When making French cleats using a handplane, getting a consistent beveled edge can be problematic, particularly as the bevel approaches 45º and the plane gets “tippy.” Also, it’s difficult to get a good bevel established – starting on the small corner of the stock can be awkward.
I found it’s best to bevel the two pieces at the same time; the exact angle is less important than having complementary angles. I clamp the two pieces one on top of the other and offset the pair by the thickness of the stock. This creates the perfect setup for a 45º angle.
The plane is much easier to start because it rides on two points to establish the bevel. With a good beginning, it’s easy to follow through while maintaining the angle. When the bevels all meet you know you have a completed the task.
To plane the full thickness of the wood, it’s best to raise the work off the bench (a 1⁄4” spacer will suffice). This allows the plane’s corner to ride on the benchtop and you don’t need to perform a balancing act.
If you need to bevel to a different angle, simply adjust the offset of the two workpieces and the angle can easily be changed.
Also, if you need to bevel a single piece, this technique works well with the addition of a fillister plane. Simply scribe the angle on the end of the piece, strike a rabbet with your fillister that coincides with the angle you want, then use the same technique to plane your angle. –Joshua Pierce
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