Preferred method for cutting Dados - Table saw or router?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by lumberjoe posted 07-06-2012 01:18 PM 20936 views 1 time favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2242 days

07-06-2012 01:18 PM

About a month ago, I finally picked up a decent 8” dado set. I had wanted to get one since I got my first table saw back in November. I was really excited when I got it and thought it would make my life a lot easier. So far, the only thing I have cut with it is the zero clearance insert and a bunch of test cuts. I find I still use my router for most dados. Unless I am doing something wrong or don’t understand the principle, I’m not sure this is going to get much use.

Rabbets – this is router only I take it? Even with a sacrificial fence, I don’t think I would cut rabbets with a dado blade. It seems pretty dangerous.

Through dados and stopped dados. Obviously through dados are a job for a router, otherwise it’s a rip cut. Stopped dados as well.

So my question is what is this actually useful for? Full length groves for shelves maybe? Half laps? I see there are some specific blades for cutting box joints. I’m guessing that is because a dado blade leaves the little bat ears on the ends of the cuts.

Anyone have any other tips and tricks to getting more use of of this? Also does anyone use a dado sled?


24 replies so far

View chrisstef's profile


17377 posts in 3000 days

#1 posted 07-06-2012 02:06 PM

I dont get much use out of my dado either, i always thought it was because i didnt have a good tablesaw with a solid miter gauge. The issue i find is without a flat tooth grind dado they come out a little sloppy for me. I also use my router table for making dados. I think it would be great for making tenons, accurate and repeatable results, but i like cutting them by hand and fitting with a shoulder plane a lot more. Ive got some galoot in me.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4980 posts in 2487 days

#2 posted 07-06-2012 02:16 PM

I’m at the other end of the decision. I try to cut as much as I can on the TS with the dado set. That includes rabbets, I don’t see the danger in doing it with a sacrificial fence. Stopped dados are a router job for me, but otherwise my dado set gets quite a workout. In the end, I don’t think there is necessarily a right/wrong to the question….more of a personal preference.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2242 days

#3 posted 07-06-2012 02:22 PM

Fred, when using a sacrificial fence, do you raise it up over the height of the blade, or just snug it up to the blade and let the blade just run up against it? Seems like a great way to overheat blades that way


View jdmaher's profile


427 posts in 2573 days

#4 posted 07-06-2012 02:28 PM

I use my dado set for rabbets and dados and (occasionally) tenons. But only for – what I call – “through” grooves.

For me, a “through” groove is one that goes the full LENGTH of the cut (not depth). A “stopped” groove is one that starts, or stops, or both, somewhere in the middle of the cut – that is, the cut doesn’t go all the way from one end to the other. For “stopped” grooves – THAT’s when I use the router.

For me, setup of the dado set on the tablesaw is faster that setup for the router (in or out of the table). I’m probably just more practiced at the tablesaw than the router.

I often cut grooves for casework (cabinets and the like) so the grooves are often in panels. And, for me, those panels are of a size that fits more comfortably on the tablesaw than the router table. Of course, I DO occasionally just clamp a straight-edge to the panel and use a hand router: for stopped dados or very large panels. But, again, I’d tend to use the tablesaw whenever I can.

My dado set is a Freud Super-something. The bottoms of grooves ARE flat, when the width of the groove is within the capacity of the dado set (i.e., 1”). When I have really wide grooves, the outside cutters are just a shade longer, leaving a “furrowed” bed in the wider grooves. But such grooves are usually to be filled with another board (and most often glued) – so I don’t care if its dead, perfectly flat.

Maybe its just a matter a personal preference. Me, I greatly prefer my dado set – when its appropriate.

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

View Jeff's profile


433 posts in 3188 days

#5 posted 07-06-2012 02:34 PM

It’s safer to cut a deeper dado with the table saw than with a router. I’d prefer not to have to do multiple passes. I agree stopped dados are a pain on the table saw but not impossible.

