How to Use a Router to Cut a Rabbet in a Frame
In a large majority of the plans I create, a rabbet is cut on the back side of the frame in order to insert material such as glass, plywood, etc. Today, I am sharing a short step by step tutorial on how to use a router to cut a rabbet in a frame. Using a router is really very easy and can come in handy in a variety of ways.
For a long time, I used my dad’s Craftsman router… The very same one he used to create a cradle for my doll, Molly, when I was little. He even carved her name in the side and I still have it – Molly, too! Unfortunately, I wore it out and need to replace the collet (the “nut” that tightens the router bit in place). The router I currently use is a Craftsman plunge router I purchased on eBay several years ago. The guy selling it had only used it a couple of times and I got a super deal on it.
There really isn’t a lot to using a router except for, of course, the usual safety precautions. Always wear eye protection, do not touch the router bit while the router is on and unplug the router when changing the bit!
So to cut a rabbet in a frame, start with a fully assembled frame. This project used in the example, will be a large cork board project for D. Lawless Hardware, where I am a contributor. The rabbet will need to be cut 3/8″ deep in order to accommodate the 3/8″ thick cork sheet.
When using a router to make any sort of cut, always make sure the lumber is on the left side of the router. In other words, if making a single routed edge on a board, the board will be on the left side of the router when making the pass. When cutting a routed edge on the inside of a frame, the router will move in a clockwise direction, and when cutting a routed edge on the outside of a frame, the router will move in a counter clockwise direction. This is very important and is due to the rotation of the bit in the router. Trying to make a cut in the opposite direction is dangerous and can lead to injury. Also, it is a good idea to make sure the sawdust guard (a clear plastic piece on the side of the router) is facing you to keep any wood chips and sawdust flying away from the body instead of at the body!
Since my rabbeting bit is only 1/4″ thick, I will need to make two passes with it in order to get the 3/8″ depth that I need for the cork sheet. If a deep dado (groove in the board) or rabbet are needed, always make more than one pass with the router. I set the bit 1/4″ above the plate and made a pass on the frame, then set the bit 3/8″ above the plate to make the second pass.
Once the rabbet is cut, the corners of the rabbet will be curved. The corners can easily be squared with a chisel and a hammer to accommodate the glass or other material. They can also be left round and the edges of the material being placed in the rabbet can be rounded. This is my preferred method because I am horrible and squaring the corners!
So that is all there is to it! Using a router is easy, and can even be used with a decorative bit to make your own trim! Have any questions on how to use a router to cut a rabbet in a frame? Leave a comment below!