Dado, also Dado Blades, Dado Head, Dado Set, Dado Plane

In looking for sources to construct a glossary entry, especially a major one such as dado, my usual procedure is to turn first to Google Books Research search engine, and discover -- from the beginning of a term's use in the vocabulary of woodworking -- how a particular term is treated in books and periodicals. So, with "dado", I searched online books under "dado" from 1800, but, strangely -- in my view, at least -- only after 1900, did anything on a dado "groove" made by a plane and/or "dado set" on a table-saw turn-up (number 3, below).

Next I turned to the Oxford English Dictionary, but strangely, that source is also a disappointment, almost to giving one the eery feeling that "dado" -- in the sense of a "goove" -- is more of a insider's term than we might think.

Another puzzlement: the two woodworking dictionaries that I regularly consult -- Salaman and Taylor -- disappoint in their respective treatments of dado.

From my experience -- an amateur woodworker who uses dadoes in many different situations -- none of these sources give a solid definition of dado; instead, for me, the most realistic definition of dado -- from the point of view of a newbie looking for a definition that assumes no previous knowledge -- is in (number 2, below) the Webster's New International 2d ed 1952.

(In Salaman's case, a qualification is in order: technically, Salaman's work is a dictionary of hand woodworking "tools", not woodworking "processes", an understanding that may justify why readers of Salaman might come away for his dictionary without a solid understanding of exactly what a "dado" is.)

  • manual training magazine 21 1919 page 225

  • henry disston the saw in history pdf on big drive

  • industrial education online but no date

  • the wood-worker february 1920 page 83

  • use "dado" in tracker search
  • Definitions of Dado

    A dado joint is a recess cut across a board from one edge to another. A dado therefore has two vertical sides, and a rabbet, which is cut along the edge or end of a board, has only one.

    125. Dadoing. A dado is a rectangular groove across the grain, and the principle of cutting is the same as for other grooving. A dado-plane or the circular-saw can be used. Dado­ing is used for the best inside finishing, where the inside corner of the joint shows, for it is good construction and never shows an open joint....

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    Dado Head. A set of saw blades, consisting of two Cutter blades and numerous Chippers. The two Cutters are always on the outside, and the Chippers, "stacked" on the inside, according to the width of the groove required. By assembling various combinations of Chippers, widths of Dados or Grooves of 1/4 in. to 13/16 by sixteenths can be obtained. A single blade will cut a width of 1/8 in. Diameters of 6, 8, and 10 inches are the most common, however larger sizes are available. A special table insert must be used.

    Dado Head. A set of saw blades, consisting of two Cutter blades and numerous Chippers. The two Cutters are always on the outside, and the Chippers, "stacked" on the inside, according to the width of the groove required. By assembling various combinations of Chippers, widths of Dados or Grooves of 1/4 in. to 13/16 by sixteenths can be obtained. A single blade will cut a width of 1/8 in. Diameters of 6, 8, and 10 inches are the most common, however larger sizes are available. A special table insert must be used.

    Dado Joint. The name for the joint...

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    Dado Cut. A Dado is a U-shaped cut across a workpiece's grain' a Groove is cut made with a workpiece's grain. (A well-jointed dado will leave a nice flat bottom.) Grooves, Rabbets, and Tenons are just a few of the many examples:-- Click here for entry on Woodwork Joints. The groove's depth is controlled by cutter projection, while its width is controlled by the dado-tool setting.

    A stacked dado does quickly what would require many repeat passes to accomplish with a saw blade. By making repeat passes you can do hollowing jobs; extra-wide grooves.

    (Adapted from Charles G Wheeler, Shorter Course in Woodworking 1911, Herman Hjorth Basic Woodworking Processes Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing co,. 1933; and Willis H. Wagner, Modern Woodworking South Holland, IL: The Goodheart-Willcox Co., 1974, pages 12-10-11)

    Original Meaning of Dado


    DADO, a term of architecture to express the square die or plinth of the pedestal of a column. It is also used ill joinery to express the portion uf the wall-decoration of a room comprised between the base- moulding or plinth, and the impost or chair-rail.

    Source: Charles Knight, The English Cyclopaedia London: Bradbury, Evans, 1867, volume 3 page 393.


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    dado n.; pl. DADOES . [It., die, cube, pedestal, fr. L. datus given, thrown. See DIE, a.]

    1. Arch. a That part of a pedestal included between the base and the surbase; the die; hence: b In any wall, that part of the basement included between the surbase and the base course (which see). c In interior decoration, the lower part of the wall of an apartment when adorned with moldings, or otherwise specially decorated.

