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Clean, Perfect Dados Every Time ( with Video )

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Review by pintodeluxe posted 07-27-2021 05:53 PM 1128 views 1 time favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Clean, Perfect Dados Every Time ( with Video ) Clean, Perfect Dados Every Time ( with Video ) Clean, Perfect Dados Every Time ( with Video ) Click the pictures to enlarge them

Here’s the video of the jig if you’d rather start there… https://youtu.be/AoKwj5jgeks

And here’s the long-winded version. So first impressions of the Woodpeckers exact width dado jig is that they thought of EVERYTHING when designing and engineering this jig. Not only is it setup to make exact width dados and grooves for undersized plywood, but it also has built-in clamping plates, and sliding router stops for stopped dados. But they didn’t quit there… there’s also a special scale that stows on the jig with two functions. It’s there to help you determine where to set your router stops for stopped dados. But, it also has a step back feature on the ruler for easy setting of your router bit depth.

Let’s take a step back. I started making grooves and dados 20 years ago with a simple straightedge and a nominal size router bit. That didn’t work so great, because the 3/4” plywood usually didn’t fit the 3/4” bit I was using. Plus, with only one straightedge the router can wander off course. Years later I made my first exact width dado jig. It was huge and clunky, and built from 3/4” plywood. My shop made jig used a bearing guided bit, which had to be a specific short length bit to work for dados. It was also difficult to plunge the bit between the two guides of the jig, because any error would spoil the jig (at least until your bearing reached low enough to guide the cut).

What other options are there? Two come to mind. First, you could use undersized plywood router bits. Believe me, I have a set of those bits, and they never seem to create a snug fitting joint. Sometimes the plywood is 23/32”, and sometimes it’s not. Plus, you’ll still need to come up with a double edge guide so the router can’t veer off course.

The other option is to use a dado stack on the tablesaw. This is a great option, as long as the workpiece isn’t too big. Even if the workpiece is too long (like a bookcase side) it’s very difficult to make a safe and accurate dado on the tablesaw. I make these sorts of dados all the time for dressers, bookcases, cabinets, and hutches. That’s exactly the reason I got the Woodpeckers jig.

So how does it work? Well, please watch the video for setup instructions, but for regular use it’s a breeze. Just pinch the sides together on the actual shelf stock you intend to use. That sets the jig for the perfect width. Then just align the jig to your dado mark, and clamp it in place. There are four spots for clamps, but I usually only have access to place three clamps, which works fine. Center the sub-base on your router either with a centering cone, or use my preferred method here… https://youtu.be/MyrpPGWirzc

Once the bit is centered, install the included 1/2” guide bushing and a 3/8” router bit. Do you have to use a 3/8” guide bushing??? The answer is no, but there are reasons to choose this size. It will make a 1/2” plywood dado, and it can make a 3/4” dado in two easy passes. I was tempted to use a 5/8” guide bushing with a 1/2” bit, but that combination wouldn’t allow undersized 1/2” plywood dados. If you decide to change bit and bushing combinations in the future, be prepared to replace the PVC edge guides (unless the offset between the old bit and bushing exactly matches the offset on the new bit and bushing). Anyhow, replacing the PVC guides is no big deal. Woodpeckers sells them, and you get 3 pairs for $20. They come with the self-adhesive backing and fit into a rabbet in the bottom of the phenolic jig body. I’m planning on making some out of maple and attaching them with Xfasten Woodworking tape. I’ll update this posting once I’ve had a chance to try wooden guides.

Benefits over other exact width jigs:
This exact width jig is compact compared to shop made jigs. Because the jig body is thin (about 3/8” thick) you won’t have to extend your router bit very far to make a typical 1/4” deep or 3/8” deep dado.

Built-in router stops

Really nice ergonomic knobs that lock solid

Zero clearance blocks to prevent chipout on through dados

Replaceable PVC edge guides

Guide Bushing based system (better than bearing guided jigs in my opinion)

Very high build quality

Limitations / Drawbacks:
You must center your router sub-base, but this is true of any jig that uses a guide bushing or the sub-base itself as the means of guiding the router.

Limited to 24-1/2” width dados (or 32-1/2” if you get the large version). Mine is the 24-1/2” and has always been adequate for my needs.

PVC edge guides can feel “spongy” when you squeeze the shelf stock in the jig. If you squeeze too tightly, it will effect the fit. This is why I plan to try maple edge guides, and will report my findings here—- see post #8 in comments below—-

If you forget to set your dado stops, it’s possible to rout into the red anodized aluminum end assemblies.

Overall Impression / Review Summary
I just can’t get over how thorough the engineering and design of this tool was. They actually thought of everything. Build quality is stunning. I remember it took me two full days in the shop to build my own exact width dado jig. I should have just bought this in the first place and gone right to work on real projects. The only thing I would have changed is the router stops could have been a little thicker. Just make sure that they contact your router in a reliable way. They work fine on my routers.

Cheers and happy woodworking.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush




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pintodeluxe

6476 posts in 4026 days



12 comments so far

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LittleBlackDuck

7891 posts in 2033 days


#1 posted 07-27-2021 07:44 PM

Good review Pinto... I’ve checked it out on the Woodpeckers site in the past and if I didn’t have my Freud Dial-a-width, this review could have easily talked me into one.

