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Thread: Rabbet / Fillister

  1. #1
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    Rabbet / Fillister

    I've been looking at various online sources of information, but I've just not been able to get straigt in my mind what the difference is between a rabbet and a fillister.

    By way of inference and comparing a simple rabbet plane like this:
    07p1410s1.jpg

    To a moving fillister plane like this:
    48s.jpg
    Other than the addition of fence and depth stop, is the key difference a cross grain nicker? So, is the difference between a rabbet and a fillister similar to the difference between a groove and a dado? As in a groove runs with the grain, likewise a rabbet runs with the grain, but a dado and fillister run across the grain?

  2. #2
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    My understanding is that the terminology is as follows:

    Rabbet: two-sided flat bottomed square cut at the edge of a board, which can run either with or across the grain.

    Rabbet plane: plane that cuts a rabbet
    Fillister plane: rabbet plane plus a depth stop and fence, and a nicker to help score the fibers, meant to be used across the grain.

    So both a rabbet plane and a fillester plane will cut rabbets, but it will be easier to cut a rabbet across the grain with a fillester plane than with a rabbet plane.

    Hope that makes sense.

  3. #3
    A rabbet is with the grain and a fillester (a.k.a. filletster) is across the grain, similar to the difference between a groove (with the grain) and a dado (across the grain). Both plane types (fenced and unfenced) can be used to make either a rabbet or filletster.

    Rabbet/fillester planes come in fenced and unfenced varieties, with straight blades or skew blades and with or without scoring irons. The fenced versions (also called moving filletster planes) are used like their name implies, with the attached fence to set the width of the rabbet or filletster.


    Fenced varieties can come with fences attached with screws (like mine) or with wedged or screw type arms like a wooden plow plane has. A stanley #78 (straight iron) and #289 (skewed iron) are also examples of fenced rabbet/filletster planes.


    With the unfenced variety, you clamp a board to the stock to be planed and the plane rides against the board. This allows you to make cuts at odd angles (not parallel to the edge of the board).


    You can also use the unfenced version to make raised panels.

    Unfenced varieties can also be used to trim tenon cheeks and shoulders hence they are the basis for the modern day shoulder planes.

    The nicker iron is only used for cross grain cuts to score the wood fibers before planing to prevent the fibers from tearing out when planing across the grain. My moving filletster plane (1st and 2nd pictures) has one and my 2" skew rabbet plane (3rd and 4th pics) does not. This is a minor concern as I typically score cross grain cuts with a marking knife before planing anyway as my nicker iron on my moving filletster is not tuned very well at the moment.

    Finally, there is the straight or skewed iron choice. Both planes in the above pictures have skewed irons. A skewed iron makes cleaner cross grain cuts (filletsters). Straight irons don't work as well across the grain but are equal in performance to the skewed version for long grain cuts (rabbets). If given the choice, choose a skewed iron version as it will be more versatile and cut cleaner.
    Last edited by Robert Rozaieski; 06-02-2008 at 12:13 PM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Rozaieski View Post
    A rabbet is with the grain and a fillester (a.k.a. filletster) is across the grain, similar to the difference between a groove (with the grain) and a dado (across the grain).
    That's what I was looking for. In my searches, I was able to infer this, but just couldn't find anything that said that specifically.

    Thanks!

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Faurot View Post
    That's what I was looking for. In my searches, I was able to infer this, but just couldn't find anything that said that specifically.

    Thanks!
    Michael,

    A rabbet and a fillister are the same thing when cut in wood. A fillister plane is intended for use along or across the grain and some rabbets are also skewed as a supposed aid in cutting across the grain. I think the misinformation about this can be traced back to Adam Cherubini who got it wrong.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Williams View Post
    A rabbet and a fillister are the same thing when cut in wood.
    Okay. So rabbet and fillister are essentially synonyms. Is the term fillister either an older way of saying rabbet (or even rebate), or is it a case of rabbet being more of an American term versus fillister (filletster) being more of a European term?

