June 6, 2021
If you’ve been in woodworking for a while, you know how great dado joints are. They’re reliable and straightforward if you want to do any joinery!
However, it does demand something: sharp precision. Otherwise, you can have a dado joint, but it won’t be any good. You want all your joints to be practical!
It’s easy to say you can have precise dado joints if you own dado blades or table saws. What about the rest of us who don’t?
Well, there’s a secret. As long as you’ve got a circular saw, some jigs, and a whole lot of time, you can make simple dado joints effective! Curious? We can show you how it’s done.
Table of Contents
What’s a Dado Joint Exactly?
Dado joints are a kind of joint cut across the wood grain. It creates a flat, square-walled channel where its mating wood piece can enter. To create this channel, most woodworkers use a dado blade, and table saw. It removes the necessary wood to make way for the mating piece.
You don’t need a router, dado blade, or table saw. A circular saw is enough! You might have to…
- Create two fences measured with the edge of circular saw shoes in mind.
- Build the blade into the circular saw shoe.
- Clamp the fence onto the wood.
- Claw hammer chips in the end.
You won’t just have to do this once! To be able to create a dado joint, you need multiple passes. Unfortunately, a single cut won’t make a successful dado joint today.
Best Methods You Can Use To Make Dado Cuts With Circular Saws
Okay, by now, you must be curious. How exactly does it work if you use a circular saw? Won’t it be too hard?
Not at all.
With multiple passes, you can create your desired square-bottomed groove. But this method is very tedious, and you don’t want to set aside more than half a day for a project!
We have a few methods you can try out. A fence can be used carefully instead of switching blades every now and then. Read on to see our plans below!
Method 1: Using a Fence as Guide
This method is a more refined technique to create a square-walled, flat-bottom channel for the wood’s grain. Get a 2×8 piece of wood and build custom fences according to their width. Clamp these fences onto the wood!
Now, take a step back and see if anything needs readjustments. You want to make sure that the saw will actually cut through your desired place when you move it. You need it to stay between the lines!
Got it? Okay, now it’s time to make the cuts. It can be tricky. To have a better time cutting through the workpiece, you can use a hammer. Tap it sideways, then scrape the rest out when needed.
A side-to-side movement can finish your dado joint piece. However, you have to flatten out the bottom!
There’s no guarantee that your first try will be a success. But don’t lose hope. It’s always a tricky thing to do! You can set aside several possible workpieces to practice first.
A wider dado joint, when compared to the saw, won’t fare well. If the saw veers to the other side, the shoe will no longer reach it. Damage can be done! It’s easy to slide and gouge the dado joint. It’s much better if you use a wider shoe when compared to a dado joint.
You can also measure your dadoes to make sure everything works out as perfectly as possible. If they’re 40 to 80 mm wide, start from the left side to get rid of the wood. Work to the right side – it has more support!
But if you need dadoes broader than that, you have to try a newer method. You can’t span the entire width, so clear the area one inch at a time. You can work from right to left this time around.
With enough patience, you’ve got a dado joint you’ve made all by yourself!
Method 2: Using a Jig
Not a fan of the fence method? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. For people who’d like to ditch fences, you’ve come to the right place. Use jigs instead! They can ensure the precise cuts you need to make a dado joint effective.
To create a jig, you need to get some plywood. Thin-ripped ones are fine. You need to create something that can clamp down onto the workpiece – and it has to fit perfectly! It’s essentially like a saddle for your workpiece.
Aside from a perfect fit and clamp, you also need to make sure the jig’s top pieces are square. The measurements must consider the saw, too. It can travel to the outer edges, and you need to cut within the lines. Consider the extremes of the saw you’re going to use.
Have you measured and clamped everything in place? Take out that saw. Cut the workpiece by starting on one side of the jig. You’re going to create a series of cuts. Thankfully, the jig can allow a sequence of notches and make sure each one has the exact dimensions! It’s a satisfying series, trust us.
Now, you’re all done! Congratulations on your dado joint.
Can I Use Dado Blade Set on Circular Saw?
No. Just don’t try to use the dado blade set on the circular saw.
Yep, there’s a dado blade set. Once you catch a glimpse of it, it seems pretty convenient. The dado blade set is tempting to use with circular saws, but we strongly advise against this! It won’t produce a dado joint – just a tragic accident with you as the primary victim.
Why? Well, the shaft of that setting isn’t long enough to hold the dado blades or guard you properly. The dado blades won’t even fit into your hand-held circular saw adequately. There’s not enough thread to tighten. The motors can’t handle the work.
We could go on and on about circular saws, but we can summarize in one sentence: never do this. It’s not a good idea. Either use the two methods above or get a dedicated dado blade and router.
Are you eager to try making dado joints? We are, too! Despite a lack of resources on your end, you can do it with fences and jigs. It’s a simple joint with easy enough alternative methods to produce!
Precision is the most crucial thing for your dado joint. With enough carefulness and practice, we’re sure you can achieve it.
Are you going to try out these two methods! Tell us if you are. Just remember to be safe and patient with the process, and reward yourself after you’re all done!
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker, carpenter and author who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.