Canadian Woodworking

Dado storage box

Author: Rick Campbell
Published: February March 2003

This sturdy storage box will keep your blades, chippers and shims organized and safe from harm.


When I purchased my dado-blade set it came in a flimsy clear plastic package that did nothing to protect the components from damage in the workshop. It’s a better solution than the traditional nail in the wall and it will provide the perfect opportunity to put the dado-blade to work.

My design features slots to hold the chippers and an area to stack the circular blades. The blades are separated by wood spacers to prevent contact that can result in damage to the teeth. The lid that slides into place to protect the contents of the box also provides a convenient place to record sample dadoes. Each time I use a new arrangement of chippers and shims I make a sample cut on the lid and mark down the blade combination in the groove. To identify the components for this purpose I have pre-numbered my chippers and shims with a permanent marker. Now when a project calls for a dado I find a sample that fits, then set up the blade according to the predetermined recipe. This system is a real time saver because it avoids much of the usual trial and error setup process.

I built my box to fit a standard 8” dado blade with 5 chippers. If your set is configured differently adjust the plans accordingly.

I used Baltic birch plywood covered with plastic laminate for most of this project.

The laminate looks great and provides good protection against the rigors of life in the shop. Baltic birch plywood is a little more expensive and harder to find than standard grades, but there are fewer voids between the layers, which makes it an excellent choice for this application. I trimmed the top and bottom edges of the box with solid oak to resist wear and provide an attractive contrast to the laminate.

Start With the Box

Begin by cutting out plywood panels for the sides, lid, and bottom, then mill ⅜” deep x ¾” wide rabbets on the ends of the long sides to make the connection at the corners. Rabbets are stronger than basic butt joints because they increase the bonding surface for glue and provide structural support. I formed the rabbets with my dado blade and a block of wood clamped to the fence to serve as a positive stop (photo A).

With this done you can proceed to assemble the sides with glue applied to the joints (photo B).

Verify that the box is square before you set it aside to dry.

Plastic laminate is bonded to the outside of the box and the top surface of the lid.

Usually when I work with laminate I glue oversized pieces to a wood substrate, then trim the edges flush with a router and a bearing guided straight bit. However, the pieces for this project are relatively small which makes working with the laminate more manageable. This allows me to cut the pieces to the exact size required saving me the job of trimming the edges flush. To cut the laminate I used my tablesaw with a long board clamped to the fence to prevent the thin material from slipping underneath (photo C – left). The laminate is bonded to the plywood using contact cement (photo D – right).

I prefer the water-soluble variety because it’s easy to brush on and cleans up with soap and water.

Next, rip enough solid oak strips to complete the trim on the top and bottom of the box. I milled a ¼” wide x ½” deep rabbet along the edge of the lower trim strips to receive the plywood bottom and a ¼” wide x ¼” deep rabbet on the top strips for the lid. I completed the rabbets using the dado blade and a sacrificial board clamped to the fence. The board allows the blade to come in contact with the temporary fence without damaging the teeth. A feather board is important to safely keep the thin material firmly against the fence while you work.

Mark the strips, then cut them to length with 45-degree mitres on the ends. The long strips on top that guide the lid are left square on the open end and are a ½” shorter than the total length of the box. With the bottom panel in place, install the edging with glue and clamps (photo E).

No nails are used here because they will interfere when you round over the outside edges with a ¾” radius bearing guided router bit after the glue dries (photo F).

Now you can mill ¼” wide x ½” deep rabbets on three sides of the lid to form tongues that will fit the slots on top of the box (photo G).

Adjust the fit until the lid slides freely in the grooves. A little candle wax rubbed on the tongues will help prevent binding. At this point one end of the lid remains flat to receive an oak handle. To make the handle cut out a blank from solid material, then flex a straight edge to layout the curved profile (photo H).

A scale pattern is provided in the plans. Cut the arc using the bandsaw, then sand the edge smooth. Before installing the handle, plunge slots for a single biscuit in the centre for added strength (photo I).

After the glue dries round over the top edge with the same ¾” radius bit used earlier.


Now we turn our attention to fixtures inside the box that will secure the blade components.

Start with the holder for the chippers and shims by laminating two layers of ¾” plywood together to form a block. Apply a piece of plastic laminate to the top face using contact cement as before, then cut a series of evenly spaced 1”-deep slots

You also need create an opening on one edge to form a pocket for the blade shims. I did this by nibbling the material away with repeated passes over the saw blade (photo K).

Now you can glue to the block in place on the bottom panel. The plans show how the circular blades are stacked on a post with spacers in between to provide the separation necessary to protect the teeth. A 2 ½” long x ¼” diameter bolt serves as the post and a knob is threaded onto the end to secure the arrangement in place. The head of the bold is recessed into the spacer that is attached permanently to the bottom of the box. Begin by cutting out 4” square blanks for the spacers from ½” plywood.

Plastic laminate is applied to both sides of the two removable spacer blanks and the top face of the spacer that will be affixed to the bottom panel.

Use a compass layout a 4”-diameter circle on each blank, then cutout the spacers freehand with the bandsaw or a scroll saw. Sand to remove the saw marks from the edges before drilling holes to receive the bolts. Start with a ½”-diameter Forstner bit to create the ¼” deep recess in the bottom spacer for the bolt head, then switch to a ¼”-diameter bit to make the holes for the shaft (photo L).

Install the bolt in the bottom spacer and fill the recess with two-part epoxy to prevent the shaft from turning when pressure is applied. Use carpenter’s glue and a clamp to secure the spacer to the bottom panel.

Home Sweet Home

When the glue dries your storage box is ready for use. Line up the chippers in the slots, store the shims in the side pocket and stack the blades with the spacers in position. Now, each time you use your dado-blade you will be comforted by the fact that your investment is well protected.

Rick Campbell - [email protected]

Rick Campbell is an award-winning woodworker who has been making piles of sawdust for over 30 years. Rick got his start driving nails into a 2 x 4 in his father’s workshop.

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