Table Saw Or Router: Which Is Better For Dado?

best wood router

You'll probably agree with me on this, Router and table saw are the best for dado cuts. But, the argument always is, table saw or router - which one is better for dado cuts?

You can use either of them to make your dadoes. I prefer to use a handheld router when working with larger workpieces and a table saw or a table mounted router for smaller workpieces. With a router, you get a consistent depth without pushing the panel too hard as the tool follows the wood surface. With a table saw, you have to find a way of pushing the panel down to avoid dadoes of varying lengths. 

It's a must to know how to make perfect dado cuts, more so if you are in cabinet making. You will frequently need to cut the slot to hold drawer bottoms or door panels. Let's dive more into it...



Tools Needed For Perfect Dado Cuts:

If you are going to use router...

If you are going to use table saw...

  • A table saw that can accpet stacked dado blades: Dewalt7491RS
  • A great dado blades.


How To Know Router Or Table Saw: Which One Is Better For You?

While you can use both a router and a table saw to cut your dados, you need to know when to use each of them. Here's the thing to keep in mind -


Size And Types Of Wood

Size is a major factor you should consider when choosing a tool for your dado cuts. If you’re handling a small piece of wood, then it’s preferable to use a router. Since the router table surface is a bit small, managing bigger pieces might be difficult with a router. So, it would be better to use a table saw for the big chunks. 

But, in the case of large pieces, it’s best to use a straightedge and a hand-held router, or better still, an edge guide attached to the router.

When it comes to the type of wood, it’s easier to use a router if you’re dealing with hardwood. Unlike the table saw, you don’t have to push so hard to get dado cuts out of a hardwood. You can reserve your table saw for softwood.


Length And Depth Of Dado

With a router, you can achieve the desired length and depth of dado. Its cuts are precisely sized and it gives clean cuts with a smooth bottom. Additionally, you can cut stopped dadoes with a router, which is not possible with a table saw. 

While you can still achieve any dado length and width with a table saw, the results are quite unpredictable. You may end up with dadoes of varying lengths which lead to disappointing results. 


What You’re Making?

Something else you should consider when choosing a tool for your dado cuts is what you want to make. If it’s a basic cabinet or frames within a piece of furniture, a table saw comes in handy. It’s much faster and even with just a single pass, you get it done regardless of the wood type.

But, for larger panels or wide boards which aren’t stable on the table saw, a router would be the ideal option. Additionally, where dado joints might show on profile, it’s better to use a router as the joint comes out cleaner and firmer.


Making Dado Cuts

Now it’s time to make your dado cuts. As we mentioned earlier, you can either use a router or table saw to cut dadoes. So, we’ll take a look at how to make great dado cuts using both tools.


Router For Dado Cuts

Apart from using a table saw to make dado cuts, you can use a straight router bit. If you decide to use a router for your dadoes, make sure you maintain a low bit speed and do many shallow dado cuts, taking each pass to a depth of 1/8 or 1/16 inch. This protects the bit and the wood from burning and the bit of the router from dulling too soon.

When using the router, don’t cut more than a third deeper through the wood, as that would weaken the stock. For example, if you’re cutting a piece with a thickness of more than 3/4 inch, avoid cutting deeper than a quarter an inch.

For best results, always keep the router’s motion against the bit’s rotation. This ensures you gain full control of the tool so that the bit cuts through the piece easily. 


Conclusion

So, is it a router or table saw? Well, from the look of things, we can see that in almost all circumstances a router does better than a table saw. So, for quality dados, it would be better to go for a router.

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