Positioning chisel to start end grain cut Part 3: Set the chisel to start making your cut, and gently tap it on the end, this will help prevent tearout during the actual planing.

3. To prevent tearout, position the workpiece in the vise and chamfer the end of the rabbet right down to the finish line. Turn the chisel flat face up, position the edge halfway down the rabbet, and give it a smart tap with the heel of your hand.

Setting blade on your shoulder plane Part 4: To get your plane set, align the edge of the blade against one edge of your sole, tapping it into place with the handle of your chisel.

4. Because the blade is a good 1/64" wider than the sole, you must set the blade so that its edge is aligned with the side of the sole. With the end of the handle of the chisel, tap the blade to be in line with the edge of the sole. Neither blade nor handle are damaged by this operation.

Properly gripping a shoulder plane Step 5: To properly grip the plane, put three fingers though the handle to meet your thumb, index finger forward, and with your other hand guiding the front of the tool.

5. You are ready to cut. The grip is fairly intuitive. Three fingers of your right hand go through the handle to meet the thumb. The index finger, like the grip on most tools, points forward. The left hand holds the front end of the tool, thumb on top in the depression, fingers under the sole ready to act as a guide fence. Proper setup and grip precede the practice cuts...

Making initial end grain rabbet cuts Step 6: Once you get started making your rabbet cut, keep a firm, controlled grip on the plane and move very slowly.

6. The first pass is critical: you have to stay on your side of the line — but this is not a time to be timid. What is required is a lot of controlled propelling pressure from the right hand, a lot of downward pressure from the left hand, plus a tight grip so the guide fingers on the sole present a firm buttress to keep the tool on track. All this is performed in slow motion.

Making fast establishing shoulder rabbet cuts Step 7: Once you have the initial shoulder planed out, you are free to move much more quickly.

7. Once you have established a shoulder, you can move along at a pace that gets the shavings coming quickly.

Preparing for vertical rabbet cut Step 8: Once you have cut down your horizontal rabbet shoulder, take off your plane and reset the board to make the vertical wall cut.

8. Once you near the line, it’s time to clean up the vertical wall. Setting the blade flush as we did at the outset will not give a clean vertical wall. In fact, you never try to cut both walls at once. This sloping “vertical” wall is just as it should be. You now turn the body of the plane horizontal and cut the vertical wall.

Securing plane to cut vertical wall Step 9: To cut the vertical wall, set the plane up along the side in your right hand, then brace the piece with your left

9. To make this cut, hold the plane in the right hand. (The view of the photo is from the top of the board looking down.) The left hand acts as a steady in contact with the workpiece. Once you have removed the bulk of the waste, set the blade to remove fine shavings. Planing down to the line and getting a right angular corner normally requires alternately removing a shaving or two from the vertical face and the horizontal face.

posted on August 1, 2008 by Ian Kirby
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