Photos by Rob Brown; Illustration by Len Churchill
A dado set is not for cutting workpieces to size, but rather for machining joinery cuts like dados, rabbets, grooves and tenons. It’s possible to create these joints with routers, hand tools, etc., but using a dado set in a table saw is much quicker, more accurate and is much better geared to repetitive cuts. They are generally used on a table saw, but will also fit on most radial arm saws. A dado set can be adjusted with shims to almost any width imaginable between 1/4″ and about 13/16″ in order to accept many types of man-made boards or solid wood workpieces.
Before using a dado set, do your research. If they are used incorrectly the potential for personal injury can be high, as a dado set removes more material than most other hand-fed operations
Sizes: 8″ is most common, 6″ is less common
Anatomy: Two outer blades and four to six chippers
Widths: 1/4″ to about 13/16″
Typical Arbor Diameter: 5/8″
Know how to install and use a dado set before turning your table saw on. Knowing a dado set’s limitations is just as important as knowing its strengths, so make sure you do your homework.
A clean set of blades – both teeth and main center plate – will last longer and give you better results.
Because a dado set removes much more material than a standard rip or cross-cut saw blade, there is a higher chance of kickback if the operator feeds the workpiece too quickly.
Even though you’re not cutting entirely through a workpiece you should never place your hands directly over the blade. An overarm guard can help protect you, and push sticks are often required.
Rather than hogging off large amounts of material in a single pass, and risking kickback, take multiple passes if the situation calls for it.