How to Use a Router to Cut a Rabbet in a Frame

Cut a Rabbet in a Frame for Glass, Plexiglas, Plywood or Other Material

Framing a window or door often requires creating a rabbet in the frame. This simple construction detail allows you to secure glass, Plexiglas, plywood, and other materials securely into place. Learn how to cut a rabbet, the supplies you’ll need, and the step-by-step instructions for cutting 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.

How to Use a Router to Cut a Rabbet in a Frame - Featured Image

So, What Is a Rabbet on a Frame?

A rabbet is a notch or channel that is cut in the internal opening of a picture frame, creating a snug fit for glass, Plexiglas or acrylic. The rabbets create the “channel” or recess inside the frame that the covering of the photo or document fits into. When properly cut, a rabbeted picture frame can produce a professional look for your artwork.

What Type of  Router to Use?

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.

How to Use a Router to Cut a Rabbet in a Frame - Router

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!

Cutting the Rabbet in the Frame

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.

How to Use a Router to Cut a Rabbet in a Frame - Router and Frame

Things to Be Aware Of

When using a router to make any sort of cut, always make sure the lumber is on the left side of the router as you are holding it. 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!

How to Use a Router to Cut a Rabbet in a Frame - Material Placed Left of Router

Adjusting the Depth

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.

How to Use a Router to Cut a Rabbet in a Frame - Rabbeting Bit

Squaring the Corners

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!

How to Use a Router to Cut a Rabbet in a Frame - Rounded 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!

Originally posted 2016-02-08 08:00:37.