Forrest 8" Dado King - Canadian Woodworking Magazine

They don't call it the King for nothing - get clean, square cut, flat bottom dados day in, day out.

Forrest 8" Dado King

Forrest 8" Dado King

There are several ways to cut dados – on a table saw (making multiple cuts with the saw blade), on a router table, with a hand held router and guide, or with hand tools. Any of these techniques will work fine, particularly if you only need to make a few dados. But when you have a lot of dados to cut, then its time to use a dado blade set. What I like most about dado sets is that they enable me to quickly and efficiently cut precise dados with flat bottoms.

Basically, there are two types of dado blades – adjustable dado blades (also called wobble or dial adjustable dado blades), and stacked dados. Adjustable dado blades have a tendency to vibrate in use, and they're more prone to chipping-out the sides of dados. They're also more likely to leave a concave, rather than flat dado bottom. This is because of their design – a single blade housed on a beveled hub, where each tooth cuts a different arc in the stock as the blade rotates. 

Stacked dado blades are much more widely used by cabinet makers, furniture makers, and woodworking enthusiasts. A stacked blade consists of two scoring blades (a right and left hand pair) and several chippers in various thicknesses, along with shims to fine tune the width. The scoring blades usually have a beveled tooth followed by a flat-topped rakers. One one of the scoring blades will have the beveled teeth angled to one side, while the other blade has the beveled teeth angled to the opposite side. This ensures that the dado will have perfectly square shoulders. The chippers all have flat ground teeth to produce a clean, flat bottom. Typically the teeth have a low tooth angle, which cuts less aggressively, but more cleanly.
The Forrest Dado King stacked dado set has been on the market for a number of years. This is the first time I've had a chance to use this set. Based on my experience with other Forrest blades (the Woodworker II and the Chopmaster), I had very high expectations – which were pleasantly confirmed. There are a number of other brands of dado sets on the market, several of which I have used over the years. While these do a very good job, I found that the Dado King did an outstanding job, regardless of the material being used.

Comes in a protective carry case

First impressions are always important, as they set the tone for what you anticipate you're getting. Unlike other dado sets that come in cardboard boxes, or rather thin plastic sleeves, the Dado King comes ensconced in a heavy-duty, rigid, plastic carry case. There is a convenient top handle, and a pair of feet that enable you to store the case upright. The blades are securely held inside the case with wing nuts and bolts (I replaced the rear bolt with a wing nut, which makes it quicker to access the chippers).

An instruction sheet that comes with the Dado King lists the various combinations of blades and chippers that you'll se to obtain the correct width for dados from 1/4" all the way through to 29/32" (there are 20 combinations in increments of 1/32" to 1/16"). I regularly consult the chart, and have it taped to the inside of a cabinet door. It would be handy to have the chart as a sticky label that you could attach to the carry case. In order to install all the blades (to plow a full 29/32" dado) the arbor on your table saw has to be at least 1-3/16" long – it's important that the arbor nut and washer engage the arbor bolt fully. On some contractor style saws the arbor can be fairly short.

The set consists of 2 blades, 6 chippers, and magnetic spacers

As with all stacked dado sets you get a matched set of 2 scoring blades, some chippers (in this case 6 of them), and a set of shims. The Dado King blades have 24 teeth, one tooth set at a 30-degree bevel, followed by a flat topped raker, with a 5-degree face hook. A lower hook angle is going to mean less tear-out, though it will require a somewhat slower feed rate – particularly when cutting wider, deeper dados  According to Forrest, the plates are laser cut and then hand straightened and tensioned. This ensures that the blade will remain flat and run true at speed, even as it heats up. This is, in part, why Forrest can guarantee a runout of less than 0.001".

Lovely C4 micro-grain carbide teeth

The teeth are hand-brazed to the plate. Each tooth is about 7/32" long, so you should be able to have the set resharpened at least seven or eight times. This is an important consideration, as it impacts on the overall cost of ownership. The teeth are, after all, the most important part of any blade, and the higher the quality of the carbide used for the teeth, the more run time you'll have before needing to resharpen (the teeth wear more slowly and evenly) and the more times you'll be able to have the blade sharpened. Not all carbide is of the same, and it's reassuring to know that Forrest uses premium carbide in it's teeth. I found the teeth to be cleanly brazed onto the plate, considering the job is done by hand, and not machine – I couldn't see any obvious gaps or voids, and the face of each tooth is nicely polished.

Twice the number of teeth on the chippers

In the photo above, the Dado King chipper is at the top; at the bottom is a style of chipper found on many other dado sets. On the Dado King you get twice the number of teeth – and as you probably know, blades with more teeth yield a smoother finish. And, as you might expect, the bottom of dados cut by the Dado King are very smooth indeed.

Clean, nicely brazed teeth

Just like the scoring blades, the teeth on the chippers are nicely brazed to the plate. As you can see on the right side photo above, the teeth are flat on top. This is because the chippers do the grunt work of cleaning out the central portion of the dado, which you'll want it to be as flat and smooth as possible.

Perfectly square shoulders

Regardless of the type of material that I used (solid wood, plywood, MDF) the shoulders were perfectly square, with an almost invisible scribe line at the edges of the cut.

Super cuts whether with or across the grain

Dados made with or across the grain are likewise superb. As you see in the top photo, the corners where the two dados meet are chip-free.

You're not limited to dados

A dado set isn't just for dados – you can also use it to cut rabbets, tenons, box joints, tongue and groove joints, and the grooves for rails and stiles. While these same cuts can be made on a table saw using a standard saw blade, or on a router table, I find it somewhat easier, and just as quick to make most of these cuts using a dado set. Of course, you'd need to try it out to find out which technique works best for you.

Using a dado set is fairly safe, as the head generally protrudes slightly above the table, and the blades are covered by the work piece throughout most of the cutting operation. Here are a few procedures I follow that might be helpful to you:

  • Use a somewhat slower feed rate than you would for a standard saw blade, especially when plowing wide dados.
  • Sneak up on the final depth, by taking consecutive shallow cuts of around 1/4".
  • Use a zero clearance insert plate to ensure cleaner cuts, and for safety, when cutting narrow stock.
  • Always use a push block, as there is a tendency for the dado set to push the stock upwards.
  • Install the scoring blades and chippers so that the teeth don't touch. 
  • Always make a test cut.

The Forrest Dado King won't disappoint

If you're looking for a dado set that will give you perfectly sized dados with crisp, square shoulders, and perfectly flat bottoms, then the Forrest Dado King won't disappoint. The set is well made (in North America), with premium quality components. A dado set doesn't get used nearly as much as a standard table saw blade, so you can expect a dado set to last for years. And, if the set can be resharpened seven or eight times, then your prorated annual cost of ownership is going to be low – in the 'pizza and six-pack' vicinity. A small price to pay for a table saw accessory that will significantly enhance your joinery options.


  • 8" x 24 teeth
  • 30° ATB tooth style
  • 5° face hook
  • C-4 carbide teeth
  • Teeth hand-brazed to the plate
  • Plate laser cut, hand straightened and tensioned
  • Hardened to Rc40-42
  • Runout accuracy > 0.001"
  • Dado widths: 1/4" through 29/32".
  • Includes: (2) 1/8" outside blades; (4) 1/8" chippers; (1) 3/32" chipper; (1) 1/6" chipper; six magnetic shims

COMPANY:Forrest Blades
SOURCE:Lee Valley
Online at Forrest Blades

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September 2015

Carl Duguay
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