What is a rebate, or rabbet, plane?
What it's used for
The rebate plane (also known as the rabbet plane) is a hand plane designed for cutting rebates in wood.
As with most hand planes, there are metal and wooden versions.
What is a rebate
A rebate is like a step cut into the wood.
The inside back edges of wardrobes are often rebated so that the back can be fitted neatly into place.
What is a rebate joint
A rebate joint is rather like a butt joint, in which the flat surfaces of two pieces of wood are fastened together, often with glue, but it is made stronger because of the rebate.
Iron goes full width of sole
One thing that distinguishes the rebate plane and its derivatives, such as shoulder and bullnose planes, is that the iron goes the full width of the sole to enable planing downwards, straight and quite deeply, into the wood without the sides of the plane preventing progress.
With standard bench planes, scrub planes and block planes, the few millimetres of sole between the mouth and the sides of the plane would prevent the cutting edge from going any deeper than the amount by which it projects from the mouth when attempting to cut a rebate.
Depth stop and guide rail
Metal rebate planes commonly have a depth stop and a guide rail, or fence, which allow the depth and width of the rebate to be set very precisely.
The depth stop prevents the plane cutting any deeper when the cutting edge of the iron reaches the desired depth of the rebate.
The guide rail slides along the straight edge of the workpiece, keeping the plane on the correct path to cut the rebate to exactly the right width.
Rebate planes without guide rails
Planes that don't have a guide or fence can be guided initially by a piece of straight wood clamped to the top of the workpiece.
As planing progresses, the rebate in effect becomes its own guide.
Two positions for the iron
Some rebate planes – known as "duplex" planes – have two positions for bedding the iron – one for normal use and another close to the toe, or front end, for planing to the end of a stopped rebate.
This is known as the "bullnose" position – see
What is a stopped rebate?
A stopped rebate does not go the full width or length of the wood it is cut into - it stops short of one edge. When viewed from the front of a piece of furniture, the stopped joint is invisible.
Rebate planes are often commonly equipped with a spur, also known as a "nicker", which is designed to score the wood as the rebate is cut, giving a cleaner corner.
This is particularly valuable when working across the grain of the wood, when the action of the iron's cutting edge alone might tear the wood as cutting starts.
Skewed irons for easier cutting
Some rebate planes have skewed cutting edges on their irons, which can be a great help when cutting end grain.
The skew gives the cutting edge a better "slicing" action, so the wood offers less resistance.
The side rebate plane
A variation on the rebate plane is the side rebate plane.
It's used for increasing the size of rebates and grooves. For instance, if a groove to hold a shelf has been cut, and it proves to be slightly too narrow, no ordinary form of rebate plane could be used to enlarge the groove - you have to use a side rebate plane, which cuts the inside edges rather than the bottom of the rebate.
Rebating picture and window frames
One of the applications for rebate planes is picture framing, when a rebate is cut in the back of each side to accommodate the glass and, if fitted, the mount.
However, most framers these days use ready-made moulding (the profiled strips of wood that are mitre-cut to make the frame), and those who make frames from scratch often use – you've guessed it! – the ubiquitous electrically-powered router.
Another application used to be the cutting of rebates for the glass and putty in sash windows – the type that have one or two frames, or "sashes", that can be slid up and down for opening.
These rebates are known as fillisters, which is why rebate planes based on the type used for this purpose are often referred to as fillister planes.
Rebate planes based on bench and block planes
Large rebates can be made with a bench rebate plane. This is a specialised version of the standard jack plane (see) The difference is that the bench rebate plane's iron, or blade, extends across the full width of the sole.
There are also block rebate planes, based on the normal block plane, but again with an iron that goes the full width of the sole.
Because of the low angle at which its iron is bedded, the block rebate plane is useful for cutting rebates across the grain.
Metal versions of the rebate plane made by Stanley were allocated Stanley model numbers, some of which are still used today when cataloguing, advertising and ordering planes.
For instance, a carriage maker's rebate plane, based on a jack plane, is listed as No. 10. Stanley's No. 78 metal duplex rebate plane with guide rail proved so popular that it's still made today, by Stanley and a number of other manufacturers.