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We set out to compare 11 premium dado blades to help you sort out which might be right for you.

Dado blade stacks, comprised of two outer blades and a series of inner chipper blades, may have not changed much in the past 15 years, but recently new features have appeared, promising quicker and easier dado stack setup. So, I set out to compare all of the premium dado blades from number of popular manufacturers. Instead of creating strict guidelines for what qualifies as “premium,” such as tooth count or price, I simply compared the best offering(s) from each company. While most manufacturers consider higher tooth count premium, that wasn’t true across the board. So, if you’re in the market for a new dado blade, let’s sort out the details to find what might be right for you.

Most of the dado sets made clean grooves in plywood and hardwood. The following 3 cuts help to further evaluate exit chipout and scoring lines; Grooves with the grain, Intersecting cuts, & Double-wide dado. The best in the bunch left truly flat-bottom cuts, with only faint scoring lines on passes wider than 3/4″.

Test Limitations and Procedures:

To determine how each blade performed, it’s important to set some parameters and tests for each. Remember, that some of these are subjective, but here are the metrics we used in this test:

Procedures

A. General blade test: A series of grooves and dadoes were made in domestic hardwood and cabinet grade plywood.

B. Visualize “bat ears” or the scoring lines left by the outer blades: Intersecting grooves were milled at the same depth.

C. Exit chipout to further evaluate the scoring line: A double-wide pass was cut across the grain in hardwood.

D. Blade accuracy: Finally, a 23/32 groove was milled in plywood to test how accurate each set is, compared to stated widths.

Test Limitations

Since not all of the blades could be used on a SawStop table saw, two different table saws were used for testing. Blade run-out and fence alignment was carefully measured for each table saw with a digital indicator. Since the horsepower of the two saws varied, no formal feed rate assessment was made, as the table saw itself would influence the test. Non-SawStop-compatible blades were also cross-tested on the SawStop with the safety feature disabled. No significant differences in cutting performance were noted between the two saws. Lastly, be sure to check your table saw owner’s manual to make sure it’s recommended for use with a dado blade.

Arbor runout was tested with a DigiAlign digital gauge, measuring 0.003″ on both saws. In a similar test, rip fence position was parallel within 0.001.”

SawStop Compatibility

Before we get started, I want to note something very important. If you use a SawStop table saw, or plan in the near future, you’ll have a few more things to consider:

  • SawStop representatives have previously expressed concerns about several blade features that may not work well with the auto-
    matic braking system on their saw. These include anti-kickback projections behind the teeth and overall weight of the set, which may impact the saws’ ability to safely stop the dado blade.
  • I tested dado stacks that weigh in excess of 8 pounds, however SawStop seems to prefer a dado blade weight of 6 pounds or less (weight of a 3/4 nominal stock) based on their previous list of approved blades.
  • Blades need to be very nearly 8 diameter to work on a SawStop so we limited the test to 8 sets.
  • Finally, excessive blade coatings should be avoided, as it may hinder the current-sensing SawStop technology.

Observations:

General Blade Design

Each manufacturer has a unique approach to building and packaging their dado set(s) to achieve the best results possible. Looking at several features like the shape of the blade and tooth count of both the outer blades and chippers help to classify each entry in the group.

As you browse the tables later in this article, one pattern quickly becomes evident—24-tooth outer blades and 4-tooth chippers has become the most common dado blade layout. And that’s for good reason I think because the 24-tooth outer blades usually out-perform the 12-tooth blades that comes with entry level sets. 4-tooth chippers generally perform better than their 2-tooth counterparts in terms of exit chipout.

Whiteside Plus had the highest outside blade tooth count at 44 and the Dadonator XL and Tenryu Gold Medal posted the highest chipper tooth count at 6 each. The general pattern we expect is higher tooth count which produces a finer cut. Sometimes this comes at the expense of feed rate, but I didn’t notice any objectionable slowdown with any of the dado blades tested.

Some sets include a 3/32″ wide chipper for easier setup of undersized plywood grooves. With chipper width, the blade body is the key dimensions, not the teeth.

