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Veritas Jack Rabbet Plane
courtesy Lee Valley
Many readers know that over the years I have provided feedback to Lee Valley on a few of their tools. The Jack Rabbet was one of those where my input would have been totally missed if you blinked. One of the reasons for this was that the development of this plane went from idea to production in 11 months, which is an all-time record in a company that researches and usually does extensive pre-production testing. I blinked, and forgot about the plane until Rob Lee posted computer images on the woodworking forums.
Then a package arrived, and it turned out to have this amazingly beautiful plane inside. Alongside the NX60 Block Plane, the Jack Rabbet Plane is possibly the most striking plane that Lee Valley has produced. Anyway, I was surprised – my involvement with it was miniscule – and also a little perplexed – because I was not sure what I would do with it.
Not know what to do with it ? !
Well the Veritas Jack Rabbet plane is a descendent of the Stanley #10 Carriage Maker’s plane, which was designed to be used in timber framing. In spite of its apparently huge popularity among woodworkers (if one goes by eBay), I really do not understand where it would fit into a furniture maker’s toolkit. A plane such as the #10 is really suited for trimming very large tenon cheeks, such as those in entry doors. Wide rebates or breadboard cheeks then? Sure, it can do these, but I already have a moving fillister I can use in that area.
The main competition from within the Veritas family for the Jack Rabbet Plane comes from the LA Jack Plane. They are very similar in size, and both are bevel up designs. The LA Jack is one of the best all rounders on the market, capable of being used to joint, smooth and shoot edges with the best. The Jack Rabbet, on the other hand, seemed more like a one shot deal (OK, I did suggest it being used for raising panels when it was being conceived, so make that a two-shot deal).
So I sat down to think more seriously about the Jack Rabbet, what it was capable of, how it might fit into a furniture maker’s toolkit. And then it struck me that this was the most versatile plane in the world … bar none! This was a Veritas … er .. venerable … Swiss Army Knife of the plane world. This could be the single plane you take to that desert island. It will out LA Jack the LA jack! Hard to believe? Read on …
A simple box
I have a small project, a tool box, to build to house a plough plane I had completed some months ago. The box will develop it own special complexities, however it is quite simple in its basic form – dovetailed construction, with a raised panel lid set in a grooved housing.
Here it is before it was sawn open …
I decided that I would build this box with just one handplane. It would have to do duty with several tasks (it’s amazing how many tasks are required for such a simple looking construction) …
Flattening across the grain
Flattening and smoothing with the grain
Squaring edges on a shooting board
The Veritas Jack Rabbet Plane
Some see a shark in the profile. Others see a dolfin.
“Rabbet” refers to the blade extending to the outer edges of the body. There is an adjustable nicker on each side to enable it to plane rebates across the grain without tear out. There are also bolt holes that receive the arms for a fence.
The body is durable ductile iron. The blade is bedded at a low 15 degrees.
The nicker may be adjusted in-and-out (see picture below).
The mouth is adjustable (below), and has the same depth stop as on the LA Jack (above).
The adjustable mouth
Other features common to all the Veritas BU planes is the Norris-style blade adjuster, seen below, and the blade set screws, for stability and repeating re-placement after honing.
The rear handle tilts and locks to left or right to clear knuckles when planing close to a wall.
The locking mechanism.
Comparison with the LA Jack is inevitable.
Length of body
Width of body
Width of blade (thickness)
2 ¼” (3/16”)
2 ¼” (3/16”)
5 lbs 12 oz
Below are the two planes alongside one another. Note that the handle on my LA Jack has been replaced with an aftermarket Stanley-style version. This better suits the low bench I use. There has been much debate over the years about the decision by Lee Valley to use more upright handles. The handles on the Jack Rabbet are similar in profile and close in angle to the Stanley.
The body of the LA Jack is wider, but the cutting area, as defined by the width of the blade, is the same for each plane. Interestingly, although the LA Jack is wider, the Jack Rabbet has the slightly greater mass. The reason for this is that the rabbet design requires a great deal of extra reinforcement around the mouth. The extra body is concealed by the cut away patterning design. The effect is that the Jack Rabbet looks a lighter plane than it is. Clever.
