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Issue #273 - October 2002
Tongue & Dadoes Done Easily
Drawers on any project take a lot of abuse from constant opening and closing. So they require a strong joint. That’s why a tongue and dado joint is a good choice. Tongues on the front and back of the drawer fit into dadoes in the sides, as shown here. This provides good mechanical strength, as well as a large glue surface to create a sturdy drawer. You can cut a tongue and dado joint on the table saw using a two-step process.
STEP 1. The first step is to cut a dado in the drawer sides using an appropriate dado blade (Fig. 1). To do this, set the fence so that the distance between it and the outside edge of the blade equals the thickness of the drawer front or back stock. You’ll also need to raise the blade half the thickness of the sides, as shown. Now cut dadoes in the drawer sides.

STEP 2. Once that’s done, it’s time to cut rabbets to form matching tongues (Fig. 2). What you’re aiming for is a snug fit (not tight) between the tongue and the dado. To achieve this, use a dado blade that’s large enough so part of it can be “buried” in an auxiliary fence. This allows you to fine-tune the cut. Now raise the blade and make a test cut in a scrap piece (same thickness as drawers) to form a tongue that equals the width of the dado. You may need to adjust the blade height until you get a snug fit. Once you’re satisfied with the fit, rabbet both ends of the front and back pieces to form the actual tongues.
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