New Feature

One new and interesting design feature is the use of one or more extra-wide chipper blades. This has a purported benefit of easier dado stack setup because there are fewer blades to reach a full 3/4wide stack. Depending on the design of your table saw, you may actually see improved cutting performance with these new 1/4wide chippers because they register more accurately on the arbor threads. Two sets in the test offer these extra width-chippers: the SawStop which includes one thick chipper and the Infinity Dadonator XL which includes two. If your target dado width is 3/4, normally you’d have to mount 6 blades on the saw. With the SawStop set you can accomplish that with 5 blades and the Dadonator XL can manage a full stack with just 4 blades. If you switch between a standard blade and dado stack 5-6 times in a typical project, quicker blade changes are a big benefit.

The Infinity Dadonator XL has a pair of 1/4″ thick chippers, allowing setup of a 3/4″ dado stack in just 4 blades, compared to 6 blades with traditional sets.

The SawStop set has 1 thick chipper allowing a 3/4″ stack with 5 blades.

Tooth Geometry

Beyond tooth count, there are a few things to look for when evaluating the dado blades. But remember, what ultimately matters is how well the set works together for the intended purpose.

Hook Angle:

This angle is seen as a forward or backward tilt of the tooth, as viewed from the side. Generally, a positive hook angle is good for quick or aggressive cutting, and a neutral or negative hook angle will produce a finer cut. Outer blade hook angles ranged from 5° to 12° and hook angles for the chippers feel between 12° and +15°. If the hook angle is too soft, there’s a risk of slowed feed rate, but it’s really only evident with deep dadoes. Since most dado cuts are about 1/4deep, feed rate didn’t become much of a discussion in the test. The bigger risk in my estimation is exit chipout with cabinet work or hardwood joinery. For those tasks, a slightly negative hook angle usually excels.

Bevel Angles:

Note, this angle only applies to the outer blades. Bevel angle is best visualized by looking at the blades from the front or edge-view. Standard bevel angle for outer dado blades is 20°, but brands varied by some using a high-ATB of 3035°. Higher bevel angles typically do a good job of preventing surface splintering and lifting veneer on plywood.

DeWalt and SawStop come with sturdy, purpose-made cases.

Lastly, Cases

Having a spot to store your nice dado blade is important. A chipped tooth here and there from rattling around in a drawer and your premium dado blade won’t be cutting that great anymore. When it came to cases with the blades, it was hit and miss. Of the 8 dado sets that came with cases, some of them looked the part, but werent up to par. The Amana Prestige case stores chippers on a plastic post, but doesnt secure them, so if you open the case upside down theyll tumble out. Neither of the Freud cases secure the blades very well either. The Infinity Dadonator XL and Ridge Carbide dado sets are shipped in a cardboard box. However, there are universal cases available separately such as the wooden Infinity case and the 10 blade runner case. The best two cases hands down are the DeWalt and SawStop ones which are sturdy purpose-made cases that allow fairly easy access to the blades and adequately protect them when not in use.

Amana Prestige and Freud cases store the blades but don’t secure them.

Universal cases like 10″ blade runner case are sold separately.

Dado Blade Comparision Chart (Click here to download as a PDF)

The Blades

CMT Locked Dado Pro: European Compliant

Tool: Locked Dado Pro 230.312.08 Shop Now

Manufacturer: CMT

Price: $134.93

Designed to meet European regulations, this dado set is different than the other. It’s the first ever dado set to be EU compliant, because it has patented interlocking plastic discs that you install between the chippers to keep the blades in position.

A basic but functional open case is included with the set, along with a magnetic and plastic shim set. Cutting performance is on-par with other 12-tooth dado sets I’ve used in the past. The Locked Dado Pro produced flat bottom cuts, with only one or two faint ridges that you can catch a fingernail on. Moderate exit chipout was noted in plywood and hardwood dadoes with unsupported cuts, but hardwood grooves showed a clean exit. Light lifting of surface veneer was evident on some cuts, but nothing that a routine sanding wouldn’t take care of.