LA Jack at bottom and Jack Rabbet on top. Note that these are the PM-V11 blades. They require minimal preparation – essentially just polish the back and hone the bevel face.
Removing and installing the blade is done from below …
Using the Jack Rabbet Plane
Here are a series of illustrations of the Jack Rabbet in action, taken when building the toolbox.
Firstly, jointing the Jarrah ends.
Planing across the grain to flatten a board.
Then planing with the grain to both flatten and smooth the faces …
Panel raising was easily completed with the aid of an angled wooden face for the fence.
It would be extremely difficult to balance this fence against the side of the board and maintain a constant angle. I align the board with the edge of the bench, and use this to guide the fence (see below).
There is no need to scribe the boundary lines. Simply set the distance on the fence, then pull the plane backwards across the board so that the nicker scores the board. Finally, plane to the depth you choose. Do both cross grain ends first, and then plane with the grain. That way you plane out any spelching on the cross grain ends.
One feature missing from the plane is a depth stop for planing (as with a rebate plane). Still, working to a line is easy enough, and the results are excellent.
The rods and fittings for the Skew Rabbet and Jack Rabbet are interchangeable. Indeed, I borrowed the set up for the raised panel from the Skew Rabbet.
A book-matched Jarrah raised panel for the lid …
Now, what about using the Jack Rabbet on a shooting board? “Are you mad!”, you cry, “the absence of a lower lip on the plane’s sole will cause it to plane away and destroy the side wall of the shooting board”.
True, however there is a work around. And it works …
Simply add a wooden base to the plane. Fortunately there are handy bolt holes (for the fence arms) just in the right position. If you want to do the same, the threads are 10-32.
Used on my shooting board, which has a “running fence” ala the Stanley #52 chute board, it is an advantage to rotate the handles into a copy of the Stanley #51 shooting plane. Used this way, the Jack Rabbet is easy to push and performs very well. The cutting angle here is 40 degrees (15 degree bed + 25 degree bevel). Below the shavings of Jarrah end grain …
The last task was to plane rebates for a panel that would fit a frame.
These rebates are small, 3/8” wide x ¼” deep. Generally something a narrower rebate plane would be a better choice for something this small.
Scribe the outline for the rebate. Place the nicker in the scribed line. Close up the fence.
Once again the board is set flush with the edge of the bench for added support for the fence.
Here is the completed panel (reverse side) and the frame (OK, I used a plough plane on that … now how do we convert the Jack Rabbet to plough grooves?).
Here is the frame-and-panel. This is still a work in process …
There is little doubt that the Jack Rabbet is a superior plane, both in build quality and in attention to detail. It is a very striking looking plane and, while form is not the priority of a tool, this is matched by the way it functions.
I can foresee that this plane is going to create a headache for many who had intended purchasing the LA Jack. So why get the LA Jack? Well, it is a less complex plane to use, and the fewer set up choices will be prefered by some. It is also probably a little stiffer in construction, although this was not apparent to me. Both feel rigid and powerful in use. Lastly, the LA Jack is a little “safer” to use – watch out for the corners of blades when used in a rabbet plane!
So, will the Jack Rabbet replace half my plane collection? No, this is unlikely. It could do so, but I prefer having and using dedicated planes. It will excel for raising panels and bread board ends. Alternately, for a furniture maker who does prefer a smaller toolkit using multipurpose planes, then the Jack Rabbet is ideal.
Regards from Perth
Post Script. Lie-Nielsen released a Jack Rabbet Plane around the same time as Lee Valley. I have been asked which is better, the LN or the LV. The answer is that they are different planes insofar as the LN is based almost directly on the platform of the Stanley #62 and is 14” in length and 2 1/8” wide. The LV is 15 1/8” long and 2 1/4” wide. The LN weighs 3.65 lbs and the LV weighs 6 lbs. Clearly the LN is a smaller plane. The LN is patterned after the traditional Stanley Bench Rabbet plane and has nickers on each side of the body, but lacks such features as a fence, tilting handle or blade set screws. For more details, go to the LN website.