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Thread: Router or Dado Blade?

  1. #1

    Router or Dado Blade?

    I'm building a utility shelf for the basement (i.e. nothing fancy) out of laminated particle board. There will be a lot of dados for the shelves. I can use either a router with a 3/4 straight bit or a dado blade in my table saw. Any recommendations ?

    Thanks, DKT

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Trinity County - 160 miles north of San Francisco. Redwood forest.
    The word 'lot' applied to Dados would seem to indicate the need of a tablesaw. For a lesser number, a router would provide improved cut quality.

    I am about to invest in Festool equipment precisely to cut Dados, using their clamping table and guide rail/router combination. If I were doing production quantities, I'd spend more money on a good Dado stack and use the TS.

    Gary Curtis

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    RETIRED(!) in Austintown, Ohio
    Quote Originally Posted by Dietrich Trenner View Post
    I'm building a utility shelf for the basement (i.e. nothing fancy) out of laminated particle board. There will be a lot of dados for the shelves. I can use either a router with a 3/4 straight bit or a dado blade in my table saw. Any recommendations ?

    Thanks, DKT
    By 'laminated' I'm guessing you mean melamine coated. If so, then chip-out will be a potential problem if using the tablesaw. (same also if it's a FormicaŽ type laminate).

    A router will give a cleaner cut. The downside of that, though, is (you did say a LOT of dados) that particle board is very hard on cutting tools - especially router bits. You may find that you go through two or three bits - even carbide ones - while cutting the dados. Expensive bits wear nearly as fast a cheap ones in particle board, so I'd suggest getting a couple (or more) bits from MLCS, or Woodline, or someplace like that.
    Jim D.
    Adapt, Improvise, Overcome!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Herndon VA
    Jim has a good point. You may want to try making a scoring cut at about 1/64th. Just enough to score the laminate. Then make a deeper cut. Either way I usually make several passes depending on the depth to prevent tearouts and strain on my router.

    You can essentially do the same with a dado blade. Try a few test cuts and see what you feel more comforable with. Personally, I use dado blades more than routers for dado cuts.

  5. #5
    I made a LOT of storage cabinets for my garage. I used a Router and straight edge. It was very fast to route across the sheets for the shelf dados, and then rip with a straight edge for the sides, top and bottom.

    These took a couple of weeks off and on with SWMBO and I working mostly on Weekends. Total 3-5 days of work, Hope this helps.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Toronto, Ontario, CANADA
    I'm another person who makes a lot of dado (and rabbets) using a router and a straight edge (Festool in my case). I used to make dados on my table saw (using a good Freud stacked dado set) but they were not as accurate or as clean. Once I tried a router, I gave away the table saw dado blades.
    Cheers, Frank

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Southern Louisiana
    this could seem like more work, but it might save the router bits a little. you could possibly do a rough cut with a dado stack on the TS, let's say if your finished dado needs to be 3/4", you could plow out a 5/8" dado on the TS centered where it needs to be, then come back after with the router and take the rest off, probably leaving a cleaner cut on the melamine or formica and not putting such a strain on the router bits.

    but like i said, it may be more work than you want to do.

    you could also do a test run on the TS with a really good homemade zero clearance dado insert, this is how i do my dadoes in my ply for my cabinets and i have nearly no chip out on the sides, even when the blades starts getting dull.

    good luck with whatever option you choos.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    WNY, Buffalo Area
    A down spiral router bit will help preseve the edge of your surface (melamine, formica, or even nice venier plywood). A standard straight router bit and a up spiral bit might cause chip out at the edges.

    Just be sure to take several light passes, as the chips won't be cleared efficiently with a down spiral.
    We create with our hands in wood what our mind sees in thought.
    Disclosure: Formerly was a part-time sales person & instructor at WoodCraft in Buffalo, NY.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    No, not all of SoCal is Los Angeles!
    You've gotten good advice here. Pick up a few router bits, make multiple passes. If your material is not measured at 3/4" (as opposed to just called 3/4") one of these can help:
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C. Clarke

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Inside the Beltway
    I've got the same problem. I'm about to make a bunch of pantry shelves (for the laundry room... long story... Anyway, they're going to be 48" wide, and about 7 feet tall. They'll be painted, but I haven't decided between ply or MDF yet. The reason I'm considering MDF is because a 3/4 router bit dado will leave the plywood shelf pretty loose, rattling around in the slot. I do have a dado stack, but I'd have to make a new zero clearance insert. And if I go that route, I'd be essentially crosscutting a 12 by 84 piece, several times, which could get pretty icky... not only that, but each shelf will need a 1/4 dado in the middle, since the span is so long and my beloved doorlink tends to overload shelves. I'm going to have a 1/8" back and a face frame. It's a pretty simple design, but I keep going back and forth on this same question, dado blade or router bit? Usually, when I write something out, I find I've answered my own question, but not this time...



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