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An Introduction To Understanding Rebate Planes

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The following article first appeared in the British magazine 'The Woodworker' in January, 1940. Here we take a look at the various rebate planes that are available, along with their use. At the end of the article there's an advertisement for the author's new book, titled 'Woodwork Tools'. Known simply as "Craftsman" in the magazine, we now know the author to be none other than Charles H. Hayward, who went on to write many fine books on woodworking over the years.

What To Know About Tools

Rebate Planes

By Craftsman.

Some sort of Rebate Plane is essential to the serious woodworker, and the writer deals with the uses and advantages of the various kinds.

Special Planes

It must have been early on in the days of woodwork that the necessity for the rebate plane was felt. Certainly one would not get far in cabinet work today without it (I am speaking of course apart from machinery). There can be few pieces of woodwork in which a rebate is not required. In any case, there are many jobs in which some sort of a rebate plane is useful quite apart from the cutting of rebates. There are about four or five in the family of rebate planes, each designed for a special job, and of each branch there are several varieties. The choice is dependent to a large extent upon the work for which it is needed, and also upon personal preference.

Note that the fingers of the left hand curl beneath the sole ofthe plane , thus acting as a sort of fence. The right hand supplies the power.
NOTE: Click on image to enlarge.

The original form of plane for working rebates was the wooden type shown at A, Fig. 2. It still is used to an extent, but has largely declined since the metal rebate plane was introduced. It is available in sizes from 3/8 inch up to 2 inches (cutter width), the most general size being about 1-1/4 inch. It is used chiefly for working with the grain, but is of little value for end grain owing to the cutter being set at so high a pitch - 50-55 degrees. Its general manipulation applies to all similar types of planes. The rebate is started at the far end, a few short shavings being taken off until an appreciable rebate is formed. At each successive stroke the plane is brought a little farther back until the full length is reached. In this way the danger of the plane running from the mark is largely minimised. Fig. 3 explains the idea. The plane is held as shown in Fig. 1, and it will be seen that the fingers of the left hand curl beneath the sole and so act as a sort of fence in keeping the plane parallel with the edge. This is especially necessary in the early stages. The plane should be held a trifle short of the mark and worked down practically to the full depth as shown inset in Fig. 3. By then turning the plane on to its side the width of the rebate can be completed.

A useful help in keeping the rebate parallel with the edge is to fix a strip of wood to the side of the work with either nails or thumbscrews as in Fig. 4. The side of the plane is kept tightly up against this. It is advisable to keep the strip just inside the line so that the rebate can be finished off afterwards with the plane lying upon its side.

In certain trades in which rebates of a definite width were constantly needed the idea arose of making a rebate plane with a fence fixed to it, so that it would always cut the required size without any guiding. From this it was an easy step to the rebate plane with adjustable fence which came to be called the moving fillister plane. A fence was fitted beneath the sole, and it could be adjusted laterally beneath the sole and fixed with bolts. A depth gauge was also added to the right hand side so that the plane automatically ceased to cut when the required depth was reached. Another device enabled the plane to be worked across the grain. In the ordinary way the grain would tear out leaving a ragged edge, but the addition of a tooth or spur which cut the grain similarly to a cutting gauge prevented this. It was fixed just in front of the cutter.

A. Simple wood rebate plane. B. Compass rebate plane. C. Badger plane. D. Meta! rebate plane. E. Carriage maker’s rebate plane. F. Shoulder plane. G. Bullnose plane. H. Side rebate plane.
NOTE: Click on image to enlarge.

This moving fillister plane was used for all rebates which were on the same side as the new edge of the work as in Fig. 5. In some jobs, however, the rebate had to be worked on the far side of the work, but still kept parallel with the near side - for instance, in making sash windows in which the wide glass rebate which occurs at the back of the wood must be made parallel with the front or face side. This brought into being the sash fillister plane which had a fence closing on to the side of the plane and which was held by long arms passing through the body of the plane. The difference between the two kinds of planes is shown clearly in Figs. 5 and 6, and it wiil be seen that, although the fence bears against the face side in both cases, the rebate is worked on opposite edges.

