Cutting a notch - dado blades vs. router - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 03-02-2020, 10:22 AM Thread Starter
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Cutting a notch - dado blades vs. router

If I need to cut a simple square notch, I'm always troubled whether to use a router or dado blades on my table saw. I like the router in that it gives me 3 perfectly smooth sides, whereas my blades give me a grooved top side. My router table is home-made. It's good for bits that align themselves with the edge of the wood like flush cut or roundover bits, but if I'm cutting a groove and have to rely on my fence, well the fence isn't that reliable to stay in place, and a router wants to push the wood sideways. Also, my groove size is limited by the bits I have. The dado blades will let me cut a groove that is 29/64" if that's what I need.

I *could* buy a professional router table, but they ain't cheap, and I'd like to do a lot more research on that before pulling the trigger.

My dado blade set is a simple steel Vermont American set that I bought many many years ago when I was poor and ignorant. So I was wondering... Would a newer, better set of dado blades give me a better cut, approaching if not quite as clean as a router bit? I don't want to throw money at the issue if it's not going to help me that much.
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post #2 of 13 Old 03-02-2020, 07:11 PM
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if you are focused on precision....


up the fence. do whatever is needed on your home made table so the fence can be put, and stay put (i.e. clamped) where you want it.


when I'm plowing a deep groove, I use the table saw to remove most of the material.
then the router to do the finish work.


if the router is only 'shaving' a bit off the side(s) and bottom, it turns out perfect.
trying to do a monster cut (depth/width...) with a router often fails.
for a single groove, raise the router bit a little at a time.

that does not work well when you need multiple pieces with "identical" depth grooves....


example, if you're doing a 3/4" groove, hog out the majority of the material on the table saw.
multiple passes or a dado set - doesn't matter. width less than (finished) 3/4" - depth less than finished depth.


use a 1/2" straight router bit to finish, first one side (& bottom) then the other side (& bottom)


for narrow grooves - there are "flat topped" tooth designs. situations where you can make 2-3 passes on a table saw with a FT blade on the table saw works like a charm. just be careful with the depth set up. use test pieces....
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post #3 of 13 Old 03-02-2020, 09:50 PM
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A quality dado set will cut much faster and just as clean, a router has less up-front cost but is a bit more of a PITA in use. Personally I'll go for the dado stack over the router for everything, unless I need to make a stopped dado
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post #4 of 13 Old 03-02-2020, 10:43 PM
where's my table saw?
 
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I've done it both ways .......

(A) I agree that for a single groove/dado the table saw is faster and easier IF you have your dado stack ready to go for the correct width.

You just set the fence and make the cut. There may be tearout on plywood veneer, but a strip of painter's tape will help with that. The real issue is setting the width if you are making it for a plywood insert.That's the PITA part of the dado stack. I have the dial a width dados as well, and they can be left to any desired width. However, shimming a stack is not one of my favorite things .... in and out of the throat with sharp cutters and sharp edges.



(B) The router may be easier and faster if you are not set up on the table saw. I make mine with a single edge guide on the router base. Now the question is whether to use a "correct width" bit or make it in two separate passes with a small bit.....? Even then, several shallow depth passes is better than a single full depth pass. You probably don't want to use an upcut spiral on veneer plywood since it will tearout.


(C) The best way is to use a PC guide bushing or bearing bit in a channel on both sides of a jig made especially for that diameter bit.

The jig needs to be long enough to span all the way across the panel like one of these:
https://www.youtube.com/results?sear...+jig+for+dados




An "improved" version:

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)

Last edited by woodnthings; 03-02-2020 at 10:47 PM.
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post #5 of 13 Old 03-03-2020, 05:34 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by woodnthings View Post
(C) The best way is to use a PC guide bushing or bearing bit in a channel on both sides of a jig made especially for that diameter bit.

The jig needs to be long enough to span all the way across the panel
Those are interesting, and I might give that a try sometime, but in most cases I'm looking to put a groove in a long piece of wood, like 8'.
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post #6 of 13 Old 03-03-2020, 07:00 AM
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Well, that little detail could change everything .....

