If you don’t know what a dado joint is, you’re missing out. It’s one of the most widely used joints in woodworking – and not without reason. A dado joint is versatile, robust, and simple!
Okay, maybe you don’t know it as a dado joint. After all, it goes by other names. If you’ve heard of trench and housing joints, they’re one and the same! The name varies whether you’re in the US or Europe.
As great as a dado joint is, it has its own advantages and disadvantages. Before you start learning how to use a dado joint, you should know what kind of effect it may have on your projects!
We’re here to help. We’ll keep each advantage and disadvantage short and sweet, but you’ll come off much more knowledgeable than before. Are you ready? Let’s get started.
What is a Dado Joint?
A dado joint cuts into the surface of a piece of wood. It’s a slot or trench where another component can be placed inside. If you view the joint from different angles, it can look like a three-sided channel across the workpiece’s grain. The corresponding wood that goes into the channel is called a “mating workpiece.”
Dado joints are pretty easy to find. Just look in your kitchen and living room. Cabinets and bookshelves all have dado joints! So, if you’re looking to make easy, functional furniture, it’s time to learn how to use it.
It’s as easy to make as it is to find. As long as you have a dedicated space, table saw for making dado cuts, router, and a lot of time, you can make dado joints! Any beginner should practice and master this joint easily. You can learn about “What is Dado Cut?” in more detail this article.
Advantages of the Dado Joint
Before we get into any bad news about the dado joint, let’s highlight its best characteristics first. The following list contains the advantages of a dado joint – and why you should use it for your projects.
It’s One of the Stronger Joints Out There
Don’t underestimate this seemingly simple joint. They’re way stronger than they look! The reason why you see dado joints so much in cabinetry is because of their strong support.
It gives just enough hold on the boards, especially when they meet at the angles. When a cabinet is formed, one workpiece has to support the other and work together to be functional. A dado joint is one of the main things holding them up.
Does it sound too good to be true? Okay, we have a disclaimer. Technically, other joints are stronger – like stub tenon and groove or tongue and groove. They’ve got more surface after production. But if you look into it, the differences between their strengths and the dado joint is minimal.
I’ll go as far as to say this: you don’t need these other joints when you already use dado. It’s much more straightforward and provides just as much strength. There are no complications with dado joints. There are two boards, one channel, and one of the two boards will mate through the other.
One consideration you do have to take is that cut length. You need it to be just a little longer to be effective. Compare it to those other joints. All those boards have to be run through twice to create a strong bond!
More Glue Surface
Much of the dado joint’s strength is because of the larger glue surface area. You don’t need to glue up the face grain and the end grain together. Instead, it allows face-to-face grain gluing. There’s much more strength here compared to dowel, butt, or biscuit joints.
It Makes Sure Everything Is In Place
The dado joint is too good at its job. It locks two surfaces together, so nothing ever moves after you’re done. You want this kind of maintenance in cabinetry projects, especially drawers, bookshelves, and cabinets. They typically contain valuable, personal items that no one can afford to break!
Once the dado joint is set with the mating part, it’s good to go. The structure won’t budge, making it the best choice for quality and value projects.
They’re Easy To Make
No cutting is needed here, folks. You can just plow these dado joints with a variety of styles. Use hand planes, chisels, and knives. If you’ve got a table saw in your workshop, use that, too. Some people use dado blades made explicitly for this joint with carbide tips.
Whatever tool you use, the dado groove will appear quickly. Some advice: a table saw may make it happen faster!
It’s Convenient For Any Kind of Project
With all the reasons we’ve listed above, the dado joint highlights its convenience. It’s easy to make, easy to do, and can be applied for the basic woodworking projects you’ve got! What else could you need?
Disadvantages of a Dado Joint
This joint can’t just be all peaches and cream. It has its downsides, too. As much as possible, you need to be fully aware of what you’re getting into, so here are the disadvantages of dado joints:
Can Be Sloppy
The sloppiness is mainly due to the plowing part of making the joint. You can avoid it by experimenting with different kinds of tools and blades. See which one is more precise and gives you a balanced, perfect channel!
May Require More Materials
As easy and straightforward as it is, it can take a lot of time. Making and gluing the boards leads to many materials used, so be wary while you’re doing the project.
Its Versatility Also Has a Limit
Yes, it’s excellent for many projects. But we can’t ignore all the other joints we could use! They exist because they have a purpose. While a dado joint is proper, there are others much more worth learning.
You can mostly see dado joints in shelving and attaching side drawers to a desk workpiece. When done incorrectly, the dado joint isn’t stable and can pull apart quickly! The pressure has to be across the dado joint, so you have to go the extra mile and see to the fact that this is what’s happening.
To Sum It Up
Like any other joint, the dado joint has its advantages and disadvantages. We hope we enlightened you on the dado joints! They’re pretty helpful – just make sure you keep their possible flaws in mind.
What’s your newest woodworking project? Are you planning to include a dado joint in there? Tell us if you’ve applied your thoughts into choosing your joints! Leave any comments and inquiries on this post below.
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.