The blades are somewhat tedious to install with the spacers, but I suppose this gets easier with practice (the blade can also be assembled before putting it in the saw). There are alignment spikes on the interior of the blade cutouts that make them uncomfortable to handle. Probably the biggest negative for me is the need to use two plastic spacers and two 0.008″ shims for a basic 3/4” setup. If you need a 23/32” groove for plywood, the setup is even more elaborate with one plastic spacer, two 0.008″ shims, one 0.012″ shim, and one 0.020″ shim. 23/32” test grooves measures 0.723″ for a good fitting plywood joint. “Bat ears” and scoring lines on passes wider than 3/4” were moderate. I’m certainly glad our European friends get to use a dado blade again, and at a great price. While falling outside SawStop compatibility guidelines, CMT states the Locked Dado Pro has been tested and works with the SawStop safety system.

Amana Prestige: Belle of the Ball

Tool: Electro-BLU Prestige Dado 658060C Shop Now

Manufacturer: Amana Tool

Price: $273.35

With perhaps the best-looking outer blades in the test, these Electro-Blu coated blades are something to behold. The coating is non-stick to prevent pitch and resin buildup. The Prestige line features 24-tooth outer blades and 4-wing “humpback” chippers and weighs 6lbs, 4.4oz.

In testing, the bottom of the grooves showed 2 light ridges, just enough to catch a fingernail on. Overall, it produces a pretty flat bottom cut, appropriate for cabinet making and most woodworking task. The “bat ears,” as viewed from the exit of the groove, were modern in depth. Likewise, the scoring lines left by the high ATB outer teeth were moderate in test cuts wider than 3/4“. Very clean, crisp top corners were noted with dadoes and grooves in plywood, with no lifting of the surface veneer. There was some exit chipout in hardwood tenon cuts when the fibers were unsupported, however this improved with a fresh sacrificial fence on the miter gauge.  With a 23/32” stack installed, groove width measure 0.737″, compared with 0.719″ expected width. This was an oversized groove for most plywood so expect to use the 23/8” diameter color-coded plastic shims to dial in specific widths.

Lastly, I’m glad to see Amana uses a purpose-made case, however its bend-to-open plastic tabs are very difficult to use. Also, the case doesn’t secure the blades very well. Overall, it’s a nice package that most woodworkers or cabinet shops would be satisfied with.

DeWalt: Best Value Contender

Tool: DW7670 Stacked Dado Set Shop Now

Manufacturer: DeWalt

Price: $145

This set has been a best value contender since it was released. For someone stepping up from an entry-level dado set, this nicely packaged set just may be the ticket. The included case is a little top-heavy due to the chippers being stored in the lid, but they’re well secured by the plastic stud and wing nut. The case also wins points for the sturdy metal hinges that will stand up to repeated use. The 3″ diameter steel shims are standard fare and, like most metal shims, will likely need to be replaced with something better. Luckily, plastic or magnetic shims are easily sourced. The included 1/16” and 3/32” chippers are always appreciated and reduce the likelihood of needing shims at all. Sporting the typical 24-tooth outer blades and 4-tooth pinwheel chippers, this dado blade is easy to get familiar with. Cuts with this blade showed 3 distinct ridges along the bottom, that couldn’t be remedied by removing and reinstalling the blade or changing the order they were installed.

Wondering if it was a peculiar hiccup between the blades and the arbor threads, I repeated the tests on the Fusion F2 table saw, but identical results were obtained. Minimal exit chipout was observed on hardwood dados. There was little to no veneer lifting, for quite acceptable cuts in plywood and cabinetry projects. “Bat ears” and scoring lines were moderate, but acceptable for most work. Test cuts were with a 23/32” stack produced oversized 0.738″ grooves for a loose fit. The weight of a 3/4” nominal stock is 5lbs, 2.0oz and this blade is SawStop compatible.

