Rabbet Plane vs Shoulder Plane | Differences and Similarities

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Rabbet plane vs shoulder plane, which is better? Which one should you buy-or? Do they both have their strengths and weaknesses? What are the similarities between them, and what sets them apart from each other? I will answer all these questions in this article, so please read on for more information about choosing which tool best suits your needs!

What is a Rabbet Plane?

rabbet plane

A rabbet plane is a hand tool that was invented before the shoulder plane. As the name refers, this type of hand plane cuts edges to make rabbets and tenons – it’s set up so as to cut edge-to-edge. The earliest examples were manufactured during 19th century Britain, but they are still very much used by modern woodworkers for an excellent job! In terms of materials: two common types are being made nowadays — one with metal body workmanship which you would typically find on most tools today; another using wooden material.

Metal body rabbet planes, which are two types of tools with varying blade angles. One type is the Low-angle rabbet plane with a blade angle of less than 25 degrees, and another includes a range of 45-to-55-degree blades. The rigid body rabbet plane has a blade angle of 45 to 55 degrees. It’s very tough to make a wooden rabbet with a lower angle, which is why you usually only see them if someone makes explicitly it. The cutting edge on the blade is like that of the shoulder planes- slightly wider than the sole. Size can vary in size from 6 inches all the way up to 12 inches!

The body structure of a rabbet plane contains one big handle, one depth stop, one fence, and a cutting blade. Both sides of the rabbet plane are not the same. You can use only one side for cutting rabbet, and you can’t have a reversed cutting.

Know More: 6 Best Rabbet Plane in 2022

What is a Shoulder Plane?

shoulder plane

A shoulder plane is a hand tool that helps you make the smoothest finish on wood and trim the shoulders of joints. There are two types: lower angle and higher angle. The low-angle blade has a 15 to 25-degree cutting edge, which means it can cut your material more effectively than what others would be able to do with just their hands alone. This type also works well for removing dents in doors or other surfaces because its blades have less metal content, so they don’t leave scratches!

The high-angle blade found on most models had 45 degrees, but some go up 55 degrees as well– this allows them to fast cutting where regular planes cannot reach without damaging the surface around them.

The size of the plane can be small, medium, and large. There are a variety of sizes for different purposes, such as trimming shoulders or rabbets. The maximum shoulder plane is smaller than a small rabbet, making it easier to control when cutting through thick material like wood boards. When it comes to trimming a shoulder, you need reasonable control of your planer.

The difference between small and large is largely in the size of the blade: smaller planes have narrower blades than larger ones do. This means that while many people find this type of plane better for one-handed use (especially on narrow pieces), some prefer them with handles or grip both hands; they come in all shapes and sizes!

The shoulder plane is more popular than a rabbet plane. It has one low-angle blade that’s wider than the sole of the cutting edge, making it ideal for smoothing and shaping edges on boards or trimming parts from material with wide grain patterns.

Rabbet Plane vs Shoulder Plane

When it comes to woodworking, the key tools you need often separate a good craftsman from an amateur. A rabbet plane and shoulder plane may seem like they do similar jobs as cutting boards, for example, but more than meets the eye when comparing them side by side. For starters, both planes require different skill sets in order to use appropriately; this one allows you to cut perpendicular grooves while the other does not; this means if your work needs precision cuts or curves, then that’s where your choice should come into play!


The size of a rabbet plane is much larger and wider than a shoulder plane. The shoulder plane is used for trimming a shoulder of a piece of wood. Sometimes you need to trim inside a drawer of a cabinet or even a narrower place. So, you can’t insert a large plane into these small places. That’s why the maximum shoulder plane is a small and one-handed tool. But this plane has some larger models that are useful for doing a large project. 

On the other hand, the rabbet plane is specially designed for cutting a wide variety of projects, such as tenons and mortises. You can use it to make joints in wider boards by quickly removing the waste material with its wide blade that covers more surface area than other planes.

The woodworker has to be mindful of the size and purpose of a particular tool to use it correctly. The shoulder plane is best used by those who need only trimming small areas, while rabbet planes are perfect tools for large projects that require less effort than their smaller counterparts.

Blade Angle

The rabbet plane has a higher blade angle. Usually, the cutting edge is attached at a 45-to 55-degree angle to make it able to cut across the grain of the wood (Rabbets are long slits in planks). The generous mouth opening and high blade allow this tool to trim tenons and remove large amounts of material with one push. It can be used for both crosscutting tasks as well as ripping down boards if needed!

