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    Basics of Rabbets and Grooves

    Rabbet, dado, and groove are all just historical names for square notches in wood. Each is a bit different, but just a bit. After the simple butt joint, these are the simplest traditional joints. With glue added, they have enough strength for lots of jobs, and there are easy ways to reinforce them to make them even stronger.

    Let’s start with the rabbet. A rabbet is a two-sided notch, cut at the end of a board or running along its edge. It is usually sized to accept another board that fits into it, and it is a simple way to join the corners of cabinets, or to hide a cabinet’s back.

    Dadoes and grooves are basically the same thing, but when a groove runs across the grain, woodworkers call it a dado. That’s why they call a set of stacked tablesaw blades a “dado set” or “stack dado,” because it is the most common tool for making quick and accurate dadoes. By the way, a dado set is also the quickest way to make grooves and rabbets, too, though a router also works really well for all of these cuts.

    Types of Dadoes and Grooves

    Standard Dado
    A dado is just a square groove. But when it runs across the grain, woodworkers call it a dado. These are used most often to join shelves to cabinet sides.

    Stopped Dado
    Sometimes woodworkers use a stopped dado (or rabbet or groove) so it doesn't show at the front of the cabinet sides. You cut these with a router, but you have to use a chisel to square the front of the dado.

    One place grooves are used is in drawer boxes, to hold the drawer bottom. Notice how a groove is aligned with the grain, as opposed to a dado, which cuts across it.

    Cutting Dadoes
    The most common way to cut dadoes is with a dado set (a set of stacked blades) on the tablesaw. Use the miter gauge (or a crosscut sled) to keep the pieces square as they pass over the blades.
    Dadoes with a Router
    Another great way to cut dadoes is with a router, using a simple T-square jig you can make yourself.
    Specialized Router Bits
    This is a special router bit for cutting rabbets (it's upside-down here). You attach various bearings to it to achve different size rabbets.
    A rabbeting bit works really well on the inside edge of a frame. You just need to square the corners with a chisel afterward.
    Rabbets on a Tablesaw
    A dado set works well for rabbets too, but you'll need to bury it partially in a sacrificial fence that is attached to your saw's rip fence.
    Reinforce Your Joinery
    Dadoes and rabbets often need reinforcement. Screws are the usual choice.
    Cover Your Tracks
    You can plug the screw holes to hide them. You just drill a wider, deeper hole for the head of the screw, glue in a plug, and then trim the plug level with the wood.