Tenryu Gold Medal: Polished Performer

Tool: Gold Medal Dado 20324 Shop Now

Manufacturer: Tenryu

Price: $405

This all-new dado blade from Tenryu replaces the original dado blade by the same name. The fit and finish of this blade set is exceptional and it’s clear that painstaking attention was paid to every detail, such as the resin-filled laser-cut slots to reduce cutting noise and vibration. The Gold Medal dado set is one of only two in this test with 6-wing chippers. The extra teeth translate to finer cuts, with little to no exit chipout in plywood or hardwood. The Gold Medal set was one of the very best dado blades in that regard.

The Tenryu blade weighs a spry 5lbs, 1oz for a 3/4” nominal stack. Despite having 6-teeth on each shipper, this dado blade set is easy to setup. “Bat ears” as viewed from the exit of a cut had moderate depth and scoring lines were moderate on cuts wider than 3/4“. A 23/32” stack made a 0.727″ wide groove, which is slightly oversized for 3/4” plywood, but a premium magnetic shim set is included in the gold and purple wooden storage case. The Tenryu Gold Metal Dado is SawStop compatible. Whether you build cabinets or hardwood furniture, this set is sure to become a shop favorite.

Freud SD508 Super Dado: Best Non-SawStop Compatible Value

Tool: SD508 Super Dado Shop Now

Manufacturer: Freud

Price: $179.96

An easy pick for best value. This blade isn’t new on the block, but it’s renowned and for good reason. The SD508 has the classic layout of 24-tooth outer blades with 4-wing chippers. Cuts were very clean with a flat-bottom cut 3/4” wide or less in plywood. Some very light exit chipout was noted in hardwood dados, if not backed up. However, this improves with a sacrificial fence on the miter gauge. Minimal “bat ears” as viewed from the exit of a groove and minimal scoring lines noted on intersecting grooves or dados wider than 3/4“.

Fit and finish of the outer blades is excellent. The chippers of both Freud sets were painted black, with some of the carbide teeth partially painted as well. This is a minor knock on the fit and finish of the chippers only and didn’t affect performance. The SD508 is like a Jeep, in that it’s sturdy and rugged and hasn’t changed much over the years. And with these Silver I.C.E. coated outer blades, it still looks handsome after all these years. Test cuts with a 23/32” stack produced accurate 0.719″ grooves, for snug plywood joinery. The case liner is flimsy plastic and there’s no threaded rod to secure the blades, making damaged carbide teeth a possibility in transit or just banging around underfoot. That seems like a fair compromise, considering the substantially lower price tag of their set. If you’re not using a SawStop table saw, this dado blade would be a great choice.

Freud SD608 Dial-A-Width: Simply Shimless

Tool: SD608 Dial-A-Width Shop Now

Manufacturer: Freud

Price: $179.96

Novel or interesting features are first to catch your attention and the dial on this dado stack definitely qualifies. One point of clarification, this isn’t an old-school wobble blade because the blades always remain parallel. The dial adjusts the effective width of the outer blade, thus eliminating the need for shims. Just loosen the arbor nut and turn the dial to fine-tune the width. There’s a spring-loaded ball bearing inside the hub, with corresponding detents. Each “click” of the dial represents a 0.004″ adjustment. Follow the manufacturer’s chart for specific setup guidelines, as it’s not always intuitive. For instance, you turn the dial 8 clicks for a 23/32” wide groove, even when using the undersized 3/32” chipper. The outer blades of the SD608 are both two-piece assemblies, which can create compatibility issues with some saws. The arbor on the Fusion F2 test saw wasn’t long enough, so all testing for this blade was done on the SawStop with the brake deactivated. Even so, the arbor on the 3HP SawStop PCS wasn’t long enough to fully thread the nut, even when omitting the arbor washer. There’s a special wrench that comes with the blade set, but it didn’t fit either saw. Furthermore the dial will limit depth of cut to approximately 1-7/8“. Weight of this set was a concern as well at 7lbs, 11oz, which affects slowdown time and therefore shop safety.