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3474 days

#6 posted 07-06-2012 02:39 PM

I always use the TS to cut dados and rabbets. The only exception would be a stop dado. I feel I have a better look at where it is stopping with the router.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2242 days

#7 posted 07-06-2012 02:47 PM

Jim, That is my only use for a dado blade now – full length dados. I have a frued super something as well, and the test cuts I made are really flat and clean. Also thanks to Norm Abrams, I understand rabbeting with a dado blade now. You set up your dado a tad wider than you need it to be and the sacrificial fence rides over the blade. Setting up dados with a router is really easy for me, especially stopped dados. I hate doing rabbets because it’s always multiple passes with height and/or fence changes in between each.


View DrDirt's profile


4424 posts in 3736 days

#8 posted 07-06-2012 02:52 PM

I use the dado for rabbeting, and tennoning – - and Dados in smallish items.

If I am cutting dados in plywood book case sides – then I clamp the two sides like a book match and use a router.
It is too big a pain in the butt to try to Dado a 16 inch wide piece of plywood that is 6 feet long on the tablesaw – - then have it be exactly the same on the other side.

So +1 for routers on big stuff

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2242 days

#9 posted 07-06-2012 02:57 PM

DrDirt, my dad swears by that method as well. I haven’t done any casework that requires shelves yet, but I’m going to be making a ton of shop fixtures soon, so I am thinking in advance. As far as stopped dadoes, I can’t see how that work work on a TS. Plunging into a spinning blade sounds like a recipe for lost fingers of a piece of wood in the throat.


View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4980 posts in 2487 days

#10 posted 07-06-2012 03:07 PM

The first time I used my sacrificial fence I moved it over the dado blade (further than it would be during the actual cut) and raised the blade into it to get the clearance I needed. Since then, as you mentioned, I make the dado blade a little wider than than the rabbet, and bury part of it in the fence. Nothing rubs since there is a cut to clear the blades. There is another time I’ll use a router, when cutting dados crosswise on a tall board, though even for this I prefer a saw…although it’s an RAS.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3062 days

#11 posted 07-06-2012 03:14 PM

I use a stacked dado cutter for all of my dado and rabbet cuts. I used to use it for making tenons until I got my tenoning jig which lets me cut them much quicker (and smoother) than making multiple passes over the dado cutter. On the rare occasions when I do stopped dados or rabbets, I use my router. I’m not sure what you mean by “through” dado. Sounds like a slot to me. – lol

Why do you think that cutting rabbets with a dado cutter is dangerous? If the workpiece is properly supported as it passes over the cutter, it’s no more dangerous than any other cut.

I once tried using a sled to cut some dados in plywood, but gave that up because I got too much tear out. If both sides of the dado are in contact with the saw table, tearout is usually minimal.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2242 days

#12 posted 07-06-2012 03:23 PM

Sawkerf, I just didn’t understand the sacrificial fence. I get it now :). Also for you heavy dado users, do you use feather boards to keep the piece flat to the table as well as square to the fence? I have only made a few test cuts through some 3” wide pine with a miter gauge. It seems to me cutting a rabbet in a longish piece of wood with a stack of blades, the wood would have a tendency to climb the blades.


View Uncle_Salty's profile


183 posts in 3067 days

#13 posted 07-06-2012 11:06 PM

Table saw for all rabbets and dados EXCEPT stop dados. Some times… I use feather boards. Depends on the situation. I have a lot of faith and trust in my table saw. And no router can match the brute power the table saw provides.

View Milo's profile


869 posts in 3313 days

#14 posted 07-07-2012 12:58 AM

I’ve given up doing dado’s and rabbits with my router table. I get soooooo much better results with my table saw dado blade. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are times to use the router, but for the most part, I use my table saw. I am getting ready to cut a series of dados and rabbits for a tool chest (project to come!) and I wouldn’t NOT think about using my table saw for all those through cuts.

-- Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer. It's my way of keeping my mind fresh and clear...

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2684 days

#15 posted 07-07-2012 01:53 AM

You can clamp a hold down board to the tablesaw fence to keep your stock from ‘climbing’ the blades. Not only is this safer but you will get more uniform depth on those long dados. I use my Freud box joint cutter set to cut all my dados (except stopped), half lap joints, box joints,rabbits, as will as my “Shipwright” hinges. Dados wider than 3/8”, I have to do multiple passes which I prefer rather than fiddling with shims to get my dado stack width just right. Stopped dados and through slots get cut on the router table. I get flat bottoms and no bat ears with the box cutter set.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

showing 1 through 15 of 24 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics