How To Use A Fillister Plane

by | Aug 25, 2015 | 15 comments

A Fillister Plane Makes Cutting A Rebate Joint Fast & Repeatable

Anyone used to using machines or power tools can be surprised at just how quickly a joint can be banged out by hand. There might not be any motors, but there are many tasks which can be completed well before you would have had time to find the bits and set up a router.

In addition to the benefits of a standard rebate plane, a well set up fenced plane, such as a moving fillister plane, can give you fantastic pace, when it comes to repetition, with several of the same joint to cut.
The fence and depth stops of the fillister plane mean you’ll only need to mark out for one rebate joint, and the settings on the plane allow you to cut the same joint over and over.

The Moving Fillister Plane – Set Up & Technique

It’s important that you understand how the fillister plane works, and put time and care in to getting that set up just right, if you want those accurate and repeatable joints.

A good technique can come from understanding the parts of the plane along with having an awareness of common problems. There’s been a lot of questions within our Spoon Rack Series about setting up to cut the rebate joints with accuracy, and so today we’re looking at the fillister plane in more detail.

Fillister Plane Or Rebate Plane – Understanding The Difference

A moving fillister is essentially a rebate / rabbet plane with the addition of some extra guidance – an adjustable fence so you can set the width of your joint, a depth stop to set the depth, and usually a nicker to score the fibre ahead of the cut for cross grain planing.

In use though we have to be careful not to think of it as a standard rebate / rabbet plane, or we’ll be going wrong before we’ve started.

The edge of the fillister doesn’t guide the cut, in fact the edge should not have any involvement at all. We have a fence, and that’s what we’re going to use.

Before making any cuts:
  • Check your work piece; the two reference surfaces need to be flat and square
  • Ensure the blade protrudes the edge of the plane at least a little.
  • Check that the blade sits parallel with the sole of the plane, and is camber free. This is important and will effect the quality of your joint.

Whilst learning to use these planes I strongly recommend that you just ignore the nicker, as this only adds more faff. Instead strike a line with a marking gauge prior to making your cut. This will replicate the nicker’s job of scoring the fibres ahead of the cut.

Our Spoon Rack Series includes a ‘Response Rant’ in which we go through the careful setting up, and correct technique for using the moving fillister. Above is a quick extract from that video.

Have A Look At The Full Spoon Rack Series Here

We received one question that I’m a little puzzled by though, the problem is described as the bottom of the rebates coming out humped along their length. The chap himself is using a Veritas Skew Rabbet (rebate) Plane from Lee Valley (so the dog’s knackers) with depth stop set correctly, and so the only way I can see the joint becoming humped is if the tool is being flexed in use, or perhaps the sole is somewhat curved. If you have any thoughts on this problem then I’d love to hear them.

Related Posts:

Understanding Bench Planes, Types & Uses

Turn Even A Cheap Hand Plane In To Super Smoothing Plane

Related Posts

About Richard Maguire

About Richard Maguire

As a professional hand tool woodworker, Richard found hand tools to be the far more efficient solution for a one man workshop. Richard runs 'The English Woodworker' as an online resource and video education for those looking for a fuss free approach to building fine furniture by hand. Learn More About Richard & The English Woodworker.


  1. Ken Haygarth

    Just watched it, great job guys. Thanks for this one wink emoticon

  2. Bob Barnett

    I have seen the condition with a blade that wasn’t sharpened correctly. It was someone else’s plane, I re-ground the blade, sharpened it and it worked great.

  3. Matthew Platt

    Hi Richard,

    The first thought that springs to my mind when people mention convex planed surfaces is the shaving sequence. You can put quite a hump into an edge with a perfectly tuned bench plane by taking only full length shavings.

    With rebate planes, fillisters etc, observing the process of starting at the end and walking back up the cut should eliminate it.



  4. Marc Sitkin

    As Matthew said, coming in and going out can do it. Also, a workbench that’s not flat and enough pressure down on the plane could do it.

  5. Derek

    Humped = leaning the plane over?

  6. allan solomon

    A bit obvious but is the wood humped. It will follow the contour of the wood being used.

    • Droogs

      i would have thought the fiilister would be long enough in the sole , that it would be able to ride over any contour rathern than follow it, after all a plane works by the principle that it engages any high spots, and then cuts them out. gradually lowering them to an even surface. I would guess that it is more to do with technique ie hand position and pressure. It could be caused by changing the direction of applied pressure from the front to rear hands too early/late in the stroke.

  7. Martin

    So I had the same problem with some of my rabbets using the Veritas plane. What I suspect I was doing was pushing very hard on the handle which, at the end of a cut, caused the plane to lean forward (when the toe was off the workpiece), and basically gave me a spot that was too low at the end of the cut. This would leave gaps at the ends of the rabbet.

  8. Paul Chapman

    Although the Veritas skew rebate plane has a depth stop, it is quite short so I suspect the hump is caused by putting too much pressure on the handle at the start of the stroke and too much pressure on the front of the plane at the end of the stroke. The answer is to put all the pressure on the fence and just use the right hand to push the plane forward.

    • Kurtis

      But he said “along thier length.” I am assuming this means parallel with the shoulder. I could be wrong.

  9. Dave

    Love the idea of using pinch dogs to hold the piece being planed. Never seen it before and it is so simple.

    Thanks, Dave

  10. Michael Anderson

    i agree with you Richard, I have wooden moulding planes plough planes always on standby. Only used the wooden plane the other day to help hollow out the stock for a BSA cadet major I bought, it came without a stock.

  11. Carl P

    Where’s the westcot!? Or is the rant in informal attire?

    Inspiring stuff,


  12. David Parker

    Richard – thanks for the video and all the instruction. One question – you seemed to have two different fillister planes from Veritas in your video. One had a front handle or knob while the other didn’t. Was there a reason?


  13. stephen wiseman

    Dear Richard,

    Do you have any experience or opinion on the Stanley or Record 078
    fillister planes?



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Updates:

Related Posts:

Which Saws Are Best For Ripping Thick Stuff? [Video] There's a lot of choice when it comes to rip saws. And unfortunately options usually just make things more complicated.So hopefully the video above will help clear up some of the confusion around which saw to reach for or at least give you...

How do I Sharpen a Router Plane? [Q & A Video] If you've seen a fair bit of my work then you'll probably know that despite my love of keeping the tool kit minimal I'm a huge fan of the router plane.And this brings up a common question that I've decided to answer today - How do you keep...

Bench Top Edge Jointing [with Video] Stuggling With Larger Edge Joints? Watch the full step-by-step video to learn the edge jointing process for tackling large boards by hand. A perfect reference for gluing up a table top. Find it for FREE in our Member Area: Login here. Or...