Spicy Stopped Dados By Hand

Dados are interesting joinery. Such a simple thing, a groove a board edge fits into. But with all simple things. there are so many ways to prove your humanity by completely screwing it up. Accurate dados are a challenge  no matter which method you choose to use.

In a spice chest the drawers are basically supported on a series of shelves. One of my first worries was getting the dados laid out correctly on both boards so the shelves would be even across the carcass. I spent a lot of time getting the shelf spacing measurements laid out on the first board and then cutting the lines in good and deep with a marking knife. The problem came in transferring those lines to the next board accurately.

I thought about the problem for a while. I didn't want to repeat measuring with a ruler, adding numbers to the issue would have only complicated the problem. I pondered using a dividers to transfer things but then fell back on that old workshop friend, blue painters tape.

I lined up and taped both sides together.

Then once I flipped them over I could easily reference one to the other.

You put the point of the marking knife in the existing line, bring the framing square over to meet the knife blade, and transfer your line across.

 With the lines marked I drill out the stopped ends of the dados.

Most of the time I like to use a specialized saw called a stair saw to cut the side walls. I made this one myself after seeing a version online. I have since picked up an antique Disston stair saw that sits in my tool chest too, still awaiting a little rehab.

It works well for bigger dados. It works really well. This is my sales pitch for what its worth, you should add this little oddity to your tool chest.

That being said, the 1/4" dados for this build are not the place to use this saw. They need a gentler touch, an i decided to fall back on my crosscut carcass saw to cut the shoulders.

The next thing I like to do is chip out the waste with a chisel. In the past I've used a bench chisel to do this but I was watching some of "mortise under glass" video a while back and it occurred to me how efficient a mortise chisel is at chunking out waste and how well one could work for this job.

This was the first time I had the chance to use the mortise chisel to try this out but I was pretty sure how well it would work. In fact I was so certain I recently ordered a massive 1/2" mortise chisel from Josh Clark at  hyperkitten.com  not so I could make huge mortises for the ever popular Roubo workbench, but mostly to chunk out larger dados for full size shelves.

I was tickled with how well it worked. I have a new trick.

After chunking out the waste I hit it with a router plane. working it down to a smooth, square, even dado.

 After I was done with both carcass sides it was time for the moment of truth. You take a deep breath and back them up together and see how your dados line up. because in the end it's the execution that counts.

In the end I did OK and the dados lined up very close. I'm happy with the way this one turned out. I did shoot some video of making the dados on one side. I'll be honest and say I'm not happy with the camera angle but it does illustrate the process. All told it took me around a half hour to do a carcass side, not kicking ass, just taking my time and doing the work and the video boils that time down to around five minutes.

 The next step in the build involves smashing some electrons. Power tool woodworking on in the Oldwolf Workshop. Will wonders ever cease.

Ratione et Passionis


  1. Why not a dado plane for the dadoes? I know...there are plenty of ways to skin a cat (and no, I never worked in a Chinese restaurant), but I'm curious if you prefer one method over the other


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