Making Perfect Rabbet and Dado Joints

As we continue our review on the most important woodworking joints we are featuring both rabbet and dado joints in this issue.  Rabbeted joints are very straightforward and the dado joint can be as simple as a groove to hold a board or a locking sliding dovetail dado.  Rabbet joints are found in simple box and case construction.  A rablbet is an L-shaped groove cut across the edge or end of one piece.  Fitting the other piece into it makes the joint.  Generally the width of the rabbet should be equa to the thickness of your material and the depth should be about one half to two thirds the thickness.


There are many simple ways of cutting the joint and for installing the back of a case a ” wide rabbeting bit in a router is the easiest.  The traditional method of using a stacked dado head on your table saw will cut the rabbet before assembly. You can also use your router table. The rabbet joint is usually fastened with glue and nails or screws.
 The dado is used to provide a supporting ledge for a shelf.  The dado is a groove cut across the grain.  In the simple dado joint, the butt end of the piece or shelf fits into this groove.

The problem with this joint is that, unless a face frame is added to the front of the case, it has an unattractive look.  For better appearance, a stopped or blind dado is the very best.  In this joint, a dado is cut partway across the first piece, and then a corner is notched out of the second piece so the two fit together.  If you use a stacked dado blade to cut it the end will have to be shaped to fit. 


The rabbet and dado, sometimes called the dado and tenon is a combination of a dado on one piece and a rabbet on the other. The rabbet cut forms a tenon that fits into the dado.  It is used many times as a back corner joint in good drawer construction, since it holds the two pieces square. 

The half dovetail dado joint is a excellent locking joint that will carry a great deal of weight.  The full dovetail dado is excellent for any type of construction in which a lock joint is required.  You will find this type a joinery used in our plan number 302 the Clario Walnut Dresser.

Brian Murphy
American Furniture Design Co

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