Dado joint guide: Pros and cons, how-to, and tips

Dado joinery is a common joint that is used in cabinetry, shelving, and bookcases. In this article, you will learn how 3 methods to create a dado joint, the pros and cons of dado joinery, and other tips.


What are dado joints?

Dado joints are a form of woodworking joinery where the end grain on one piece of wood is inserted into a face grain groove in another.

Dado joints are commonly used in cabinetry, shelving, and bookcases. Dado joints are used in T-shaped joints where the board is connected at a right angle.

Dado joint pros and cons

StrongHard to fix
Simple and effectiveSpecific use
Quick and easy

Dado joint pros

Dado joints are very strong joints for their use. They are ideal for assembling sectionals in cabinetry, shelving, and bookshelves.

Dado joints are very simple joints that are exceptionally effective and sturdy.

Dado joints are very easy joints to create with common woodworking tools like a table saw or router.

Dado joint cons

Dado joints are hard to fix if you mess up. Additionally, dad joints are only good for a very specific use. These joints should not be used for table legs and other project parts.

How to create a dado joint

Part One: Mark the wood

First, you will mark the cutting location on the wood.

Step 1: Mark both sides of the wood

Place the wood at the desired location and mark the wood thickness on the board.

Step 2: Mark the depth of the dado groove

Mark the desired depth of the dado groove using a ruler or marking gauge.

1/2, 1/3, and 3/8th of the wood thickness are common dado depths that proven to be very strong.

Part two: Cut the wood

There are many different methods that you can cut dado joints. I will go over the 3 most common methods, using a table saw, using a router, using hand tools.

Method One: Cutting dados with a table saw

  1. Adjust saw to correct height
    • Adjust the height of the saw blade so that the tooth of the blade is right under the marked dado depth.
  2. Align blade to edge of the line
    • Align the blade so that the tooth is just touching the line and push the fence flushed to the board.
    • To learn more about table saw cutting techniques, check out my article “Table saw operation guide”
  3. Proceed with cut
  4. Cut the other line of the wood
    • Align the blade to the other line, push the fence to the board, and proceed with the cut.
  5. Cut out the inside
    • Cut several lines in-between the two lines. The thinner the lines, the easier to chisel out the wood.
  6. Chisel out the joinery
    • Chisel out the inside to create an even dado.
    • To learn more about chiseling techniques, check out my article “Chisels Complete Guide”.

Method Two: Cutting dados a with router

  1. Align router bit to marked line
    • Adjust router depth so the bit is barely touching the wood. Then, align the bit on the edge of the line.
  2. Place straight wood edge flushed with the router base
    • Place wood with a straight edge flushed with the router base. Make sure the straight edge is straight and then clamp the wood.
  3. Adjust maximum router depth to dado depth
    • Adjust the router depth so it is right above the dado depth line
  4. Set maximum depth stop
    • The maximum depth stop is to ensure the router will not go past this depth
  5. Cut dado in light passes
    • Cut, taking off small layers at a time. Cutting too much wood can overwork the motor, burn the router bit, and cause kickback.
    • To learn more about router safety, check out my article “Woodworking Router Operation Guide”.

Method Three: Cutting dados using hand tools

You can also cut and chisel out dados using hand tools.

Cutting dados with hand tools is the hardest way to cut dados. The benefit to this method is hand tools are the quietist way and does not require large expensive power tools.

To learn more about cutting and chiseling techniques, check out my article “Handsaws Complete Guide”.

Part 3: Assemble the dado joint

Step 1: Apply wood glue to all 3 sides of dado groove

Dado joints are primarily strong due to their large glue area. Applying wood glue to all 3 sides of the dado groove will provide maximum durability.

Step 2: Clamp using a right-angle clamp

Next, you will place the board in the dado groove and clamp using a right-angle clamp. Using a right-angle clamp will ensure that the board does not shift and harden at a slope.

What is the ideal dado depth

The most common dado depths are 1/2, 1/4, and 1/8 of the wood thickness.

Dado depths that are 1/2 of the wood thickness will provide the most stability and durability.

However, that may not always be possible. If you need to create a dado for a middle panel and have dados on both sides of the wood, you will not be able to do 1/2 dados for both sides.

In this scenario, dados that are 3/8 or 1/4 of the wood thickness will be more suitable. Unless the wood is more than 2 inches thick, I would not go less than 1/4 because it will compromise the stability of the dado joint.


In this article, we talked about dado joints. We went over when to use them and when not to along with how to create a dado joint.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article and I wish you luck on your woodworking journeys!


My name is Rachel Blanding and I am a woodworker. I started woodworking at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I mainly create and refurbish furniture and create art. In this site I will share with you the knowledge I have gained over the years, and what worked for me and what didn't.

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