What is a Dado Joint in Woodworking

Have you ever wondered what is a dado in woodworking? If you’re new to joint construction, you may be surprised to learn that a dado joint is one of the easiest and strongest woodworking joints.

There are many wood joint varieties and they all have a specific function and purpose that differentiates it from others. In this article, we will answer the question “what is a dado cut” to help you determine if it’s a good choice for your next project.

What Is a Dado?

through dado cut

Both dadoes and grooves are defined as three sided channels that are cut into the work piece. But a groove is cut parallel to the grain and a dado is cut across the wood grain.

The cut channel is typically referred to as a dado cut and it is measured with a piece of material that is cut and designed to fit inside the channel.

A dado cut is easy to make and yet it’s one of the strongest joints which can handle heavier items, such as: tools, appliances, books and more.

Three Types of Dado Joints

There are three common types of dado joints which differ on where the cut is made and how deep it goes into the wood. The dado cut that you choose will have an impact on the strength and appearance of the joint. So, carefully consider where the shelf or cabinet will be installed and if it’s going to hold light or heavy items before you begin.

1.    The Through Dado Joint

The through joint is one of the most common examples. The cut goes completely across the board width from edge to edge. This dado joint is created with a table saw that’s set with a dado stack, a jig and a router or router table.

2.    Stopped Dado Joint

 stopped dado joint

This joint has the same type of channel cut across the wood grain. But, in this instance, it stops short of each edge of the wood and this is ideal if you need a concealed joint connection.

This joint can be cut with a table saw and dado stag, a router table and a router with a jig.

Using a table saw will require significant clean up using a sharp chisel and neater cuts are achieved with the router setup.

3.    Rabbet and Dado Joint

The rabbet joint is a type of dado which is cut at the edge of the wood with a recess cut along the edge. The dado cut will receive the rabbet joint to increase strength and rigidity. This can be achieved with a table saw and dado stack, a router table or a router and jig.

What Are the Disadvantages Of A Dado Joint? 

The main disadvantage is that it cannot be undone easily after cutting, the boards will not move without causing potential joint damage. The other problem is that the dado joint may weaken a board if there is a lack of support.

How would you make a Dado Cut with a Table Saw and a Router:

There are two main methods when you want to cut a dado cut on a table saw.

The most common approach is to use a stacked dado head cutter, If you ever wondered what is a dado blade?

This cutter is used instead of the circular blade and it consists of two 8” diameter, ⅛ “ kerf saw blades with some ⅛” and 1/16” chippers in between them. The chippers are added or removed to get the exact dado width that you need with a ¼” and ¾” range. Any wider dadoes may be cut with multiple passes through the table saw.

The stacked dado joint head cutter set can only be used on table saw or certain radial arm saw models that can accommodate them. If you’re not sure, check the documentation for your tool before you begin.

Don’t use a stacked dado head cutting set on handheld circular saws because this is very dangerous.

Second option is to use a wobble dado set which is a single blade that’s set on a spindle which can be adjusted. The blade angle can be adjusted, and this changes the dado width.

This is a cheaper option than the dado head cutter set. But the results are less predictable, and the wobble blades are not as safe to use.

It’s a good idea to save money for a good, stacked dado head cutter set or find an alternative tool.

Another option to cut dado joints is a straight cutting bit mounted on a router.

what is a dado

The bit speed should be kept low, and the dado is cut using multiple shallow passes down 1/16” to ⅛” deep with every pass. This will prevent the wood and bit from burning and router bit dulling.

A straight edge guide will ensure that the router maintains a straight path. But the ¾” router bit can cut the dado marginally larger than a ¾” sheet of plywood. More accurate 23/32-inch router bits are available and with a ½” bit and a couple of passes they achieve similar results.

FAQs- What is a Dado Cut

Can You Dado Cut Plywood? 

Yes, it is tricky because the dadoes tend to fail if the plywood splits between the piles at the dado wall.

What Is the Difference Between Dado And Groove Cut?

The dado runs perpendicular to the wood grain and a groove runs parallel.

How Deep Should a Dado Cut Be?

The dado slot should not be cut deeper than a third of the way into the work piece. This prevents weakening and multiple passes are needed to get a neat cut.

Why Is It Called Dado? 

Dado is derived from the Italian word that means “cube” or “dice”, this is a reference to the singular of dice which is “die” and this is an architectural term for the center of a plinth or pedestal.

What Is Another Name for A Dado Joint? 

Another common name is a housing joint which is a stronger joint used in shelving and cabinets.

Can You Make A Dado Cut With A Table Saw?

Yes, there are two common methods which we detailed earlier in this article.

Conclusion- What is a Dado 

We hope that we’ve sufficiently answered the question: what is a dado in woodworking? This may seem complex at first, but this is a simple joint to master and it’s very strong. Using a table saw with a high-quality stacked dado joint head cutter set is the most reliable way to create these joints.

The initial cost is higher, but if you’re planning to make multiple joints it’s well worth the investment. The three common dado joints, through, stop and rabbet and dado can all be cut with this simple setup which makes it a flexible option.