Woodworkers use a rabbet plane when they need to cut deep into the wood. Tenon and Rabbet cutting requires the easy functionality of this tool that removes bulk material from either side without any hassle on your end. The nicker cuts all fibers before removing waste, allowing for long-grain pieces to be easily removed with no tearing involved at all! It is way faster than a shoulder plane. With every push of the tool, you can see that they are shaving off wood fibers for your eyes.

Though it leaves an uneven surface compared to shoulder planes, if you want something really smooth afterward, you should consider using them together in tandem – one after another or simultaneously depending on what works best for your needs! The shoulder plane has an angle of 15 to 25 degrees and can be used for many different purposes, such as trimming wood or making tenons on finished projects like furniture pieces.

You must use this tool carefully because the blade will not work well with grain that goes in more than one direction; it’s suitable for cutting end-grain. It is possible to make a tenon cutting with a shoulder plane but needs a lot of effort and time. Basically, it’s a finishing tool, and you can use it after making a tenon with a chisel or something else, and some area is uneven. But this plane will give you a far better smooth surface that a rabbet plane cannot make. 


After reading till now, are you already concern about the duty of these hand planes? The rabbet plane cuts a large area of wood, so it needs more force for cutting. For giving more force, you need to use both your hands- that’s why there is an extra handle grip in the middle and one on either side. One side is designed to keep inside the rabbet while another keeps outside; they’re rectilinear in shape with depth stops which measure how deep into timber this work will be done! As the body is designed to make one side cut, it is not very suitable for dado or groove cutting.

The shoulder plane is used for trimming the shoulder of the joint. So, it doesn’t require that much force; instead, it needs better control over the plane. More control will help you to trim perfectly. That’s why it does not have any big handle to grip; instead, it is designed in such a way that you can hold it with your finger. For making perfect shoulder trim, the woodworker needs a plane that he can grab at any angle and have a lot of control when using it. This plane can be effortlessly used on half a shoulder and then reversed and used on the other half in the other direction not to split off a shoulder end.

Cutting Blade

In the case of the blade, both planes have a little bit larger blade than the sole. This ensures the perfect corner-cutting. Some rabbet plane has a different type of cutting blade that can cut the wood in two directions. It can cut under the plane and also the side of the rabbet. But the maximum case, they use the same design of cutting blade.

The Task of a Rabbet Plane

You are already aware of the characteristics of a rabbet plane. Now I’ll talk about some tasks that require to be done with a perfect rabbet plane.

  1. Rabbet cutting: You must need a rabbet plane for rabbet cutting. You can cut a small and shallow rabbet with a shoulder plane, but rabbet cutting needs a huge force and pressure that is not easy to do with a shoulder plane.
  2. Making Tenon: You’ll need a rabbet plane for making a perfect tenon. Sometimes you can do it with a shoulder plane, but it’s very tough for the large and deep tenon. Rabbet plane can cut entire tenon in a single cycle.
  3. Tongue Joint: Rabbet plane is handy for making the tongue for a tongue joint.
  4. Dado Joint: It helps make large dado or grooves. But if you need a small dado, then go for the shoulder plane.
  5. Extensive Trim: if you want to trim a piece of wood deeply, this plane may help you.
  6. Cutting Twist Grain: For cutting long twist grain rabbet plane is must be needed. The shoulder plane is not suitable for twist grain.
  7. Knuckle: Using a shoulder plane can be challenging for the knuckle, so I’d suggest a rabbet plane for this job.

The Task of a Shoulder Plane

The shoulder plane is a versatile hand plane that could be used for serving various purposes.

  1. Trimming Tenon: After making a tenon with a chisel, use a shoulder plane to trim the tenon. It is beneficial for trimming a tenon shoulder.
  2. Cutting End Grain: Rabbet plane is not suitable for cutting end grain, so you must use a shoulder plane for this job.
  3. Shallow Tenon: you can make a small and shallow tenon with a shoulder plane. But it is not recommended, use a rabbet plane instead.
  4. Groove Cutting: shoulder plane is perfect for cutting a groove or dado. For a large groove, you can use a rabbet plane, but it is not necessary.
  5. Smoothing Rabbet: after making a nice rabbet, use a shoulder plane to make it smooth. The shoulder plane leaves a smoother surface that the rabbet plane is unable to do.
  6. Tweak Rabbet Joint: Use a shoulder plane to correct a misshapen joint rabbet joint.
  7. Adjust Tongue: You can adjust the tongue by a shoulder plane.
  8. Remove Machine Mark: If some part of the wood has some machine mark or any kind of mark that is hard to remove, using a shoulder plane will give you a good result.

Know More: Plow Plane Vs Rabbet Plane


I hope you enjoyed this article and found it informative. If you have any thoughts or questions about the rabbet plane vs shoulder plane, then please comment below. Thank you for reading my blog post!

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