Cutting a rabbet joint or dado joint? You’ll need these essential tools

Woodworking Tools

The difference between a groove and a dado is that a dado cuts across the grain while a groove goes with it. Keep this in mind when making your own joints so you can work on incorporating advanced techniques like book-matching.

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Which essential tool for cutting a rabbet joint or dado joint is best? 

Although they have fancy names, dados and rabbets are strong, accessible joints that every level of woodworker can use. A dado is a simple flat-bottomed channel that receives and supports shelves or panels, while a rabbet is a one-sided dado cut into the edge of your material. Dados and rabbets are the foundational elements of traditional cabinetry and casework, and they’re a great way to add strength, avoid bulky hardware and enhance visual appeal. 

If you’re relatively new to these types of joints, you may find the number of ways you can create them overwhelming. It’s hard to keep track of what tools you need for which method. Thankfully, there are useful products for the two most common methods of making dado and rabbet joints. 

What you need to get started  

There are some key tools you’re going to need, regardless of the method you choose. As with all woodworking projects, you’re going to need a measuring tape. Another must-have is a good set of clamps, such as the Bessey Economy clutch-style clamp — it strikes the perfect balance between quality and price. Lastly, you’re going to need wood glue to create the joint. 

Everything you need to make a dado or rabbet on a table saw 

The most common way of making dado or rabbet cuts is with a table saw. However, there are still multiple ways you can make these joints on a table saw. If you don’t make dado and rabbet joints often, consider using the single blade method. On the other hand, if you make these joints frequently, purchase an adjustable dado stack. 

DeWALT 10-Inch Jobsite Table Saw

DeWALT 10-Inch Jobsite Table Saw

This 10-inch table saw is capable of handling professional projects without taking up too much space. It comes with a convenient wheeled stand, rack and pinion telescoping fence, dust collection port and adjustable throat plate. This saw is more than ready to help you dial in your dado and rabbet joints. 

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DeWALT 8 1/4-Inch Compact Jobsite Table Saw

DeWALT 8 1/4-Inch Compact Jobsite Table Saw

If you’re making your first foray into fine furniture or cabinetry or don’t want to spend a lot of money, this table saw is right for you. With an 8.25-inch blade and all the essential features, this table saw can handle heavy duty DIY tasks easily. Plus, when it’s not in use, you can slip it on a shelf or under a bed without worrying. 

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Starrett Combination Square

Starrett Combination Square 

Starrett has built a reputation for producing combination squares that outperform competition in terms of build quality as well as accuracy. Featuring a hardened steel blade, solid cast iron head and a precision lock bolt, you can count on this combination square to provide a straight edge and true right angle every time. Ensuring your fence and blade are completely square before making a dado or rabbet is essential. 

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Freud Pro Dado Set

Freud Pro Dado Set

Made from premium TiCo hi-density carbide steel, this adjustable dado stack is designed for endless crosscuts. These blades also feature a silver I.C.E. coating that prevents debris from building up in the blade, keeping it cool and clean during prolonged use. These blades fit standard arbors and all you need to use them on the saw is this dado-appropriate throat plate.  

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Everything you need to make a dado or rabbet with a router 

Using a router is another popular method of making a dado or rabbet. However, routers are a more advanced tool than most table saws and aren’t as common among DIYers. Nonetheless, there are numerous ways to use a router to make a dado or rabbet. The main thing to remember is keeping your router level and smooth as you move across the material. 

DeWALT DWP611 Variable Speed Router

DeWALT DWP611 Variable Speed Router

This 1.25 horsepower router packs a lot of power despite its compact nature. With variable speed, a fixed base, adjustable bit depth and two workspace LEDs, the DWP611 is versatile and precise. Whether you want to use your own guides and do it by hand or attach it to a router table for increased consistency, the DWP611 can handle whatever you throw at it. 

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Kreg PRS1045 Router Table System

Kreg PRS1045 Router Table System

Although a router table isn’t essential for the router method to work, if you’re concerned about precision, this bundle is for you. With self-squaring technology and a robust fence, this router table makes cutting professional-quality dados and rabbets a breeze. 

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Yonic

Yonico Router Bits Set

o Router Bits Set

Top-bearing flush trim bits, or straight bits as they’re known colloquially, attach to your router and use a guide bearing and flat cutter to create a flat-bottomed channel in your material. You can use these bits on a router table for rabetting fairly easily, although it’s not recommended for making dados unless you’re comfortable removing the fence. As long as you keep the base of your router flat to the material, you can get similar results to the table. 

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Yogeon Mini Hand Planer

Yogeon Mini Hand Planer

This miniature hand plane is great for creating a perfectly flat surface after using a router to hog out most of the material. Although it’s affordable, this plane has a precision ground cutter that reduces chatter and layered steel blades that work with one another to produce precise, clean shavings with each pass. If you’re unsure about using a handheld router but don’t want to invest in a router table, this is an excellent alternative. 

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