    A fillister plane is intended for use along or across the grain . . .
    This is what I had noticed and I was basing my inferences on. So it seems to me then the critical factor for differentiating a simple rabbet plane from a fillister plane is the cross grain nicker. The addition of the fence and/or depth stop takes it from being just a fillister plane to a moving fillister plane.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Williams View Post
    I think the misinformation about this can be traced back to Adam Cherubini who got it wrong.
    This may be true, but I really thought that I had seen the reference somewhere else as well. I did go back and check Moxon and Nicholson and both only refer to a rebate so it wasn't in those texts. I'll search a little more, but you may be right.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Faurot View Post
    or is it a case of rabbet being more of an American term versus fillister (filletster) being more of a European term?
    Definately not American vs. European. Moxon and Nicholson both use the term rebate to define the cut itself but the terms rebate and filletster to describe the different planes and both were English (Moxon in the late 1600s to early 1700s and Nicholson in the early 1800s).

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Faurot View Post
    So it seems to me then the critical factor for differentiating a simple rabbet plane from a fillister plane is the cross grain nicker. The addition of the fence and/or depth stop takes it from being just a fillister plane to a moving fillister plane.
    Actually, I believe there were also fixed fence rabbet planes (I could be thinking of something else here though). Larry should be able to confirm this but I believe the term moving filletster refers specifically to those planes with adjustable fences designed to cut a rabbet on the near edge of the stuff. Sash filletsters on the other hand also have an adjustable fence but are designed to cut the rabbet on the far side of the stock, i.e. for window sash. If you look through Moxon and Nicholson, there is some good discussion on rebating planes.

  8. #8
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    Acording to John Whelan in The Wooden Plane;It's History, Form And Function, both rabbets and fillesters can cut long or cross grain, and can have knickers.

    His definition is that a rabbet plane has no fence, and a fillester is a rabbet plane that has a fence. In the earliest versions and not too common apparently they were called standing fillesters, or fillisters. Occasionaly they were fitted with depth stops usually not. When they began to be fitted with movable fences they became moving fillisters.

    The standing fillisters, if you look at the end of the body appear to have a square cut out, and the portion that extends down rides on the edge of the board. So in that case the fence is integral to the body of the plane and does not move. Hope that helps.
    Craftsmanship is the skill employed in making a thing properly, and a good craftsman is one who has complete mastery over his tools and material, and who uses them with skill and honesty.

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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by James Mittlefehldt View Post
    In the earliest versions and not too common apparently they were called standing fillesters, or fillisters. Occasionaly they were fitted with depth stops usually not. When they began to be fitted with movable fences they became moving fillisters.
    Yes, that's what I was thinking of, standing filletsters. I couldn't remember the name. Thanks!

  10. #10
    I think of a fillister and rabbet exactly the same. If you check, you'll find "fillister head" screws that are designed to fit into a counter bored recess that has a flat bottom and 90 sides.

    Standing fillisters were uncommon in Great Britain but very rare in the US. They were made here though. Here's a standing fillister by T. GOLDSMITH of Philadelphia. I found it in a local antique shop.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Larry Williams; 06-03-2008 at 5:59 PM. Reason: spelling

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Williams View Post
    I think of a fillister and rabbet exactly the same.
    Okay. So it's just inertia and/or convention to explain why we have planes named standing fillister or moving fillister instead of a moving rabbet or standing rabbet?

    Standing fillisters were uncommon in Great Britain but very rare in the US. They were made here though.
    I'm having a difficult time understanding those sentences. Could you rephrase that and explain where "here" is?
    Last edited by Michael Faurot; 06-03-2008 at 11:50 PM.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Faurot View Post
    I'm having a difficult time understanding those senteneces. Could you rephrase that and explain where "here" is?
    http://planemaker.com/

  13. #13
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    From the point of view of a linguist...

