Rabbet Joint Strong Enough?

Article - February 16, 2009

This Viewer Question comes from Adam.

Hey, it’s Adam with the chessboard again. I have upgraded from a simple chessboard to a chess table if you will. I am putting a drawer into the bottom of the chessboard. I just need to know if you think that a simple rabbet joint will be strong enough to hold over time. I have fussed with the locked-rabbet joint for a while now, and still can’t quite get the fit that I need. I’m getting tired of trying to cut this damn joint and was wondering how much strength I would be losing by going with just the rabbet joint. I know it will be considerably weaker, but on a light weight drawer that will only be holding 18 wooden chess pieces, do you think it will be strong enough. Mainly, I’m worried about the force that might be put on it if the drawer gets racked and you have to tug a little to get it out. Otherwise, I figure the regular rabbet will work. My stock is about 5/8″ for both the sides and front. Also, any suggestions on how to cut the dreaded lock-rabbet? But mainly, do you think the rabbet will be strong enough?

And here’s what I had to say:

reinforced_rabbetHey Adam. I don’t cut lock rabbets so I don’t have much info for you there. But I would say that a rabbet could certainly be made strong enough. The rabbet alone relies on the glue joint for all its strength. This may be OK for a smaller lightweight drawer. But on a bigger drawer or one that gets frequent use, you might want to add some reinforcement. Simply drill a few holes and drive in some dowels to secure the front to the sides. I have done this many times in the past and it does a great job increasing the strength of the joint. Its easy to do and if you use a different species of wood, it can look terrific. So if you are going to do the rabbet, just add that little bit of reinforcement and you will be golden. Better safe than sorry I suppose.

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