That Rascally Rabbet

Many years ago, I was on a DIY network show “Tools & Techniques” hosted by David Thiel. I was on the show to demonstrate how to use a dado stack when building shelving units. Back when I was building large built-in entertainment units for area home builders I, of course, had used a stack many times. The dado I had back them was an old wobble-style blade. (If you watch the TV show link above, you can see an example of the wobble blade.)

I could not and would not arrive for a show taping with a totally worn-out dado stack, so a week before my appearance I purchased a new stack. It’s the same stack I use today, if and when I use a dado stack. You see, at the time of the taping and for the most part today, I had moved away from using a dado stack to cut rabbets – I had found other methods that were easier.

By easier, I am not talking about the actual use, but about setup. Dialing in a dado stack for an exact thickness is a pain. I find it much easier to grab a router, pattern bit and my platform jig to get an exact 3/4″-dado for shelves, or a straight fence to create a rabbet along the back edge of a case piece to hide backboards. Also, there is a rabbeting router bit that works just fine, and that is how I cut rabbets these days.

I have a friend who was in the shop building the “Southern Lady’s Desk” from the November 2011 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. As he rabbeted the lower drawers for the 1/8″ bead, he had tear-out that was significant enough to damage the drawer front even though he routed the end grain first. It was so bad that he had to make a repair before moving on.

That stuck in my head as I thought about cutting rabbets for the ten drawers on which I was about to add beading. With ten drawer fronts there is certainly enough work to warrant setting up a dado stack, so I did. I set my stack wider than the rabbet, then buried part of it under a sacrificial fence as shown to the right. After I adjusted the depth of cut, I ran each drawer over the blades, end grain first.

With each drawer completed, I checked the cut to see if there was any tear-out or other problems. Happily, none was found.

Will I pull out my dado stack whenever I have a rabbet to cut? I doubt it. I did, however, rediscover another technique for cutting that rascally rabbet. That makes four that I use – tablesaw without a dado stack (two-step rabbet) tablesaw with a dado stack, rabbeting router bit and a router with a pattern bit and fence.

As I say about most woodworking operations: Know as many different techniques as you can, then pick the technique that works best for you. Or choose the technique that is best for whatever you are doing.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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5 thoughts on “That Rascally Rabbet

  1. How about the fifth way (the fifth element?) Do you ever use the rabbeting ledge on your jointer? For your drawers, it wouldn’t be very convenient, but for long, straight boards, it should work. Or do you know something that I don’t. (Nah, that couldn’t possibly be the case.)

  2. Mitch,

    I have used that technique in the past, but I find it more difficult to set up and dial in, and my results were less than acceptable. Also, as I have taught classes around the country I have ran into jointers that cannot be adjusted to a deep cut – some are limited to a 1/4″ or less.

  3. OMG!!!! Gloves at the table saw?! Are you insane?! 😉

    1. It was cold that day.

  4. Megan, you beat me to the punch. What was he thinking? I guess he didn’t remember what happened the last time.

    Joe C.

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