As in this question about making box shelves, I am looking at making some shelves and need some help. I've found this site describing how to make the shelves but need some pointers on what tools I need to be able to make the rabbet along the 2.5 meter shelf.

I was thinking of getting this router and these router bits with a rabbet bit but have some questions:

  • are these items up to the job?
    • if so, how would I change the size of the hole cut by the rabbet bit?
  • do I need any more items to be able to cut the rabbet?
  • do I need a work bench?

As you can see, I'm a complete novice so please assume I know nothing. I don't really have a clue of what I'm doing, but I want to learn how to do this properly.

Any hints, tips or concrete pointers would be greatly appreciated.

  • 2
    I read the title as “Guidance needed for gutting rabbit.” May 31, 2011 at 8:52
  • 1
    you could pick up a small router table like this one from Bosch, some times you can even find a deal for the router and the table together. It might be a bit easier for a beginner to feed the piece on a table, rather than guiding the router across the piece. (just make sure you bolt or clamp the router table to something).
    – Tester101
    May 31, 2011 at 12:15
  • 1
    @Vebjorn: Gutting a rabbit with a router can get very messy if done improperly.
    – Doresoom
    May 31, 2011 at 16:49
  • IF you use a router for deep cuts, don't try to do all the cut at once. Jun 1, 2011 at 15:03

4 Answers 4


Looking at the page you linked to, it looks like it will do the job for you. It has a 1/4" shank which might limit you down the road if you decide you like building things and start doing it all the time.

A rabbet bit goes against the work piece like this:

picture of rabbet bit against workpiece

The dimension B is determined by the size of the bit; you can make it smaller by putting something between the workpiece and the bit; you could use another bit to cut out more, but that makes the whole job a lot trickier because you won't have the bearing on the bit to help guide the router. You have control of dimension A; you make the cut deeper by running the bit over the workpiece multiple times, cutting a little bit more each time.

Other items you'll need are safety glasses, a vacuum cleaner to collect sawdust (it's a carcinogen so don't want to be breathing it) and clamps to hold the work piece.

You need clamps because operating a router is a two-handed job: plunging the router with both hands means that you have even pressure on each side of the bit thus more control if it kicks and it keeps your hands out of the way of the fast-moving machinery.

If you don't already have something sturdy to clamp the workpiece to, you should probably think about getting a workbench. A dedicated routing table is another option, but probably more than you need right now (I'm just now getting to the point where I'm thinking I'd like to have one so can't advise you there).


Niall's answer is great if you are using a hand-held router. A routing table is not that expensive, however, and makes this basically a no-brainer. You might even be able to rent one.

You can mount any cylindrical bit ('groove cutting bit') in the router--these tend to be much cheaper than bits with bearings. The fence position controls the width of the rabbet. The router depth (you can screw the router up and down) determines the depth of the rabbet. Run a test piece and adjust--sneak up on it. Use featherboards to help you apply pressure to keep the wood down and against the fence.

If you're making a deep cut in hard wood, do it in two passes, adjusting the fence width precisely on the first cut but backing off the router depth to about half depth.

The downside is that you can't do curved pieces this way--you have to lose the fence and go with a rabbeting bit with a bearing--but for straight cuts, once you have the setup, you can crank out pieces with very little chance of it going wrong.


Porter cable router

I would use a router similar to the one in the link that has 1/2" shank capacity, but isn't to large to work with for a long time. I cannot stress enough the need for a sturdy work table and a firmly mounted work piece. You do not want a router to get away from you. That being said, if you have a lot of rabbets to cut, you might be better off doing them on a table saw.

  • is there a bit which would convert a 1/4" shank to a 1/2" shank? or is there a part on that router I posted which I can swap out? I like Bosch products but have no good experience with any other brands, hence I'd like to stick with them unless there's a good reason not to.
    – Martyn
    May 30, 2011 at 15:58
  • Nope, you can adapt from 1/2" to 1/4", but not the other way around. If you have a preference for Bosch tool, by all means buy their products. Porter cable just happens to be the brand router that I've found to be most common in wood shops during my time as a carpenter. May 31, 2011 at 0:38
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    1/2" shank straight bits will give you less chatter and a smoother cut. You can also remove more wood with each pass without the risk of the bit breaking (not fun!). May 31, 2011 at 0:39
  • Even if you could convert the bit from 1/4 to 1/2 you wouldn't want to. The router would likely be underpowered for that application.
    – JohnFx
    Jun 6, 2011 at 4:05

If you go with a router, fine tuning dados will not be possible if you ever venture into that. It is a fixed width as opposed to a a dado stack of blades for a table saw. Just something to consider.

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