Hardware used: tablesaw with flat kerf blade, kerfmaker, tablesaw sled.

Premise: I've made a kerfmaker and have been very pleased with it in making dados on short boards. However, I' m at a loss on how to use it when making dados in the middle of long boards.

Question: How do I use the tools that I have, to make dados in longer boards, such as sides for cabinet?

  • 2
    Make a bigger kerfmaker? Or just use another strategy entirely... it's not like people couldn't do grooves on larger stock before the kerfmaker was invented :-)
    – Graphus
    May 12 '21 at 19:32
  • Use a router and straight cutting bit?
    – FreeMan
    May 13 '21 at 12:04
  • Those are both decent answers hiding in the comments.
    – jdv
    May 13 '21 at 14:23
  • Thanks for the comments. A new route is being taken, with a router. (pun intended)
    – JRS
    May 14 '21 at 17:45

It's often the case that it's best not to use the table saw to do dados (UK: housing joints) on stock above a certain size because of the difficulty in manoeuvring wide pieces1, the safety aspect, and the lack of support to both sides of the saw table.

The risk assessment is up to each person to make, and the last can be addressed with permanent or temporary wings if space in the shop allows but....

In general, the modern approach to this is to use a router.

You fit the router with a straight-cutting bit2, and either run it along a straightedge (which can just be a carefully selected straight piece of wood clamped to the workpiece), the blade of a T-square built for this purpose, or using a dado jig that captures the base of the router and eliminates the risk of it wandering off the line.

Not only does the router allow for cutting grooves on stock of any length it's fundamentally a safer method all around (safer for the operator), and can more easily achieve stopped dados (and rebates/rabbets) where needed.

Hand tools
If a power router isn't in your toolkit and not currently on the shopping list3 there's always the fallback of doing this manually. Many people baulk at doing grooves by hand but it's a very useful technique to know, since it can be adapted to cutting them in pieces of literally any size, including very small or very large that it would be difficult to envisage tackling them via a power tool.

The basic tools for this are a knife, crosscut backsaw, chisel and (not essential but highly desirable) a hand router. One legitimate objection here is that hand routers, even secondhand, have become more expensive than the majority of power routers most leisure woodworkers would buy (!!) however, a basic but serviceable router can be built in a single afternoon from one or two scraps of wood, a spare Allen key and a machine screw or bolt.

1 Wide meaning long pieces sideways in this context.

2 Be careful not to assume that e.g. a 3/4" bit will match your 3/4" stock. Unless you're using solid wood that you've four-squared yourself bought material should always be assumed to have nominal dimensions, or even approximate since they can vary somewhat piece to piece...... or worse, vary place to place within the same board in the case of some modern plywood!

3 In which case I should mention: most versatile single power tool. No modern power-tool workshop should be without one, and hybrid woodworkers should probably add it to the must-have column.

  • Thank you for the response. I was hoping to use the tools I had on-hand. I got my hands on a router and a 15/32" router bit, since I'm working with 3/4" plywood and will use a straight edge to guide it.
    – JRS
    May 14 '21 at 17:44
  • 1
    Prior to this did you actually only have a TS and a kerfmaker? Re. routing, you might want to look into (the many) dado jigs out there. Here's one, but there are loads more with major and minor variations.
    – Graphus
    May 15 '21 at 8:19

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