Newsletter: Cutting Perfect Dados
Cutting Perfect Dados in your Case or Cabinet
by Luther Shealy
When making a case or cabinet to accept drawers my go to technique is to cut opposing parallel and plum dados in the case sides to accept the horizontal dividers I use to divide the cabinet into spaces for the drawers. In this month’s video, Rob discusses and shows several methods he uses for making the dividers and for making the cabinet sides. I wanted to discuss my go-to methods for cutting perfect dados.
If there is any “secret” for perfectly fitting drawers, it’s that the case or cabinet the drawer openings needs to be dead square. You can work around an out of square opening, but it's not fun. It’s much easier and better to build your case with dead square drawer opening.
If using dividers going into dados, getting a square cabinet is all about making sure the dados are perfectly parallel with each other and plum. This will ensure a square cabinet and square drawer openings. I use two methods for cutting my dados, depending on the size of the cabinet I am making: I either use 1) a dado stack on my Sawstop table saw or 2) my router with an edge guide and a parallel guide.
Table saw method. Sometimes it is best if I take the cabinet sides to the table saw to cut the dados. The beauty of using the table saw to cut the dados is I can set the fence for my dado and run both cabinet sides against the fence and as long as I have a square panel and keep it tight to the fence, my dados will be parallel and plum to each other. The only trick here is really setting up the dado stack for a tight-fitting dado joint. A high-quality dado stack with magnetic shims to dial in the fit are your friends here. I use a Freud dado stack with shims.
There are times when taking the panel to the table saw is not the best option. As the panel increases in size it soon gets too big to safely cut on the table saw or the table saw fence does not have enough range to the right of the blade. You also have to watch the ratio of the panel’s width to length. As the cabinet grows taller, it is more difficult to cut on the table saw safely and accurately even with the addition of a miter gauge.
Router method. Sometimes I want to cut the dado by taking the tool to the wood instead of the wood to the tool. In such cases I use my MicroFence router edge guide with an interface block for my parallel guide. I really love my MicroFence edge guide. It’s a precision instrument that allows for precise adjustments down to .0005 thousandths of an inch. Beautifully made and highly accurate you can use the Micro fence to dial in a perfect fit (if you are interested in the details of how this works watch this video from MicroFence).
The secret to getting perfectly parallel dados is accurately positioning the parallel guide. I achieve this using spacer I make to set the guide. Additionally, I purchased a 36-inch-long parallel guide so I can clamp it across both side panels simultaneously ensuring perfectly parallel cuts ( when my panels are a maximum of 18 inches wide).
Hope this helps