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How To Dado A Large Beam...

Saturday, July 25th, 2009


My wife bought a hammock for my daughter during a cruise to the Caribbean. Back in New Hampshire it would have been easy to hang; just throw a couple screw eyes in 2 large oak trees and swing away.  Yea, right, wishful thinking in Peyton, Colorado. So, I decided to build my daughter a hammock arbor. 


Each post for this arbor would be approximately 5" square and there would have 2 dadoes near the top and on opposite sides to provide a shoulder to support the 2 rafters.  I could layout these dadoes, make repeated passes with a circular saw and then clean up the dadoes with a sharp chisel or I could plow them out with a router. Hmmm? My freehand router skills are OK but not sufficient for the tight joints that I demand. So I made a router jig...

dado jig picture   dado jig picture   dado jig picture

Figure 1                                                                  Figure 2                                                                 Figure 3


This router jig  (Figure 1, 2 & 3) was made with very stable Baltic Birch plywood and features one fixed beam and one moveable beam to accommodate routing dadoes of varying widths. Also, the design features a fixed fence and moveable fence to clamp and route several pieces at once.  Replaceable sacrificial pieces of wood are screwed to the face of each fence to protect the Baltic Birch plywood.  This design allows for one clamp to securely hold to jig to the wood from underneath and not interfere with the routing operation.


The beams were clamped together and the dadoes were defined (Figure 4). Next, 1/8" was added to these outer dimensions to compensate for the distance between the edge of the router bit and router collar (Figure 5).   The router jig was then attached to the beams with a single clamp (Figure 6). Note that the fixed beam was aligned to the outer mark for routing.


dado jig picture   dado jig picture   dado jig picture

Figure 4                                                                Figure 5                                                                 Figure 6


When routing it is best to set the jig to a narrow width, route, move the jig, route, and so forth until the desired width is achieved (Figure 7). This approach merely allows the router to rest on both beams which results in a cleaner cut and safer operation. When the routing is completed remove the jig and note that the original dado width was achieved (Figure 8).


dado jig picture   dado jig picture

Figure 7                                                                Figure 8


The edges and ends of the beams were chamfered with a router and the beams were sanded and considered completed (Figure 9 & 10).


dado jig picture   dado jig picture

Figure 9                                                                 Figure 10


Large pieces of wood cannot be pushed thru the blade of a table saw and are often too large for even my Dewalt 14" radial arm saw.  This router jig is very flexible and allows you to safely route narrow or wide dadoes in single or multiple pieces of wood safely and effectively.


If you have any questions or comments about this blog entry please do not hesitate to send me an e-mail. Thanks and be safe when working with tools!!!





burgie picture

Robert Burgoyne, also known as "Burgie", has been doing woodworking for nearly 30 years. He started learning at an early age in his grandfather's garage and continued while working with his father in construction. The hobby has now become a business with Creative Landscape Accents. Burgie builds  high quality woodworking projects for the outdoors and also enjoys making decorative accent pieces for inside the house. While not working in his shop doing woodworking Burgie enjoys computers, restoring his old 1964 Chevy C60 2-ton dump truck and riding his Harley-Davidson Road King throughout beautiful Colorado.



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