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Furniture Making Tutorials #6: A Case for Rabbets

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Blog entry by BigRedKnothead posted 10-02-2014 03:58 PM 3243 reads 0 times favorited 44 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: Installing False Drawer Fronts Part 6 of Furniture Making Tutorials series Part 7: Attaching Face Frames »

There’s always more than one way to go about any joint. I thought I’d share my preferred method for fixed shelves and drawer dividers in casework. I’m sure you can rollover some of these ideas into solid wood casework, but I’m speaking primarily to the times we might be using cabinet grade plywoods.

I should also note that routers and their partnering jigs are very effective for dados, I just like using a dado stack in the tablesaw when I can. Mostly because of familiarity and speed.

So, when I make dados in plywood casework, I always rabbet the mating piece. like this:

-
Several reasons why:

1) Frustration. Have you ever wasted a bunch of time with the your tablesaw dado stack attempting to get the exact width of sheet goods? Just when you find the proper combination of cutters, shims, etc, you’ll switch types or even brands of plywood and it’ll be different. Maddening, and a waste of time.

2) Speed. Just slap together a few cutters in your dado stack to equal approximately half the thickness of the ply your using. Usually 3/4” ply, so about a 3/8”. You’ll make a custom rabbet anyway. Mark and cut the dados.


I also recommend knifing the line. This will help with chipout on the fragile veneer.

3) The Cover up. Now, even with knifing, I got a little chipout on the “open” side of my dado blade (hope you can see it on the right side). That’s where the beauty of the rabbet comes in. It will hide the chipout. Here’s the made joint:

4) Fit. To make the rabbet, I use an auxiliary fence on my tablesaw, like this:

I can raise the blade slowly on test cuts until I get the right thickness on the rabbet. Of course I can always finesse the joint with a block plane.

5) Strength. I’m sure some would argue that I weakened the joint by thinning the “tenon” of the joint with a rabbet. Maybe if your going to jump up and down on it. I would argue that I added more glue surface and possibly increased the lateral (side to side) strength of the joint.

Anyhow, that’s how I does it up in my shizzopp. I can toss together a case like this in short order with this process.
Hope it makes sense. Shoot me any questions you might have, Red

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer



44 comments so far

View AnthonyReed's profile

AnthonyReed

8743 posts in 1908 days


#1 posted 10-02-2014 04:06 PM

Always appreciate you taking the time to share your experience and knowledge. Thanks bud.

-- ~Tony

View Hammerthumb's profile

Hammerthumb

2533 posts in 1443 days


#2 posted 10-02-2014 04:14 PM

Coming along nice Red. I use that same method, but I will make the dado only slightly undersized from the plywood. Although I’m sure your right about the strength. I also do this with an undersized router bit and a straightedge across both left and right panels, as I can do both sides at the same time and they will always register exact.

-- Paul, Las Vegas

View BigRedKnothead's profile

BigRedKnothead

8029 posts in 1450 days


#3 posted 10-02-2014 04:17 PM

^Cool Paul. I suppose a guy doesn’t have to make the rabbet tenon as small as I did. That’s the thing about posting this stuff. Often I learn something too.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View August McCormick Lehman III's profile

August McCormick Lehman III

1753 posts in 958 days


#4 posted 10-02-2014 04:26 PM

thanks for sharing this Red
this is something i wish you had posted about 6 day ago LOL
im making some kind of closet cabinet thing for the bedroom

-- https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/114897950873317692653/114897950873317692653/posts/p/pub

View ToddJB's profile

ToddJB

6924 posts in 1598 days


#5 posted 10-02-2014 05:17 PM

Do you go shoulder up or down? Any logic behind your choice?

-- I came - I sawed - I over-built

View theoldfart's profile

theoldfart

8139 posts in 1919 days


#6 posted 10-02-2014 05:23 PM

Shoulder down, it’s stronger that way.

Red great blog posting. I do them with a hand saw, chisel, and a shoulder or rabbet plane since I tend not to use plywood.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View ToddJB's profile

ToddJB

6924 posts in 1598 days


#7 posted 10-02-2014 05:25 PM


Shoulder down, it s stronger that way.

- theoldfart

Interesting, Kev, I would think the opposite. Can you explain?

-- I came - I sawed - I over-built

View AnthonyReed's profile

AnthonyReed

8743 posts in 1908 days


#8 posted 10-02-2014 05:34 PM


Shoulder down, it s stronger that way.

- theoldfart

Interesting, Kev, I would think the opposite. Can you explain?

- ToddJB

Maybe?

-- ~Tony

View ToddJB's profile

ToddJB

6924 posts in 1598 days


#9 posted 10-02-2014 05:43 PM

Yeah, I’m saying that in my mind the stronger way to make the joint would be with the shoulder up, not down. I’m asking if there is science/experience that shows one way to be better than the other.

-- I came - I sawed - I over-built

View terryR's profile

terryR

6324 posts in 1776 days


#10 posted 10-02-2014 05:59 PM

No dado stack, or router in my shop…but PLEASE keep on with the discussion! Rabbets are still my most used joint till I take my DT training wheels off…

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View AnthonyReed's profile

AnthonyReed

8743 posts in 1908 days


#11 posted 10-02-2014 06:00 PM

I understood your question. I was trying to illustrate that the downward force may be better resisted with the shoulder being down. My apologies, I am neither artist nor scientist; rather barely above a chimp on that scale.

-- ~Tony

View jmartel's profile

jmartel

6579 posts in 1618 days


#12 posted 10-02-2014 06:01 PM

With plywood you should go shoulder up. If you go shoulder down, then you risk the ply edges splitting from sagging. Shoulder up and the force holds everything together. Hardwood, shoulder down.

Whether that’s really a concern basically depends on the quality of your material.

Looking good, Red.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View ToddJB's profile

ToddJB

6924 posts in 1598 days


#13 posted 10-02-2014 06:13 PM

Jmart, that was my thinking for ply, but why does it change for hardwood?

-- I came - I sawed - I over-built

View pintodeluxe's profile

pintodeluxe

4859 posts in 2281 days


#14 posted 10-02-2014 06:27 PM

Good topic. I have always found tenon geometry interesting. Most people can visualize that a larger tenon is a stronger tenon, but the shoulder is important too. Whether it is a rabbeted panel or traditional tenon, that shoulder will resist racking and make your projects strong.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View ToddJB's profile

ToddJB

6924 posts in 1598 days


#15 posted 10-02-2014 06:35 PM

Maybe?

- AnthonyReed

Tony, I see what your are saying now, sorry, sometime it takes awhile. As you push down in the center of the shelf the shoulder would put more pressure on the side. That makes sense to me. But my bigger fear would be the unsupported ply splitting at the cut line.

-- I came - I sawed - I over-built

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