How To Make A Rabbet Joint - WOOD magazine

a rabbit joint is really the simplest of

the mechanical joints a rabbit and

that's spelled with an ET on the end not

an IT life little critter in your

backyard a rabbit is simply a cut made

along the edge or the end of a workpiece

that accepts a mating piece here in this

little mock-up cabinet the top has a

rabbet along each end and those rabbits

hit the sides perfectly there's a little

bit of mechanical strength in that these

shoulders on the rabbit help resist a

little bit of racking if the cabinet's

knock side-to-side and of course the

resistance to downward pressure there

too so in addition to typically you know

fastening a cabinet top onto its sides

you can also rabbet the back of a

cabinet to inset the panel for the back

on this drawer we've got a real simple

drawer front made with the rabbet in the

drawer front that accepts the drawer

sides nice thing about rabbits is they

are very simple to cut and you can do

them with a variety of tools you can do

with a handheld router you can do it on

the router table and you can do it on

the table saw and I'll walk you through

all those we'll start with the handheld

router this router I've got a special

bits called a rabbeting bit you can see

it's got the cutter on it and what's

special about it is it's got this

bearing down here this bearing rides

against the edge of the workpiece and

the different er of the bearing and the

cutting edge of the bit is the width of

the rabbet so you can change out

bearings by bits with different sized

brains so you can cut rabbets of

different widths let me show you how

this works really pretty simple


I can see that half-inch rabbeting bit

makes a perfect fit for a meeting piece

of half-inch MDF next method is to use

if you don't have a rabbeting bit like

that you have a straight bit in your bid

cabinet a straight bit can also be used

to route a rabbet along the edge of a

workpiece the one thing you'll need to

do though is add a way to guide the

router I'm going to change out the bits

and we'll get set up for that I've

mounted a 3/4 inch straight bit in the

router now and when you're routing a

rabbit with a straight bit you need some

way to guide the router so that it just

doesn't go dancing all across the panel

ruining the cut with a rabbeting bit you

had the advantage of a built-in bearing

that rides against the edge of the panel

with a straight bit there's no such

thing so we need a way to guide that

bearing guide that bit rather and this

simple jig is a very handy item to have

in your shop this is just a couple

pieces of MDF ones the top pieces of

fence the bottom pieces of base glue and

screw the fence to the base you want to

make the fence about a little wide so

you can have enough room to four clamps

back here without interfering with the

base of the router and the width of the

base is determined by the distance from

the cutting edge of the bit to the edge

of your router base two and a half

inches in this case so when I made this

jig I made it so it extended a little

more than two and a half inches past the

fence call it two and five-eighths then

I took the router in my router bit in my

router and I trimmed that edge so now I

know exactly where that 3/4 inch bit is

going to cut when I run the base of the

router along that fence one other

advantage to using a straight bit to cut

a rabbet is that you can cut a rabbet

that is actually narrower than the bit

even this is a 3/4 inch bit I'm gonna

cut a rabbet

that fits 3/4 inch plywood it's called

3/4 inch plywood but it's always just a

skosh under so if you want to rabbet

that fits that perfectly you can do that

with this method use the piece that's

going to fit into the rabbet as a gauge

align it with the edge of the panel and

then just bring the jig right up to

the other side check along the cut when

you've got the jig aligned you want to

just clamp it in place

double-check that looks very good

and I'm ready to rout this rabbit


so there is a rabbit that perfectly fits

that 3/4 inch plywood panel now you can

also use the rabbeting bit and a

straight bit on the router table I'll

show you that to cut a rabbet with a

straight bit set the height of the bit

for the depth of the rabbit then measure

from the outside edge of the bit to the

fence to set the width of the rabbit

then lock the fence in place then just

run the workpiece along the fence to cut

the rabbit


when using a rabbeting bit on the router

table again set the bit height for the

depth of the rabbit then set the bearing

flush with the fence faces


you can also cut a rabbit narrower than

the rabbeting bit by simply moving the

fence to bury more of the bit

to cut a rabbit on the table saw you

could use just a standard blade and make

a whole bunch of repeat cuts across the

blade that works it does tend to leave a

lot of score marks for each time the

blade went past you might have a score

mark a better way to do it is to get

yourself a dado blade this is a six-inch

dado blade and it consists of a kind of

a miniature a six inch in diameter

chipper it goes on the outside there's

actually two of these when you fit them

into the saw and then there's a series

of chippers that go between the two

outside blades and by stacking these

together on the arbor you come up with a

much wider blade makes a wider cut so by

changing the number of chippers in there

you can vary the width of your cut I've

got this set up kind of just an

arbitrary number about about 5/8 inch

wide and I'll show you why I'm not too

concerned about the actual width of the

blade here in just a moment

get this snug down with a dado blade

you're gonna need a insert that has

enough room for the blade to extend

through now that I've got that set the

next thing to consider is the width of

my rabbit in this case I'm going to take

a piece of half-inch MDF and make a

rabbet that seats that MDF right in the

edge of this plywood panel I'm gonna use

the MDF itself as a gauge to set the

width of my blade to the fence and those

I've got an auxiliary fence clamped my

rip fence and here's why I need to raise

the blade into that fence to bury part

of it so I'm only exposing exactly one

half-inch I'm going to lower the blade

bring it over so that our jewelry fence

just covers the outside chipper

and then cut into it


quick check I've got looks good set my

blade height for the depth of the rabbit

3/8 of an inch now I'm going to position

the RIP fence so exactly matches the

width of the MDF just put the MDF next

to there and use my fingers is a very

sensitive gauge we can tap the fence

over until the outside of that tooth is

perfectly flush with the face of the MDF

feels like that it's perfect

okay now with the width set my height

set I'm ready to make a rabbet in my



there you can see that half-inch MDF

fits perfectly in that rabbit head user

flush now I can even cut a wider rabbit

without changing my setup too much

without changing the blade simply by

moving the fence over a little bit to

expose more blade or if I need a

narrower rabbit push the fence toward

the blade you do want to be careful

though that if you've got a blade that's

about 3/4 of an inch in width and your

auxiliary fence is also 3/4 of an inch

in width you're not getting too close to

your metal fence and you cut into it