How To Cut Dados With a Table Saw (Installing Dado Blades)

How to cut dados with a table saw

Dado joint by Lluisa Iborra from the Noun Project


There are many different tools you can use to cut dados.

But, a table saw is probably the easiest tool to use for cutting dados.

Before, moving on first make sure you have a table saw that accepts dado blades.

Checked? Now, let's get started...

Installing Dado Blade In A Table Saw

  • Step 1: Unplug the table saw. This is the mandatory first step for any powered DIY tool.
  • Step 2: Pull off the saw guard from the blade. This exposes the top of the blade.
  • Step 3: Then remove the throat plate around the blade. This exposes all the parts of the blade. 
  • Step 4: Switch the safety of the blade up. 
  • Step 5: Remove the arbor nut. The guard down keeps the blade from coming off (which is always a nice safety feature in a table saw).
  • Step 6: Use the wrenches to loosen the nut so you can just turn the nut quickly to take it off. Just make sure you catch the nut in your hand.
  • Step 7: Slide the blade off.
  • Step 8: As the dado blade is only 8 inches instead of 10, the blade guard will stick up too high. So it must be taken off as well. You’ll need an Allen wrench to remove the 2 screws that hold the guard.
  • Step 9: These dado blades come with a guide for the main blade and the chippers. Every blade and chipper = ⅛ of an inch. So you’ll get ⅝ of an inch, while the guide tells you how many blades and chippers you need.
  • Step 10: You can add the blade first (take note of the directional arrow on the blade). 
  • Step 11: Then the chipper goes in. The chipper must be properly aligned, so that the teeth are within the width of the blade teeth. That’s to keep the teeth from hitting each other. 
  • Step 12: Put in another blade next, and again check that the teeth aren’t touching. Put in the washer, and then the nut.
  • Step 13: Put the throat plate back in. Now if you have put in too many blades, they won’t fit into the throat plate gap. This means you may need a special dado blade throat plate with a wider gap. This can let you get up to the limit of 13/16 of an inch
  • Step 14: Adjust the height of the blade to the height you want.

Cutting A Dado With Table Saw

  • Step 1: Put in the dado blades and chipper blades, stacking them to the width you want.
  • Step 2: You’ll need the miter gauge too. You may want to consider attaching a “sacrificial” fence to back up the back end of the cut and for greater bearing support. 
  • Step 3: The challenging part is to get the cutting width right. You want the parts of the dado joint to fit in together snugly, without any unnecessary slide.
  • Step 4: To do this more easily, set your outer blades on a flat surface so the blades aren’t touching one another. 
  • Step 5: Take the workpiece you’re going to fit into the dado and set it next to your outer blade.
  • Step 6: Stack the chipper blades atop the outer blades, with the teeth not touching.
  • Step 7: Continue to stack the chipper blades until you have a combination that matches the top of the workpiece. That’ll give you a snug dado fit.
  • Step 8: If the blades don’t exactly match the top of the workpiece, you can add a shim or two with the right width between the chipper blades to get the match just right. 
  • Step 9: Once you get the width right, load the blade combo into the table saw. Just make sure that you load the outer blades with the points pointing outward. Normally you just need to set the logos outward on the stack.
  • Step 10: Don’t forget to fan out the chipper teeth out. 
  • Step 11: Raise the blade to the cutting depth you want. Try a test cut on a scrap piece. You should use the piece against the miter gauge so it doesn’t shift left or right. The test cut will give you an idea of the snugness of the fit of the dado joint.
  • Step 12: If the test dado joint is too loose, you’ll need to reduce the thickness of your dado blades. If the joint is too tight, then you may need to add a shim to widen the cut.
  • Step 13: Once you’re satisfied with your trial attempts, mark your workpiece and do your dado cuts.

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