    2. A groove made by dadoing.

    3. Short for DADO PLANE.

    v.f.; DA'DOED DA'DO ING. 1. To furnish with a dado; as, a dadoed drawing room.

    2. To secure by fitting into a groove; to set into a groove.

    3. To make a rectangular groove in, as a plank.

    dado head. Mach. An attachment to a woodworking machine, as a saw bench, for dadoing.

    dado plane. A narrow rabbet plane having two spurs and (frequently) an adjustable fence; — used for making fiat-bottomed grooves in woodwork.

    dado rail. = CHAIR RAIL.

    Source: Webster's New International Dictionary 2nd ed 1952, page 662


    dado head An attachment fitted to a saw bench in place of the saw. Used for grooving and trenching. There are two outer saws between which are fixed one or more cutters of varying thickness, enabling any width of groove to be cut. The cutters are swage set and thus overlap slightly at the cutting edge. They must obviously be positioned at the gaps between the teeth of the saws.

    Source: Vic Taylor, The Woodworker's Dictionary Hemel Hempstead, England: Argus Books' Pownal, VT: Storey Communications, 1990, pages 44-45; also "Dado Plane", in R A Salaman, Dictionary of Woodworking Tools London: George Allen and Unwin, 1975, pages 324-325.


    Da'do. (Add.) (Arch.) A die with a projecting panel.

    dado n. cube forming body of a pedestal,1664, borrowing of Italian dado cube or pedestal, DIE2. The meaning of a wood rail or paneling around the lower put of the walls of a room, is first recorded in 1787.

    Source: Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology, Robert K. Barnhart, editor (New York: H. W. Wilson, 1988), page 249.

    Noyes' 1910 Instruction Sheet on Dado


    William Noyes on "dado"

    from William Noyes' Hand- work in Wood, 5th Edition Peoria, IL: Manual Arts Press, 1910

    For access to Noyes' online book, click on link above

    1892, 1916 & 1920 Dado Sets/Blades

    A patent for a dado set was issued in 1892 to the Linham Dado Machine Co., Mansfield, Ohio, U.S.A.: Manufacturers of the ...? by Ohio Linham Dado Machine Company Mansfield - 1892 Cover title for the: Catalogue and price list of the Linham Dado Machine Co., digitized but not available online full-text.

    In addition, for dado sets for sale in the 1890s, check out this uploading of actual pages from the massive Streilinger catalog (scroll down): --

    first, details on page 908 describe and illustrate the "Huther Dado Head or Groover", and

    second, details on page 910 show a "Dado Machine and Rosette Cutter"

    Dado Blades 1916

    manual eduation timeline 1876-1910

    A peculiar variation of the Grooving Saw is the Dado Head Saw, which consists usually of two outside and three inside cutters. This style saw will cut from 1/8-inch inch to any width desired by the addition of one or more inside cutters.

    A glance at the illustration will show the make-up of this composite Grooving Saw. The two forms of Grooving Saw just referred to are the ones in common use. There are many solid grooving saws used, made with either straight or special patterns of teeth to cut grooves of any width, depth or special shape on bottom or side.

    An accompanying illustration shows a special Grooving Saw, with round cutting-edge on the teeth, which produces a round bottom groove.

    Source: Henry Disston and Sons, The Saw in History 1916.

    1920 Dado Set

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    Source:The Wood-Worker February 1920, page 83

    1832 & 1844 Dado Grooving Planes

    Dado Plane. A tool consisting of two sections: a main stock with two bars, and a sliding section, having its'bottom face level with that of the main stock.It can be used as a dado of any required width by inserting the bit into the main stock, and bringing the sliding section snugly up to the edge of the bit. The two spurs, one on each section of the plane, will thus be brought exactly in front of the edges of the bit. The gage on the sliding section will regulate the depth to which the tool will cut.


    Source: Park Benjamin, Appletons' cyclopædia of applied mechanics: a dictionary of mechanical engineering and the mechanical arts New York: D. Appleton and company, 1884, v. 2.

    Unfortunately, the image/plate XII -- which may include an illustration of a "grooving plane" -- is missing in the online pdf.

