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Plywood bins: rabbet or butt joints?

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Forum topic by Bcemail posted 01-26-2021 08:19 PM 545 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Bcemail

65 posts in 1515 days


01-26-2021 08:19 PM

I’m making some basic plywood bins, no shelves or top, just 4 sides and a bottom. They will be about 12” x 12” and maybe 18” tall. They will be holding maybe 20 lbs max and not moved around too much. I was planning on using 1/2” ply as I have leftovers.

I’ve never used rabbets before but saw them in another project video. For attaching the sides together, would there be much of a benefit of using them over butt joints? I don’t have a dado stack, so was either going to do multiple passes on the table saw or use my router table. Not worried about aesthetics, just function.

Either way, for 1/2” ply should I use some kind of piece on the inside of the corners to reinforce? I was thinking that if I’m just going to use glue and brads, I don’t need it, but if I need screws I probably would want something more substantial?

Thanks!


21 replies so far

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

16646 posts in 2145 days


#1 posted 01-26-2021 08:25 PM

For projects like that, I always go with rabbets glued and nailed. It makes for a strong joint, it’s quick and easy to cut, and assembly is a breeze compared to butt joints. Just how I do it. If I didn’t have a dado stack, I might not but I do so I do :-)

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

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newwoodbutcher

849 posts in 3857 days


#2 posted 01-26-2021 08:33 PM

I frequently use rabbets and glue for plywood shop furniture and such
Never had a problem

-- Ken

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LesB

2859 posts in 4450 days


#3 posted 01-26-2021 08:34 PM

A rabbet joint is always a little stronger than a butt joint but a little harder to accomplish on 1/2” material. A quick way to cut the rabbet is on the table saw with two passes. One vertical and the second horizontal to remove the section of wood. Just adjust the width of the cut accordingly….vertical woud be 1/2’ and the horizontal (flat) would be 3/8.

My personal preference would be finger or box joints cut on the router table (with no dado blades available). With plywood you may need to add a backup sacrificial spacer to reduce any tear out on the back side of the cut.

Glue and brads should be fine and screws will have a problem in plywood. The bottom should keep things square and stable. I like to recess bottoms in a dadoed (rabbet) cut.

-- Les B, Oregon

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SMP

3426 posts in 912 days


#4 posted 01-26-2021 08:36 PM



For projects like that, I always go with rabbets glued and nailed. It makes for a strong joint, it s quick and easy to cut, and assembly is a breeze compared to butt joints. Just how I do it. If I didn t have a dado stack, I might not but I do so I do :-)

- HokieKen

Same here. And if its smaller/simple I won’t even break out my dado stack. I’ll just make them in the table saw using my aux fence(i usually have one on that 6-8” tall) and just hold them vertically through, something i am comfortable doing, YMMV

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dbw

518 posts in 2643 days


#5 posted 01-26-2021 08:38 PM

Rabbets. Glue them and use brads. I have used screws and plugs with plywood but with 1/2” it’s gonna be tough. Stick with brads. As far as not having a dado stack: this is the perfect reason to buy one!!! I have the Oshlun and it is very good. Way cheaper than Fd or F**t. I will admit it’s faster to use the router/table. I don’t believe you need to reinforce.

-- Woodworking is like a vicious cycle. The more tools you buy the more you find to buy.

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Richard Lee

384 posts in 1782 days


#6 posted 01-26-2021 08:40 PM

Or just butt together and add a piece inside the corner to screw into.

View vind's profile

vind

35 posts in 2318 days


#7 posted 01-26-2021 08:50 PM

http://www.thisiscarpentry.com/2014/09/19/the-quarter-quarter-quarter-drawer-system/

-- History recalls how great the fall can be. Supertramp, Fools Overture

View tvrgeek's profile

tvrgeek

1388 posts in 2656 days


#8 posted 01-26-2021 09:39 PM

Rabbit helps alignment. Good glue is stronger than the wood. So I glue, brad nailer, clamp.

