How to Cut Precise Joints on the Tablesaw
And stay safe in the process
Synopsis: The tablesaw can do more than make rectangles. If you add a dado set and a few shopmade jigs and fixtures, it can become your favorite machine for cutting flawless joinery. And it offers an unmatched combination of accuracy, repeatability, speed, control, and endless jig potential. In his second article in a series, woodworking teachers Marc Adams shows how you can use jigs to cut grooves, dadoes, rabbets, tenons, and miters that fit perfectly every time.
In my previous article (FWW #233), I demonstrated how to get better ripcuts and crosscuts—and stay safe in the process. But the tablesaw can do more than make rectangles. If you add a dado set and a few shopmade jigs and fixtures, it can become your favorite machine for cutting flawless joinery, too. The tablesaw offers an unmatched combination of accuracy, repeatability, speed, control, and endless jig potential.
To produce joint-quality cuts, both across the grain and with it, you’ll need two types of blades. You can stick with your normal combination blade, but make sure you keep the teeth clean of pitch buildup. A clean blade will always cut better. For wider notches in wood, whether rabbets, dadoes, grooves, tenons, or lap joints, I use an 8-in. stack dado set. Quality is very important here. You need a set that cuts clean edges and flat bottoms.
A dado set’s inside and outside blades have angled teeth designed to eliminate tearout at the edges of the cut. A variety of chipper blades go between, allowing 1⁄4-in.- to 7⁄8-in.-wide dadoes. Thin shims go in to fine-tune the width, if necessary. Be aware that dado sets take big cuts and can cause underpowered saws to bog down, and that the shorter arbors on some portable saws won’t allow the full stack to be used.