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3 Problems Woodworkers Encounter with Rabbet Planes

a couple of years ago

I received a question from Chris about my wooden Filister plane that Philly Planes made for me. It was highlighted in the recent Pencil Box video and Chris was impressed at the results I was getting from it. He cited some problems he was having with his Veritas rabbet plane and was wondering if perhaps he should buy a traditional Filister like mine to fix those problem.

Chris is not alone and the problems he mentioned could be echoed by thousands of other woodworkers when it comes to these moving filister/fenced rabbet planes.

Problem #1: The Width of the Rabbet Shrinks

As you sink your rabbet, the plane creeps toward the edge and a stair step look develops pushing the plane further and further off your planned shoulder location.

Remember that once you set the blade proud of the plane body it goes out of alignment with the nicker blade. I would still advise striking a line with a square and knife first. Some old style Filister planes actually have the nicker a bit proud of the plane body as well and in this case you can align the nicker and the plane blade. Obviously the closer you can align these two blades the easier things will be, but the point to remember is that it is NOT necessary and it is better to have the blade proud of everything else to get a clean and consistent shoulder cut.

Problem #2 The Rabbet Floor isn’t Square

This is a big one. The floor of the rabbet sloped down toward the edge of the board. Usually the harder you try to correct it, the worse it gets.

Problem #3: The Depth of the Rabbet Floor isn’t Constant

What the heck is the depth stop for if I can’t get a consistent depth? Or you find that despite meticulously setting the depth stop you still have parts of the rabbet that are deeper.

Traditional Wooden Filister vs the Modern Rabbet Plane

So I hope you can see that the traditional wooden Filister and the modern Veritas are pretty much the same animal despite looking very different. Wooden planes in general I find to be easier to maintain a square cut but they can be fussier to set up than the modern versions. Certainly the collet lock mechanism on the Veritas keeps the fence square all the time whereas you have to be more meticulous with the wooden Filister. Personally I would choose a wooden plane over the metal ones because of the higher center of gravity and the ease of keeping the cut square.

Keep in mind that both of these planes are meant primarily for batch work where you set it up once and turn out a bunch of identical rabbets. So a fussier set up is ameliorated by quick and repeatable joints across several boards. For one off joints I still believe a fence-less plane will be faster and easier in use and also in set up.

But my penchant for fence-less planes is a topic for a future post

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