Quote:
Originally Posted by enchant View Post
Those are interesting, and I might give that a try sometime, but in most cases I'm looking to put a groove in a long piece of wood, like 8'.

A table saw will require more than 16 ft of run in your shop and supports in front and at the rear for best accuracy. A track guide and router may still be the better solution ... I donno?


I have the 120" Bora system clamp and the universal bas that slides in the grooves on the clamp:

https://www.amazon.com/WoodRiver-Cla...xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ==


You can make a similar system using hardboard or thin plywood.
This is for a circular saw, but a router version would be easy to build:



The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)

Last edited by woodnthings; 03-03-2020 at 07:16 AM.
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post #7 of 13 Old 03-03-2020, 07:45 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by woodnthings View Post
A table saw will require more than 16 ft of run in your shop and supports in front and at the rear for best accuracy. A track guide and router may still be the better solution ... I donno?

I dunno neither. I've got a 4' clamp edge track that I use for my circular saw to rip up plywood, but if I push against it with any force at all, I've seen it bend 1/8". Or are you suggesting that there might be higher quality tools than what I bought at Harbor Freight?


That's an interesting setup and I'd like to look into it. As I mentioned before, my experience in the past is that when I'm routing anything substantial into the wood and I'm not using a bit that aligns with the wood edge, the router wants to go sideways, and with a lot of force. A few things could be going on here. Perhaps I need a sharper bit. Perhaps I'm pushing too fast. This morning I've been in the basement working on a setup that will keep my fence securely in place.
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post #8 of 13 Old 03-03-2020, 08:01 AM Thread Starter
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I've got a question about that third video about making a router jig. Part of the assembly is cutting a piece of plexiglass to fit on your router. What's the point of this? Why couldn't I just use the plate that came with the router? Is it important that the router keep the same alignment through the cutting process? Aside from that, it's pretty slick and I wouldn't mind making one of those. I wish I could buy a 1x8 sheet of MDF. A full 4x8 sheet is going to give me a hernia.
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post #9 of 13 Old 03-12-2020, 02:51 PM
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a clear plastic router base allows one to visually observe - to some degree - where the bit is going / what the bit is doing.
the "clear" bit - they do get scratched, they do get cloudy - but still better that blindly applying router bit to work piece.....

example - for dove tails, I have clear bases on both routers.

yes, makes me more confident I'm not monumentally screwing it up.....
and, keeps me from stupidly running the angle cutting bit into the guide and chipping off the carbide tips ..... clear plexi winning at 4:1 . . .
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post #10 of 13 Old 03-12-2020, 03:06 PM
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I'm not sure I saw it mentioned, but yes there are dado sets that will give you a nice flat top. Here's a pic from the Ridge dado set, for example
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post #11 of 13 Old 03-12-2020, 03:22 PM
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I rarely use the dados anymore. But I do spend a lot of time with routers and patterns. Depending on specifics will depend what is easiest.
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post #12 of 13 Old 03-12-2020, 07:00 PM
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It often depends on what you are cutting. I like using a stacked dado set, except on plywood. Plywood, especially import stuff, is not always dead flat and does not always remain dead flat on the saw table, not without a powerfeed at least. That can result in inconsistent depth of cut. I prefer to use a fence or router sled and move the router over the piece, vs a router table where you are moving the piece over the router. I can maintain farm more control that way. I also to it in multiple passes, depending on the width and depth of the cut.
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post #13 of 13 Old 03-12-2020, 09:54 PM
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It depends. Sometimes I am using table saw for notch cut, sometimes router.

I want using table saw for all notch cutting, but is not safe. One time crosscutting notches in long board on table saw, was spoiling two boards because too hard to keep board straight on table saw crosscutting notches near ends of the boards. And too much table saw danger. Third time using router after making router fence guide. I am clamping guide to board and getting perfect 90 degree notches on long board both ends and middle.

If using router, you can be using straight bit for through notches, but needing plunge bit or spiral bit for stopped notches.
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