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Have you ever seen pieces of wood that had wide grooves or that were interlocked? Well, these grooves and inter-lockable patterns are the result of a dado blade, also known as a dado set. We’ll define what a dado blade is, outline the various types, and point out the benefits you can gain from using one.
What Is a Dado Blade?
A dado blade is a circular blade that’s designed to work on table saws or radial arm saws in order to cut grooves into wood and help connect pieces together.
There seems to be a lot of confusion about dado blades. Maybe it has something to do with the number of teeth the blade has or its intimidating look, but the fact of the matter is that if you’re not using a dado blade right now on your woodworking projects, you’re definitely missing out.
Different Types of Dado Blades
There are two types of dado blades available: stacked dado blades and wobble dado blades. As you can probably tell from their names, both look somewhat different from one another.
Stacked dado blades look like an assembly of small blades that are stacked to create a wider blade.
Wobble dado blades, on the other hand, look more like standard table saw blades with a capacity to sway from left to right to create patterns, hence the name. Let’s discuss each type individually.
Stacked Dado Blade
Stacked dado blades are comprised of two outer cutters that look like a typical table saw blade, and on the inside, there lies several removable chipper blades, often of varying widths. You can add or remove one or a combination of those chipper blades to get your desired cutting width.
There are a bunch of different dado sets that offer different number of chipper blades. As you’d probably guess, the more chipper blades you have, the wider the cut can be. For a narrow cut, you’ll only need one or two chipper blades in the middle.
The thing that can be annoying about dado blades is that the blades need to be set up in a very specific way in order to achieve the cleanest results possible. It’s not necessarily hard to do, but it can be a bit time consuming if you don’t know what you’re doing.
In a nutshell, the chipper blades need to be positioned in such a way that they’re offset from the two outer blades. Assuming you’re going to use more than one cutter, you’ll have to set them up in a way that they’re offset from each other.
Wobble Dado Blade
Wobble dado blades are a lot simpler than their stacked counterparts because they only utilize a single blade to create the grooves that you desire. They utilize an offset rotation that helps them get an almost similar result to a stacked dado blade, but they’re not really as good.
The great thing about wobble dado blades is that they’re highly adjustable. You can adjust them by turning the plates at the middle or simply by using the screw located near the center.
There is, however, a bit of a gripe to them: they tend to round out the edges at the top of a cut. The bottom of the cut is not as even and consistent as with stacked dado blade sets.
Do All Table Saws Use Dado Blades?
Sadly, not all table saws are compatible with dado blades. You need a specialized blade to make dado cuts, and your table saw has to be capable of utilizing a dado blade.
Similar to understanding the rip capacity of your particular table saw, you need to do the same for dado compatibility.
- You’ll need to check if your table saw has the capacity to use dado blade before you actually buy one.
- Further, if you own a table saw that’s compatible with dado blades, you’ll need to check for the exact size that fits your model.
- Moreover, you need to keep in mind that not all table saws are universal, which means that you have to check the arbor size on your table saw in order to buy a matching dado blade.
The most common arbor size that a lot of dado blades can accommodate is a ⅝-inch arbor.
Are Dado Blades Dangerous?
Just like any type of saw blade, dado blades can be dangerous if you don’t know how to handle them correctly. For instance, you should never ever use a dado blade on a small piece of wood. It can be extremely dangerous and your piece will probably end up in smithereens or totally disappear.
You need to understand that dado blades are designed to slash their way through anything they come into contact with, so it’s imperative that you learn how to handle them with finesse so that neither you nor the piece you’re working on gets harmed in any way.
Joints Cut Using a Dado Blade
A high quality cabinet table saw is probably the best option to make dado cuts with, but as long as you understand how to use the dado blade on your saw, you’ll be able to make the following cuts:
- Dado Joint – This is basically a slot/trench cut into a piece of wood that appears to have three sides if you view it in cross-section. Dado joints can be cut either perpendicular or across the grain.
- Finger Joint – This woodworking joint is achieved by cutting a bunch of interrelated cuts in two pieces of wood in a rectangular fashion. The end result looks like the shape of the human hand when the fingers are interlocked perpendicularly.
- Rabbet Joint – This is a groove that’s cut into machine-able materials such as wood. It looks like it’s open to the edge of the surface it’s cut into when viewed in cross-section.
- Tenon Joint – This joint is often formed on the end of rails and can be inserted into holes that are rectangular- or square-shaped (called a mortise) found in the corresponding member. Basically, an ably tenet joint should fit perfectly into a mortise hole.
For a less precise cut, you can also use your drill to cut a groove in wood.
Dado blades can look pretty intimidating and can be a little hard to work with initially, but they can become convenient assets once you get the hang of how to put them together and how to operate them with finesse. Are they dangerous? Yes, but aren’t all blades risky to be around? Take your safety precautions seriously and you’ll have nothing to worry about.