Rabbet plane vs shoulder plane

Rabbet plane vs shoulder plane

What is the difference between the rabbet and the shoulder plane?

Both planes may look similar, in that the plane iron is protruding through the sides of the body but they do have their own particular woodworking tasks. Here I will explain what those tasks are and the differences between the two styles of woodworking plane.

What is a rabbet plane?

The rabbet plane is designed to cut a ‘rabbet’ or as known in the UK a ‘rebate’ into the end or the edge of a piece of wood. 

The Rebate Plane is known as:

  • Rebate Plane (UK)
  • Badger Plane 
  • Rabbet Plane (US)
Rabbet plane vs shoulder plane

The rabbet plane or shoulder plane has a plane iron slightly larger than the width of the plane body or at least the same width. This allows the latter to be able to remove shavings up to the edge of a rebate or the shoulder of a tenon. 

Rabbet plane vs shoulder plane

Standard Bench Plane

 A standard bench plane such as a Stanley Bailey No4 has a plane iron that is slightly narrower than the body of the plane itself Preventing it from planing right up to the edge.No4 smoother plane body mouth

What is a shoulder plane?

The shoulder plane is designed to plane the shoulders of a tenon. 

Rider shoulder plane

What is similar between the rabbet plane and the shoulder plane? 

The shoulder plane and the rabbet plane or rebate plane both have a plane iron that is slightly wider than the plain body itself.

Rabbet Plane

The rabbet plane has a geometry similar to a bench plane.  The bed angle is similar to a bench plane. The blade of the rabbit plane has the bevel down and mounted inside the plane body with a chip breaker and clamp. Low price for you on Amazon

Old wooden-bodied rabbet planes often have no chip breaker.

Rabbet plane bed angle 

The rabbet plane is a bevel down design.

  • Rabbet plane bed angle is 15 degrees 
  • The blade angle is 28 to 30 degrees
  • Together you get a cutting angle of between 45 and 43 degrees 

Rabbet plane vs shoulder plane

The rebate plane with the bevel down needs a chip breaker and lever cap. Old wooden-bodied rebate planes have a wedge to secure the bevel down assembly.  


The shoulder plane 

The shoulder plane is a low angle plane with the plane iron just slightly proud of the sides of the body.  The plane iron is set to a lower angle similar to a low angle block plane. This is because the shoulder plane is designed to plane end grain of Tenon and Rebate joints. The shoulder plane can be used to plane rebates as well like the rabbet plane. The blade or iron of the shoulder plane is a bevel up with a low bed angle. Found great shoulder plane price for you on Amazon

Shoulder plane bed angle 

The blade of the shoulder plane is mounted with the bevel up

  • Shoulder plane bed angle is 15° to 20°
  • The blade angle is 25°
  • Add these together and you get a cutting angle of 40° to 45° 

Rabbet plane vs shoulder plane

Shoulder plane and its bevel up design needs a clamp or wedge to secure the plane iron or blade

Blade (Plane Iron) angles of 40 degrees is ideal for end grain but can also be used for long grain

Which Sharpening Angle?

Choosing the correct blade grind angle is a personal and practical decision. If most of my work is Oak then I might need a strong edge and choose ground of 30° but if I mainly use softwoods then I might choose a shallow grind nearer to 28°.

If you have upgraded your plane irons(blades) to better steel than what is supplied as standard you could choose a grind of 28° or even lower. This also applies to high-quality tools such as Lie Nielsen, Clifton, Woodriver and Veritas.

Demonstrating the Badger Rebate Plane

In this video, I will show you how the rebate plane is used and a great tip for Rebate and Shoulder planes.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this description go to Amazon which we receive a small commission.

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