For the manner in which men live is so different from the way in which they ought to live, that he who leaves the common course for that which he ought to follow will find that it leads him to ruin rather than safety.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cutting a stopped dado

I've never cut a stopped dado. This post will follow me through the first one. Seriously, I didn't even practice one first. The problem with a stopped dado lies in the fact that you're stopping the darned thing! We're also working across the grain. Through dadoes are a bit easier, and if we can figure the stopped version out, we can do through dadoes all day long. Let's see how it goes...
Marking out. This dado will be about a half inch wide, by four inches long. Final depth is a quarter inch. Marking out is similar to marking a cross cut. Lay the square down against your reference side and use a marking knife to cut the line. Several light cuts, with the bevel toward the waste (in this case the center of the dado) will get you there. Light cuts with the knife are easier to control. It helps to lightly mark the edge of the board down to the final depth...this will help with sawing. That's a Stanley SW square, dead nuts accurate and a great tool. I'll talk about that thing another day.

After the lines are knifed comes a bit of chisel work, again this is similar to marking a cross cut. Working on the waste side of the line, use a chisel to pare towards the line, forming a trough for the the saw to fall into. Use a chisel to define the termination of the dado
I'm using my Veritas 16ppi dovetail saw to cut the lines. This is a tricky bit. Since we're not going all the way across, full strokes aren't really an option. Get the saw into the groove formed by the knife and chisel, then work it down. You'll end up with an angled cut. At the edge of the board, you'll be able to cut to full depth, that's harder to do at the termination end. With some careful saw work, though, you'll be able to cut well into the lines.
After the initial saw cuts. A stair saw would be helpful here, I don't own one, but it is on my list of things to buy or make.
A router plane is super handy for this task. You can clean the bottom of the dado with a chisel, but the router plane helps to maintain a uniform depth. This particular one is a Veritas Large Router Plane. A very well made tool. I also have the small model. I plan on ordering the miniature one soon, as it is a three inch version of this big guy. Before starting, I installed the quarter inch blade and set the depth to a quarter inch.

The finished dado. Due to being slightly careless, I have a bit of bruising. That's a matter of making sure you get chips out of the way as you use the plane. Lesson learned.

Cutting a stopped dado was not nearly as difficult as I had imagined. It's an attention to detail kind of job. One thing to watch for as you do it is the side walls. If, like me, you're unable to get the saw cuts all the way down to the final depth, there will be a little extra chisel work. As you work down to the final depth, you'll have to grab a wide chisel and pare down the side walls. This acts as the release cut for the router plane and will allow the shavings to be removed from the floor of the dado.

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