I'm looking to make a larger rabbet into an 6' 4x4 similar to the below picture - but I don't have a circular saw.

Or would it be better to simply attach a 2x4 or 1x4 to the main piece?

  • You want to cut a 3" rabbet into a 4x4? How deep do you want it? Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 7:38
  • "Or would it be better to simply attach a 2x4 or 1x4 to the main piece?" Yes I think this would be vastly preferable. In addition to other advantages (saves wood, can use smaller and cheaper pieces so probably end up cheaper) building can actually yield a stronger end result since as we know glue joints are stronger than the wood itself if they're done right — fresh, flat joint surfaces, plenty of glue, clamp hard.
    – Graphus
    Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 12:03
  • I agree with most of the other posters that gluing up two pieces is probably the way to go, but I think it's also worth pointing out that the hand tools you'll need to do this (a rabbet plane would be your best bet) are going to cost you more than a circular saw anyways. Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 15:52

1 Answer 1


You have three choices that I can think of:

  • The old fashioned way.

    • You will need a plough plane of some sort.
    • Use it to cut a channel 3¼" deep with the far edge where you need it.
    • Use a chisel to remove most of the waste
    • Finish off the rest of the rebate with an ordinary plane.
  • The easy way

    • Buy a circular saw. They are fantastically useful and not that expensive.
  • The cheap way

    • Removing a 3"x3¼" rebate from a 4x4 is throwing away an enormous amount of wood.
    • Instead buy 4x¾ and 3¼x1 and glue/screw them together.
    • You may need to buy 4x1 for the latter piece and use a ripsaw or plane to trim it to size (or get the woodstore to cut it). Don't try to use a cross-cut saw.
    • If you are going to attach this rabate to another 4x4, I would actually try and make it out of 5x3¾ and 8x¾ (it will give you much more to fasten to).

Final point: Beware that 4x4 planed timber is not 4" across - it will be less (it was originally 4" rough-sawn timber that has been planed). Bear this in mind when composing your profile by adding bits together.

EDIT Graphus points out that finding a plough-plane which goes 3" deep may be tricky (an old wooden plough without a fence . An alternative is a rebate (or rabbet) plane. With that you would have to plane away the whole of the groove, but 3"x3¼"x6' of wood is a lot of planing. I would still try to remove as much as possible with a chisel (or even by drilling holes).

  • 1
    Good comprehensive Answer. Just one thing, I believe ploughs can't commonly cut grooves 3"+ deep (and it would be a big struggle to do a 6' channel dead straight in common softwoods) so I think a rebate/rabbet plane is more applicable to the first suggestion.
    – Graphus
    Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 12:09
  • @Graphus - good point. Updated Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 12:25

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