How to cut rabbets on a jointer
I have a 6" jointer with a rabbeting ledge, but I don't understand how to use it to make rabbets. What's the proper method?
—Stephen Vallery, Yardville, New Jersey
You can make perfect rabbets on your jointer, Stephen, as soon as you take care of a couple of setup details.
First, adjust your jointer knives so they extend 1⁄32 " beyond the front edge of the outfeed table, as shown in Step 1 [above]; this ensures that your workpiece won't hang up on the outfeed table while sliding across the rabbeting arm and ledge.
Second, determine whether your jointer has a depth stop on the infeed table that limits cuts to 1⁄8 " or less. Most rabbets are deeper than that, so check your owner's manual for information about overriding the depth stop. Many jointers have a spring-loaded pin on the right side. Pull out on the pin to disengage it as you lower the infeed table beyond the normal limit. The rabbeting ledge serves as the maximum stop at a depth of about 1⁄2 ".
Removal of this guard calls for extra caution during the rabbeting operation.
To make a rabbet, remove the guard so that it doesn't interfere with the workpiece. Set your jointer fence to establish either the width of the rabbet (if you plan to place the workpiece facedown on the jointer, as shown in Step 2 [above] or its depth (with the workpiece on edge, as shown in Step 3 [below]. A workpiece held on edge rides solely on the infeed and outfeed tables. Laid on its face, it receives extra support from the rabbeting arm, so choose this position when possible. As indicated on the drawings, tear-out is most likely on the surface cut by the ends of the jointer knives.
Finally, adjust the infeed table for a light cut (approximately 1⁄8 " for hardwoods and 1⁄4 " for softwoods), place the workpiece on the infeed table, and make the first pass. Form the rabbet with a series of passes, lowering the infeed table each time and disengaging the depth stop when necessary.