Table Saw Class
Lesson 5: Dadoes + Rabbets

Introduction: Dadoes + Rabbets

Now that you know the basics of ripping wood and using the mitre gauge to make cuts, let's add to this knowledge and tackle the dado and rabbet. Both a dado and a rabbet are partial depth cuts made along the grain of the wood, where the dado is cut within the boundary of the wood and a rabbet is made at the edge.

Rabbet

Both rabbets and dadoes can be cut with a standard combination blade or dado stack, depending on how wide you want the cut to be. For this lesson we're assuming a dado stack for all our cuts.

Let's dive in!

Saw Setup

For dadoes and rabbets it's important to set the dado blade stack to the correct depth. The dado blade will remove a lot of material, and having the blade set too high can bog down the blade or cause your work to skate over the blade entirely.

Once you've determined how deep you want your dado to be, set your blade depth to remove no more than ¼" of material. After your first pass, increase the blade height by ¼" increments until you achieve your desired height.

Fence + Featherboard

For rabbets and dadoes, which run parallel to the grain of the wood, set the fence scale to where you want your dado or rabbet to be cut and lock the fence. Set the featherboard to secure your wood near the blade and with proper pressure against the wood.

Mitre Gauge

When cutting against the grain the fence will not be used, and it needs to be moved completely away from the blade. The mitre gauge is great for making cuts against the grain and should be used here.

Rabbet

We'll start with a rabbet cut, a shallow cut along the edge of the wood, which makes a step when viewed in profile. Rabbets are great for making a groove in wood for a pane of glass, for the back of a picture frame, or the edge or back of a cabinet. A rabbet can be made with any saw blade and relies on the height of the blade and the fence to achieve the desired rabbet profile.

Here's what a rabbet cut looks like while being cut

Making a rabbet on the table saw is super easy. Set the blade height to however deep you want you rabbet to be, then set the fence to the width of the board you are cutting minus the width of the rabbet. If your rabbit is wider than the width of your blade, just make multiple passes and incrementally set the fence until you achieve the rabbet width desired. We'll also cover another method to make a wider rabbet after covering making dadoes, since it involves the same blades.

If you're going for precision, remember to take into account that the distance from the fence to the saw tooth is fractionally closer than the distance from the fence to the saw blade face. Kerf is a defined term covered in detail in the introductory lesson of this class.

A dado is a slot cut into the surface of wood. Dadoes are cut from the kerf of the blade, so the width of your blade kerf will determine how wide the dado will be. Since most dadoes are wider than a standard saw blade, they make a special dado blade called a stack.

A dado stack is built by you and can be a variety of thicknesses. As the name suggests, a dado stack is a series of blades stacked on top of each other until the desired thickness of the dado is achieved. At minimum, a dado stack will contain two end saw blades. The orientation of these blades is important, as the teeth on them are slightly angled inward. When stacked, the high point of the saw blade tooth should be on the outside of the stack.

Here's a clear view of the two end blades against each other, showing the angle of the teeth.

A dado stack is constructed by starting with one end blade and then adding the blade inserts as needed and finish sandwiching the stack with another end blade. When stacking, the teeth of each successive blade should be offset from the one before it.

To build a dado stack, lay down an end blade and stack dado inserts on top, ensuring the teeth of the blade insert are not overlapping with the teeth of the blade below it. Finish with another end blade and the stack is complete.

Here is a completed stack. The blade teeth in the stack are not overlapping, and the end blades are placed so the beveled teeth of the blade are angled outward.

Groove

A dado is cut across the grain of the wood, and a groove is cut with the grain. Aside from the direction of cut, dadoes and grooves are the same thing - a straight cut into the surface of wood.

Groove cuts are made similar to rip cuts, except the blade depth is only partially through the wood, so the fence and featherboard are used to make the cut.

A dado cut is across the grain, so like a mitre we'll need to move the fence away and use the mitre gauge. For plywood, since there is no grain direction, rely on the length of the wood to determine whether to use the fence or mitre.

Lap Joint (Bonus Cut!)

A lap joint is almost like a rabbet, but made using the mitre gauge. The cut away area is called the cheek, and the perpendicular end of the cut is the shoulder. You probably don't need to know those terms yet, but when you get bitten by the woodworking bug you'll be glad you learned them.

Since we're covering the topic of rabbets and dadoes, a lap joint is the next logical step. A lap joint exposes the cheek and allows another wood member to be placed and glued to create a joint. Making two corresponding lap joints is a great way to glue two pieces of wood together, as the long grain adheres well to each other, and there's plenty of surface area for the glue to do it's job. Gluing wood together is a topic I covered in the Woodworking Class, you can read all about it if you'd like to know more about how and why glue works with wood.

Start by measuring your desired lap joint width, then set the blade height to the depth you want the cheek to be. Use the dado stack and the mitre gauge to make your cuts. For wide lap joints you'll need to make multiple passes.

Remember to check your work after the first pass to make sure you cuts are according to your plans. After completing my setup I usually start with a sacrificial piece of wood and do a few test cuts to make sure things are dialed in the way I want.

After a few passes you will have removed a lot of material and created your lap joint. Pretty easy, huh?

Go Forth and Dado!

Now that you know the difference between a rabbet and a dado, you're ready to tackle your next project and apply the skills from this lesson.

If you're looking for some inspiration on how to apply a rabbet or dado, here's some projects to help:

An easy CD tower is a great way to practice making lots of precise dadoes. This bathroom cabinet also uses dadoes for the shelving, and this plywood utility shelf uses rabbets and dadoes for rock solid construction. If you're feeling extra fancy you could also use dadoes to make a custom desk for your hobbies.

Class Complete

Thanks for taking the Table Saw Class. The skills here are just the beginning of what's possible with a table saw, however these skills represent most of the operations you'll ever do on a table saw.

With time and experience you will learn more about custom jigs to perform special operations, like box (finger) joints, tenons, and splines. While these operations are a little specialized, a good project to get you started on making a jig is to tackle making a crosscut sled for your table saw, which is the basis for almost every table saw jig.

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"question": "Did you make an instructable from skills you learned in this class?",
{
"title": "Yes!",
"correct": true
},
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"title": "Working on it",
"correct": false
},
{
"title": "Not yet",
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"correctNotice": "That's great! Share your link and let me know how you liked the class!",
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Don't forget to to post an instructable and share your creation after taking this class. I can't wait to see what you come up with!