A variation of the ordinary rebate plane is the compass rebate plane (B, Fig. 2), in which the sole is shaped to enable it to negotiate curves. It is not used a great deal, but when the necessity for it does arise it is invaluable. Another form of rebate plane, once very widely used but seldom seen today, is the badger, which is very like a jack-plane with a rebate at one edge exposing the cutter (C, Fig. 2). It used to be used considerably by cabinet makers when making fielded panels-also by carriage builders. It often had a slip which could be screwed on to convert it into a jack-plane, and also an adjustable fence so that it became a fillister plane with the additional advantage of having a back iron. Both badger and rebate planes can be obtained with square and skew irons. The latter have an advantage in that they work more easily since they have more of a slicing cut. Skewing the cutter virtually has the effect of lowering the pitch.

Most men nowadays favour the metal rebate plane. It combines all the advantages of the simple wood rebate plane and, being provided with an adjustable fence, can be used as a fillister plane. Furthermore there are two positions for the cutter so that, when put at the front, it can be used for working close into a corner similarly to a bullnose plane. Spurs are fitted so that the plane is just as effectivefor working across the grain. In the ordinary way, for straight grain working, the spurs are put out of action by reversing them. The plane is shown at D in Fig. 2. The modern descendant of the badger plane is given at E. It is not seen often in the cabinet maker’s kit, however, though carriage builders use them to a considerable extent.

Most cabinet makers include a shoulder plane in the tool kit. This in its origin is intended for trimming wide shoulders, the low angle (F) making it specially suitable for end grain. Actually there are many other jobs for which it is useful, especially work requiring a fine shaving and close, accurate work. The pattern shown is the English plane. There is also the American pattern which is adjustable. Kept in good condition and properly sharpened a shoulder plane is a joy to use.

Even more useful is the bullnose plane, which is vitually a small shoulder plane cut off short at the front, so to speak. It is one of the most useful planes in the kit. It is not only in normal rebating work it is useful, but it comes in for all small work, especially where one has to work close into a corner. For making and trimming small mouldings, and, indeed, for work where there is no rebate at all, it is often the only plane that could be used at all. Many patterns are available, the American type and the English (shown at G).

The last plane to be mentioned is the side rebate plane (H, Fig. 2). Strictly speaking this is used for grooves rather than rebates. Suppose, for instance, a groove to hold a shelf has been cut, and that it proves to be slightly too narrow. No ordinary form of rebate plane could be used to enlarge the groove. This is where the side rebate plane comes in. It is used as shown in Fig. 7, this being a wooden type. For dovetail grooves it is useful to trim after the work has been chiselled. Both right and left hand planes can be obtained. Combination planes which can be used both right and left hand are obtainable, but these are not so convenient in use as the two separate right and left planes.


It is important when sharpening any sort of plane to be used for rebating that the edge is kept square. If it should be at all out, either it will project more at one side than at the other; or, if it is knocked to one side to give it an even projection, it will stand out at one side so preventing true working. When sighting a plane make sure that the corners of the cutter line up with those of the plane because there can otherwise be curious complications. If it stands out the plane will tend to bite into the wood and so spoil the rebate. If it stands in the plane will gradually drift away from the rebate.

WOODWORK TOOLS Every reader should have this invaluable book on his shelf. It tells how to choose tools, look after them, sharpen them, and use them. Every tool the home woodworker uses is dealt with fully, and it explains not only their practical handling, but also the theory of their cutting action. It is profusely illustrated and contains over 200 pages, including a full index. The handling of power tools such as circular saws, band saws, and jig saws is included. The book is published by Evans Bros. Ltd., 44-46 Clarence Road, St. Albans, Herts, price 3s. 6d. net.

The Woodworker, Volume XLIV, Number 554 - January 1940

Last Updated: May 9, 2015 @ 10:47 pm

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