Problem-Solving Products: Issue 34

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This article is from Issue 34 of Woodcraft Magazine.

PSP Dialing

Dialing for dadoes

Freud Dial-a-Width Dado

Dadoes, grooves, and rabbets are common joints in furniture, cabinetry, and other projects. These flat-bottom, straight-sided cuts can easily be made on a tablesaw using a stack dado (also called a dado head). Stack dadoes typically consist of a number of 3- or 4-tooth “chippers” sandwiched between two outer saw blades to create a stack of cutters equal to the width of the desired joint. With standard stack dadoes, the width is fine-tuned by inserting thin shims between the chippers and blades. This usually involves a number of test cuts, switching out shim combinations between cuts. Woodworkers who have suffered this tedious task will appreciate Freud’s time-saving, clean-cutting Dial-a-Width Dado.

An Innovative Design

The Dial-a-Width Dado’s outer blade includes a hub that projects through the blade. Rotating the hub in or out respectively increases or decreases the space between the blade and the chippers. This built-in shimming feature is aided by an audible, tactile click with every 0.004" of distance. Adjustments can be made within a range of 0.028" without adding or removing chippers. Although the tool can be configured within a full cutting range of 7/32" to 29/32", it won’t fit or work to full capacity on every tablesaw. Visit http:// guides.aspx to review Freud’s technical document on Dial-a-Width Dado saw compatibility.

Trial Run

To see how the Dial-a-Width Dado really stacks up, I tested it against my Freud standard stack dado, cutting 23/32" dadoes (to suit nominal “3/4"-thick” hardwood plywood.) I used oak plywood—the perfect chip-prone material for gauging cut quality.

I set up the standard stack dado first, combining a variety of chippers to get as close as possible to 11/16". I cut the dado and measured it with a dial caliper. At 0.712", it was too narrow to accept 0.718"- (23/32"-) thick plywood. After adding a 0.005" shim, I repeated the process. The second cut was still too tight so I replaced the .005" shim with a .010" shim and made a perfect 23/32"-wide cut. Elapsed time: about four minutes.

Installation of the Dial-a-Width Dado began with a quick look at the excellent set-up poster provided with the tool. (The paper manual, which contains errors in the set-up procedure, is currently being corrected by Freud.) I used the recommended 4-chipper setup for a 23/32" cut. Next, I “zeroed out” the hub by adjusting it flush to the inner face of the blade, and then turned the hub eight clicks clockwise as prescribed on the poster. After securing the outer blade using the supplied wrench, I made a test cut, which measured out at a perfect 23/32". Elapsed time: under two minutes.

Tester’s Take

So, does the Dial-a-Dado make the cut? Yes, beautifully and efficiently. My test dadoes had flat, score-free bottoms with square sides and no tearout in the oak veneer plywood. It saved me a few minutes of setup time, too. But most importantly, it eliminated the hassle of shimming, making it a real winner and worth the cost in my opinion. So, would I upgrade from my standard Freud stack dado? Probably not, since it already gives me great cuts. But would I purchase the Dial-a-Width Dado as my first stack dado? Absolutely. Ease of use, accuracy, and cut quality make that an easy decision.

#813642 $269.99

Tester: Jody Garrett

PSP Dialing

Plunge-perfect pockets

White Oak Tools Route-a-Pocket

Pocket-hole jigs have worked their way into mainstream woodworking the same way finish nailers did a decade ago. For many, the speed, convenience, and strength afforded by pocket screws when building face frames or assembling plywood carcases outweighs the unsightly appearance of a few torn-out oval holes that sometimes result.

White Oak Tool’s Route-a-Pocket promises cleaner-looking holes, but is the appearance worth the hassle of using a router and drill instead of one tool? And is the 10° router-cut pocket appreciably different than the 15° pocket made by drill-only jigs?

The Setup and Trial Run

The Route-a-Pocket jig comes complete with a 3/8"-diameter straight router bit, 9/64" drill bit, sample screws, jig- and bit-setting template, and instruction manual. You’ll need to provide a plunge router, 3/4" guide bushing, and a drill.

To set the jig, pin the stop blocks in the tapered top, slide the arm to center the drill guide on the edge of the stock, and then clamp the jig to your board. Using the jig is a twostep sequence: guiding a router along the top to create the pocket; and drilling through the bushing on the outside edge to make a clearance hole for the screw. (The template simplifies jig setup, but if you need additional help you can review the how-to videos on the company’s Web site.)

Routing is an extra step, but once the tool was set up, it didn’t take much more time than drilling. The router-cut holes were cleaner than drilled pockets, but aesthetics aside, I observed the more significant difference when driving the screws. The lower-angled holes noticeably reduced the parts’ tendency to shift, or “creep,” when screwing the them together. When tested on 2-by stock, I was able to get flush, tight joints without a clamp.

Best Applications

Pocket holes are put where they aren’t supposed to be seen, so cleaner-looking holes usually don’t matter, but if folks inspect your work on their hands and knees, you should consider this jig. Drill-only jigs are faster to use, but taking the time to use a router would make sense when joining workpieces that defy a simple clamp up. The lower-angle holes also allow the use of longer screws, which means stronger joints.

Tester’s Take

I didn’t think the world needed another pocket-hole jig but the Route-a-Pocket is different enough to believe that there’s room for one more.

Surprisingly, this kit costs less than comparable step-drill jigs. The price alone makes it worth considering as a primary pocket-holer. Even if you already own a jig but are planning to do any carpentry projects, I'd suggest buying it for jobsite use and keeping it in the shop for the times when neatness counts.

Route-a-Pocket $69 White Oak Tools,, (248) 891-7198

Tester: Joe Hurst-Wajszczuk


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