Panel Router Versus Slider for Dadoing

Cabinetmakers discuss the choice of equipment for routine dado work in panels. February 1, 2015

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
I need to start dadoing cabinets. The idea is to be able to have an unskilled worker dado panels but also have a machine that can also be used in other ways. I understand a panel saw is hardly entry level machinery, but both of these machines can be purchased at the same place close by for close to the same money. I can get the saw at a big steal. My gut says panel saw. I already have a panel saw but what if it breaks down and the new saw is 126" where as mine is 102"? I feel like a tool collector. Any advice would be great.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor L:
I think you will get more consistent dados from the panel router. The catch with them is the bit needs to match the material thickness. Not all sliders will take a dado blade.

From contributor X:
I use a Safety Speed Cut panel router that makes easy work out of dadoing. I use a downward spiral 1/2" bit, and then rabbet the shelves (I do that operation on the shaper)1/4' x1/4". The reason I have to rabbet the shelves is because I use 3/4" thick plywood and the rabbet leaves a shoulder for so the shelf can only go into the dado 1/4", no matter how deep the dado is. That way I have consistent shelf depths. Unless you have a CNC it is very difficult to get consistent dado depth's for numerous reasons like material thickness variations, panels not flat and hard to hold down while machining and etc. I found by rabbetting a shoulder on the shelf ends and dadoing a little deeper than needed all my cabinet boxes come out as planned.

From contributor D:
A panel router is a very effective way to make a dado. Just use an undersized cutter for ply wood and set your depth to leave a half inch and cut your horizontals one inch shorter than the desired finished width. With a panel router, the cutter indexes off the finished face making it easy to set the depth , generally I find that once set for any given stack of plywood, the cut will be consistent.

From Contributor J:
I've seen large shops in my area where space wasn't a concern build large router tables that are dedicated to cabinet dados. They used Porter cable 3 1/4 HP routers with nice tooling and built the tables and fence from melamine. Just something to consider if you want to keep cost down.