What is a rebate, or rabbet, plane?

 
     
     
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What it's used for

 
 Using a wooden rebate plane 

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.

 
     
 A rebate is like a step cut into the wood 

What is a rebate

A rebate is like a step cut into the wood.

 
     
 Rebated edges in back of wardrobe 

The inside back edges of wardrobes are often rebated so that the back can be fitted neatly into place.

 
     
 A simple rebate joint 

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.

 
     
   

Characteristics

 
 Cutting edge of rebate plane goes full width of the sole 

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.

 
     
 Sole area either side of mouth on standard jack plane 

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 of a rebate plane 

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. 

 
     
 Metal rebate plane with guide rail 

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.

 
     
 Using a clamped piece of wood as guide when rebate planing 

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.

 
     
 Some rebate planes have a normal and forward position for the iron 

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 bullnose plane?

 
     
 Stopped rebate joint 

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.

 
     
 Iron and nicker of a metal rebate plane 

Spur

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. 

 
     
 Iron and spur of wooden rebate plane 

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 rebate plane irons 

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

 
 Side rebate plane useful for increasing the size of rebates and grooves 

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

 
 
Rebates in picture frame cut with a rebate plane
 

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.

 
     
 Sash window 

Fillister planes

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

 
 Bench rebate plane is a specialised jack plane 

Large rebates can be made with a bench rebate plane. This is a specialised version of the standard jack plane (see What is a jack plane?) The difference is that the bench rebate plane's iron, or blade, extends across the full width of the sole.

 
     
 Block rebate plane 

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.

 
     
   

Number

 
 Carriage maker's rebate plane based on a standard jack plane; woodworking planes 

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.

 
     
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