Saturday, November 26, 2016

A skewed perspective

No matter how many times I have relearned this lesson, every time I buy a new hand tool I think I am going to get perfect results out of the box.  That happened again when I bought my Veritas skew rabbet plane.  It is a truly great tool, but my results weren't truly great at first.  The rabbets sloped in and down.

When I had some free time, I set about figuring out what I needed to do to get good rabbets.  I learned from the company's video that you want the blade to be set proud of the side of the plane body about the thickness of a piece of paper.  That helped, but didn't completely solve the problem, and it wasn't hard to figure out why:  I was having trouble keeping the plane consistently vertical.

Try as I might, I just couldn't find a grip that felt right.  I tried every way I could think of to grasp the front knob but couldn't find one that worked.  Frustrated, I went online to look at some videos of the plane in use and found this one by Chris Schwarz.  Watch very closely.  Notice anything?  He took the front knob off!  I immediately went back to the shop, took mine off and the improvement was immediate.  My hand fit comfortably on the plane body and it was much easier for me to keep it vertical.

This is a puzzling thing to me.  I am a big fan of Lee Valley and they obviously know what they are doing.  However, this front knob seems absolutely awful, at least for someone with big hands like me.  If you look at the company's video, Vic doesn't seem to use it either.  I have absolutely no idea what it's for.  Perhaps some of you use it, and, if so, I'd like to hear from you in the comments.

There is one other thing you should notice in Chris Schwarz's video.  It's very beneficial to keep the edge you are creating the rabbet on exactly flush with the side of the bench.  This is one time when it's nice to have an end vise.  If you want to, you can also add an auxiliary fence as an aid in keeping the plane vertical.

There is one thing he does wrong though:  he is using the plane in the wrong direction.  Take it from me, the left hand one works better.  :)

Finally, in the catalog, the company shows the plane being used to raise panels with the help of an angled auxiliary fence and some longer fence rods.  I see how this is done in principle, but I think it would be quite difficult.  I'm off the hook, though, because I like to raise panels with regular rabbets.  You can do this in the arts and crafts style with the rabbet in the back, but it also looks really nice with the rabbet in the front.


  1. You use the knob when you score with the spur (for cross cuts). Richard

  2. I have that same plane, and similar problems. My knob is still on but I never use it. I tried it a few times but to me it made using the plane awkward feeling.
    I usually get bad rabbets initially with them being high on the entry and sloped down on the exit with it slanted away from the wall. So now I do a few practice runs before I commit to the real one.
    The iron has to be proud on that side because if it isn't the inside corner will have a step or a round over. I learned that lesson the hard way. Shannon Rogers on RWW has a couple of good videos on using a rabbet plane too.

  3. I don't know why the manufacturer of those rabbet planes and combi planes feel obliged to add this front ball.
    You also have noticed that CS doesn't grab the back tote but just pushes it.
    Rabbet planes and combi planes share some features.
    Alf has published an "how to" for plough and combination planes here:
    Unfortunately she stopped blogging in 2011.
    If you look at this Record manual, you will see the the manufacturer himself doesn't use the ball:
    see page 13.

  4. And those who have had problems cutting square rabbets, add an aux fence and press it against the stock in every stroke while losing the grip on the handle (the way you hold a saw).

    Despite what you see from Chris S. ( he is not the plane manufacturer), the knobs has its function (see above). Richard

    1. Richard,

      Thank you for your comments. I can see how the knob might be useful for that purpose, although I don't have any trouble scoring for a crosscut without the knob, and neither did Chris Schwarz. My problem with the knob is that it is right in the way for way I want to grasp the plane with my forward hand.

  5. Hi Andy,

    Don't get me wrong. I am not saying it is wrong if you don't use the knob or using the knob is the only way to use the skew rabbet plane. My point is the knob is there for a function and whether one uses it is up to the user. I never take it off as I sometimes have to score lots of boards for cross cuts and not using it is tiring to my thumb and fingers.

    See this: on how Paul Sellers uses his rabbet plane with the knob.

    In short, the plane designer didn't put the knob there for looks (or for rip cuts). You don't have to use it if it doesn't work for you. I find it a necessity in my rabbet work (and I have cut lots of rabbets in case work).


    1. That makes sense. I don't do that many at a time.

  6. Having just purchased this plane after giving up on my old Stanley #78 I really like it even though I'm a huge fan of Lie-Nielsen. In my research I saw the issue on the knob and for some reason when I sight down the plane and it "looks" square to the board -- it's tilted out! I think that the off-set knob fools my eye. Like others, forget the knob and press the fence firmly against the board and you'll have better luck, at least that works for me.