Rabbet plane vs shoulder plane

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Forum topic by Greg In Maryland posted 06-21-2011 09:58 PM 9781 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Greg In Maryland

553 posts in 3446 days

06-21-2011 09:58 PM

Good afternoon,

What is the difference between a shoulder plane and a rabbet plane (non-skew)?

for example, how is this:

different from this:

I realize that the rabbet plane is wider than most, if not all shoulder planes, but beyond that, I really can’t see any major difference. They both cut to the edge of the plane, both are used for squaring up edges, creating rabbets and other joinery functions.



5 replies so far

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3563 days

#1 posted 06-21-2011 10:31 PM

if you look at the shoulderplane you will see its a lowangle plane
and the sides shuold be precice 90 degree to the sole of the plane
the shoulderplane can plane with the grain but is constructed to plane across the grain
and endgrainwork
the rabbetplane is angled with a 45 degree frog in this case and is constructed to plane
with the grain and you can´t be sure the sides is 90 degree to the sole even though it wuold be the best

if you had ask about the different betwind a dadoplane and a shoulder it wuold have been a little more
difficult to tell since they can look very simular to each other

take care

View PurpLev's profile


8551 posts in 4097 days

#2 posted 06-21-2011 11:11 PM

the shoulder plane is narrow and tall and as such it’s easier to work on narrow shoulders of tenons and keep it flat against the cheeks to keep the shoulders at 90 degrees as they should be. it would be harder to accomplish that with a rabbet plane which is wider, larger, and the grip is on the back.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4096 days

#3 posted 06-22-2011 01:09 AM

A good, heavy shoulder plane will outperform a rabbet plane in
working the end grain of tenon shoulders in dense woods, which
is what a shoulder plane is for.

Both are useful and to some extent the work they can do overlaps,
but a shoulder plane can’t hog out wide rabbets in softwoods the way
a bench rabbet plane can.

View Greg In Maryland's profile

Greg In Maryland

553 posts in 3446 days

#4 posted 06-22-2011 03:37 AM

Thanks guys. Just what I needed, and can understand.

View Catlike's profile


21 posts in 1675 days

#5 posted 05-06-2016 01:24 AM

It appears that the rabbet plane is preferred by at least some timber framers for finishing the very large tenons that they must cut. As a rabbet plane is generally wider than a shoulder plane, it can plane a wider swath at each pass than a shoulder plane can, I think. (These thoughts inspired from “Learn to Timber Frame” by Will Beemer)

I have noticed that using a shoulder plane can be hard on the knuckles—at least the model I used (a Stanley, I think it was). Since I had to grip the body of the plane (there were no knobs off to the side), my fingers had to be right up against the tenon shoulder. I always skinned my knuckles using that thing!

Because the rabbet plane has knobs/handles centered on the long axis, the user can more readily keep fingers away from the shoulders of the tenon being planed.

-- Catlike

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