5 Ways to Make Precision Rabbet Cuts
3. Handheld router with rabbeting bit. Unlike saw blades and dado sets, router bits do not leave tiny scoring marks. So, use a router bit if the surface or ends of the rabbets will be visible in your finished project.
Router bits are your only option if you need to rabbet an opening inside a surface rather than along an outside edge or end. Examples include a router-table opening for receiving a router plate, or the inside of an assembled doorframe for accepting a piece of glass.
With a handheld router you typically use a rabbeting bit with a pilot bearing as shown above. You can change the width of the cut simply by changing bearings. And, with this setup you can even cut rabbets along curved edges.
4. Router table with a straight bit. Although you can't easily rabbet large pieces on a router table, this method has some distinct advantages over a handheld router. First, a router table has a fence that ensures a perfectly straight rabbet (a bearing-piloted bit will follow any irregularities in the workpiece edge). And, although a piloted rabbeting bit will help you cut a rabbet up to 1/2" wide and 1/2" deep, you can put a large straight bit in a router table and cut rabbets up to 1X1".
5. Jointer. We admit we rarely use a jointer to cut rabbets, but if you must cut a perfectly smooth rabbet over 1" wide, and along a straight, outside edge, look to a jointer. You can cut a rabbet as wide as the length of your jointer's cutterhead. The maximum cutting depth of your jointer will limit the depth of the rabbet, typically to 1/2".
To do this, you need to make an initial cut with your tablesaw. First, set the blade height to match the depth of the rabbet. Adjust the fence-to-outside-of-blade distance to match the rabbet width. As shown, this cut will prevent the end of the jointer's knives from hammering the workpiece. Remove no more than 1/8" with each jointer pass.
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