Dado Blade Basics

Written by taylor shiells
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A table saw incorporating stacked dado blades can cut precise grooves into wood, but the design of a dado stack makes these blades more complex than single blades. You must learn the functions of both the chipper blades and the outer blades in order to make proper use of the dado set. If you learn how to properly mount the stack of blades onto the arbor and qualify the measurements of the stack then you will be able to cut grooves quickly and easily.

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The Dado Blade Stack

A stack of dado blades includes two circular outer blades and any number of diamond-shaped chipper blades, typically between 3 and 5. The dado stack fits onto an arbor with the chipper blades resting between the two outer blades. The outer blades cut the two edges of the dado while the chipper blades clear out the area between the two edges. The number of chipper blades in the dado stack determines the width of the dado, and the position of the arbor determines the depth of the dado.

Fastening the Dado Stack

Before fastening a dado stack to an arbor, make sure that the blades and arbor are both free of debris. Debris can disturb the spacing of the blades. When you place the chipper blades, make sure that their teeth do not overlap. If the teeth of the chipper blades touch each other while moving then they may chip, damaging the blades and scattering dangerous fragments. Once you have installed your desired number of chipper blades and both the outer blades, fasten the blades snugly on the arbor.


You can finely adjust the width of the dado by putting shims between the blades. Most dado blade sets come with a number of shims, and you can also acquire additional shims separately. Place the shims between the blades in the stack to add to the width of the stack. Make sure that the shims are spaced evenly throughout the blades to avoid gaps in the dado.

Qualifying a Dado Stack

Minor variations in the alignment of a saw can cause the dado stack to cut dadoes whose widths are slightly different from the width of the dado stack. You can adjust for this discrepancy by qualifying your dado stack. To qualify a dado stack, first cut a groove using only the two outer blades. Measure both the width of the two outer blades and the width of the groove and record the result. Next, add all the chipper blades and cut another groove. Again, measure both the width of the expanded stack and the width of the new groove and record the result. The difference between the width of the stack and the width of the groove should be the same for both tests. If it is, then you can factor that width into measurements made for dadoes cut with that dado stack and saw. If the measurements do not match, then check the individual chipper blades, as this indicates a flaw in one of the individual dado blades.

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