What Are Dado Blades?

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What is a Dado Blade?

A dado blade is a special type of blade that can replace a traditional saw blade for cutting grooves in wood using a table saw or radial-arm saw.

These blades can make a huge difference in woodworking projects like shelves, cupboards, or drawers because they cut grooves more precisely, efficiently, and safely than other methods. 

Groove joints are some of the strongest ways to connect two pieces of material without using nails or screws. Cutting the necessary groove, or dado, for a joint can be difficult with a traditional saw, so many professionals rely on dado blades to cut these grooves precisely.

Dado blades come in two varieties: wobble dado blades and stacked dado blade sets. Both of which are usually carbide-tipped steel and otherwise look similar to typical saw blades.

​Stacked Dado Blade

What Can a Dado Blade Do? 

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Dado blades are perfect for making partial cuts in wood or other materials, so they are useful for a variety of projects that rely on interlocking pieces. Due to their precision, dado blades can be used to cut dado joints, groove joints, rabbet joints, tongue-and-groove joints, and half-lap joints. 

Dado and Groove Joi​​​​nts

Dado blades are ideal for cutting the grooves for dado and groove joints in stationary projects like drawers or shelves because they can reliably cut the pieces to fit into the corresponding grooves. Dado blades work for cutting across the grain for dado joints as well as for cutting with the grain in groove joints.

Rabbet Joints

Using a dado blade also makes rabbet joints easier by allowing you to cut the grooves and lips properly so they fit together flush to appear to be one piece, like a countertop.

Tongue-and-Groove Joints

Dado blades are also great for projects where wood may expand because they make it easy to cut the “tongue” and groove that fit together in projects like wood flooring.

Half-lap Joints

The partial cuts made by dado blades make them the ideal blades for projects like frames, which rely on half-lap joints to slot together pieces of wood with a flush edge.

Are All Dado Blades the Same?

There are two different types of dado blades: wobble dado blades and stacked dado blade sets. Both types come in smaller 6” and 7” sizes as well as larger 8” or 10” sizes, and they can come in a variety of shapes. 

A wobble dado blade looks like a typical saw blade but has an offset rotation so that it can wobble back and forth to cut out of a groove. Wobble dado blades are guided by a plate which can be adjusted to determine the size of the groove. 

A stacked dado blade set uses chipper blades sandwiched side-by-side between two outer blades to function as a wider blade. Chipper blades and spacers can be added or removed to create a wider or narrower cut depending on your project.

Stacked dado blade sets are more popular with professionals because they tend to be more precise due to their stability and because they can be customized with spacers and chipper blades. 

Although wobble dado blades are less popular because they can sometimes vibrate the material being cut, they are affordable alternatives for projects that do not require the use of stacked dado blade sets.

Is a Dado Blade Necessary for Woodworking Projects?

Dado blades make it much easier to reliably make precise partial cuts that would otherwise require multiple cuts, miter blades, clamp guides, routers, and/or router tables. These other methods take more time and effort than using a dado blade, and they may not always work for projects that require the precision of a dado blade.

It is important to remember that dado blades are specialty blades sold separately from table saws. They also require corresponding throat plates or saw guards that are often sold separately. As specialty blades, they may not fit every saw so you should always check with your manufacturer to see what size and width of dado blades can work with your saw model and its arbor size.

Dado blades are sometimes unavailable in the EU, as they are only allowed for use in home shops and not in commercial shops. Additionally, most table saws sold in the EU have shorter arbors that cannot accommodate a dado stack.

Advantages of Investing in a Quality Dado Blade

Although wobble dado blades are fine for many projects, you may want to invest in a stacked dado blade set if your project requires precision or if your project would be damaged by the vibration of a wobble dado blade. 

Stacked dado blade sets are fairly standard, but some projects may require specialty sets based on the size or number of blades, chippers, and spacers required.

You should always remember to check what size and number of dado blades might fit your saw before buying dado blades, or invest in a set of dado blades that is compatible with multiple saws.

Many experts recommend looking for a dado blade set that comes with the appropriate dado blade throat plate or dado blade guard for your saw, as these parts are crucial to safely using dado blades.  