    ... a rabbet and a filletster are different things. One refers to the "void" that is left when you make a specific cut. The other, as I understand it, and as the term and similar terms are used in other trades, refers to the wood that is left when you make the named cut.

    Any group of people that are engaged in a common activity will require very precise ways of communicating their specialized information. These groups, from craftsmen to athletes to children in a common classroom, will either create words or reassign the meaning of existing words.

    One way in which existing words are assigned new meanings is the narrowing of a broad meaning. This is what happened to the term rabbet. It is an Anglicization of a word in French that we directly borrowed in another area as the word rebate. So, when a vendor offers a rebate on a product's price, he is removing a portion of the price. (French speakers still refer to the process of removing material with a plane as rabotage) Woodworkers cannot just say "you need to remove a portion of that piece of wood!", so they have developed specific terms to communicate how and from where to remove the material. We have assigned the term rabbeting to the process of removing wood in a very specific way. A rabbet is the "rebate" off the corner of the wood when you make a "rabbeting" cut.

    The term filletster has a larger pedigree. The "-ster" ending signifies that this is something that makes or "does" a fillet (think "roadster"). Fillet is a variant of the term filet. Of the many instances of these two terms in various crafts and trades, the most famous is in butchery, where a fillet (or filet) is a boneless cut of meat. In order to produce a filet, one takes cuts around the edges of an area of meat in order to create a section without bones. The filet is the piece that you pull off after making "filleting" cuts. Usually this cut is a long strip of meat. (BTW, the modern English word flay, which sounds very close to the French pronunciation of filet, is actually an Old English word, and, while not related, does have a similar meaning. This is the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night!)

    Other instances of the term refer to this strip or thread. Architecture, when talking about strips of molding or areas around the bottom or top of columns, both decorative, refers to a fillet as a flat area (strip) used to set off raised areas. Fillets are the flat spots of an astragal which surround a half-round. As a stretch of these concepts, mechanical engineering defines the term as a raised portion around the bottom of a post or other vertical cylinder used to ease perpendicular lines, kind of like a reverse countersink. A nun's wimple (head cloth) is set off with a white strip of cloth called a fillet.

    So, in woodworking (as I understand it), the fillet is the piece of wood that remains when you make a filleting cut. It could be a strip of flat in a molding or, as when cutting a window sash, a strip between two grooves. A fillet-ster is the tool that makes the fillet. For either of these cuts, a fence would be needed, regardless of grain direction.

    I hope this was neither tool pedantic nor too "abusive of dead equines". Historical linguisitics and etymology have been a lifelong passion for me. Also, one should not post too early in the morning after coffee on an empty stomach.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Cottrell View Post
    ... I hope this was neither tool pedantic nor too "abusive of dead equines". Historical linguisitics and etymology have been a lifelong passion for me. Also, one should not post too early in the morning after coffee on an empty stomach.
    Dave, I enjoy words at least as much as I enjoy tools. Thanks for the explication. I learned something and I don't think any deceased equines were abused in the slightest.

    Hank
    Last edited by Hank Knight; 06-04-2008 at 11:10 AM. Reason: Spelling

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Cottrell View Post
    So, in woodworking (as I understand it), the fillet is the piece of wood that remains when you make a filleting cut. It could be a strip of flat in a molding or, as when cutting a window sash, a strip between two grooves. A fillet-ster is the tool that makes the fillet. For either of these cuts, a fence would be needed, regardless of grain direction.
    This is helping, but one of the problems I've been having getting this straight in my mind is all the references to window sashs. When I look up "window sash" they all seem to refer to things that look like this:
    sash.jpg[1]
    Which I'm not able to correlate to using either a rabbet or fillister plane.

    From what you've written about a fillet, that sounds like it should look like this, with the red area being the actual fillet:
    Fillet.jpg

    So a fillister plane would be making rabbets on either side of that red area to leave a fillet. Right?


    [1]: http://www.smithrestorationsash.com/diamond.html

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