How to Cut a Ship Lap Joint with Hand Tools

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In the above video I show how to cut a very easy Ship Lap joint with woodworking hand tools.

What is a Ship Lap joint? A Ship Lap joint is essentially two opposing rabbet joints that overlap each other to hold panels together. It is used in furniture for drawer bottoms, tool chest bottoms, and the backs of cabinets. It is also commonly found in the construction of barn walls. I like using it for thin drawer bottoms, which are too thin for a tongue & groove joint.

ship-lap-joint

TOOLS THAT YOU’LL NEED

Even though I’ve written a nice hand tool buying guide (here), I’m still often asked for links to the tools that I use in my videos, so here is a list of tools that I used (or mentioned) in this video:

WORKBENCH:
HAND PLANES:
MARKING & MEASURING:
MALLETS & HAMMERS:

In the video I use a Large shoulder plane, but you can also use any rabbet plane or a moving fillister plane. I simply use my marking gauge to mark the desired overlap on each board, then cut the first rabbet, using a squared piece of wood as a fence. I hold the fence and board on the workbench with two holdfasts. I cut about half way through the thickness of the board, taking care to keep my shoulder plane vertical. You can also use the marking gauge to scribe a depth line to ensure that you’re cutting vertical. But I find eyeballing works fine.

ship-lap-fingers

Then I cut a rabbet on the other board (also using the fence), and when I feel like I’m getting close I’ll hold the first rabbet joint on top of the second rabbet to see my progress. When I’m getting close I will take one or two passes with the shoulder plane, then re-check. When the two pieces fit together with a flush top, then you’re finished!

ship-lap-joint-closed

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2017-04-20T09:57:31+00:00

About the Author:

"I'm wildly passionate about traditional woodworking with hand tools, and want to rekindle this lost art. At WoodAndShop I teach you the skills that I learn, and also share anything fascinating that I discover about traditional woodworking. That includes tours of traditional workshops, beautiful furniture, and my favorite tools and books. I hope you enjoy my videos, photos, and articles. Please feel free to leave constructive comments!"

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4 Comments on "How to Cut a Ship Lap Joint with Hand Tools"

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aina2
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saludos ,me gusta mucho lo que haces , sigue asi

matthew hill from cobbs creek va
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Good job! I enjoy your clear cut instructions and your video is clean and easy to follow. Well done Joshua!
Matt Hill

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