Cutting performance didn’t quite match that of the SD508. This set produced one slight ridge in dados and grooves that you could catch your fingernail on. Surprisingly, the scoring lines left by this set were moderate, compared to the minimal scoring left by the SD508. There was light exit chipout on unsupported dados, which could be easily sanded away. A clean visible shoulder was noted with hardwood dados and virtually no splintering of surface veneers in plywood cuts. Testing a 23/32” stack produced 0.728″ groove for a loose fit with plywood. The final analysis on this unique blade may depend on how it fits your particular table saw.

Ridge Carbide North Woods Super Dado: The Ringer

Tool: North Woods Super Dado/Dado Master Shop Now

Manufacturer: Ridge Carbide Tool

Price: $275

Revised from an earlier version called the North Woods Dado Master, the fit and finish of the Super Dado has improved from good to great. With 24-tooth outer blades and 4-wing pinwheel chippers, this full complement of blades is ready to tackle any cabinet making or woodworking task. In testing plywood exit chipout was better than average among this elite group of dado blades. With hardwood cuts, exit chipout could be almost completely eliminated when backed up. There was very light lifting of plywood veneers on cross-grain dadoes, that I would describe as “peach fuzz” and easily sanded away. Slight ridges in the bottom of the cut are just deep enough to catch a fingernail on, but really only visible on cross-grain cuts in coarse hardwoods. “Bat ears,” as viewed from the exit of the cuts are average among this group and scoring lines on cuts wider than 3/4” were minimal.

Loading a 23/32” stack produced a 0.745″ wide groove, which is oversized for 3/4” plywood. I cleaned and reinstalled all the blades but reproduced identical results. The 8-blade set comes with a full set of 3″ non-ferrous metal shims. The Ridge Carbide North Woods Super Dado is SawStop compatible. A large blade runner case and nice set of magnetics shims are available separately.

Forrest Dado King: Hometown Hero

Tool: DK08244 Dado King Shop Now

Manufacturer: Forrest

Price: $386.99

This well-machined blade set uses a traditional layout with 24-tooth outer blades and 4-wing chippers. The fit and finish is very good and the kit included a Blade Runner open case and magnetic shim set. Minimal exit chipout was observed for both grooves and dados in all material types tested. Moderate “bat ears” as viewed on exit and moderate scoring lines on double-wide passes were noted. Forrest representatives state the Dado King was designed so the beveled outer teeth cut 0.010″ deeper at the sides of the groove to prevent splintering of the surface of the cut. This philosophy proved to be true and surface veneer cuts were clean and splinter-free.

The large-diameter magnetic shims felt more secure and less “spongy” than small diameter shims. Since magnetic shims can only be produced down to about 0.010″ thick, you’ll likely need to add some thinner shims to your collection. Luckily, the included 3/32” and 1/16” undersized chippers mean you’ll be less reliant on shims for perfect plywood setups. 23/32” test cuts made 0.719″ wide grooves for snug joints in plywood. There were just a couple faint lines in the bottom of the cut that would catch a fingernail. Lastly, the Forrest Dado King is SawStop compatible and made in the USA.

Infinity Dadonator XL: Editor’s Choice + SawStop Compatible

Tool: Dadonator XL SDB-825 Shop Now

Manufacturer: Infinity Tools

Price: $329.90

The Dadonator XL is a completely new design with two extra-wide 1/4” chippers. This, as it turns out, is a real time saver because you can load a full 3/4” dado stack with just 4 blades. The overall layout of this new set is 24-tooth outer blades with 6-tooth wagon wheel chippers. Cutouts remove unnecessary weight from the chipper bodies and a 3/4” stack weighs in at 5lbs, 7.4oz.

Producing an extremely flat bottom, with no ridges to catch a fingernail on, this new offering from Infinity scored well in performance testing. Exit chipout was almost nonexistent, even when the cut wasn’t backed up. This is perhaps due to the 6-tooth chipper design with unique -8° hook angle. Surface cut quality was excellent without any splintering of delicate plywood veneers. Additionally, a 23/32” stack produced a 0.723″ wide groove, which fit 3/4” wide plywood well. Where this blade stands out is passes wider than 3/4” which shows very minimal scoring lines making this set great for through tenons or exposed half-lap joints. Also included are a set of color-coded 4″ diameter plastic shims, a 1/8” chipper, a 3/32” plywood chipper, and an undersized 1/16” chipper. In addition, Infinity will continue to offer the original 8″ Dadonator and 6″ Dadonator, Jr.

