Dado planes

I’ve been without a table saw about one year. As I remember it there were three operations I used to do on the table saw:

  1. Rip. I’ve done this on the band saw for years, and recommend that you do too;
  2. Precision cross-cut. I do this with hand saws and a shooting board. Or for carpentry work, I use a meat-powered miter saw; and
  3. Dado’s. Pictured below is the replacement for this operation.

My 7/8" dado plane

There are now makers of excellent quality moulding planes and several kinds of joinery planes. But I’m unaware of anyone who makes dado planes. Fortunately old ones in good shape are easy to find. You’ll likely want these in a number of sizes. And two to four good ones will cost about the same as a decent dado blade set for a table saw. I sold my dado blades at the swap meet a couple months ago.

If the body is fairly straight, set up of an old dado plane is fairly straight-forward. Make sure that the nickers cut about the same depth on both sides. Grind and sharpen the cutter so that it cuts the same depth across its width. And then set the blade so it tracks right behind the nickers.

A test dado

These are also straight-forward to use. Before you start cutting with a forward stroke, drag the plane backward once or twice so the nickers define the dado edges. These are one of the few tools you need to “drag” (apply pressure to the work-piece on the backstroke.) Dragging the plane backwards after each forward stroke scores the outside edges of the dado with the nickers so that there’s no tear-out. (Now that I think about it, is this true of all tools with nickers?)

A temporary fence is normally used as shown in the second photo. Because of the ledge on the left side of the plane, it works better to put the fence on the right side of the dado. Every period worker I’ve seen will just nail the fence onto the work piece. The two nail holes left behind will be on the inside of the case and only seen by a future woodworker if they look for them. No one else will ever know.


About johnjoiner

Computer nerd by day, Dad and woodworker by night. Woodworking blog at
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One Response to Dado planes

  1. Allen Hunt says:

    HNT Gordon, from down under is making wonderful dado planes. He also makes a side rebate plane with an angled depth stop to create dovetails. His Utube videos are really instructive too.

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