Dado Set vs. Tenoning Jig

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Forum topic by TheLastDeadMouse posted 08-25-2014 02:22 AM 2224 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View TheLastDeadMouse's profile


38 posts in 1578 days

08-25-2014 02:22 AM

I’m in the process of setting up my shop, and plan to make mostly mission and arts and crafts style furniture. I’m trying to decide between buying a tenoning jig and a dado set for making my tenons. I just purchased a table saw (R4512), and I was also gifted a used 10” radial arms saw and a 12 inch sliding miter saw. I could use the dado set on the table saw, or I could set up the RAS as a permanent dado and tenon station.

Is there a compelling reason to pick the tenoning jig over the dado set? I don’t have much money to finish setting things up at this point, so getting both isn’t really an option just yet.

13 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3849 days

#1 posted 08-25-2014 02:25 AM

Yes. More control of tenon thickness. With a dado your
tenon thickness will be manipulated by variations in
material thickness. Of course you can cut them thick
and pare by hand. A tenon jig, if you reference both
cheek cuts off the same face, will produce tenons
of consistent thickness regardless of minor variations
in the material.

View Pezking7p's profile


3217 posts in 1853 days

#2 posted 08-25-2014 02:30 AM

If I was making a bunch of tenons, I would want the tenoning jig. It saves having to change the blade and setting up the dado stack, which can be time consuming. It’s also much easier and more accurate. If you’re inclined to such things, you can make one from several different plans, but personally I would buy one.

I’ve been using the dado stack because that’s what I have. I cut them large and fine tune with hand tools. This works, but it’s not as fast if you’re making 5+ tenons the same width.

-- -Dan

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 2137 days

#3 posted 08-25-2014 02:41 AM

I’m with Pezking on buying one. I think there are some solid ones out there for not too expensive that would be more reliable and surely less work than a homemade jig.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View TheFridge's profile


10736 posts in 1688 days

#4 posted 08-25-2014 02:43 AM

Matthias wandels tenon jig looks pretty reliable and sweet.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View bigblockyeti's profile


5286 posts in 1922 days

#5 posted 08-25-2014 02:43 AM

Go with a tenoning jig, they are safer, require less power, offer quicker adjustability and produce less sawdust. A dado will certainly come in handy down the road, but I find myself reaching for my tenoning jig whenever I can, due to the much, much quicker setup of not having to removing the blade from the saw.

-- "Lack of effort will result in failure with amazing predictability" - Me

View Ub1chris's profile


127 posts in 1582 days

#6 posted 08-25-2014 12:16 PM

A dado set has many more use besides tenons than a tenon ing jig…..

View bondogaposis's profile


5091 posts in 2553 days

#7 posted 08-25-2014 01:09 PM

A dado set will be much more versatile than a tenon jig. You can make tenons with a dado set but can’t make dados w/ a tenon jig. You can make a tenon jig easy enough, there are lots of plans out there for that.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View TheDane's profile


5550 posts in 3865 days

#8 posted 08-25-2014 02:24 PM

To me, they serve two distinctly different purposes.

As Loren points out, a tenon jig gives you far better control when cutting tenons than a dado set does. I have built quite a few pieces of mission style furniture that required long through tenons. It went much faster with the tenon jig and created a lot less saw dust (and I actually was able to use some of the cut-off cheeks in other projects).

My stacked dado set comes out when I need to do dadoes, grooves, and rabbets.

I have a tenon jig that I bought on sale at WoodCraft several years ago, but I don’t see any reason why a shop-made tenon jig couldn’t serve just as well. That way you could afford a high quality dado set (don’t go cheap on this item) and have the best of both methods.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View jmartel's profile


8233 posts in 2352 days

#9 posted 08-25-2014 02:48 PM

Matthias wandels tenon jig looks pretty reliable and sweet.

- TheFridge

It is. I built one earlier this year. Very useful. Much better than buying one that costs more, and is less precise.

Honestly, you should have both. Dado stacks are useful for things other than Tenons.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5798 posts in 3015 days

#10 posted 08-25-2014 10:07 PM

I would start with the dado set. I build exclusively arts and craft style furniture, and find a dado blade is so much quicker than a tenoning jig. You can cut the cheeks and shoulders with only one fence setting. The only adjustment is the blade height. With a tenoning jig you need to cut the cheeks, and make the cross grain cuts to remove the offcut. It is too many steps and setups for my liking.

You might be tempted to use a tenoning jig to cut through tenons to avoid the scoring lines most dado sets produce. However I have found that if the tenon protrudes less than 3/4”, I can make a perfectly clean cut with a dado set. The only time I use a tenoning jig is for longer through tenons that receive a tusk wedge.

I also agree with JMartel, that dado sets can make accurate dados and grooves for casegood construction. My dado set makes dust, but my tenoning jig just collects dust.

In the end you may want both, but start with a dado set.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View jmartel's profile


8233 posts in 2352 days

#11 posted 08-26-2014 12:27 AM

With the woodgears jig, I find it faster than just using a Dado set. Much more accurate as well, with the dial indicator.

It ends up coming down to personal preference, just like everything else.

You could even cut them all by hand if you wanted to.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View TheLastDeadMouse's profile


38 posts in 1578 days

#12 posted 08-26-2014 03:15 PM

Thanks for the replies everyone. I’ve always admired Matthias Wandel’s work, but don’t remember having seen his tenoning jig before. I’m just starting out, so I’d guess that’s a little out of my wheelhouse just yet. I’ll be picking up a dado set for now since it’ll still have uses down the road, and once I’ve progressed in terms of precision I’ll attempt to make the woodgears tenoning jig.

In the meantime while I’m using the dado, since I have one available is there any pros or cons to using the dado blade set on my radial arm saw instead of table saw? I’ve read up and understand that I’ll need to be mindful of hook angle on the set if I use it on the RAS. I should add I’d only use the radial arm saw for cross cut dados / rabbits / tenons and never in the rip configuration.

View timbertailor's profile


1594 posts in 1626 days

#13 posted 08-26-2014 03:29 PM

I use my router table for tenoning now, even though I have tenoning jig that fits on my table saw. I rarely use a dado blade either. Once again, I use the router\table for this.

For tenons on the router table, I use an Infinity Coping Sled. I get super clean cuts that I can easily tune to a perfect fit.

-- Brad, Texas,

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