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There’s one accessory every woodworker needs if they plan on creating strong but simple
cabinetry joints, without a lot of hassle. That’s what you get with a quality dado blade and the
absolute best way to use any dado blade or set is to do so on a table saw while using the fence to
help maintain a straight and even cut wherever you want to make a joint.
Having a capable table saw as something you can always turn to in your shop is a beautiful thing.
It opens up unlimited possibilities as to what you can build. We’re talking about bookshelves,
kitchen cabinets, dining room furniture – you name it – and a table saw makes it more convenient
and easy. Of course, that’s assuming you have a good-quality saw blade – or three.
The next thing you absolutely must have is a dado blade. It’s as important as a regular saw blade
if you’re planning to do any serious woodworking. But don’t just settle for any old dado blade set.
Opt for a good quality, well-made dado blade with carbide-tipped edges. These last ten times
longer than regular steel blades and can be sharpened over and over again by the same shop you
take your saw blades, planner blades, and jointer knives to.
- What Exactly is a Dado Blade?
- Can’t Those Grooves Be Made Another Way?
- The Best Type of Saw To Use With Your Dado Blade
- What About The Different Types of Dado Blades?
- Available Dado Blade Sizes
- What Kinds of Joints Can You Cut With A Dado Blade?
- Factors To Consider
- Test It On Off-Cuts
- Final Words
What Exactly is a Dado Blade?
Essentially, a dado blade is a circular saw blade that cuts perfectly even grooves into solid wood,
plywood, and low-pressure laminate material. These grooves are cut wider than a traditional saw
blade but not nearly as deep.
While a standard blade cuts through the material entirely (in most cases), dadoes are designed to
only make partial cuts in the form of wider grooves. These are used to create Interlocking joints
that are common when making bookshelves, drawers, jewelry boxes, door panels, and cabinets
of all kinds.
Can’t Those Grooves Be Made Another Way?
Other methods of achieving a wide cut without using a dado blade include using a router and a
clamped straight edge. Another option is to use a miter saw. Both those alternate ways are less
effective and notably more difficult to pull off perfectly. Dado blades on the other hand cut
perfect joints and grooves. And it’s so much quicker and easier than other methods.
If you’re planning on creating multiple joints for your project, often one setup with dado blades
on a table saw will do for everything. But if you’re cutting those joints by using a router and
straight edge – you’ll have to change your setup for each and every groove. And then, if you’re
measurement is off even slightly, it can cause major problems.
The Best Type of Saw To Use With Your Dado Blade
Dado blades are made to be used on table saws. You can adjust the dado blade to control the width by adjusting the blade or changing the number of cutters you are using. Not all table
saws are compatible with all dado blades. For example, you’ll need a saw with a long enough
arbor to accommodate an extra 7/8 of an inch of additional cutters. it’s best to check your table
What About The Different Types of Dado Blades?
There are a couple of styles of dado blades you need to be aware of. First, there is the single
blade dado capable of adjusting to various widths. And secondly, there are dado blade sets
that have two separate round blades (designed to go on both outside edges of the groove) with
additional rectangular cutters in between.
Wobble Dado Blade
The first option is referred to as a Wobble Dado Blade. With this option, you get a single dado
blade with a built-in offset rotation. It doesn’t actually wobble – it just looks that way. What it
does do is sway slightly while cutting to create an “S” pattern of the preset width. This of course
can be adjusted to your desired dado width. Adjustments are typically made by rotating the plates
attached to the blade. This way, you can get a custom cut to precisely fit the piece you’re
Stacked Dado Blade
The other option is the Stacked Dado Blade Set. This is what the pros use – but either setup can
work for the home shop.
A stacked dado blade set is a series of blades set in a stack to create a wider cutting edge to suit.
These blades can be in conjunction with spacers of varying widths to achieve a more precise cut
and perfect fit.
On the inside and outside of the groove is the round saw blades of a dado set. Included are
multiple chipper blades that can be added or removed, depending on your desired cut width.
Both the blades and chippers determine the depth of the cut since all cutting surfaces are of
equal diameter. Some woodworkers prefer stacked dado blades for their high performance,
versatility, and ease of use.
Available Dado Blade Sizes
The blades on the outside of the dado set are usually 8 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick on
the cutting surface. And in each set, you get a mix of chipper widths from 1/4 inches thick down
to about 1/16. This way, you have lots of options for the cut width, up to about 13/16ths or maybe
7/8 of an inch.
You can cut dado joints using any combination of two outside blades plus any cutters and
spacers, if you need them.
Dado blades with an 8-inch diameter are designed to be used with a 10-inch table saw – the
standard size for serious shops. Remember, dado blades are not designed to make through cuts.
You can also find blades with both 6-inch and 7-inch diameters. But if you’ve got a 10-inch table
saw – the best option is an 8-inch dado blade set.
What Kinds of Joints Can You Cut With A Dado Blade?
There are several types of joints that can be made using a Dado Blade. Some of the most common ones used include Dado, Rabbet, Tongue and Groove, and Half lap joints.
First, there is the most common joint woodworkers use and that’s a dado joint. It’s where you cut a
groove in one piece of stock to accept the full width of the piece you intend on joining.
