Dado planes

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    @OBRYAN2579 asked in the plough plane thread if there are planes that cut dados, just as plow planes cut grooves. I’m starting a new thread in case others have feedback.

    Yes, there are dado planes. They come in various widths and have one form or another of nicker or spur. I purchased a wooden dado plane once online, but it was a “no go” from the very start because of defects in the plane, so I returned it and haven’t tried again. I’d be interested to hear of others’ experiences. One thing to consider is that, a dado by hand, is *exactly* whatever size you want. You can get hand-in-glove fit to whatever material you need to house. It is exactly the opposite with a dado plane. You get *exactly* what the plane cuts. If the material being housed is anything other than that, you need to cope in some way. I’d think the approach would be to use a narrower dado plane and then put a shoulder on the member being housed and use that to tune. Also, a stopped dado by hand is no harder than a through dado by hand. I’m guessing stopped dados with a dado plane are awkward. I’d also guess that the nicker/spur is no more effective than on any other plane with spurs.

    Tim Ridolfi

    I have both wood and steel (Stanley 39) dado planes that work well. Just nail or clamp on a batten, and you can cut a dado very quickly. I have pretty good luck with nickers.

    Back when dado planes were still made, I imagine one could buy one or two sizes or just buy a whole set. Using the next smaller size plane is an approach that I have used, and you can cut a small step in the end of the shelf board, or you can just use a bench plane to take a few shavings off the bottom as if you were doing final fitting of a raised panel.

    Obviously, cutting a stopped dado requires some adjustment, but a dado plane can still come in handy. Cut as much as you can without going past the stop, and the nickers will give you score lines you need to finish up with chisel and router.

    Harvey Kimsey

    In some kinds of case work, like bookshelves, it seems dado planes would be really useful in making thru dados for the shelves. I have a couple of Stanley 39s but in spite of all my efforts, I’ve never gotten them to work smoothly. They sit on shelves in my shop and I make dados with mallet, chisel, saw and router plane.

    harry wheeler

    Skewed blade dado planes like the Stanley 39’s work very well. The knickers (if you sharpen them properly) are just as effective as a marking knife is. Those planes were available from 1/4″ up to 1″ in 1/8″ increments plus a 13/16″ model which was a 7/8″ plane machined down to 13/16″. It’s the only one that doesn’t have the width cast into the side. The Stanley 45 combination plane can be used for dados but it’s a straight cutter and doesn’t handle cross grain as well as a skewed cutter does so Stanley also made the 46 which is almost identical to the 45 except it’s skewed. With any of them, you have to make the piece that fits in the dado match the width of the dado one way or another. A small rebate is one way of doing it as long as the width of the rebate allows both the shoulder and the end of the board to seat tightly. I prefer sizing the thickness of the shelf or whatever fits into the dado to match the dado and avoid the rebate but that’s a personal choice.

    A stopped dado is not what these planes were meant for, but as usual, guessing has taken us off on a tangent. The skate(s) for any of these planes have to ride in the groove you’re cutting and the groove has to go completely through the piece for it to work right. If it doesn’t, you’ll end up with a banana shaped groove as the skate rides up and out of the dado. The knickers are in front of the blade so you may end up with very little full depth dado off the plane unless it’s a wide piece. Coming back and fixing that is more time consuming for me than it would have been to just use the knife/chisel/router plane method to begin with so I avoid using (or maybe I should say misusing) mine for that purpose.


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