Whiteside Plus by Dimar: The Clean Cutter

Tool: Whiteside 8443DADO Shop Now

Manufacturer: Whiteside

Price: $265.80

With the highest tooth count in the test, at 44-teeth per outer blade, this dado stack gives a good surface finish and crisp shoulders in plywood and hardwood alike. The high tooth count outer blades feature clusters of 11-teeth and are paired with traditional two-wing chippers. Hook angle for the outer blades is -6°, while hook angle of the chippers is a fairly aggressive +15°. This dado blade also had the highest outer blade bevel angle of the bunch at 35°. Grooves and cross-grain dadoes looked good in a variety of materials. The Whiteside Plus dado earned points for very minimal to no exit chipout in hardwood. Exit chipout in plywood depended on feed rate and whether the cut was backed up with a sacrificial board. “Bat ears” were acceptable as viewed on exit and scoring lines on passes wider than 3/4” had moderate depth.

The 7-blade set doesn’t come with a 3/32” chipper but supplies a 1/16” chipper and a set of plastic color-coded shims. Whiteside calls for carbide teeth wide enough to allow a fair amount of shimming as needed. Since I was unable to test a 23/32” groove with blades alone, I made a 3/4” groove which measured 0.745″. There’s no case included with the set, but two-wing chippers tend to fit well in generic aftermarket cases. Weight of a 3/4” stack comes in at 4lbs, 4.1oz, which is the lightest of the group. The Whiteside Plus is SawStop compatible.

SawStop: New Kid On The Block

Tool: BTS-DS8-2403 Premium Dado Set Shop Now

Manufacturer: SawStop

Price: $299

This all-new offering from SawStop is one of two dado blades with an extra-wide 1/4” chipper. Packaged as a 7-blade set in a plastic case, this dado made a nice showing. Fit and finish of the blade is very good. A steel shim set is stored in the case, but they’re difficult to remove without damaging. The SawStop dado set is one of two packages that include a decent case, but I wondered how long the thin plastic latches would last in a shop environment. The 24-tooth outer blades and 4-wing pinwheel shaped chippers plow a reasonably flat bottom groove. The inside blade cut slightly shallower than the chippers and outer blade, making a slight ridge that you could catch a fingernail on. Size of the “bat ears” as viewed on exit were moderate in size and moderate scoring lines were visible on cuts wider than a single pass. Some exit chipout was observed in plywood when unsupported but hardwood cuts were clean in this regard.

The outer blades feature a 24-tooth clustered design, with wider gaps every 6 teeth. In theory, this seems like it would make offsetting the carbide teeth easier when installing a stack. I’m sure personal preference factors in here, but I found it a little more tedious to install this style of blade. Because the teeth are crowded in sections, you need to find the larger opening when placing a chipper next to an outer blade. A 23/32” stack produced a 0.736″ groove, which is a loose fit for 3/4” plywood. This set includes one 1/4“, two 1/8“, one 3/32“, and one 1/16” size chippers. Lastly, the nominal 3/4” stack weights 4lbs, 13.2oz and of course is SawStop compatible.

Final Thoughts

What did we learn after all of our testing? Well, if you own a dado blade that was manufactured pre-Netflix, it’s probably time to look at upgrading to a new one. These premium dado blades of today are head and shoulders above dado blades of the past. Now of course, as I mentioned, our testing can be subjective, but I don’t think you can go wrong with any of these blades. For my money, however, I’d be hard-pressed to not equip my saw with a Dadonator XL from Infinity. If you’re in Europe, make sure to take a look at the CMT, as you now have a dado blade available to you. Hopefully our testing here gives a good side-by-side on the dado blades, and whichever of these blades you choose, you’ll end up with a quality, great-cutting blade. 


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