The dado joint is a three-sided channel that runs across the grain of the wood. Some people call it
a groove joint when it runs alongside the grain. I typically cut dado joints on various types of
plywood and melamine sheets for a wide variety of cabinet work.
With three sides to every groove, a strong bond is established. It’s not something that can be
easily pulled apart once the glue has started to dry. It also provides a larger surface area for
When dados are cut along the edge or end of a piece of stock, it is technically called a Rabbet
joint. This allows the second piece of stock to fit perfectly into the groove while creating a flush
side or end. I use this in just about every cabinet I build where I need a ninety-degree joint.
Tongue and Groove
You could also cut Tongue and Groove joints easily using a dado blade setup. The tongue portion
extends from one board and fits into the newly-cut groove of another board, creating a flat
surface. It is perfect for adding something like cedar siding to a closet, wainscotting to a wall, or
to jazz-up the face of a bar. This type of joint is actually quite strong as far as edge-to-edge joints
go. It also allows the wood to expand and contract as it picks up moisture.
Half Lap Joints
Another woodworking joint that can be handily cut by dado blades is the Half Lap. A half-lap
joint involves cutting away about half the thickness of each piece of wood where they overlap,
then joining the pieces together to create a single flat piece. Works great for some styles of
frames or planter boxes. It’s a strong joint due to the large surface area for the glue to bond to.
Factors To Consider
Several different factors are worth considering when it comes to choosing a dado blade. it’s all
about getting the most value for your money. The quality of the cut made by the dado blades is
the most important factor. You take pride in your work and every detail matters. Another key
point to consider is just how easy a set is to use and how versatile it can be in your shop. Once
you get comfortable using a decent dado blade – you’ll find yourself using it more and more.
The good news is that there are dado blade sets on the market that satisfy these criteria. Different
brands offer slightly different features but you can always count on the tried and true brands.
Equipped With Knowledge
It’s helpful to have a good understanding of the basics of dado blades and how this tool accessory
can be a useful addition to your shop.
The inside and outside blades on a dado set are essentially scoring blades. Therefore they must
always be positioned on the outsides of the stack. These rounded blades are responsible for those
perfectly clean cuts – without any damage. There’s a “left” and a “right” and you want the pointed
edge of the blade to be on the outer edge of the cut. Usually, the damage shows up as chipped cuts or
tears – and it’s the kind of thing that can run a project. That’s why always sharp, carbide-tipped
dado sets are best.
Sandwiched in between is where the chippers are put into place. Their job is to simply remove all
the waste material that lies between the two scoring blades.
The range of cutting widths that a dado blade can handle is usually from – 1/4 inch to about
13/16 or 7/8 inches wide. All sets on the market are about the same in this regard. To cut to an
exact width that matches the thickness of the piece to be joined may require adding a paper or
plastic laminate spacer in between the chippers.
6 or 8 Inch Dado Blades
Although you can find both 8 and 6-inch dado blades – it’s best to go with the larger size. The
maximum cutting depth of the larger blade provide may be useful at times. The 8-inch version
also seems to be made for the pros and it always gives a superb cut, as long as you keep those
blades sharp. So in my view, it’s well worth the slight additional cost.
The chippers themselves have no effect on the shoulder cuts, so fewer teeth per blade are
necessary. Some dado chippers only have two teeth per blade, while others have four. On the
higher-end dado blades, you can sometimes find 6 teeth per chipper. In theory, the more chipper
teeth that are present, the smoother and flatter the surface of the dado cut in any kind of material.
But I’ve found that two teeth on the chippers work perfectly well in most instances – since it’s the
inside of the groove.
Another advantage of the 8-inch dado blade is that there’s a smoother cutting action as you are
feeding the workpiece into the blade. Controlling the material is noticeably easier.
Test It On Off-Cuts
Whenever you are setting up to cut dado joints, always do a test piece or two so you can check
the fit of the joint. Make it a habit to do this and you’ll create perfect joints every time. Never
assume that because you measured it with a tape measure – it’s going to fit just right. Always test
for both the depth and width of the cut.
A good quality dado blade set can make a significant difference in your woodworking experience
and results. They don’t come cheap. But they are well worth the investment. Don’t settle on a
cheap imitation or you’ll only regret it later. That’s something that will never happen when you
pick a good brand of dado blades.
When it comes to woodworking I find myself constantly learning new methods and techniques to utilize. Wood Joinery is my newest obsession. Being able to make furniture, cabinetry, and even shadow boxes without having to use much hardware makes this hobby so much more enjoyable. And introducing Dado blades to my collection made this possible.
Whatever your preferred joinery method happens to be, having a handy accessory like a capable
dado blade will turn your table saw into a one-stop shop for all of your joinery needs. It’s the one
table saw accessory I could not be without.
My preference is a high-quality, carbide-toothed, stacking-type dado blade set. It’s a little more
expensive – but so worth it if you’re planning on doing much woodworking over the coming
For sheer value, a stack dado blade set is probably one of the best investments you could make to
enhance the capabilities of your saw and your workshop. By default, it will boost the quality of
your work as well as your efficiency on multiple woodworking projects.