Thanks for posting.

-- If your first cut is too short... Take the second cut from the longer end... LBD

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pintodeluxe

6476 posts in 4026 days


#2 posted 07-27-2021 07:56 PM



Good review Pinto... I ve checked it out on the Woodpeckers site in the past and if I didn t have my Freud Dial-a-width, this review could have easily talked me into one.

Thanks for posting.

- LittleBlackDuck

Thanks LBD,

Yeah, you’ve had some good comments on your new dado set. That’s great to hear it’s working out for you. I’m using magnetic shims on the dado stack now, which seems a little better than the steel shims.
Thanks for chiming in.
Best

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

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peekasan

26 posts in 2918 days


#3 posted 07-27-2021 08:31 PM

Nice post.
Thanks for the video. I’ll be considering this jig for sure.

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Peteybadboy

3880 posts in 3162 days


#4 posted 07-27-2021 08:35 PM

I watched the video , pretty cool set up. I don’t have a need or I would get one. I use ply and bits for ply and that works well for me. If I need to make many I would buy it.

-- Petey

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peekasan

26 posts in 2918 days


#5 posted 07-27-2021 08:41 PM



I watched the video , pretty cool set up. I don t have a need or I would get one. I use ply and bits for ply and that works well for me. If I need to make many I would buy it.

- Peteybadboy

I tried a set of those undersized plywood bits from Rockler. It seemed like my plywood was never actually 23/32” so it either didn’t fit, or it was a sloppy fit. Maybe it was just the inconsistency in the plywood I have, but I had to give up on those bits. Plus, an exact width jig lets me use a downcut spiral bit, which would be my preference.
Glad it’s working for you.

Best

View Rich's profile

Rich

7348 posts in 1802 days


#6 posted 07-28-2021 06:00 AM

Great review. Woodpeck does make some premium jigs, and I have gladly paid hundreds for some of them. For me, $399 is too steep for this. I made a functionally equivalent jig for maybe $10. It’s not fancy, but it does the job.

I will say that if I ever win the lottery, I’ll have a shop full of those beautiful Woodpeck tools.

However, even with a good jig, if I want a flawless fit on a dado, rabbet or groove, I cut it a bit narrow and use a side rabbet plane to tweak it. But, that’s just me.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View abie's profile

abie

926 posts in 4984 days


#7 posted 07-28-2021 03:07 PM

Nice….. however too many small pieces to loose or get lost in assembly. Just MHO

-- Bruce. a mind is like a book it is only useful when open.

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pintodeluxe

6476 posts in 4026 days


#8 posted 07-28-2021 03:45 PM

So I had a chance to replace the PVC edge guides with hardwood strips, and tested how the jig works with this setup.

I planed maple strips to 1/8” thick x 1” wide and 24-1/2” long. They are installed with double sided tape, just like the PVC strips.

The tape I used is XFasten woodworking tape. It’s like carpet tape, but without the residue.

I made a couple sets of strips while I was at it. I installed one set and pressed it firmly in place. Then I removed them to make sure the tape wouldn’t leave residue or damage the phenolic. It worked perfectly on both accounts, so I installed the other set of maple strips and tested the jig making dados.
It has a solid feel now, when pinching the board between the rails of the jig. I was getting good results with the stock PVC edge guides, but I had to be careful how hard I pinched the rails together. Now, it doesn’t really seem to matter how much pressure you pinch the shelf stock with. Now I feel like anyone in the shop could grab this jig and get repeatable results on the first try.

Just make sure your router sub base is accurately centered first.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View toddbeaulieu's profile

toddbeaulieu

854 posts in 4217 days


#9 posted 07-29-2021 03:19 PM



Nice….. however too many small pieces to loose or get lost in assembly. Just MHO

- abie

Once assembled, leave it assembled. It’s a nice rig. Well made. I have one.

View Kelly's profile

Kelly

3752 posts in 4157 days


#10 posted 08-08-2021 01:56 AM

I think my jig trumps all but a few, and didn’t cost me three hundred bucks.

For some reason, people just seem to not appreciate it’s simplicity and function enough for it to catch on any time in the years since I made it and published the details of building one.

It does not require external clamps and, once set up, using the wood that will be used in the dados, it requires only that you turn one built in clamp to move it to the next position.

https://www.instructables.com/Router-Dado-Jig/

View TucsonJOA's profile

TucsonJOA

7 posts in 349 days


#11 posted 08-17-2021 04:29 PM

I purchased this jig and have used it on multiple projects. Overall I am impressed with the result for both through and stopped dados. The wood edge guides are a definite next addition. And the comment about centering the bit is also spot on.

-- Jim

View pintodeluxe's profile

pintodeluxe

6476 posts in 4026 days


#12 posted 08-17-2021 04:47 PM



I purchased this jig and have used it on multiple projects. Overall I am impressed with the result for both through and stopped dados. The wood edge guides are a definite next addition. And the comment about centering the bit is also spot on.

- TucsonJOA

Glad it’s working well for you Jim!

Best

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

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