    § 29. [The] Dado Grooving Plane is a channel plane, generally about three eighths of an inch broad on the sole, with a double cutter and stop, both placed beforo the edge of the iron which stands askew; it throws the shaving off the bench. The best kind of dado grooving planes have screw stops of brass and iron; the common sort are made of wood, to slide stiffly in a vertical mortise, and are moved by the blow of a hammer or mallet, by striking the head, when the groove is required to be shallow: but when required to be deep, and consequently the stop to be driven back, a wooden punch must be placed upon the bottom of the stop, and the head of the punch struck with the hammer or mallet, until the guide of the stop arrives at the distance from the sole of the plane that the groove is to be in depth: the use of this plane is for tongueing dado at internal angles, for keying circular dado, grooving for library shelves, or working a broad rebate across the fibres.

    Source: Peter Nicholson, The Mechanic's companion: or, the elements and practice of carpentry, joinery, bricklaying, masonry, slating, plastering, painting, smithing, and turning, comprehending the latest improvements and containing a full description of the tools belonging to each branch of business; with copious ... London: James Locker, 1832, page 108

    1844:-- Dado Grooving Plane

    Figs on page 85

    The third instrument is a dado grooving plane, with which no less than sixteen and more different sizes of work may be executed.

    Figure 14 is an elevation, and Figure 15 a plan of this tool.

    A A2 are the front and back parts of the body of the plane, which are connected together by the bow-piece B;

    D is a plate (cast in the same piece with the body,) the lower edge of which forms the sole, and is about the eighth of an inch thick;

    E is the plane iron, which is made at the upper end, and secured in its seat, both in the same way as the irons of the double fillister and grooving planes before described, and terminates at the cutting end in two projecting edges, a a, which, when the iron is ground, and set up, act as side cutters.

    A view of a three-quarter inch iron, adapted to this plane, is shown separately in figure 16, but the size may vary from an eighth of an inch to an inch and a quarter;

    F is a stop fence for regulating the depth of the groove; it is fixed and shifted by means of an upright-arm,

    F2, which slides in a groove in a projecting part of the fore-body of the plane, and a traversing nut and screw, 6 H.

    I is a side fence, the under edge of which is all but flush with the sole of the plane ; it has two bevel-edged prongs, ft b, which pass through a slot in the body of the plane, and by means of a traversing-nut

    L, inserted between these prongs and a screw-pin K, the fence is fixed in its proper working position, which is when it is in a right line with the outer edge of the cutting iron, as represented in fig. 16.

    M is the handle, which is made in the same way as the handles of the other tools before described, but is the only part of this tool which is made of wood.

    "In all other respects, as regards the materials and the mode of putting them together, the dado plane is the same as the double fillister and ploughing planes."

    Source: The Mechanic's Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal and Gazette, 1844, pages 84-86.

    1908 Dado Cut With Backsaw and Chisel

    Not the most deftly done -- quick-and-dirty photoshop -- the image below comes from Griffith's 1908 textbook, Essentials of woodworking: a textbook for schools. Designed for Manual Education courses in the 1900s, it describes an "excercise" in creating a dado with a backsaw and chisel. (Not sure why a dado grooving plane -- see above -- would not have been appropriate. For some background -- still under construction -- on the state of the art in manual education in this decade, click here.)


    78. A dado, Fig. 145 -- in image on left -- is made by cutting a rectangular groove entirely across one the grain of the wood; when similar openings are cut parallel to the grain, they are called simply grooves ... [Figure 146 shows student measuring edpth of dado.]

    #79 Directions for Dado.
    . -- (1) Locate by means of the rule one side of the dado ...

    Source: Ira Samuel Griffith Essentials of woodworking: a textbook for schools 1908 Page 87



    DADO, m. [Italian? die.) The die or square part of a pedestal; the cubical base of a column.

    Source: Noah Webster, et al, An American dictionary of the English language: containing the whole vocabulary of the first edition ... the entire corrections and improvements of the second edition ... to which is prefixed an introductory dissertation on the origin, history, and connection, of the languages of western Asia ... New York: G. and C. Merriam, 1848


    Dado, corrupted from Dattu. DICHOTOMY, «. The c.— To cut into -1ST. two. -IZE, r . Gr. .}... to cut into parts,... to cut. ...

    A New Dictionary of the English Language ...? by Charles Richardson - English language - 1856 Page 211


    The etymology of Dado is simply traced to the Italian. Webster did not perceive that the French de, the Provencal dat, the Portuguese, Spanish and Italian dado, come from the Latin participle datus, in its secondary sense of cast, thrown; and that from the cubical form of the die of gaming, the architectural application was drawn. Apparently, he considered the word of Celtic origin. See his etymology of Die.

