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Woodworking is filled with "special tools" that are only good for one or two jobs. The only problem is they do such a good job for their special design that using alternatives can be tedious at best. Such is the case with dado blades. They are only good for taking out huge chunks wood, but in most cases trying to do this other ways takes so much time, most of us would not bother.
There are basically two kinds of dado blades. The Stacked Dado set is the most popular because in most cases is does the best job of cutting dados and rebates, but there is also something called a dado wobble wheel blade which can also be used for making dados and rebates. The problem with the wobble wheel is that the bottom of the cut is arced somewhat, and more arced as the dado cut gets wider. The problem with this arcing effect is it makes for a less than perfect fit.
Cutting dados using a stacked dado set is not difficult, at least seemingly. The idea with any dado cut is that the piece that is to be fit into the dado cut should fit snugly in order to make it structurally sound and for the glue to work as best it can. It is IMPERATIVE that you make test cuts with your dado set before making the final cuts. If you don't you risk making cuts that are too large, and then you will a whole bunch extra work trying to make up for the mistake. The first time you omit the test cut will be the last time you omit it.
The best way to figure out the width of the cut you need to make is to measure the thickness of the shelf or other structure that you will be inserting into the dado cut. BUT DO NOT take this as the last measurement, make the test cut, try our the fit and work from there. Using a tape measure, will, in most cases not be sufficient enough to get the fit you will need, You will need a more precise measuring instrument.
Selecting a dado set can be agony for many woodworkers. There are many to choose from of varying qualities and with different features ... here are some of the things to look for ...