Or. How I cut it adapting Paul’s method of using knife walls to cut dados. Tools used, knife, chisel, router plane.
Step 1. Layout the dado and put a knife line on the front face line only. Pencil in the back line to “get you in the ball park” as Paul Sellers says.
Step 2. Mark out the depth on the end grain and then pare off the end just a little to prevent blowout. Pine is soft. Blowouts happen. If you have one just super glue the blowout back in and move on.
Step 3. With the bevel facing the direction of travel begin mortise like cuts along the length. Take as small a bite as you can and be patient. Stop about an eighth from the end so you don’t have a mishap and slice in too deep.
Step 4. Turn your chisel 90 degrees and gently slice across the little bit at the end.
Step 5. Tease out the sliced end bit with your chisel or knife by slicing across where you just made your tiny 90 degree cuts.
I had a little blowout in the corner, but since I’m not to full width yet I was ok. That part will come out when I use the kick plate to get the actual width of the dado.
Step 6. With the bevel of your chisel down work back along the dado and wiggle out the waste you just chopped. It looks ugly but be patient. You’re getting there.
Step 7. Gently repeat your bevel down chopping making sure you don’t go too deep. I didn’t even use a mallet. Just hand pressure. A sharp chisel will slice down very nicely.
Step 8. Tease out with your chisel bevel down again. Be very careful not to dive too deep. You should not have to use much force at all if your chisel is sharp. If you are pushing too hard try stopping and run your chisel over the strop 30 times.
Step 9. Use the actual board that’s going into the dado pushed up along the face edge to mark out the back with a knife. You can see from my pencil line that I was way off. This method works every time and ensures tight joint faces and a self supporting fit. It’s worth the effort, from my point of view. You are using handtools to get better control and precision so take the time to do it. It seems to me the joints will be stronger, thus the overall piece of furniture will be better and last longer. Maybe, I’m spitting in the wind but it makes me feel better. See how I knife the back line in and then deepen the knife wall.
Step 10. Deepen the knife wall with several gentle cuts, then use your chisel to make many little cuts along the waste. Your patience will pay off. Don’t try slicing off the long grain. Odds are you will go past your knife wall or undercut the joint and have a loose joint. We didn’t get this far to screw up now 😉
Step 11. Almost done. Use your bevel down method now to slice off the waste till you are down to meet the bottom made from your other work. I had to make 3 passes to be safe. When you are done it should look something like this. The picture looks strange because of the angle, but the dado running left to right is the one we just made. I smoothed out the bottom gently with my bevel down chisel.
Step 12. Fit your board. At this point resist the urge to pare out the dado. If the board is too tight take a thin shaving or 3 off the non show face until it fits snuggly and is self supporting. It should look something like this. Notice how the shoulder on the show face is crisp and I am square.
That’s all she wrote. Good luck and go slow. Thanks for reading. Feedback welcome.