Making a shiplap joint

A shiplap jointShiplap joints are made by mating two rabbets. Not the furry kind, but the kind that is cut out of the edge of a board.

CAUTION: To make a rabbet on a board with a table saw requires removing the blade guard and kick-back preventer. This is because you won’t be cutting through the board, but just into it. BE VERY CAREFUL!


Making a rabbet is relatively easy with a table saw. The trick is to adjust the rip fence and cutting depth so that the depth of the first cut, with the edge of the board guided by the fence, is the same as its distance from the edge of the board. Make trial cuts on some scrap of the same thickness as your workpiece until you get the adjustments just right.

Once you’ve got the saw adjusted, make the first cut in the normal way with the board’s wide surface on the table.

The second cut is a bit trickier, especially with a long board. For this cut you need to run the board through the saw on its edge. Cut slowly and pay close attention to make sure the edge of the board stays in full contact with the table and the wide face of the board stays in contact with the fence.

Chances are you’ll have to clean up your rabbet a bit with a sharp chisel or utility knife. As a bonus you also wind up with a bunch of long square sticks about the size of fat pencils. I haven’t found a good use for them, but they’re too cute to throw out!

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