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Bcemail

65 posts in 1515 days


#9 posted 01-26-2021 09:50 PM

Thanks for all the tips. Sounds like I might be trying out rabbets! Always fun to try something new anyway. In general, do just 2 of the sides have rabbets? Say the front and the back, then the 2 sides sit in those? Or do you rabbet all pieces and they sort of lock together?
I do like the idea of buying a dado stack, but my saw can’t use them. Although I have seen some box joint blades that I guess will fit on the shorter arbor. Here I was trying to use up some scrap and now I’m tool shopping!

View splintergroup's profile

splintergroup

4650 posts in 2229 days


#10 posted 01-26-2021 11:20 PM

Rabbets on only one side of each joint is all you should need. What kind of plywood (how many layers)? Generally the cheaper construction/sheathing plywood is a mess with voids, etc. and fasteners work poorly when driven into the sides.

Adding interior corner blocks (glued in) will really beef up the structure and could eliminate the need for rabbets.

View dbw's profile

dbw

518 posts in 2643 days


#11 posted 01-27-2021 12:59 PM



Thanks for all the tips. Sounds like I might be trying out rabbets! Always fun to try something new anyway. In general, do just 2 of the sides have rabbets? Say the front and the back, then the 2 sides sit in those? Or do you rabbet all pieces and they sort of lock together?
I do like the idea of buying a dado stack, but my saw can t use them. Although I have seen some box joint blades that I guess will fit on the shorter arbor. Here I was trying to use up some scrap and now I m tool shopping!

- Bcemail


There (probably) are numerous videos on youtube showing how to cut rabbets. With and without dado blades. One item which I find invaluable when making rabbets on a table saw is an auxiliary/sacrificial table saw fence. Youtube probably has videos on these as well.

-- Woodworking is like a vicious cycle. The more tools you buy the more you find to buy.

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

16646 posts in 2145 days


#12 posted 01-27-2021 02:10 PM

If you can’t use a dado stack, I’d use my router table. If you don’t have that, then I’d do it with one vertical and one horizontal pass on the table saw like others suggest.

Just to clarify, I use rabbets because it’s quick and easy for me with a dado and because it makes assembly easier because the shoulders act as positive stops and keep everything pretty square. But, if cutting rabbets becomes cumbersome, brace blocks glue in the corners will work just as well structurally. Of course that takes up some interior space which may or may not be an issue for you depending on the intended use.

And yes, you only need to rabbet one piece at each corner. You can do both but I don’t know why you would :-)

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

View Robert's profile

Robert

4435 posts in 2487 days


#13 posted 01-27-2021 02:24 PM

Rabbet either the sides or front back. If you can’t use a dado blade, one approach is an auxiilary tall fence and run the sides through vertically—but I’ll caution this is not something to do unless you’ve got feather boards and a riving knife.

Butt joint or rabbet, either way you’re gluing an edge to a long grain surface, so there’s no strength advantage to a rabbet. It will help with alignment and speed up the assembly process.

Personally in your situation I would go with butt joints, screws & plugs. Drill a 1/4” counter sink then use a trim head screw. If you go this route and do a rabbet make is shallow 1/8”. You don’t even have to mess with glue. They’re just storage boxes, after all.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Lazyman's profile

Lazyman

6628 posts in 2394 days


#14 posted 01-27-2021 03:07 PM

Easiest way, IMO, to cut rabbets is with a rabbet bit on the router. Only setup is choosing the right bearing size and the depth. Of course the plywood will be slightly smaller than the bearing gives you for the width but that won’t affect the strength of the joint.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Axis39's profile

Axis39

430 posts in 604 days


#15 posted 01-27-2021 03:19 PM

Rabbits, or rebates, are great, but I gotta say, I was gonna suggest this:


http://www.thisiscarpentry.com/2014/09/19/the-quarter-quarter-quarter-drawer-system/

- vind

That interlocking 1/4” makes it easier to assemble and clamp, as well as adding some glue surface.

Although, if you’ve never used rabbits before, I say it’s definitely time to start! Since you have a router table, I’d suggest using it to get nice, clean cuts in one pass. Just pick up a decent 1/2” straight bit. Doesn’t have to be anything crazy or complicated. But, if you buy one with a bearing on it, you’ll be able to use it for templates and stuff later.

-- John F. SoCal transplant, chewer uppper of good wood

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