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Dado Vs Rabbet : Which Joint Is Stronger?

Woodworking is one of the oldest crafting techniques involving wooden workpieces. This technique involves cutting, shaping, and joining wooden logs to create an assembled object. This assembled object undergoes various stresses over its life. With the help of durable joints, strength is added to these wooden structures. Woodworking joints thereby become an important aspect of this craft.

Various types of joints in woodworking serve different purposes: functional, structural strength, or aesthetic. Out of these joints, the dado and rabbet joints are widely used to create stronger joints. Both joints serve the same purpose but have different orientations and constructions. To learn about these joints, this article includes all the necessary information and comparison.

Dado Joints

A dado joint is a simple slot (U) joint carved on wooden surfaces. The slot has a slightly larger width compared to the thickness of the connecting piece of wood. The slot is usually carved end-to-end (regular dado) or at a distance from the surface. The connecting piece of wood usually fits perpendicularly into the slot.

The slot is kept around ⅓ the size of the wood’s thickness to prevent cutting too deeply into the wood’s structure. The dado joints have two subtypes: regular dado and stopped dado. The regular dado has a slot that runs from one end to the other end of the wooden workpiece. The slot on a stopped dado starts from one end but ends at a distance without reaching the other end.

Making a Dado Joint

While making a dodo joint, various factors are given importance. The slot has to be big enough to hold the other piece of wood. The depth of the slot needs to be even along its length to avoid jamming the sliding action of the other piece. A slot of a dado joint is carved out with the help of hand-held tools like chisels, router planes, etc, or milling machines. A dado joint is usually cut against the grain of the wood.

Steps to Make a Dado Joint:

  • The dado location is measured and marked on the wooden surface for precise cutting.
  • A pair of guide blocks are positioned over the surface where a slot is needed. The thickness of these guides is kept less to allow enough height for the cutter. Spacers are added to maintain the width of the slot while cutting.
  • The guide blocks and the main wooden block are fixed with the help of c-clamps. The slot between guide blocks guides the cutter to create the slot on the main wooden surface.
  • Pass the cutter between the maintained slots to remove materials from the main block. The height of guide blocks is calculated to compensate for the height of the cutter for pierced cutting.
  • The cutting tool is passed in single or multiple rounds to ensure maintenance of depth over the length. An inspection is done to check for any irregularities, before unclamping the guide blocks.

Creating dado on a milling machine is similar except for the cutting process. The wooden piece is set on the milling block. All measurements are taken with respect to the block, and the cutter automatically proceeds to the slotting process. The milling process is used when multiple slots are required for a larger batch of wooden pieces.

Uses of Dado Joints

Due to the perpendicular contact on the wooden block, the dado joints offer both locking and sliding motions to the connecting blocks. This motion helps in various applications listed below:

  • Cabinets: The wooden cabinets have slots spaced at a set distance. By using another block with the dado joint, a shelf can be created for the cabinets
  • Book Shelves: For multilevel bookshelves, wooden brackets have dado joints. These joints can endure the heavy weight of the books.
  • Drawer: Due to the sliding motion offered by dado joints, they found a better use in the drawers. The dado joints are an affordable alternative to drawer bearings.
  • Tables: Various types of tables like dining, drawing, etc can use dado joints to replace the working board whenever needed.
  • Animal Fence: Some users also use this joint to create a sliding door for small animals.

Rabbet Joints

Rabbet joints sport an L-slot located at the edge of a wooden block where another wooden block rests. It also offers a perpendicular surface for the other black, which can be locked with glue or fasteners. The cut section of both wooden blocks matches each other. The rabbet joints are usually cut against or along the grain of the wood.

Rabbet joints offer a sliding motion, but unlocking can be achieved with multiple rabbet joints. The thickness of the L-slots is maintained with respect to the thickness of other blocks. For example, if one block has a ¼-inch deep slot, the matching block will have a slot of ¾-inch depth.

Making a Rabbet Joint

Carving out a rabbet joint is pretty much similar to the dado joint’s procedure. It can be carved out by using simple tools like rabbet planes, table saws, or milling machines (for multiple units). These joints are easy to cut if certain steps are observed.

Steps to Make a Rabbet Joint:

  • The edge where the rabbet joint is needed is measured and marked to act as a guide for the tools path
  • A single or multiple guide blocks are positioned over the markings where L-slot is needed. The thickness of these guide blocks is calculated by adjusting the tool height with the dimension of the rabbet slot.
  • The main and guide blocks are fixed at their positions with the help of c-clamps. The guide block acts as a resting surface for the cutter to create the slot on the edge of the wooden surface.
  • Pass the cutter over the guide blocks to remove material from the main block. The depth of cut can either be gradually increased or passed in one go.
  • The cutting tool is passed multiple times to ensure uniform width over the length. An inspection is done to check for any irregularities before unclamping the guide blocks.

The instructions for making rabbet joints on a milling machine are similar to the dado joints. The above instruction can be applied if a manual milling machine is used. For automatic milling machines, various parameters like depth of cut, tool speed, etc, are fed directly to the machine.

Uses of Rabbet Joints

The rabbet joints offer a sliding as well as interlocking motion. This helps in using the joints for a wide range of applications.

  • Furniture: Rabbet joints join two surfaces of furniture at a right angle and are thereby used for cabinets, bookshelves, etc
  • Support Structure: By connecting multiple blocks with rabbet joints, a stable and strong tabletop can be manufactured. This helps in resting fragile material like glass over the wooden structure.
  • Lid: The sliding motion of rabbet joints helps in using another block as a lid for various storage furniture.
  • Restoration and Repairs: By connecting a new block with a broken block, a strong and unified structure can be made.

Differences Between Dado And Rabbet Joints

Both dado and rabbet joints serve the same purpose of adding strength to a wooden structure. Even with certain similarities, these joints are different from each other. A detailed table shows the difference between these joints.

Parameter Dado Joint Rabbet Joint
Shape of Slot U-shaped L-shaped
Position of Slot End-to-end or at a specified distance On the edges of wooden block
Width of Slot More than the thickness of the connecting block The exact width of the matching member
Depth of Slot Kept ⅓ of the block’s thickness Matching depth with connecting block’s slot
Cutting Direction Against the grain of the wood Against and along the grain of the wood
Versatility Can be used for various applications Used for specific applications
Position of Support for Connecting Member Both side One side
Strength Stronger than rabbet Weaker than dado
Edges in Contact Three Two

Which One is Better: Dado Or Rabbet Joint?

To decide which joint is better, various factors are considered. Depending on a user’s requirements for a woodworking project, dado or rabbet joint must offer a better solution. The rabbet joint is an ideal choice if the project requires joining two blocks at right angles. The dado joint is a perfect choice if the project needs a sliding motion.

Dado joint also offers better strength and support to a connected member, making it useful for loaded conditions. Rabbet joints also offer better distribution of load over its length. Preparation time for dado joints in more than rabbet joints involved setting up various fixtures. Considering these parameters, a suitable joint can be used for a woodworking project.


The dado and rabbet joints have been the most important joints of woodworking. With their advantages, these joints cater to different applications. By adding strength to the wooden objects, these joints improve the overall rigidity of a wooden structure. With this article, we offer you information about the dado and rabbet joints. Understanding the construction steps gives us a simple idea of how they are created. The differentiation between these two joints also tells us how similar yet different these two joints are.

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