How to Cut a Dado Joint with Hand Tools

//How to Cut a Dado Joint with Hand Tools

In my above video I show how to cut a simple dado joint with basic woodworking hand tools. What is a dado joint used for? A dado joint is used for securing shelves inside cabinets or book shelves.

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TOOLS THAT YOU’LL NEED

Even though I have a nice tool buying guide (here), I’m still often asked for links to the tools that I use in my videos, so here is a list of tools that I used in this video:

WORKBENCH:

HAND PLANES:

HAND SAWS:

CHISELS:

MARKING & MEASURING:

MALLETS & HAMMERS:

CUTTING THE DADO JOINT

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In the dado video I show these basic steps:

  • Use a marking gauge to determine the distance of your dado joint from the edge of the board.
  • Hold the shelf piece against the other board, and hold the workpiece down with 1 or 2 holdfasts
  • Scribe the shelf piece onto the other board with a marking knife. This ensures a tight fit. Make a pencil mark so you’ll remember which edge goes into the joint.
  • Remove the holdfasts and shelf board then use a marking gauge to mark the desired depth of your dado joint: Approximately 1/3 – 1/2 of the way down.
  • Use a marking knife to create trenches for your backsaw
  • Use your cross cut back saw to cut close to your final depth
  • Use a bench chisel (smaller width than your dado joint) to pare out waste, but not all the way to your final depth.
  • Use a router plane (like my Stanley No. 71) to clean up the bottom of the dado joint and bring the joint down to its final depth.
  • Fit the shelf piece

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This is a very simple way to make a dado joint and it’s faster (if making a couple dados) than setting up and shimming a dado stack on a table saw!

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2017-07-21T13:42:14+00:00

About the Author:

"I'm wildly passionate about traditional woodworking with hand tools, and want to rekindle this lost art. At WoodAndShop I teach you the skills that I learn, and also share anything fascinating that I discover about traditional woodworking. That includes tours of traditional workshops, beautiful furniture, and my favorite tools and books. I hope you enjoy my videos, photos, and articles. Please feel free to leave constructive comments!"

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4 Comments on "How to Cut a Dado Joint with Hand Tools"

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rjmarshall17
Member

Hi Joshua,

I’m certainly no expert, but one suggestion I would make is to ensure that your router plane is level by having another piece of wood at the same thickness as your board on the “outside” of you plane to prevent it from tipping. With almost half of the plane unsupported, as in your video, there’s a greater potential for it to not be level.

I’ve been enjoying your videos.

Rob

Historic Design
Member

Joshua,

I’m curious why you feel using a dado plane is more difficult. It seems using the p lace require far fewer steps, fewer tools and is much faster. When cutting stopped dadoes this method is the way to go, but wouldn’t it be easier in other cases?

MJ

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