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We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Fences!

a couple of years ago

It seems the more I use hand tools the more I’m throwing off things that prevent me from free handing my tools. Fences and depth stops and fiddly adjustable bits just get in the way of the blade doing its job. It is in direct conflict with my roots as a power tool guy who needed guides and stops for even the simplest tasks. And usually these guides were essential for safety reasons in addition to precision.

Today when I need to cut a joint, hone a blade, chop a mortise, etc and I just grab a tool and work to a line, I feel a sense of kinship with my hand tool forefathers who worked quickly and efficiently without all the trappings and gizmos.

If you look at my last post where I discussed problems woodworkers have with moving Filister planes you can see this point illustrated poignantly. All the adjusting of fences and depth stops get in the way of the plane actually cutting a rabbet. I even stated in that post that I much prefer to work without a fence and use a traditional rabbet plane with just a body and a blade.

But it occurs to me that the technique to use a plane without a fence might be foreign both in practical use but also in theory. So many of use have grown up thinking that we have to have a fence to guide the blade or the work piece.

So I present, the long grain rabbet using my favorite type of plane: the wooden rabbet plane.


And here is where the real fun begins, the cross grain rabbet (AKA Filister)


Your Turn
Do you have one of these planes? Try this technique and let me know how it goes. If you have any additional tips please share. These are powerful tools to have around.

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