    Source: Henry Barnard, The American Journal of Education F. C. Brownell, 1857 Item notes: volume 3, page 171.


    Hensleigh Wedgwood, A Dictionary of English Etymology - 1859, Page 457


    It. dado. Prov. dot. FT. det, de. To Die or Dye. The proper meaning is to soak, wet, or steep. ...


    Godey's Magazine - 1878, Page 261 - This dado is a revival in another form of the old "• wainscot," and ... For these sage-gray hangings a dado paper can be found which is very handsome. ...


    In speaking of a dado, I mean, of course, the lower space, which in olden days was represented by wood panelling, the frieze being the upper portion of the ...

    Robert William Edis, Decoration & Furniture of Town Houses: A Series of Cantor Lectures Delivered ... - 1881, Page 139


    A dado, in classical architecture, is the middle part of a pedestal, that is, ... in the interior of houses the dado is applied to the skirting, ...

    Titbits, 1,000 answers to 1,000 questions, ... - 1884, Page 221


    Knight's new mechanical dictionary: A description of tools, instruments ...? - Page 244 by Edward Henry Knight - Juvenile Nonfiction - 1884 - 960 pages It can be used as a dado of any required width by inserting the bit into the main stock, and bringing the sliding section snugly up to the edge of the bit.


    A DADO is a very deep skirting, the top of which is as high as the back of a ... The dado proper is made of deal boards, glued lengthwise edge to edge, ...

    Thomas Tredgold, -Elementary principles of carpentry, chiefly composed from the work of ... ... - Page 258


    Five jobs you can do with a dado cutter 1 TENONS ARE CUT IN ONE PASS in flat stock by centering a spacer the thickness of tenon between dado blades. ...

    not full text onlineThe popular science monthly? - Page 194 Science - 1895


    In a parallel swing saw machine made by P. Pryibil, Fig. 5, the saw arbor travels in a horizontal straight lins instead of rising and falling in an arc, as in all swing saws, thus enabling a comparatively small saw to be used for wide and thick timber, andjpennitting the use of a dado-head for grooving, gaining, rebating, tenoning, molding, etc. The moving parts are balanced so that they will stay in any position in which they may be left. The parallelism is given by the main bearings sliding m vertical grooves, and the pendulum being connected at about the center of its length with a link-piece pivoted at about the height of the saw arbor, as shown in the illustration.

    Fio. tí.—Slitting and cut-off saw table.

    The combination slitting and cut-off saw table mado by Beach, Brown & Co., and shown in Fig. 6, has a bed mounted upon roller bearings, so as to make it run easily and square with the saw. For dado cutting, grooving, etc., the saw is raised and lowered by a hand wheel and screw, or for ordinary work by a hand lever.

    Source Park Benjamin,Modern mechanism: exhibiting the latest progress in machines, motors, and the transmission of power, being a supplementary volume to Appletons' cyclopaedia of applied mechanics, D. Appleton and Company, 1892, page 776


    The Sliding Tables on each side of saw are adjustable to admit either the Dado or Jointing Heads. The Jointing Attachment has an independent, ...

    The "New Britain" Dado Machine.?

    New Britain Machine Company, New Britain Machine Company, The New Britain dado machine for reducing costs on window frames- 1896 - 16 pages .


    Wood workers' tools: being a catalogue of tools, supplies, machinery, and ...? by Chas. A. Strelinger & Company - Woodworking machinery - 1897 - 1000 pages Page 938.


    Home handicrafts, ed. by C. Peters? - Page 69 by Charles Peters - 1890 The lower part of the wall is termed the dado, and there are papers designed expressly ... In some rooms, especially in old houses, there is a wooden dado, ... Full view - About this book - Add to my shared library

    From the 1916 edition of Henry Disston and Sons' The Saw in History:

    Grooving Saws, as the name indicates, are designed for cutting grooves of various widths and depths. Many styles of special teeth are made in these saws, according to the size and shape of groove desired. These saws are usually ground thinner at the centre than at the edge and require little or no set.

    It was formerly the general practice to tongue and groove boards on a machine which had a single groover mounted on one end of the arbor, and three Grooving Saws set close together on the other end. The board was passed edgewise over the single groover, to cut the channel, then turned, and passed on its opposite edge over the three saws, the middle one of which, being of smaller diameter, planed the edge of the tongue. This Grooving Saw method is in general use in shops and small mills, but where large quantities of tongue and groove boards are made in stock sizes the work is done with matcher bits.