Stopped dados by hand

Well every blog needs a first post and I guess mine is going to be on stopped dados cut by hand. My wife wants some coat hooks by the front door and once I have time I plan on building a large Arts & Crafts style entry mirror complete with hooks but in the meantime I decided to use some plain sawn white oak a friend gave me when he moved to London to build a small shelf with 4 hooks underneath. Since across grain glue joint are inherently weak I decided to use a stopped dado for the support piece, the first ones I have ever cut by hand.

First I used my marking knife to define the edges of the cut and chopped out a relief hole at the end of the dado using my chisel. I saw this on an episode of the Woodwright Shop devoted to tapered sliding dovetails and I figured it would work for dadoes as well. The relief hole gives the end of the saw a place to go so you can saw all the way to the bottom of the dado without the need to over-cut.


I then cut a notch at the edge of the board for the saw blade to make the cut easier to start unfortunately I channeled my inner Roy Underhill and sliced my finger open in the process.

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Now it was just a simple process of starting the saw cut at the notch and working along my marking line until the tip of the saw rested within the relief hole, then I kept the saw vertical as a cut down to depth.

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Now I zip out most of the waste with a sharp chisel and adjust the depth with my Vertias router plane (with a pointed blade since this is cross grain).


After way more chisel cleanup than I would like the piece fit pretty well. Ill share some pictures of the finished shelf in a later post.