Over Easter, a certain other woodworking tool supplier *coff Timbecon coff* had a sale and took their Torquata imperial dado stack kit down from $199 to $169.
So I bought one. I'd have preferred the metric set, but for what is essentially the same thing, and which can be manufactured and distributed to the entire world, that is a hundred dollars more expensive.
My thinking was that I don't ever need to cut a, for example, 17 mm trench (or dado, rebate, rabbet), I just need to cut one to fit this particular piece of wood. And I can measure that piece of wood in any units I desire. Especially with my digital calipers that shift display at the press of a button from good honest milimetres to archaic 32nds, 64ths and 128ths of an inch, and to semi sensible thousandths of an inch.
Anyway, not that it was a huge selling point, but Timbecon's website did, at the time (and still does, even after we had words) advertise that this item comes with "an instruction card and a sturdy wooden storage/carry case". Mine came with neither.
The instruction card is not really important, especially in a cross-dimensional situation. It essentially tells you which of the blades*, chippers, and shims you need to make a particular width of cut.
*Either one blade and that's all, or you have to use both blades. You must never, ever use any permutation of dado stack that uses any of the chippers without using both of the full blades. Trust me on this.
Neither, of course is the "sturdy wooden storage/carry case" important since, finally, I am going to get around to the promise of the article title and I'll show you how I built my own.
Is everybody sitting comfortably?
We're going to start with a box. So much of woodwork, from building a house, down through shopfitting, cabinetry and to the smallest jewellery box or music box is made up of four sides, a base and a lid.
This is shop furniture, so we're not going to be making any double inlaid dovetail joints here. I've never nade any double inlaid dovetail joints, to be honest. No, nor single inlaid dovetail joints. I made a pencil case with plain dovetail joints in high school back in 1973, if that helps.
No, the joint we're going to use is an interlocking joint often used in drawer construction called a Tongue and Dado Joint. And admit it, you've been thrown out of worse joints than that!
Note that this joint is 'locked' in only one direction. This is normally used to lock the front and rear panels of drawers, since that is where the stress on a drawer frame occurs when the drawer is both opened and shut.
I chose, in this case, to orient the joint the other way so as to lock in the long sides. I figured I'd be carrying the box by the long sides and that any stress would come from that. Time will tell, I suppose.
Anyhoo. I made a frame…
… by setting the dado stack to exactly half the width of the workpiece and setting the fence to that same distance and cutting the tongues and dadoes in different orientations.
To accommodate the bottom, which was made from 5mm masonite, a rabbet was routed near the bottom of each frame piece. To keep the outside looking pretty, the long sides could be routed straight through, but the short ends had to be stop cut with the router bit starting and stopping at the dado for the corner joints. I didn't get a picture of that, sorry.
It's not part of the dado stack set, but it seemed to me that this box would be a good spot to keep the spanner for the saw's arbor nut. A couple of holes, slanted slightly downwards and two short lengths of thin dowel took care of that. I may retrofit a rare earth magnet or two behind the spanner to keep it on the pegs more securely.
One of the main design briefs of this storage box, and one of the main considerations anyone should have when dealing with carbide tools, is to stop the carbide pieces coming into contact with each other. Tungsten carbide is very hard, but it can be a bit brittle. This informed the storage system for the chippers which is simply two pieces of 17mm plywood laminated together with saw cuts crossways to hold the body of the chippers. There are 4 x 1/4" and 1 x 1/8" chippers in this set.
Note also the small rebate at the rear of the block to hold the set of shims that are also part of the set.
This block was glued and clamped into place.
Now for the main blades. The idea is for a spindle to hold them laterally and a couple of spacers to keep the carbide teeth away from each other, and also away from the base of the box so they don't scratch it up. I didn't, at this time, have a good way of cutting circles, so jigsaw and lots of sanding was the order of the day. If one was generous, one might say that the spacers are "round-ish".
Now, to top it all off (sorry), I needed a lid. I cut a rectangle of the same 17mm plywood on the cabinet saw and glued and clamped it right onto the top of the empty box. A 17mm lid might seem like overkill, but there is method in my madness and I'll talk about that shortly.
After leaving the box clamped up overnight, I cut off the lid about 35mm from the top.To register the lid with the base of the box, small strips of Tasmanian Ash hardwood were resawn and glued and clamped inside the long edges of the lid.
So then everything gets a good sanding and a coat of the shed furniture/storage stand-by, boiled linseed oil cut 50/50 with mineral turps.
A couple of cheap case clips and Robert is your avuncular relative.
Here it is completed.
And the secret as to why the top was made so heavy duty? I plan to cut into the lid using every dado setup that I use and note right there on the box the width in both mm and inches as well as the components, blades, chippers and shims, that went into making that cut. That way I can use it as a sizing guide to see if I already know a set-up that will fit a particular width of wood.
I didn't make any plans, but here is a quick mud map that I made up as I went along.
Happy to answer any questions below.