A skewed perspective

On the box build this week, you may remember that the sides joined to the bottom using a nailed rebate (or rabbet) joint.  Previously, I’ve shown how to make one with a chisel and a router plane.  This is accurate, and does not require a new tool, but it is slow.  When you’re trying to make a lot of these joints efficiently, the easiest way with a plane built for that.

If you were to mention a rebate plane to a cabinetmaker of a century or more ago, he’d probably figure that you meant something like this, a beech-bodied plane with no fence and the iron bedded straight across.

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If you were to add an adjustable fence, a depth stop, and a scoring cutter (known as a “nicker”), and then skew the iron to work cleanly across the grain, you’d have a tarted up variant called a moving fillister plane that looks like this.

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There were iron variants made of this type of plane, the most common being the Stanley 78, though they made umpteen varieties (even the multi-planes could be set up for it!).

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Now, I tried the 78 for some time.  Unlike the wooden fillister plane that it was supposed to replace, the iron is straight across instead of skewed.  No matter what I tried, I could not get it to cut a clean rebate across the grain.  One night, after yet another session of irritation, I decided that I needed to just bite the bullet and buy a more modern incantation.

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The plane I use now for cutting rebates is the Veritas Skew Rabbet Plane.  It has been a pretty trouble-free addition to the toolbox.  Cross-grain rebates plane cleanly because of the skewed iron.  The fence and depth stop lock securely and easily.  And not only do you have an advancement screw for the iron, but it works easily and precisely.  The only potential problems I could find are that sharpening a skew blade can be a little different to work out for someone new to it, and that the plane is so compact next to a wooden plane (or even a 78) that keeping it level is a little difficult at first since the tall wooden planes exaggerate any lean.  This aren’t faults in the tool, but do keep in mind that there is a little bit of familiarisation to do before you use it on a project.

About the only negative thing you could say about this plane is that it isn’t dirt cheap.  The nerve!  But in this case, it is worth the price.  It is finely manufactured and a pleasure to use, though it does make a lot of my tools look pretty shabby in comparison…

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