Can You Cut A Dado In Plywood? Make Dados Like A Pro!

Last Updated On April 30, 2023

Last week, my cousin just broke a bunch of plywood boards and was unable to make a single dado. The reason behind such destruction was that he wanted to make a ½-inch dado in a ¾-inch board.

Can you cut a dado in plywood? Yes, you can cut a dado in plywood, but the depth for the dados must be one-third or less of the stock thickness. So, if he tries to make ¼-inch dadoes instead of ½-inch, he would get some perfect dados with sharp edges.

Still, confused about how to make perfect dados in plywood? Go through our details and follow our step-by-step guide to cut perfect dados like a pro!

How To Cut a Perfect Dado In Plywood-Step by Step Guide

For cutting a perfect dado in plywood, you have to go step by step, including marking the plywood, clamping the board, adding a spacer, and clamping again. After finishing the basics, go for the first pass and finish the dado perfectly. Let’s discuss these steps in detail.

1. Mark The Plywood

First of all, mark the working materials. Take a pencil and mark at least 3 spots you want to make dados. It is better to make a sign rather than just drop dots on the materials. 

Once you finish the markings, it’s time to line up the straightedge. If the marks are lined up properly, you’re good to go for the next steps. But, if it’s not lining properly, there must be some issues with the layout. Use a measuring tape and take the dado joint measurement again to make the layout perfect. 

2. Clamp The Board 

As soon as you’re done with the markings, use two clamps to secure the board. To cut the dado perfectly, use one clamp on each side of the dado. When the marks are lined up properly, clamp the board securely to get a snug fit with the router table.

Now, if you’re working with narrow plywood boards, use the clamps as closely as possible. Otherwise, these clamps will interfere with the router guide while cutting through the working materials. As a result, it can damage working materials and cause serious injuries.

3. Add Spacer Blocks

If you’re intended to cut dadoes in the middle of the plywood board, you must use spacers. For professional woodworkers, using a spacer isn’t a new thing but keeping the thickness of the material perfect is a little hard. Once you match the widths, you can make dado perfectly. 

After inserting the spacers, place the second guide and push them a little bit toward the spacer blocks. Next, use two clamps to secure the second guide bar. To avoid collision with the router base, keep them close while clamping. Take out the spacer blocks and go for the cut.

4. Adjust The Router Depth

Before making a cut, you have to adjust the router dado jig depth. If you want to cut up to ¾ inch, you can use the exact same bit or a ½ inch bit. But, using ½-inch router bits will take two passes to provide a perfect cut. To get the exact depth, expert advice is to calculate the guide thickness with desired depth. It will help you to measure the thickness properly. 

5. Go For The First Pass

Once you set the router depth, it’s time to make some passes. For the first pass, set the router and start from the left side. Keep sure the router is in a clockwise direction while cutting inside the material. 

Then, apply a little pressure to move the router from left to right. To get a better cut, try to keep the guide a little distance. Before taking out the router, inspect the cut and go again if the edge isn’t in good condition.

6. Finish The Dados

As we start the pass from left to right, move the router right to left for finishing the dado. While making the second pass, keep the guide as close as possible to the guide bearing. 

Finally, inspect both edges of the dado. To ensure quality, the dado head and edges should be straight and smooth. Sometimes the edges become rough and dull due to the vibration and loose clamping. If such issues arise, use the router on the imperfect area to make the edges smooth.

Tips To Cut Perfect Dado In Plywood

Making dados is a little hard when you’re working with material like plywood. But, if you want to make perfect dados with a smooth and straight edge, you have to follow some tips. Let’s have a look at these tips in detail. 

  • Mark 3 Spots: Marking 1 or 2 spots makes lining really hard for beginners. If you’re a beginner, then take a pencil and mark at least 3 spots. It is better to make a sign rather than just drop hundreds of dots on the materials.
  • Clamp Close: While working with plywood boards, use the clamps as close as possible to prevent collision with the dado blade. Otherwise, it can damage working materials.
  • Use Spacers: To maintain the proper distance between the boards, using spacers is a must. No need to buy spacers from the shop. It is better to make some spacers from previous woodworking projects’ scrap.
  • Router Movement: If you’re moving the router from left to right, try to keep the guide a little distance. On the other hand, if you’re passing from left to right, keep the guide as close as possible to the guide bearing.

Here’s a relevant video!


1. How Deep Should I Make Dado In Plywood?

The ideal depth for the dados is one-third of the stock thickness. If the thickness of the stock is 1″, the dado should be 1/3″ deep or less. Otherwise, the plywood will be weakened and unable to hold the pressure.

2. What Is The Best Router Bit For Dados?

It depends on the sides, but it is wise to go with the shortest cutting edges. Most woodworkers prefer a 3/4″ bit on the left. When it comes to the right edges, two 1/4″ bits work well. Even with a straight bit, pros can make perfect dados.

3. Is Making Dados Weaken Plywood?

No, if you’re making dados less than one-third of the stock width, it won’t weaken the plywood. But, if you’re making a deeper dado on plywood, it will weaken the materials. In fact, it can crack or split when downward pressure is applied to the dado joints. 

4. Can I Use a Router On Plywood?

Yes, using a router is ideal for plywood, especially while making some perfect dados. A great jig always works, but a router is a better tool than the table saw for making dados. So, always secure the plywood before routing to make dados.

5. Why Should I Measure Dado Perfectly? 

As the dado can’t be easily undone or moved, you should measure the materials perfectly before making the dado. In fact, if you want to move the joint, it will damage the whole working material.

Wrapping Up

Hey! It’s time to close our detailed guide. If you get the measurement, set the cutting depth, and clamp the workpiece, you’re good to make some clean dados with smooth and straight edges. 

Plus, we have added some million-dollar tips that can speed up the process and help you to make dados without damaging the working materials. So, set the router on the plywood saw and make some passes to cut dados in seconds!

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