If you plan on using your dado blades for various projects, you may want to consider purchasing a set that contains multiple chippers and spacers of various sizes so that you have what you need for each project. 

How to Use a Dado Blade

  1. To install a dado blade, you should first disconnect the table saw or radial-arm saw that you want to use. 

  2. Raise the saw blade to its highest setting and remove the throat plate, arbor nut, and arbor washer before taking off the original saw blade. 

  3. Then, install the first outer blade while paying particular attention to the arrows that indicate the outer edge. As necessary, insert the number of chippers and spacers you need to make the correct configuration for the groove you want to cut. 

  4. Next, install the second outer blade, again making sure that the arrows face outward. You should then replace the arbor nut and washer before lowering the blade. Always remember to use a dado throat plate any time you use a dado blade with a table saw.

  5. In order to safely use a dado blade, you should also ensure that you can thread the nut, arbor flange, and arbor washer fully onto the arbor of your saw. The arbor should always be able to extend past the arbor nut when it is fully tightened.

  6. When using a stacked dado blade set, install the outer blades on the outside edges of the stack so that the chipper blades can be placed in between. The outer blades look similar to typical saw blades and they have more teeth than the chipper blades. It is important to remember that the teeth of the chippers and blades should be staggered. While it is okay for them to overlap somewhat, they should not be aligned as this can cause them to chip. 

  7. When installing a dado blade on a radial-arm saw, follow the same procedure but remove the saw blade guard instead of the throat plate. Again, remember to use a dado blade guard and to never use a dado blade without a throat plate or dado blade guard.

Please see the video below for a tutorial on how to set up and use a dado blade.

​How to Choose the Right Size of Dado Blade

When using a stacked dado blade set, the thickness of the groove cut is determined by the configuration of blades, chippers, and spacers.

Most stacked dado blade sets include outer blades that are each 1/8-inch thick, as well as multiple chippers that are typically either 1/8-inch or 1/16-inch thick. Plywood often has an odd width, so you may need to use spacers to add extra room between the chippers when cutting plywood. 

In any configuration, remember to take into account the widths of all blades, chippers, and spacers used. For example…

  • In order to make a 1/4-inch groove, use only two 1/8-inch thick outer blades.
  • In order to make a 1/2-inch groove, use two 1/8-inch chippers in between the two 1/8-inch outer blades.

  • In order to make a 5/16-inch groove, use only a 1/16-inch chipper in between the two 1/8-inch outer blades

  • In order to make a 13/16-inch groove, use four 1/8-inch chippers and one 1/16-inch chipper in between the two 1/8-inch outer blades.

The width of the groove cut by a wobble dado blade can be adjusted using the adjustment screws or adjustment plates on the sides of the blade. 

People Also Ask

Below are some frequently asked questions you may find helpful.

Do You Need a Dado Blade?

This choice depends on your project and available tools. Dado blades are perfect for precisely cutting groove joints to connect pieces of wood or other material, so they are helpful for projects involving interlocking pieces. However, there are less efficient alternatives if you cannot use dado blades with your saw.

Can Any Table Saw Use Dado Blades?

Not all table saws can accommodate a dado blade, and some table saws are limited by a maximum width of dado blades that can be installed. Always check whether a dado blade can be safely used on your table saw before trying to install or use one.

Is Using a Dado Blade on a Circular Saw Dangerous?

Yes! You should never use a dado blade on a circular saw or handheld saw. Wobble dado blades and stacked dado blade sets are not safe to use with circular saws or handheld saws.

Can I Install a Dado Blade Myself?

In most cases, it is easy to install a dado blade, as long as your table saw or radial-arm saw can be safely used with a dado blade. You can easily adjust the width whether you use a wobble dado blade or a stacked dado blade set.

Conclusion

Dado blades are specialty blades that can be installed onto table saws or radial-arm saws to efficiently and precisely cut grooves joints to connect interlocking pieces of wood or other material for projects like cupboards, shelves, or drawers. However, you must have the right equipment to safely use dado blades.