Nowadays rebates are most commonly cut using a router and special ball bearing guided rebating bits which can cut to a specific depth and width. Traditionally, however, rebates were cut with a specialised hand plane called, as you guessed it, a rebate or rabbet plane.
My quest for hand tools substitutes for power tools took me to an Indian hand tools maker called Shobha Industries, a New Delhi based company that produces hand tools for export under the brand name 'Soba'. I ordered their "Duplex Rabbet Plane" which arrived after a few weeks of agonising wait.
The moment I saw the plane I was smitten: I had not beheld such a beautiful little tool in a long time and certainly nothing made in India.
The enamelled handle, the lapped sole and solid steel casting all suggested good machining and attention to detail. I checked the sole against a straightedge and found it dead flat. The sides were also completely square to the sole and the parts fitted well.
The blade was somewhat of a disappointment as it took a long time to lap flat. It nevertheless sharpened well and sliced easily through hard rubber wood and teak when I tested it. In all, it is a great tool that I cannot stop appreciating.
About Rebate Planes
Rebate planes are those hand planes that have their blades extending to the full width of the sole unlike a standard hand plane where the mouth through which the blade protrudes is narrower than the sole width. Normal hand planes cannot cut rebates because their soles will not allow it. A rebate plane, on the other hand, can cut deep against a shoulder and keep going to any desired depth.
Some rebate planes come with a fence that allows the woodworker to set the width of the rebate to be cut. These planes also usually have a depth stop, which means that both the width and depth of rebates can be precisely set.
These planes are called "Moving Fillister Planes" because the fence can be moved to cut different widths.
Thus the Soba rebate plane is actually a "Moving Fillister Plane". It is also a duplex plane because the blade can be attached in two positions: one at the very end for bullnose work and the other nearer the centre for regular rebating.
One of the best known of such planes was the Stanley #78 "Duplex fillister and rabbet plane" first introduced in 1885. Stanley made a lot of money on this plane and continues to produce a variant of it. The original plane was 8 ½ inches long with a 1 ½ inch blade and weighed about 1.5 kg. The #78 had only one rod to hold the fence in place. But it had a depth stop and a spur or nicker on one side of the plane.
A better version of this plane was introduced by the British Record Tool Company in 1959 called the #778. This version had two rods holding the fence in place and was thus more stable. Otherwise it was just like the Stanley #78. Record was acquired in 1998 by American Tool Corp Inc. the owners of Irwin Tools. The UK side of the company still produces the #778 under the Irwin Record label.
The Soba Plane
The Soba rebate plane looks like a replica of the Record #778. Its specifications are also exactly that of the #778: Length: 8 ½ inches; blade width: 1 ½ inches; and weight: 1.8 kg
|Record #778||Soba Duplex Rabbet Plane|
The quality of the Soba plane's casting, machining and enamel painting is nothing short of outstanding. The plane is, however, not cheap by Indian standards and costs about Rs 3,500 inclusive of taxes. This is comparable to the Stanley #78 sold at amazon.com for about US $ 50 (1 USD roughly equals Rs 65 as of September 2013). The Irwin Record #778 sells for a staggering UK 100 pounds plus, which is about Rs 10,000!
One difference between the Irwin Record and Soba planes is the metallurgy. The Irwin Record blade iron, for instance, is made of Tungsten Vanadium steel whereas the Soba one is of high carbon steel.
|Side of Soba Plane showing depth stop and nicker (with a screw) below it.|
I do not regret buying the Soba plane for one instance. It does the job very well and is a pleasure to handle. The plane has a depth stop and a tiny nicker or spur that comes in use while planing across the grain. I look forward to many enjoyable hours of rebating with this delightful tool.
|The plane cuts easily|
For more information on this and other Soba hand tools go to http://www.shobha-india.com/wood-working-tools.html.
21 September 2013