Dovetail Box #8: Be Vewy Vewy Quiet - I'm Hunting Wabbets

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Blog entry by Eric posted 02-17-2008 10:58 AM 2373 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 7: The Dovetails Are Done! Part 8 of Dovetail Box series Part 9: Dovetails Glued Up, Now for the Top »

Okay, so you’d think that doing the dovetail joints would have been the hardest part of this box, right? Me too. I figured on this nice leisurely Sunday afternoon, I’d do the simple task of cutting the rabbets into which the box bottom would fit. Then I’d glue the dovetails and heck, maybe even glue the bottom on. But it turned out to be not so simple, and after much groaning (and nearly cursing), I’m left with two busted pins and only one rabbet done.

See, I realized that on the walls the rabbets have to be stopped, because otherwise I’d cut off the bottom pins and part of the bottom tails. I really wasn’t sure how I was going to do this, since I don’t have a tiny little saw or anything. So I started with a nice deep knife line – as deep as I could manage. Then I started carefully chiseling away toward the knife wall. But on nearly my first pass chiseling near the pin, I broke off part of the pin. Long story short, I had two breaks on each pin (see pic below). Fortunately, I have all the pieces so I will be able to glue them back together. I figured I’d might as well carry on chiseling since the pins were already shot. So in the end, I got an acceptable rabbet for one wall.

I’m kind of hesitant to begin the other walls. Part of me thinks I might be better off to just go ahead and chisel off each pin at the rabbet line, just get it out of the way, and then do the rabbet as normal and glue the pins back on. With such tiny pins and tails, it might actually be the easiest way.

Rabbet Trouble

EDIT: I just had an idea. Maybe I could just define the lines with the knife, then run the chisel along the rabbet (bevel down) like a plane, and then repeat: knife line, chisel plane, etc. Maybe that would work.

[This entry was originally posted on my personal website, Adventures in Woodworking.]

-- Eric at

6 comments so far

View Tomcat1066's profile


942 posts in 3824 days

#1 posted 02-17-2008 01:24 PM

For what it’s worth, my plan for rabbets is to try the bevel down plan, but also to go away from the knife lines to minimize tear out. Basically, put in the deep knife line, run the chisel bevel down like a plane, but toward the center, then do the other side the same way.

I remember hearing something like this in regard to dados, but it sounded like a good idea for rabbets too.

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View tpastore's profile


105 posts in 3844 days

#2 posted 02-17-2008 02:41 PM

How about assembling the box without the rabbet and then coming back with a rabbeting bit on the router table? Have the bearing ride against the inside faces of the box. You can either keep the corners rounded or square them off with a chisel. With the box already glued up everthing should be stronger.

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3812 days

#3 posted 02-17-2008 02:45 PM

Tomcat: Yes, that’s exactly what I was thinking. Glad to hear it might be a good idea.

tpastore: While I do have a router, I have yet to make a table and am in fact trying to go entirely power-free (powerless?) during this project. I see that it would be much easier with a router, but there’s something about the problem-solvingness about this conundrum that I rather like.

I’m actually thinking about selling my router. Would let me buy more hand tools!

-- Eric at

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 3843 days

#4 posted 02-17-2008 05:22 PM


I think what you need is a little router plane. Maybe you could make one.

-- Scott - Chico California

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 4025 days

#5 posted 02-18-2008 08:03 AM

Not the easiet task you’ve set for yourself! Good luck with the other rabbets.

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3815 days

#6 posted 02-19-2008 05:56 AM

You might try using a backsaw to cut most of the wood away on the rabbet, or use your dovetail saw on the ends as you get close. This will greatly reduce the stress on the pins so you can just pare them. Clamp a squared board on the rabbet line to guide the back saw blade. You can use a regular rip saw but it will be more difficult to start as they are usually more aggressive. A crosscut will be easier to start and work down flat if you don’t have a back saw. If you have a back saw, you can clamp a stop block where you want the rabbet to stop, and use the tip of the saw to cut as close as you can. It wears the teeth but works, although some fine chisel work will be needed to square things up.


-- Go

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